There is a lot going on in Railway Empire, but as of now, many features and game elements are not obvious to a new player.
This guide is an attempt to lay out the basics of game mechanics as they are in the game.
The AI Competitors
As this topic has been the source of many discussions, let’s start with it. Remember, the guide discusses game mechanics as they are, and debate over the merits is for another part of the internet, please!
The player can choose to have AI Competitors in the game, but not other human players. The Campaign and set Scenarios have fixed numbers of Competitors, but the Free mode lets the player pick for themselves, including no Competitors.
The player also chooses their own Track usage mode: Realistic or Easy. In Realistic, only one Train will be on a Section of Track at a time. (Track is divided into sections by Signals – more on that later.) In Easy mode, Trains can pass through each other without incident, and many can occupy the same track at the same time. The result is that the AI will build single Track in general, and run many trains “on top of” each other. When loading/unloading at a Station, the trains may stack on top of each other, but only as many Trains may load/unload at a time as there are Platforms at the Station.
If the Player chooses Easy mode, the same building and operational rules apply to them as to the AI. If the Player chooses Realistic mode, the AI will still use Easy, but will pay a premium for Track costs to try and compensate.
The developers are currently working on an option to have the AI use Realistic mode when the player does, but the result of that work is yet to be known.
This topic has been a huge source of discussion, so I will include some opinions from those discussions here, contrary to the general guide form.
Many players have been able to enjoy the game as it is. The AI is not generally regarded as terribly difficult to beat, although of course new players will struggle.
Some players are bothered by the visual difference in play mechanics when the Player uses Realistic and the AI is using Easy.
Some have also had very negative reactions to the AI using Easy mode when the Player uses Realistic. As mentioned, the developers are working on this. If you wish to discuss this, please join one of the existing threads on the topic or wait to see how things work out.
There have been a small number of claims that the AI does something other than what is described, but I have seen no evidence posted. Details are difficult to interpret as the game operation is a bit opaque when it comes to Competitors.
Going through the Campaign 1 Scenario you will learn the basics: build Stations in Cities and near Rural sources of goods.
Some fine points to consider:
Larger Stations have more Platforms, so more Trains can be loaded/unloaded at a time. This will be important as a City grows, but you can start small and upgrade the Station. Just click on the Station to select it. The icon in the upper right showing a house with an up arrow is the way to upgrade it. It will open a confirmation dialog.
You can also add a Maintenance shed to any of your Stations. Select the Station and then click the icon with the house and a wrench to add one. Your trains will occasionally linger at a Station for maintenance if they have the shed. This costs precious Platform time, but unmaintained trains will sometimes break down showing poor condition as the cause.
Each city can have TWO Stations, each of any size. There is no City “ownership” so the Player and the AI can each have one Station in the same city, or either may have up to two. Note that two small Stations provide two net Platforms at a lower cost than a single medium Station.
Another building is the Supply Tower. They are placed on tracks to supply trains with water, lubricant, and sand (for traction.) If you select a train, then click the Manage Train button, you get a screen showing the train picture at the center top. To the left are three gages showing the three supply levels on the train. When one is running low (always water!?!) the train stops at a Supply Tower to stock up. If supplies run out, the train will slow down. Testing thus far suggests that the slow down is fairly minor – imagine a steam train running without water! To use these towers, put one on each train route. Longer routes (over half a map long) may require two tours along the route. If you build more than one parallel track, the Supply Tower will automatically resize to cover all the parallel tracks at its location.
Play the first two Campaign Scenarios to get the basics.
The tool is generally easy to use, but can be overly picky. Sometimes you may need to destroy a section of track and try again. To reduce the money lost, use the Bulldozer tool carefully. You can SHIFT Leftclick to set a marker on existing track. The marker will divide the track when using the Bulldozer tool to click and destroy track, so you can trash a small section rather than a long section. The tool highlights the section that will be deleted.
Track has a cost per mile to build. The basic cost in my testing has been in the $550-$575/mile range. If the track is not on level or gently sloped ground, it may need Earthworks (berms built up or trenches/cuts dug,) Bridges, or Tunnels. Earthworks are relatively low cost and can be used to smooth out track and avoid steep (high grade %) sections. Some times, Bridges and Tunnels are unavoidable. They are quite expensive so be careful!
When placing control points building track, you can use the mouse wheel to adjust height at the current point. By default, height is current land height, but you can force it up or down. You can also hover over an existing control point and adjust the height. (One thread shows an autohotkey hack if you don’t have a mouse wheel.)
If you build near existing track, you can build parallel track. It looks nice, and you often want double track to run trains both ways efficiently. When placing a control point near existing track, you may see an icon of two pieces of track and the green under construction track segment will snap to the existing track. This indicates formal parallel track construction. Apart from looking nice, parallel track MAY save you money. Up to two parallel tracks can be constructed over Bridges and through Tunnels. You still pay for the track, but the added construction costs are reduced (by 87.5% in my tests.) You can build as many parallel Tracks as you like, but only two for each Bridge or Tunnel.
