Within my travels to several countries, the rail network has always been indispensable. From London’s famous Tube underground to Tokyo’s clockwork trains — the rail system has come far from its origins in tramways pulled by horses. The digital version of Martin Wallace’s acclaimed board game Steam: Rails to Riches, harkens players back to the Industrial Age where steam and coal reigned supreme.
You start off as a budding entrepreneur looking to expand your reach into the deeper ends of each country — from the US to the European Rhine. The digital version plays out pretty much a lot like its physical predecessor — you begin by bidding for turn order and start out building tracks in hexagonal cubes. You may rotate them before setting the tracks down — and a soundbyte of a mallet on wood cements your choice.
As you expand further outwards, you will be able to connect more cities to transport goods between them. Each good is of a specific colour, and can only be sent to a city that matches it. Furthermore, you must keep an eye on your competitors too — the more railway lines they possess, the more likely it is that your goods will be stuck in transit.
Calculating the optimum number of railway pieces and their placement helps to ensure where and how the goods are transported — any lines that your competitors use will count towards your total score. You can, of course, be subject to the same system as well — travel an equal amount of competitor lines to yours, and they receive bonuses from it.
I would say that the digital version mostly lives up to its board game origins. However, the interface can be rather confusing at times — my AI competitors took to the board at an alarming pace, which made it hard for me to keep track of. I would think a visual representation of the income and victory point tracks would make strategy planning easier.
All in all, Steam: Rails to Riches brings a tabletop experience to the digital realm. Despite a few hiccups, the game was a good look into the age of railroad commerce. Makes me think more the next time I’m riding one.
Steam: Rails to Riches is out on PC & Mac.