OpenTTD is the open source clone of Transport Tycoon Deluxe. It’s an amazingly addictive time sink that you absolutely should not start playing unless you’re ready to come to half a day later realizing it’s 5am and you haven’t gotten any sleep yet. It’s fun just playing around too, but things get real when you set a goal like “connect every primary industry.” I haven’t played against AI or people, but I’m not that interested in that either just yet. This is actually my second time playing—I spent insane amounts of time on the game during university (too).
It can eat so much time because it’s so deep. The amount of details and tweaking and turning knobs that can be done is just insane. You can set specifically how a vehicle should behave at each of its stops. You can manually set the timetable for each individual vehicle in your fleet. You can go around bribing the mayor of some 100-person village so they’ll let you blow up a building in the way of your 8-track maglev mainline.
Having a lot of trains zigzagging around is surprisingly like the building a HTTP server. The line is only as fast as its weakest link and any (even momentary) trouble turns into an immense congestion very quickly. Improving the throughput of one bit will very soon reveal bottlenecks in other parts of the system. I love playing around with my pet server, and OpenTTD is fun just the same way.
There are only two bits I find plain tedious. One is tweaking timetables. I run my trains with “full load,” but I prefer my buses circling spread out evenly. Knowing how quickly a bus circuit grows a city I want to set the time to spend at each stop beforehand, but that can’t be done all at once (like “wait for 5 days at every stop”) meaning lots of clicking. The other is upgrading to maglev. I don’t even bother with monorail, but maglev is a must. In my last game it took like 3 hours to replace all the 120 or so trains while keeping shared orders intact. I guess this could be alleviated by having a modular network without any thru-traffic, that doesn’t need to be replaced all at once, but I don’t know how feasible that is.
I like playing in the sub-arctic climate. The lack of electric railway is a bummer, but the mechanics around growing cities above the snowline is absolutely worth it. Last game I had two 50k cities above the snowline which was lots of fun to achieve. I play without “mammoth trains” so the max length of a train is 5 tiles. Even these can feel really long when they break down in the middle of the station entrance bottleneck…
I’m still not sure if I want to play in 256x or 512x. 512 feels too big in the beginning to build anything, but 256 ends up pretty crowded in the end. It’s really difficult to estimate how to organize my “mainline,” eg where I should expect most of the traffic from. Some industries suddenly grow a lot (I had an oil well that wouldn’t increase production no matter what I tried for 30 years, then the next time I looked it had grown 10 times) and sometimes they disappear even with “perfect” service. I guess learning “better” junctions is one solution.