For all its other fine qualities, chances are that after playing 1830 Railroads and Robber Barons for any length of time, you will begin to get a feeling of constraint. This isn't to say that the product is seriously flawed or lacking in enjoyment, because it is neither. It's just that, even though the game covers such a large topic, namely the control, marketing, and highly competitive nature of owning a railroad empire, it gives you a limited hands-on involvement in managing that vast scope. Although you find yourself up to your arm garters in cutthroat financial wheeling and dealing, the actual laying of tracks is somewhat limited compared to similar train-based games such as Railroad Tycoon, so if it's a hands-on train-running sim you're looking for, look elsewhere. But if building a fortune from a tiny beginning appeals to you, then 1830 Railroads and Robber Barons may be the ticket.
More than anything else, the game is one of balance. Focus too completely on any given part and you'll find yourself chugging into the final station still chanting "I think I can, I think I can." But parlay your opportunities for empire advancement by investing your profits wisely in the stock market, manipulating your cash and stock to reap the highest rewards and working capital, keeping an eye at all times on the long-term view regarding future technology and upgrades for your trains, planning routes that work toward maximizing investments in time and money, and outsmarting your five human or four computer opponents, and you will be rewarded with the ultimate accolade of becoming the world's greatest "robber baron" and railroad entrepreneur. But, be warned, this is not an easy task, as you have to learn how to employ the best strategies at the right time.
If you're familiar with Avalon Hill's board game of the same name, you'll notice immediately how accurately the company incorporates the essentials in the computer version. Only a few minor changes, all for the better, have been incorporated, and most of those changes are of the convenience and time-saving variety. 1830 Railroads and Robber Barons comes fully loaded with multiple game setup options that allow you complete freedom to set the difficulty level, and various "local" rules to customize game play to your liking. Novice gamers should be able to complete a game in less than three hours and, once familiar with the easy to use controls, even less. The interface is well coordinated and uses a simple point-and-click, menu-driven system that allows for easy play. With the addition of a random map generator (which the board game obviously doesn't have), 1830 Railroads and Robber Barons promises much in the way of replay value, especially when linked to the multiple strategies and fierceness of the computer opponents. With human competition, the variety is endless. In this one, you won't just need your engineer's cap-you'll be needing your thinking cap as well.