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Zoom In Stephensons Rocket
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Store:  Strategy Games
Edition:  Stephensons Rocket
Theme:  Train
Genre:  Rail & Network
Format:  Board Games

Stephensons Rocket

original German edition


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Product Awards:  
International Gamers Awards
Best Strategy Game Nominee, 2000

Ages Play Time Players
12+ 60 minutes 2-4

Designer(s): Reiner Knizia

Manufacturer(s): Pegasus Press

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Product Description

In the 1830's, George Stephenson's marvelous new steam locomotive, Rocket, won the competition to pull traffic along the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the world's first to carry passengers. The Industrial Revolution, with England as its crucible, was in full swing. New goods were being produced and transported to the expanding metropolises. Financial entrepreneurs, the new railway barons, grabbed the opportunity to develop the new railway network.

Stephenson's Rocket gives you the chance to become an early railway baron. You decide where to establish and develop railway lines, where to build your stations and in which industries to invest. Watch out for your competitors as they try to snatch the best routes and trade opportunities from under your nose. Time your play right, and you'll force your opponents to merge their railway lines with yours (to your advantage, of course). Relive the excitement of railway building in the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution - England!

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Product Awards

International Gamers Awards
Best Strategy Game Nominee, 2000

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Reiner Knizia

  • Manufacturer(s): Pegasus Press

  • Artist(s): Doris Matthaus

  • Year: 1999

  • Players: 2 - 4

  • Time: 60 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Weight: 1,360 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. An English translation of the rules is provided.

Product Reviews

 
 
 
 
 

Average Rating: 4.4 in 9 reviews

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Well Balanced Game
February 05, 2002

An excellent game that is very well designed.

It a combination of British Rails and Acquire.

Easy to play, easy to set-up, and involves no luck.

As the game draws to a conclusion, it seems that everyone still has a chance to win.

The game is also very elegant: as playable tiles are running out, so are available stocks and resources.

There seems to be exactly the proper amount of each item.

This game has become a regular with my gaming group.

 
 
 
 
 
Knizia Meets Casey Jones, ALL ABOARD!
January 12, 2001

This is the type of Game that shows that game designing is an art. The rules are short, there is very little luck, you can play several games in one night and it's fun. I am a fan of several railway games. I must admit I have greeted the sunrise more than once after an all night Rail Baron session and I enjoy the [page scan/se=0428/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]18XX games. (I also think Union Pacific is one of the best games on the market.) This game is different. It isn't as realist as other railroad games. (On the other hand when I play a wargame I don't need to smell napalm.)

Each game has the feel of a close Acquire match. It has suprising depth for a multi-player format. When you give up shares in the veto round to try to get the train heading for another city you better let your head and not your emotions be in control.

 
 
 
 
 
Multiple options + NO luck = a GREAT strategy game!
October 29, 2000

Knizia has given us another great strategy game, and I concur with the earlier reviews posted here. Not unlike his classic Taj Mahal, the player must contemplate numerous modes of scoring points, and select his/her strategy accordingly. Unlike Taj Mahal, there is absolutely no luck of the draw, or roll of the dice to influence play.

Hard-core railroad devotees may be disappointed in Stephenson's Rocket as a railroad simulation along the lines of the [page scan/se=0428/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]18xx series and the 'crayon rails', but make no mistake about it: This is a wonderful strategy game that will get many playings. I highly recommend it.

 
 
 
 
 
I really like this game!
October 27, 2000

I really like this game. I give Stephensons Rocket a 5 star rating because it has the following qualities I admire in a game:

  1. Quick set up time
  2. Short player turns
  3. No luck because you don't draw cards or chits
  4. Only 5 pages of rules
  5. Don't know the winner until end of game

Furthermore, and maybe more important, Stephensons Rocket is a very simple game to play despite the fact that there are many ways to score points and thus there are challenging decisions to make. I'll give two examples of rules which make for interesting gaming decisions.

You can extend a railroad so that it connects an opponent's station. Now this helps your opponent, but it also helps you. When you do this, you get a passenger token! The person with the most passenger tokens at the end of the game gets $6000.

An important decision you will probably have to make at some point is to call a veto round. You take this action when an opponent extends a railroad line in a direction you don't like. You call a veto round to try to change the direction. If you're the high bidder you change the direction so that it's more favorable. Unfortunately, the winning bidder must pay with shares in the railroad company. The losing bidder doesn't pay anything. Thus you pay an expensive price to win a veto round because you are giving up shares which may earn money at the end of the game.

