Saturday, January 19, 2013

Through The Ages - Card: Transcontinental Railroad

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

Transcontinental Railroad

The second "transportation wonder", Transcontinental Railroad is a powerful and useful card.  In History, Transcontinental Railroads were similarly powerful and useful.

By technical definition, Europe, the Orient, and Asia all have a transcontinental railroad.  But it is in the United States the railroad had its most profound effect, and for which the Transcontinental Railroad is named.  

Prior to the railroads, travel across land was by wagon trains pulled by horse or oxen.  Travel speed was roughly 10 miles a day, sometimes less.  Furthermore, unknown obstacles barred the way.

In 1869 the "Silver Spike" was driven at Promontory, Utah, joining together not only the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, but also joining together the two coasts of the United States.  Although railroads were important throughout the world, in the United States the railroads were critical.  They opened up the interior of the continent to colonization, and they permitted rapid transportation of goods from West coast to East coast.

This usefulness was exemplified in the wars which were to come.  The American Civil War was an "eastern US affair", but the use of rails there showed how they could quickly transport troops.  For the first time larger numbers of troops could be amply supplied to fight an operate.  By the time of World War II, the ability to transport goods to where they were most needed, both in the United States and in Europe, were critical to the war efforts.
Game Stats
Transcontinental Railroad is the most popular Age II wonder, edging out the Eiffel Tower by one vote.  Its popularity is easy to see: a significant increase in Military Strength and improved Mining capability.  Requiring relatively few actions and all at a moderate cost, the card is easily constructed.  It makes an average appearance on Turn 13, the earliest of all Age III wonders.

Perhaps most telling is from the chart below.  Although its construction does not guarantee a win, it almost guarantees the player will not be arrive in last place.
Strategies, Combos and Opinions
With a focus on both Military and Production, Transcontinental Railroad greatly benefits any strategy.  For those needing a late built Wonder for increased Culture, TR will provide extra resources.  If you need population, the extra Ore can be used to build more or better farms.  Science has the same effect, resources to build it.  For the Military minded there is the double benefit of direct increased military strength and increased Ore for new units.

Mines, at least one mine, should be an obvious combination.  Outside of these, there are no real combinations which work with it.

Transcontinental Railroad provides more military strength than any single unit of its Age and counts as a free Worker of the best quality.  The equivalent construction of Age II mine and a comparable amount of Military units would cost would use 16 resources, require at minimum 3 actions, and use 3 population, it is easy to determine Transcontinental Railroad's value.  Having the Transcontinental Railroad will not guarantee a win, but it does greatly shift the balance of power.
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