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Railway Rivals
Railway Rivals
by Rostherne Games (1973)
Player Count
2 to 8

Player Ages

Playing Time
2 hours
  • Transportation
  • Racing
  • Trains
  • Designers
  • David G. Watts
  • Mechanisms
  • Crayon Rail System
  • Dice Rolling
  • Family
  • Tube Games
  • Railway Rivals
  • Rating: 7.28/10 from 9 users


    A classic simple railway racing game, perhaps the first modern railroading game, where you draw the railway lines on hex-board. This is the original version of the game, which went through several iterations before ultimately appearing as a boxed game as Railway Rivals and Dampfross. It was designed by David Watts, a Welsh geography teacher and train buff.

    It was always intended first and foremost to be a good game to play, but David also wanted to use it for general education – explaining why railway lines were laid where they were, etc. The game is fundamentally straightforward – players build railway lines on a map (a tesselation of hexagons) with towns, rivers, hills, coastlines, etc. After a building phase there is then a racing phase – players race between randomly generated combinations of towns. Players with the most extensive efficient networks tend to win more races, and thus the game.

    It always existed as 'just' a set of rules, with a number of official or unofficial maps available from various sources. The earliest and crudest manifestation was just a few (5 or 6) A4 hexagon sheets, and colouring instructions to make the maps up. When postal games players showed considerable enthusiasm for the game, David moved on to produce large size (slightly bigger than A2) hexagon sheets, also with colouring instructions. Later on the maps were printed in one colour on big maps, which you could colour highlight yourself, and cover with sticky-back plastic sheets, so that maps could be reused if water-based pens were used that could be washed off. Multicolour maps followed, which were later printed with a laminate covering.

    The railways cost more if you go over mountains etc, but this gives you shorter routes. You can run parallel to other lines at a cost, or simply link into another player's track and rent the tracks of other players when you race.

    The mechanics are very simple, and there is some luck involved with the random races that appear, and in racing. Nevertheless, the better players nearly always come out on top. Despite the apparent simplicity, there are plenty of opportunities for thoughtful play, especially with tactics such as blocking other players out of areas of the map.

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