Sid Meier's Railroads! is the first train tycoon game I've ever played. I don't know why; tycoon games are one of my favorite subgenres of simulation games, and I love any games having to do with transportation of any type, from cars to ships to farming equipment. In saying that, know that this review is from someone who loves the genre and trains despite being relatively new to the railroad management subset.
Sid Meier's Railroads! is a game that kept pleasantly surprising me. I went into this game figuring I would be building trains and connecting the tracks to various destinations. I hadn't known it would be this in depth, and yet so easy to learn. The game and its userface is extremely user friendly, and it has a short tutorial to teach you the basics. Everything else is figured out by playing scenarios. Since I was brand new to this type of game, I began by selecting a multiplayer map but electing to play first on my own so I could figure things out. That's when I realized that even when not playing competitively, this game is a ton of fun.
You start out by having a city with a small track already built that you can build off of (also, all maps can be randomized, so playing through on the same maps over and over again is different every time). You need to then decide where to go from there. Different cities request different products, and you can deliver it to them from either suppliers or other cities. This gets to be a little more in depth because you can end up having a multiple step process to have one train deliver products to various cities (for example, Train A can be set up to pick up corn from a farm supplier, deliver it to City A, City A will then convert corn to food, Train A will take food to City B, etc.). You can also have trains deliver passengers and mail from city to city. Over the course of history, trains are unlocked that have better performance. It's extraordinarily simple to upgrade these trains to better trains that have been unlocked, and all without hindering its route.
This is essentially the type of gameplay you can expect. To make things more interesting, however, depending on what cities and products you decide to utilize, cities and suppliers will grow to supply your demand and vice versa. By growing, suppliers can supply more resources and more quickly, while cities may be able to hold stock of more resources while space opens up where you can build your own industries. Cities will also request supplies from time to time, offering a cash reward for a certain product. These are some of the reasons that playing a fairly long game refrains from being boring; options are constantly opening up for you.
Competitive mode with the AI is also fun, though I prefer the single player building aspect better myself. With the AI, they will do all the things you do, building tracks, causing cities and suppliers to grow, etc. The difference here is that you are obviously competing for the goal you have set, while also having the option to buy stock in your competitors and eventually merge or liquidate their company by completely buying them out--provided you have enough money.
While this game has been a blast (it makes me regret not trying a railroad management game before this), it does have its problems. On modern systems (I have Windows 7 64bit, for example) the game begins to crash once a good amount of railroads and trains have been built. The game is set by default to restrict itself to using only 1 GB of RAM, and once you've been in a game for a half hour or so, it will surpass this and begin crashing to the desktop. HOWEVER, there are fixes for this (see the community forums). I downloaded a .exe file from http://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Sid_Meier%27s_Railroads!
that fixed everything, and haven't had a crash since. Also, the game is set by default to autosave, which saves your game every 60 seconds. Needless to say, even when it was crashing, I'd simply start it right back up and be just seconds away from where I was.
In summary, this game is an amazing game that I would recommend to anyone, particularly simulation, tycoon, and management fans. I haven't been so instantly engrossed in a game in quite some time. I'm so happy I found this!