Train of Thought: Touring Snowdonia – laying track

Train of Thought: Touring Snowdonia – laying track


Although it looks very different from its network-building peers, Snowdonia is still, at its core, a game about building a railway. It may for the most part be simplified down into a single line, but there's more going on under the sleepers than initially meets the eye. Let's pull them up and have a look.

How do I lay track?

Track in Snowdonia is laid using the D action. However, laying track costs steel bars, so you actually have to take at least two other actions first. You need to use the A action to obtain iron ore and then the C action to convert that iron ore into steel bars.

The fact that laying track is a slow multi-step process is important and affects many elements of how we assess it.

What do I get for laying track, is it worth it?

In isolation, you don't get very much. Track card values can range from 0 to 7 points but most frequently awards 3 or 4. Assuming we're laying track efficiently, that's 3 actions spent collecting iron ore, 1 action converting it into steel bars and a further 2 actions to lay them into track. Assuming average track values, that's 6 actions for 10 or 11 points. Fewer than 2 points per action. For reference, simply moving your surveyor 6 times will get you 15 points.

If this was all there was to say about track… then no, it's not worth building.

But this is a game about building railways, it can't be bad!

Don't fret, I haven't given you the full picture yet. Though track cards aren't as valuable as buildings for raw victory points, they more than make up for it once you can start taking the relevant contract cards. The highest scoring contract awards a massive 40 points if you can build 5 track. Let's run our calculation again. Now we take 5 actions collecting iron ore, 2 actions converting it and 3 actions laying it. Assuming we make smart placement and get an average value of 18 points for the track itself, plus 40 from the contract, we get 58 points across 10 actions. Or 5.8 points per action. That's very good.

So I only want to build track if I have a good contract card. Got it.

Hang on, it's not so simple. For starters, track is a limited scoring opportunity. Typically there are only between 10 and 15 available based on scenario and player count. They also only become available to build once they've been excavated. Secondly, over 50% of the contract deck rewards you for having built track. You can be quite confident you'll see at least a few track-based contracts in a given game.

These 2 points combined mean that it can often be well worth your time to build some track when the opportunity arises, even if you don't yet have the necessary contracts.

Ahh this is sounding better now, any more nuances I should know about?

This is Snowdonia! Of course there are. I would say that there are two more major points to consider: the game end timer and, even more so than usual, your opponents' game states.

Firstly, in Snowdonia, the game ends at the end of the round in which you lay the final track. This means if you're ahead and can accelerate the game end you could disrupt opponents' final scoring plans and win, even if the track was of limited value to you.

Equally, if your opponents have contract cards that require 4 or 5 track to score, there's every possibility that by building a few yourself, you could deny them the chance to score them. Score denial is usually weaker than pursuing higher scoring options yourself, but with track based contract cards, you could be stopping an opponent scoring 20 to 40 points. That's comfortably enough to decide a game. So yes, that building you could make with 2 steel bars is worth 16 vs the paltry 7 you might get from building it as rail, but it's likely worth sacrificing 9 potential points to deny your opponent 30!

What can we expect from track in Grand Tour?

Good question! As always I can't tell you everything, but here are a few sneak peeks:

  • Uganda: building track is worth more points than usual, but puts your worker at risk of being eaten by lions!
  • Belle Epoque: You don't build track at all. You're instead solving a murder mystery…
  • And some of our unannounced scenarios even see you building multiple tracks at once!

That's everything for today – hopefully that'll help you keep better track of the scoring and denial opportunities available to you! (Come on, I'm allowed one terrible pun aren't I?)

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