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Railfan Gaming > Railroad Board Games and Card Games

Date: 05/19/09 09:59
Railroad Board Games and Card Games
Author: tq-07fan

I have searched this forum and others and have found no mention of the wide variety of railroad board games and card games.

I'm sure that there were railroad board games before but in their modern form, that I know of, we can credit Avalon Hill with the first somewhat popular railroad board games. Their first RR boardgame released sometime in the early sixties was 'Dispatcher' based on advancing trains over a mountain grade. I have a copy, which are hard to come by, but have yet to play it. Avalon Hill was based in Baltimore so board even has B & O CPLs on it.

The next railroad board game released sometime around 1967 was 'C & O / B & O', again a board game based on moving passenger and freight train heavy cardstock counters at set rates based on class of passenger train and freight trains. One player takes the B & O and the other takes the C & O, the object is to run passenger trains ontime and for profit while picking up freight as it is generated in places along the board. You are charged for letting freight sit without being picked up in a timely manner. You are paid for picking up freight. You only get paid for passenger trains if they arrive ontime or close. Possibly one of the most realist of RR games most times I've played it, if you attempt to run passenger trains at all both players usually end up not making a profit.

These two are generally covered in 'other' railroad gaming systems, as most railroad games follow certain patterns.

Sometime in the 1970's the start of the Colorado railroad games, starting with Rails Through the Rockys. Players start building rails from Denver and other points on the Front Range toward the west. I do not have a copy of this game and it's been over fifteen years since I played it, I also cannot remember who put this one out. One flaw in RttR was that only two players could get through the last mountain pass, if you played the game for the four plus hours to get to that point. Later in the late 80's Two Wolf games produced 'Silverton' similar but much better. The original Two Wolf version players start out from various larger cities on a map covering from Salt Lake City to Denver and down to Pueblo or Santa Fe, NM and attempt to build across the Rockies. They must finance their railroad by bidding on and then operating and then delivering from mines (coal, silver, copper and gold), and lumber mills. They can also generate additional revenue from operating RPO service. Silverton is still being produced but by Mayfair Games. Additional games based on Colorado railbuilding have been produced.

Also in the 1970's Avalon Hill again released another railroad game concept 'Rail Baron' which represents buying up railroad properties and operating trains based on die rolls. It is one of my favourites, and as popular as it was there has been almost nothing added to the system other then there is a Canadian addition produced by someone else. Rail Baron is no longer in print as Avalon Hill ceased all game production for some time, was bought by someone else who has not produced all the old titles.

Over in Great Britain GMT Games produced '1825' which was the start of the popular 18XX gaming series. In 18XX games players buy stock, build track, and buy locomotives (which have depreciation and have to be replaced as the game progresses) and operate trains and hopefully pay dividends which allow them to buy more stock in other railroads. There are countless versions of the 18XX concept, too many to list here, Each have own special circumstances. 1830 was the first related to US and North American railroading in the Northeast. Some of the more interesting versions are '1856' which represents Canada. In the Canadian version players can obtain loans to help build track and buy locomotives. At a certain point if the player cannot pay back their loans to the Canadian Government they are folded into Canadian National. 18GL has similar rules to form Conrail. Many different 18XX games are still being produced.

Mayfair Games released 'Empire Builder' in the early 1980's which started what is known as the 'builder series' or sometime s the crayon games. Players are dealt 'waybills' showing cities that demand certain goods, the goods are located only in certain places on the mapboard. They must build track then pick up and deliver the goods which allow them to pay for more track to build a railroad system that should connect the major cities. Again the 'builder' series is popular with many countries and continents represented. Many of the builder games are still being produced.

Card games started with 'Express' and then 'Freight Train' the mechanics of which would be too complex to explain although the actual games are not. Several other RR card games exist as well.

A gaming system I don't care for but is very popular is 'Ticket to Ride'. Again since I'm not a fan I really can't explain the game.

Plenty of other railroad games that I have not covered, weren't mass produced or were just not that popular.

Check around, there may be local board gaming groups in your area or you may also want to check out some of the regional or national game Cons in yours and other areas for getting play railroad board games. I've been playing them since I was eight, no two games are quite the same.

Here is a partial list of games my dad and I have in no particular order. A few of these really suck so I claim no responsibility for your results.

C & O / B & O
1830 (Northeastern US)
Empire Builder (Original in flat box and newer version)
Silverton (Two Wolf Version and Mayfair Version)
1835 (Germany)
Express (Card Game)
Railway Rivals (draw lines and try to race somebody with a faster route)
Nippon Rails (Builder Series type game)
Australian Rails (Builder Series type game)
1856 (Canada)
1853 (Gulf States)
Age of Steam (Hard to Explain here)
Freight Train (Card Game)
Several Others I can't think of.

So anyone else into railroad board games?

Train Gamers Association website

Origins, one of the largest strategic game Cons in the country

Have Fun and Good Luck


I thought I would post pictures for just a few of ours.

1) A small stack of what we have
2) Railbaron mapboard with Railroad deeds
3) TopAss, a German cardgame. That's all I know about it.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/19/09 10:05 by tq-07fan.

Date: 06/03/09 15:16
Re: Railroad Board Games and Card Games
Author: SPGP9

I have a copy of Rail Baron, but the picture on the box is a full length view of the guy in the top hat. Bought it new a long, long time ago.

Date: 07/01/09 09:57
Re: Railroad Board Games and Card Games
Author: MysticHowler

There is a game I used to play a lot called Double Crossing. It was like Monopoly, but a little bit more challenging.

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