My opinion of Canal Mania seems to shift after every game. Now I like the game again! We played the game yesterday with the four of us (my mother, Ismo and Severi). With three newbies, we were still able to finish the game in 90 minutes after I broke the 50 points.
It was a fairly easy victory for me: I kept building my canals together so they formed a single network, allowing me a flexible choice of four- or five-point shipments. Meanwhile Severi had built lots of small contracts, securing the 10 points for the most active builder and a strong second place. Ismo was able to do some longer shippings in the end, while I think my mother would do much better the next time we played; too bad we rarely have a chance to repeat a game right away, so the next time might be few months away. The final scores were 67-63-51-45.
So now I think the game is actually fine for what it is, a light game of network-building and shipping. It works: it’s easy to play, yet offers something to chew on. I probably wouldn’t try Age of Steam with this group, so Canal Mania fills a niche there. With my gamer friends, it’s a different world, but I think I’ll keep Canal Mania in my collection for situations like this.
Of course, this is a mixed blessing, because I’m looking for some extraneous games in my collection I could sell to make some room and some money — I just ordered three new games as I found Northumbria Games, who have an admirable selection of Winsome games. I’ve got West Riding, Dutch Intercity and New England Railways coming my way.