I am not a train person. I like travelling on trains. Or at least I would, if I was rich, or lived in a country where all train companies weren't contemptible thieves actively draining the blood of society. But games about trains always passed me by. Not even the classics of the genre nor acclaimed descendants like openTTD have ever grabbed me.
So I started playing NIMBY Rails almost as a joke. Then I coughed, and two hours had passed. It is dangerously engrossing.
The idea is brilliant. The whole damn world is your canvas, stripped of existing trains and activity. Instead, there is potential, and obstacles. The potential is all those people living pointless, train-free lives.
The obstacles are roads, mountains, and bodies of water. Wildlife and architects are out of luck though. You can build stations and depots almost anywhere, and route tracks through space and buildings without a care besides costs, presumably in bribes. I have ruined villages, blotted landscapes, and destroyed almost as many schools as neoliberalism. But you must steer those tracks over roads in ways that work.
Some crossings are assumed as part of the cost, but there are limits. A train might not run directly over a motorway or entire city centre. But a snaking path that switches to a tramline, then a viaduct over the river, then back? That could work. And you can link it up to the station you built directly outside your girlfriend's house, so she can leave for work 80 minutes later, and visit the sea at the weekend. Let's build one outside Lidl, too, and set up a completely free line just for her. She deserves it. It will even name the station over a local landmark.
That's the major appeal. Unlike the stripped back, minimalistic abstraction of Mini Metro's big cities, this is the real world. You don't need to build society from nothing. You build the networks you want to, based on profitability, or sheer whim (especially if you disable costs). I started by building a line dedicated to transporting the people of Marsh Green to absolutely anywhere else. Don't call me a hero.
Once you've built stations and tracks, you buy train carriages and designs, and designate routes stop by stop, then what speed they'll go at, how much they'll charge, what days and times to go on. But things are so simple to start with that none of it is overwhelming. I figured everything out without reading a word of tutorial or tips. Just clicking around a bit. The layout is so logical despite its complexity that you naturally get curious about the next details just as you grasped the concept of the first.
It’s just entered early access, so has room for better controls, and some text fields are finnicky. And there's no sound, making it a natural Alt+Tabber to set in motion and check in on when your local Alice isn't looking. But my word, I can't believe how quickly I became engrossed in NIMBY Rails.