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1830: Railroads & Robber Barons - Retro Railroad Fun Reviewed

by: Christian Cawley ; edited by: Eric Stallsworth ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

It's the game that inspired Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon - 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons, originally a 1986 railroad building board game later adapted for the PC. This title is more of a walk through the business and management side of the railroad, but remains fun nonetheless.

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    Board Game Origins and Aim

    Is 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons A Match For Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon?   Buoyed by the success of Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon, Avalon Hill licensed Simtex to provide a PC version of the game in 1993. Despite being a faithful conversion with superior AI, the PC version of 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons was released around the same time as Railroad Tycoon Deluxe and as such was overlooked – a great shame, as the Simtex release is a superb share dealing and business management game, and faithful to the original.

    1830: Railroads & Robber Barons starts the player off as a businessman with money to spend. Investing in two or three companies – all part of an overall strategy – the player then takes the plunge into being the owner of a railroad during the early days of the steam age in North America.

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    System Requirements and Availability

    This review of 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons was conducted with the game running under the DOSBox MS DOS emulator for Windows - pretty much any Windows machine can run the game in this manner, although this can depend on your exact specification.

    In fact DOSBox can be used with a variety of operating systems, thereby opening up a vast library of older games to users of not only Windows but Mac, Linux, OS/2, BeOS, Solaris and many more.

    To get a copy of 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons you will need to try an abandonware website. Remember that there is a difference between obsolete software and abandonware.

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    Retro Graphics

    Is 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons A Match For Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon?   Placed in context, the quality of the graphics (above) can be forgiven, although they are unnecessarily blocky and uninteresting.

    Again, this is a matter of context - 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons is based on a board game. Naturally I've rated the graphics based on contemporary releases rather than modern day standards. They're functional, illustrative but nothing to write home about, and at times the tiles can be unclear. However the user interface is easy to use.

    There is little in the way of animation, however, just a representation of a tile-based board game.

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    Retro Sound

    As PCs in the late 1980s and early 1990s were built to wildly differing specifications, a basic level of sound compatibility was provided in most games as developers struggled to deal with wildly varying sound cards. As a result the in-game sound – renditions of some popular classical music – doesn’t translate well to modern PC sound systems and is limited by 1990s standards.

    If beeps and whistles are your thing, then you'll love this.

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    Railroad Management Simulation Gameplay

    1830: Railroads & Robber Barons starts the player off as a businessman with money to spend. Investing in two or three companies – all part of an overall strategy – the player then takes the plunge into being the owner of a railroad during the early days of the steam age in North America.

    The first stage of the game allows the player to determine how many opponents he or she will play against, as well as the difficulty level. From here its time to bid on company shares, then on to managing the buying of trains and laying of railroad track. As the game progresses, your aim is to generate as much revenue as possible, while forcing your competitors out of business. The game ends when a competitor Baron goes out of business or the bank runs out of money – leaving the player with a distinct balancing act.

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    Not Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon!

    Is 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons A Match For Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon?   Like any board game, 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons requires considerable time and effort to get anything out of it. It has the odd foible, and can appear impenetrable at first glance – however the investment that you give to the game is returned by a deep business simulation gaming experience.

    1830: Railroads & Robber Barons is a complex but involving PC business management simulation. As a board game adaptation it is a faithful reproduction of the original that translates reasonably well to the desktop computer platform. As with most retro titles, however, there are aspects that don’t stand up to modern scrutiny.