Some players in the beginning may find the scoring a little confusing. The key thing is that railroad towns and cities score differently. I was afraid before I played my first game that I wouldn't know the difference between a railroad town and a city. It's easy to tell the difference. A railroad town has a picture of a railroad. I also thought the end of scoring might be complicated. This wasn't the case becasue by the end, there were only 2 surviving railroads. By our second game, the scoring was very easy, and railroad towns and cities caused no problems.

I was reading some analysis of the game where players were confused with the isolation rules. I wrote Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande Games to get some clarification. In particular, I asked Jay what would happen if a railroad merges with an isolated railroad. I wasn't sure what the result would be. It's very simple as Jay pointed out. If you extend a railroad so that it merges with an isolated railroad, it becomes part of the isolated railroad, and hence it becomes isolated. I hate it when I don't understand a rule and have to make guesses as to what the designer intended. It's not the case with Stephensons Rocket. The rules are well written and are logical and consistent. There are no loopholes. I am looking forward to playing this game many times.

 
 
 
 
 
"Money, it's a hit, don't give me that..."
May 15, 2000

Pink Floyd says it all about this game.

The 'Industrial Revolution' of the early 1800's lit a match of economic growth paralleled only by today's 'dot-com' boom. Railroad expansion was at the heart of this growth as it enabled growers to transport more goods to factories, which would enable factories to produce more at a faster pace, lowering the cost of the product, allowing consumers to purchase more finished goods. Financiers realized, control the railroads, you control the economy and dictate where, what and how a nation grew. Railroads also offered people of the time a faster mode of transportation to 'see the world' even if it was just a trip to the white cliffs of Dover. Reiner Knizia's 'Stephenson's Rocket' embodies the spirit of this revolution.

'Stephenson's Rocket' has seven railway lines to develop, with the game board depicting England from the town of York to the southern shore of Brighton. There are twelve cities and sixteen railway towns that players connect by advancing the railway lines to each. A player's turn consists of choosing two of three possible actions:

  1. take a city token
  2. place a station
  3. advance a railway line and receive a share of stock
Every time a railway line connects (moves adjacent to) either a city and/or town, player(s) collect revenue. Players also receive income when two railway lines merge. When the last railway tile is placed or only one railway line is left (due to merging) the game ends with players collecting revenue for having majority control of stock, goods and stations. Most money wins. Fairly straight-forward, except by limiting what you can do every turn, the good Doctor Knizia forces you to make tough decisions every turn. Add the twist of allowing other stock holders to veto how you advance a particular line can frustrate your placement of stations and city tokens you choose.

In Stephen Glenn's Fall 1999 [page knizia]interview with Dr. Knizia, he states he cannot wait to hold a copy of 'Stephenson's Rocket', and it is easy to see why. This is a challenging, complex (not complicated) game, not for the faint of heart. The play of the game reminds a lot of Through the Desert (connecting water holes and oasis with only two moves per turn) but on a much grander scale. In the same interview, Dr. Knizia also talked about his fascination with Monopoly money, and that is what this game is all about, making money! It is NOT a construction, rail baron style game. There is literally no 'luck' involved with the game either, so you win or lose by your own decisions and foresight (or lack thereof!) The physical componants are excellent with wooden trains & stations and solid tiles.

An excellent game worth owning if you like to challenge your 'grey matter' and would like the feel of J.P. Morgan's business savvy.

 
 
 
 
 
Can't wait for a new board.
May 01, 2000

If your first game of Stephenson's Rocket causes you to pull your hair out over the massive learning/playing time, don't despair! Your second game will come in at an hour or less and your third, forty-five minutes. Once you get the hang of the scoring, this game literally rockets along and folks who have played before can start using it as a quickie. But what a great quickie! It's a real head-to-head battle of wits with very very little down time and absolutely no 'luck.'

The scoring system is--certainly--a bit difficult at first, even for the true gamer. But get past it and you're flying. The reason the game doesn't get five stars is that it begs for a flip-over board with a second map: the first, amazingly, begins to feel too small. I don't know if Herr Knizia is into the idea of expansion sets, but let me tell you, if he starts bringing out a line of them for Stephenson's Rocket, I'll be buying them all.

This game is truly fantastic and will appeal very strongly to those who want a Railway Game they can play in an hour.

