Great American Railroad Game
remake of Stephensons Rocket
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This product has been canceled by Rio Grande Games.
Average Rating: 4.4 in 9 reviews
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.
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.
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. I give Stephensons Rocket a 5 star rating because it has the following qualities I admire in a game:
- Quick set up time
- Short player turns
- No luck because you don't draw cards or chits
- Only 5 pages of rules
- 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.
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:
- take a city token
- place a station
- advance a railway line and receive a share of stock
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This great designer's first railway game is another splendid example of the multiple ways in which he entertains and teases his fans. However, expect to play it several times before you fully appreciate its subtleties. Starting with seven locomotives and some money, you win by becoming the wealthiest entrepreneur--either by moving the trains to gain company shares, by merging lines, or by preparing for the trains' arrival at manufacturing centers (rewarding players who have collected most of its commodities) or railway towns (benefiting those with most stations on the line). You can try to change a train's direction by calling an auction, during which owners of its company's shares bid and the winner of the bidding forfeits his shares. But be warned--it's usually difficult to determine the merits of this ploy. Be prepared for a great trip, even when you only have two players.
I will state up front that this is by no means an unbiased review. I am deeply fond of railway games in general, and Reiner Knizia is easily my favourite game designer. If Francis Tresham produced a dozen games a year (or even one!) then there might be a contest, but as it is I own and play more Knizia games than any four other designers put together. It follows that the promise of a Knizia Railway Game was enough to set this man's heart fluttering, and it was never likely that I was going to hate it.
The theme is the railway boom in 1830s England, and the box contains plenty that is superficially similar to 1829. There is a nicely drawn map of southern England; share certificates for seven familiar railway companies; a wodge of cash; and 60 track tiles showing straight track on one side, and a gentle curve on the reverse (no tile 7s in this game, chaps). You also get a wooden loco matching the share certificate colour of each company, a clutch of city/commodity and passenger tokens, and a set of wooden station-markers for each player. The rules are logically presented with full colour illustrations, clear examples, and running to all of four sides. So, there are plenty of decent bits for your money, but how does it play?
The purpose of the game is the straightforward accumulation of cash. You start with nothing, and there are no opportunities to spend money during the game, so this is simply about grabbing more of it, and quicker, than the next man. A player turn consists of picking two of the following options:
- Taking a city/commodity token
- Extending a railway line, and gaining a share in the relevant railway company.
- Placing a station marker.
Whenever a railway reaches a city, cash is earned by the players holding the relevant city/commodity tokens. Similarly money is doled out whenever a line reaches a 'railway town' with the money going to the player(s) having the most station markers on that railway's network. Payouts also occur whenever a railway company is absorbed by another. This occurs in a similar manner to Acquire--a railway that builds next to another is immediately taken over. First and second majority share-holders get a cash payment, in proportion to the size of the company, and shares are then traded in at a ratio of two for one. This can, and sometimes does, result in the mighty LNWR being absorbed by the feeble SER, but not often! Crucially, any existing shareholder in a company may call a 'veto round' to prevent a line being extended somewhere unwelcome. Each player with shares in the moving company may bid a number of shares. The phasing player must then either match the bid--surrendering that number of shares, or lose control of the move. In that case, the player who bid the most, surrenders the shares he bid but immediately gets to build in an alternative direction. Cunning this, because although the vetoed player has lost control of the move, he still has the share he gained, while the player who stopped him now has fewer. Vetoing is thus a powerful, but expensive, option--and not to be used without careful consideration of the impact on respective share holdings.
The game moves along at a cracking pace with player turns often lasting no longer than it takes to grab a token and bang down a station. Cash holdings are kept secret but token and share holdings are open. Even so you will have your work cut out keeping tabs on what your opponents have done, never mind working out what they might be planning. Veto rounds do occur, but not that often because shares are simply too valuable to surrender lightly. The development of the various railways is highly tactical as players seek to maximise their own earning potential, and make things difficult for the opposition, and the devious will look for any opportunity to provoke a rival into calling an injudicious veto.
Play finishes either when all sixty track tiles have been used, or else when there are only shares of one company left available on the board. At that point there is a final payout to the majority shareholders, and station-owners in surviving companies. The bigger the company, measured in towns and cities connected, the bigger the payout (Acquire again). Commodity tokens pay a flat rate to those with majority holdings in each type, and the player with the most cash at the end of this final feeding frenzy is the winner.
Overall, this game is a bit of a wolf in sheep's clothing. Packaged for the family market, with artwork allegedly designed to appeal to female buyers, the chances of casual games players taking to this are probably small. Having played twice in Essen with the Brit-pack and twice since I got home with family, on each occasion, opinion was split down the middle. Others report similar hung juries with as many people hating it as wanting to play again. In my view this is very much a gamers' game with lots of tactical options available on any turn, a range of possible strategies, and no luck factor whatsoever. The theming is better than adequate, and stronger than say Ra or Samurai of recent Knizia designs. However, don't expect any deep railway-building experience such as the 18xx games offer. Stephensons Rocket is clearly NOT the killer railway design that will supplant 1830 as the railway freak's game of choice. What I think it is, is a very clever, tile-laying, middle-weight game, offering an original twist to the railway genre, and a challenge that is worth an hour of any gamer's time. Excellent, but clearly not to everyone's taste.