Setting up a Route
Campaign 1 shows how to set up a simple route.
Some undocumented features are worth knowing.
If you set up a route just by selecting Stations, the game automatically selects the shortest route to the next Station, and picks the nearest Platform at that Station. This has the tendency to result in lots of trains stacked up waiting for the same Platform, while other accessible Platforms sit unused. This takes many players off guard. You need to manually select different Platforms to help distribute the load. While this may surprise or even upset some players, it is the current intended behavior of the game.
When you add a Station to a route, if you SHIFT while clicking on the white circle it will open the dialog box to manage that Station stop for this train. You can click on a Platform to set it as the target, and also manage what to load and how much to load at that Station if you like.
You can also set Waypoints to direct a train to use a particular section of track. Just click on the piece of track you want it to use, making sure to put it in the right order among the Station stops you plan. You can use this, for example, to use a bypass or siding rather than automatically following the shortest route (which the game chooses by default.) This can be valuable to keep trains off of precious Platforms that are used for loading/unloading.
When setting a Waypoint, make sure you pick the exact track section you want to use. If clicking on a double track, don’t get the wrong one or your train will take a crazy path!
Warning: for Goals that require delivery of passengers non-stop from one City to another, use of a Waypoint (or any scheduled stop at any Station) will disqualify that load of passengers. (Unscheduled stops due to breakdown, stopping for supplies, or blocked track are ok.)
Click on an individual train to select it for management.
Click on a section of track and a list of all trains using that section will appear on the left of the screen. Clicking on a train in that list selects that train.
As new models of engine become available, or trains get worn out and slow down, you may want to upgrade your trains.
From the Engine Shed (4th icon at the top left) you can scan through the various engine models available. At the top right of that screen you can buy a new engine with the $ button, or upgrade a bunch at once with the =$= button. With the latter, you can either upgrade *all* your engines to a different model, or filter by Age or Suitability (Freight, Express, Mixed – determined by the model) to upgrade all engines in that class. You are refunded the remaining value of the old engine.
You can also select an existing single train and click on the Manage Train button (train with a pencil) to open a detailed individual manager. At the top right is a $ button to “Buy locomotive.” This new engine will replace the old one, again refunding remaining engine value.
Sometimes you want to manage a train’s route. Select a train and click on the little map button above the train information to make changes to the route. Each stop has a box on the left of the screen. Hover over one and click on the pad of paper icon to open the manager for that stop. You can click on individual types of good to cycle through preferred (green) banned (red) and normal (no added icon) pickup of that good at this stop. You can set min and max carloads to be picked up (total.)
While in route management, the right hand box can set the train route to be Automatic, Passengers and Mail Only, Freight Only, or Manual. Automatic is generally pretty good, but experiment! Restricted modes will pick up only those goods. Manual allows the player to set EXACTLY what to pick up and drop off at a Station. Click around, you’ll get the hang of it.
Trains will ONLY pick up goods that are in demand at one of their other Stations, and only as many goods as that/those stations have room for. If a train isn’t loading the goods you have specified or want it to, this is probably the reason. Cities have limited space for each type of good, and if another train is already on the way, the goods it carries count to that limit.
For a Warehouse to function, you must click on it and specify what it will hold (up to 6 different types of goods.) You also specify the maximum amount of each good – typically clicking on the button at the bottom to set the limit to 99.
You can’t stock goods in a Warehouse that are not in demand (yet) anywhere on the map.
If playing against AI competitors, you can buy stock in their Company, and they can buy stock in your Company. Companies may not buy their own stock.
Shares in general do not pay dividends.
If you choose to buy up all of another Company, you have the option to Merge them into your Company, or let them keep operating, giving you their profits. (Details of this are unclear to me.) If you Merge, ALL of their TRAINS are sold, giving you the cash value. You then have the OPTION to either take over all their track and buildings, or sell them off, too. Keep in mind that they will have Easy (single) track, so if you are playing Realistic, there will be some track building to be done to make workable lines.
There are other guides on the topic, so this will be brief.
Signals divide track into sections. In Realistic mode, only ONE train may use a section of track at a time, the first train to claim a section goes first while the others wait for it to exit the section.
The signals may require some practice and experiment to use effectively. Please play with them while not trying to win a scenario!!!
There are two types of signal: Stop and Directional. Stop signals are represented during construction by a yellow cone, Directional by a yellow cone with a red disc.
Signals will cause trains traveling in the direction of the cone to stop if the section ahead is not clear. Stop signals will have no effect on trains going the other way, but Directional signals will completely prevent trains from going in the other direction. Use them to make an efficient two-track setup.
You can place individual signals, or many at a time. Hitting CTRL will place signals along an entire section of track with one click. They will be spaced roughly a full train length apart.