Dennis's mention elsewhere of Marklin related board game, Ticket To Ride
reminded me of what I consider to be among the absolute elite of utterly best PC games ever devised -
Railroad Tycoon II
For me, RR II ranks right up there with Age Of Empires, Civilization, Command & Conquer/Red Alert, and Wizardry. ALL are masterpieces and I'd be extremely hard pressed to choose an absolute favourite - or even to calculate how many years of my life I have wasted (but THOROUGHLY enjoyed!) in almost living in such addictive alternative worlds - often 18 straight hours at a time! But for the purpose of this board, I can hardly lavish enough praise on Railroad Tycoon II.
Be warned - it can take over your life, if you let it, with options ranging from just 'playing with trains' in "The Sand Box", ranging right through to the construction and management of MASSIVE transcontinental railroads anywhere on the planet, all in cut-throat competition with either your PC's Artificial Intelligence or one of the thousand of human addicts across the internet world, or perhaps like golf, completely alone and just trying to improve your last performance, without killing anyone else in the process! All maps are based on the topography of real Planet Earth, with additional special scenarios such as "What if the Mediterranean dried up?" to stretch the imagination a little. Or you can terraform your own planet from The Earth provided. If nothing else, the potential for improving your understanding of geography is hugely gratifying in itself!
I bought its successor, RR III about a couple of years or more ago, but have not yet actually installed it - sheer lack of time! I have a sneaky feeling that, like many so-called 'updates' this one might be a case of overly-flashy graphics at the expense of immersive, realistic game play, which is another reason for no rush on my part. Maybe one day I will find out - I just don't know where my time goes these days.
Do take a look at the Poptop Site
and have a good poke around their articles and screenshots. I seriously doubt that anyone who uses a PC and also has a genuine love of trains and travel could experience anything but complete enjoyment with this incredible work, once they open their minds to its depths and bother to learn the ropes. Completely ignore the fact that the game is now quite a few years old - it is a truly timeless classic that will probably always remain so.
A quote from the producers, Poptop.
QUOTE It can take you from New York to South Africa.
It can take you from the year 1804 to the year 2000.
It can take you from penniless manual laborer to powerful multi-millionaire.
It can take you from a normal, well-adjusted, well-rounded person to an obsessed, singled-minded, one-tracked train head.
This is a real railroad game, not just a strategy game that happens to involve railroads.
If you want to hop on a plane, car or ship, hop on another game!
This game is about trains, for people who love trains.
Everything about the game is centered around an authentic look and feeling of the railways.
Period video and pictures are interlaced with the game.
The design and interface are true to the character of the fabled late 1800's railroads.
A.I. opponents are based on real people.
And all maps are real (based on satellite photography from US Geological Service and other sources).