Updated: Dec 3, 2019
Designed by Glenn Drover and published by Forbidden Games, Raccoon Tycoon isn’t quite what it seems. The bucolic landscape depicted on the box is reflected in attractive animal and country landscapes on the game’s various cards but it would be misleading to think of this as a cute animal-themed game. The art by Jacoby O’Connor and Annie Stegg is beautiful but, to be honest, the animal theme seems to have been chosen more than anything else to justify the rhyming title.
Raccoon Tycoon is actually a stock market game where players are also competing to acquire towns and connecting railroads. Players will be seeking to complete sets of matching railroad cards because the point-scoring value of each card is raised according to the number of matching cards you have at the end of the game.
On your turn, you will use cards to produce commodities and to manipulate the price of commodities. When a player sells commodities, they get paid for all of them at the current price but the price then drops for each item sold. Towns are bought with commodities. Railroads are bought with cash: each has a minimum price but they are auctioned so can go to the highest bidder above that minimum. Cash can also be used to buy buildings. These typically upgrade a player’s actions, discount the cost of further acquisitions or give additional ways of earning victory points.
Whichever action you choose to take on your turn, you take just the one action and then the next player takes theirs. Turns are quick because this isn’t a game where players are likely to be dithering over what to do. As a result, Raccoon Tycoon plays fast so that even with a full complement of five players, you won’t find there’s much downtime and you can expect to finish a game in not much more than an hour.
Raccoon Tycoon is easy to learn and play because the rules are almost entirely intuitive. Players each have secret 'mission' cards that may steer their strategy because they offer a points bonus for satisfying the mission card criteria (for example, ending the game with more of a particular commodity than any other player). There are also opportunities for players to generate point-scoring engines through creative use of buildings although, in order to preserve a balance between the different ways of scoring end-game victory points, the rules impose some limits on the number and combination of buildings you can activate. The upshot of this is that it’s probably more accurate to think of Raccoon Tycoon as a market manipulation game rather than a light euro. Either way, it’s a fast paced, highly enjoyable and very accessible game.
The components are attractive – with individually shaped wooden commodities in place of the more usual generic coloured cubes – and though the animal illustrations are pretty much irrelevant to the theme, they do add to the game’s table appeal. The first player marker - as unnecessary in this game as it is in most - is an absurdly large and chunky wooden raccoon 'meeple' that is so oversized that it looks like the spec to the factory must have mistyped inches when they meant centimetres.
If you like the idea of market manipulation but have previously found them too dry, then Raccoon Tycoon could be just what you are looking for. It’s certainly a game we’ll be continuing to play at Board’s Eye View well into this new year.