Canal Mania is another game about laying track, oops sorry, building canals across England. Although there are elements of TTR (fixed routes and card collecting) and AoS (moving goods cubes), the game does stand on it's own merits. Garry ran through the rules, and after a few questions and clarifications off we went. Basically there is a deck of cards representing straights, locks, aquaducts, tunnels and surveyors (wild). This deck has 5 cards turned face up. Each player has his own set of canal tiles, with limited numbers of each , so you have watch what you build in case you run out of the kind of tile you need to complete a contract (route) There is a deck of contract cards of which 5 are turned face up, these display 2 towns or cities with maybe a third (via) and a number which is the maximum number of links it must be completed in. You can only have 2 contracts at a time. There are 2 types of terrain, clear and difficult. You can build stretches and locks on clear and tunnels and aquaducts on difficult. It takes 1 card to build a lock or stretch and 2 cards to build an aquaduct and 3 for a tunnel. In addition each player is dealt an engineers card, these have special abilities that can be used in your turn. Things like draw 4 build cards instead of 3, build a tunnel with 2 instead of 3. Each players turn is in 3 phases. Phase one take a contract, or exchange your engineer with someone elses, or discard the 5 face up build cards. Phase 2, take 3 build cards or build on the board. Phase three, move a goods cube. You can also take a face down build card instead of any of these phases.
Certain build cards have coloured symbols on them and if they are chosen the player immediately puts 2 goods cubes onto the board on whichever colour the symbol is. There are limitations where they can go, connected cities first, then connected towns, unconnected cities and unconnected town.
The victory condition for a five player game is the first to 40 points, the round is then finished and 2 more rounds take place, finally moving any goods left on the board. Our game was very close again with Richard and Jo tied for first place yet again. This time the tie break, having the youngest engineer card, went in Richard's favour.
In spite of the obvious comparisons to train building games I think Canal Mania has enough going for it to make an enjoyable experience in it's own right. The production quality is right up there with the big boys and it's a very pleasing game to look at.
Final Scores (Richard wins on tiebreak)
Richard 61, Jo 61, Colin 53, Steve 51, Garry 40
Here are a few pics as promised: First Railroad Tycoon
This is the end position
And Canal Mania - this first one is the end position