Ride the Rails from publisher Capstone Games, designer John Bohrer and artist Ian O'Toole is the second in the “Iron Rails” series of games. It follows on from last year's sell-out hit, Irish Gauge.
Ride the Rails, takes the mechanisms and aesthetics seen in meaty “cube rails” board games like the 18XX series and streamlines them into a more accessible package. If you want to move on from games like Ticket To Ride but feel heavier train games like Age of Steam and Russian Railroads won't get to the table enough, Ride the Rails could be a good option.
How to ride the rails
Ride the Rails is a route building, pick up and deliver game. Players build up stocks in the companies building railroads across the USA, before transporting passengers from city to city. Players gain money for both transporting passengers and for using the rail companies whose stock they own.
Each round players add a new stock to their portfolio, next they can build or extend a route in an attempt to connect cities. Lastly, each player picks up a passenger meeple that had been patiently waiting for you to not only send a train but build the damn train line in the first place.
Of course, they are happy to just be on a train so you can send them anywhere you want. The more cities you pass through the more money you make. Each time you go between two cities, the share price of the company that owns that track also goes up. When you cash in your dividend you get the share value multiplied by the number of shares you own.
So, you want to take the longest route possible, but you want to avoid routes that won't increase your share value. You could find yourself in a situation where making money for yourself makes two, three or four times as much for your opponent. This concept of “incentive management” is central to gameplay. Avoiding helping your opponents too much, while setting them up so they have to help you, seems to be key to success here.
Last call for passengers
This board game appeals to me no end and I will be picking up a copy when it comes out. The graphic design is clean and easy to understand. The rules book is just two sides of A4. The route building and pick up and deliver mechanism seem entertaining while the share management aspect appears very easy to grasp.
With medium complexity and lasting only about an hour, this game is right up my street (or should that be track? Tunnel? Ok, maybe not tunnel). I've seen a few people even go as far as to say Ride the Rails is replacing Ticket to Ride in their collection. While others are comparing it to other successful train games like Mini-rails and Chicago Express. And frankly, that's a big accolade.
Ride the Rails and it's expansion map France/Germany is out late July 2020, pre-order now.