It's beautifully made, too. The commodity pieces are a bit small and the colors a bit overpowering for the small writing, but the trains are beautiful, the stations functional (shades of Settlers' cities) and the track tiles, while seeming bitsy at first, actually prove themselves to be highly practical. The board is stunning and fully captures the theme (yes, in a Knizia! He really seems to have taken his theme to heart on this one.)

A possible downside is that I can't really imagine a first-timer taking on a veteran with any hope of winning. Like knowing the secret of the Oranges in Monopoly, so too it seems that the Green Line, the Red Line, the Blue Line and the Yellow Line hold potential keys to success while the others are strictly also-rans. But the great thing is that, for relatively equal players, grabbing shares in or placing stations on those four power lines can be an amazing battle. The amount of ways you can block an opponent's plan--using shares to veto, moving the locomotive in unexpected directions, ramming it with another line to increase your share (and thus veto) power--means that replayability among like-experienced gamers is high. But this isn't one I'd pull out when somebody's cousin comes into town for a visit.

I'm always a fan of the maximum amount of players (in this case four) but with three it's amazingly fast fun. Once you get the hang of it (after one mind-numbingly slow game), Stephenson's Rocket has the chance to become your favourite 'We've only got an hour and we want something with depth and pieces' nightcap.

Highly recommended for gamers primarily.

 
 
 
 
 
Very good "no luck" railroad game
January 03, 2000

I became a fan of Union Pacific but I got tired of the luck (the way the stock cards came up). There are 3 options available and you get to pick 2 of them: Build a railway line, pick a good token, place a station. When you build a line, you receive a share of stock. When the line reaches a city, you get cash if you have the most goods from the city. If you reach a 'railroad' city, you get 1000 Pounds per city connected if you have the most stations on the line. If a railroad line connects to another railroad line, the line that just connected dissolves. You then get a bonus of 1000 Pounds per city connected if you have the most shares of stock in the dissolved line. Then you trade shares 2 for one in the new line. This is similiar to Acquire. At the end of the game, players receive money for having the most shares in a railroad and the most stations. The mechanics of the game are easy but are 'quirky' and hard to pick up at first. What is complex about the game is the number of ways money can be made. I feel this will be mind numbing for most people who aren't true gamers. This is why I gave the game 4 stars. If you want something with more control, buy this game. If you want something easier, stay with Union Pacific.

 
 
 
 
 
by Mark U
Business is Booming
December 12, 1999

This is quite the tile-laying business game! When I first saw the advertisement, I thought it might just be an attempt to keep pace with the Alan Moon train game Union Pacific. But upon closer inspection, I found it to be very unique. What is most interesting is that players can invest their limited resources in many different areas: 7 rail companies (track building), city industry (4 commodities), railway towns and land speculation (7 train stations per player) including the option to invest in the passenger carrying industry.

What is also fascinating is the way in which rail lines are expanded. Envision each locomotive as the head of a snake, with a trail of track tiles behind it. The track grows as players move the train in one of three very limited forward directions (30 degrees left, straight ahead, 30 degrees right). This forces the player to think way ahead of the train, because it can't make abrupt turnabouts. So you may suddenly discover that your great rail company is about to run itself into the English Channel, forcing you to grind to a screeching halt. A permanent halt, that is.

So far, we've only played it with 2 players, and the games have been very close. I can't wait to try it with 4. The components are nice, and the board is beautiful. ... I highly recommend it for those of you who enjoy business strategy games.

 
 
 
 
 
Fine strategy with nominal theme.
May 27, 2000

If you enjoy interactive strategic maneuvering, this game is a must buy. But, if you are a railroading aficionado, pass. As the other reviews have stated, I completely agree that Knizia has another gem of a system here with many choices and layers of tactics within a simple framework. And, don't be put off by your first game. You will make plenty of mistakes and be frustrated on what to do until you get the scoring system ingrained in your head. The system matures nicely, the components are top notch, and is Knizia at his best.

The downside is that railroading has little to do with the game. Yes, there is track to lay, and shares and commodities to gather, but, you just don't get any of the wonderful steam, steel, prospect, stock market, or delivery feel that the [page scan/se=0428/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]18xx, 'crayon' games, or Silverton give you. The mechanisms of Stephensons Rocket would work just as well if it was called Johnny's Walk in the Park or a completely abstract game.

With more play, I'll probably overlook the railroad intentions, and enjoy it much more for its intricate strategies. But, since it proclaims to be both, and isn't, it gets a three star rating.

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