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Raccoon Tycoon: Fat Cat Expansion Preview


Quick Look: Raccoon Tycoon - Fat Cat Expansion


Designer: Glenn Drover
Artist: Jacoby O'Connor, Annie Stegg
Publisher: Forbidden Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 60 - 90 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of the Fat Cat Expansion for Raccoon Tycoon. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.



Review:

tl;dr: Expansion for already-great game makes base game bigger, easier to play.

Base Game: My preview for the base game before it launched was effusive - I thought it was one of the better entry-level games I'd ever played at the time. With the retail launch version in my hands, and that version reviewed by my colleague Brody, my impressions were confirmed. Raccoon Tycoon does a lot of things very well, and with the component quality what it is, it's one of my go-to games on the shelf period, but especially when playing with newer gamers. I won't dwell on the base game too much here, this is about the expansion after all - the links above should tell you all you need to know.


What's New: Let's do the best things first. The above-pictured player boards can be used in both the expansion and base-game-only modes, and they add a truly great sense of organization and cohesion to the game. Knowing at a glance how many commodities you have - slash - have room for is a great aid. While not burdensome, counting how many you had in a stack before was tedious. The full-art building spaces on the bottom of the board add a lot to the immersion in the game, and I'm glad for more showcasing of Annie Stegg's phenomenal art.


New buildings come along for the ride as well, and these help one of my least-favorite aspects of the game take a much-needed step up. My main complaint about Raccoon Tycoon was the unevenness of the buildings. You'd often be loathe to buy up a mediocre building even for a slight benefit to yourself because you're rolling the dice on flipping a great building that your opponents would almost certainly buy before the turn comes back to you. Designer Glenn Drover and I discussed this at length in person, and while he didn't think they were as unbalanced as I did, he agreed that it was a concern. Enter some new buildings, and three of the game's original buildings have been errata-ed. The new buildings focus almost completely on generating synergy with existing buildings, and offering new ways to score points. While the outright awesome buildings are still here, there's now a more even distribution of buildings that are only good for certain players who are focused on certain things, so players have a choice to take a less-than-great building for themselves in order to play defense, or they can let it go to the player who really can maximize its value. It's these types of decisions that elevate a game's strategy, and I'm delighted to see them in play here.

Also new to the expansion are four types of meeples, two of which are granted by a building's ability, and the other two are available to all players. Each of these provides new ways to score points, further diversifying an already wide game. To summarize, the housing and locomotive meeples can only be made by the players that purchase the Housing Construction tile and the Locomotive Factory tile, respectively. These buildings allow the player who owns them to manufacture (by spending commodities) houses or trains, which can then either be sold for cash, or are worth 3 VP at game's end. With some additional buildings, you can build up a nice cash engine, or funnel your focus into pumping these out. There's a finite number of them, so you can't go infinite here- again, another nod to balance, but for the player who can put them together, it's a great way to corner a strategy. 

The animal and tycoon meeples can be purchased by any player and added to their board, providing incremental benefits the more they buy. In effect, this turns into a game of chicken where as soon as one player starts to tip their hand that they're on this train, everyone else has to buy one or two themselves, or risk that player gaining a huge number of points by being left alone. In practice, this again serves to up the strategy component of the game- each player must decide for themselves how much defense to play, and whether their turn is better spent forwarding their own agenda.



Finally, the game adds enough railroad and town cards to add a sixth player. I didn't get a chance to test this game at 6 players, so I can't comment too much on this. I'll say this much- I'm generally loathe to add an additional player to a base game tested and balanced for a lesser player count. Inevitably, it only ends up prolonging the game and time between turns. Having said that, my group often hits 6 players, and the ability to bring a game to the table that I love vs. having to bring out another party game is real life for me, and I'm sure other groups like mine. I'm reserving final judgement on this point until I'm able to test it for myself, but it's worth mentioning.

Artwork and Components: As previously mentioned, the artwork on the (slotted!) player boards is fantastic, and the town and railroad cards maintain the same level of eye-popping appeal that made the base game such a joy to get to the table. I'm very glad that Annie Stegg is back for the expansion, and visually the game still soars. Also of note: included in the expansion box are the "Emma's Art" railroad and town cars. Designer Drover's daughter Emma drew some prototype art for the game when it was just starting out, and Forbidden has included her sketches as alternate options for these cards. I haven't seen these, but I like personal touches like that.



The featured cover art of the expansion has also been converted into another of the game's signature oversized starting-player tokens. The original game has a 4" wooden raccoon to denote the game's first player, and the new cat is promised to be of the same size and quality. Apart from that, assuming the expansion ships with similar-quality cardboard tiles and wooden meeples as the base game, there's no worry about components. You'll love them.



Score: The Fat Cat expansion for Raccoon Tycoon brings more stuff to do and works on some of the balance issues in the base game. The recessed player boards by themselves would almost be worth the entry cost here, but fortunately there's a lot more to love. For fans of the base game, this is a great addition to your game. If you're new to Raccoon Tycoon, you'll find a treasure chest of a game here, and now you can add your sixth friend. I'm giving the Fat Cat expansion a score of Here Kitty, Kitty.


                     

On KICKSTARTER now. Campaign ends June 7, 2019




Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Raccoon Tycoon: Fat Cat Expansion Preview Raccoon Tycoon: Fat Cat Expansion Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on May 14, 2019 Rating: 5

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