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Train Games

I find myself drawn more and more to train games. Age of Steam, 18xx, Chicago Express, Irish Gauge, and other Winsome titles. They’re all amazing.

I absolutely abhor the theme, but It’s always mechanics before theme for me.


String Railway? Anyone? This is totally PBF-playable with basic Paint. Like a slow paced Mini Metro that won’t give you a heart attack as you’re playing it. (It’s still better on a table, with actual strings, and the occasional can or glass in the way). It can be a bit hard to find at your FLGS. It appeals to both my aesthetic, artistic side and my efficient, methodical side.

I do have to say, Ticket To Ride in all of its forms continues to be one of my favorites despite it’s over-popularity, but the very, um, “imaginatively” named, Trains, is pretty good, too (and, yes, it has worthy expansions, also may be hard to find at your FLGS).


So, I’m guessing you mean economic games? I actually haven’t played any, but my tastes do seem to be sliding towards this kind of player-dependant design, and fragile player-run economies, and away from typical engine-builders.

Locally, the only game I’ve seen played that comes remotely close might be Container.

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That’s a good description for the mechanics involved. It’s more systemic than geographical.

I’ve recently dove fairly deep towards train games. In the process of getting prepared for my Age of Steam Deluxe to arrive, I sorta binge-watched a bunch of YouTube videos of it being played; so when it arrives tomorrow I’ll be like a kid in a candy store where they only sell candy in the form of little cubes.

Additionally, I got tired of 18CZ glaring at me from my shameful shelf and I’m determined to get it played one way or another.

And, as the result of a variety of reasons, I went a little crazy last spring buying games that had been hanging out on my wishlist (usually just when I found good deals!). Unsurprisingly, “train games” were there least likely candidate for somebody else to buy for me, so there were a lot of them.

So, I have Chicago Express, Irish Guage, Kansas Pacific, Paris Connection, 1830, aforementioned 18CZ, 18Lilliput, Railways of Nippon; all unplayed. Not to mention every single game in the Empire Builder series of crayon rail games; all but 4 unplayed.

Do I like trains? Yeah, they’re cool. 6/10, would watch them go by if I’m stuck at a crossing. Looking forward to someday taking my family across the country by rail.

Do I like train themes in games? Sure, why not?

Am I strictly a function-over-form, mechanisms-over-theme kind of guy? ABSOLUTELY

EDIT: according to a crude search on BGG, my collection contains 39 games in the Trains category, not including expansions. And I’ve played 14 of them :thinking:


I’ve been keeping my eye out for this for years, but have never managed to find it :frowning:

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If the pieces are language independent, and you want a Japanese game I can easily buy locally, just let me know…

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BGB were fairly keen on City of the Big Shoulders. They described as being in the style of 18xx but using standard companies rather than trains.

US Amazon has it for $40 plus $5 shipping as of Right Now. It’s currently out of print, that’s still a decent price.

https://boardgameprices.co.uk/item/show/766/string-railway shows it at £25.17 delivered to the UK.


Played Chicago 1875. Haven’t played any 18xx (and probably never will) but I do love the shares mechanic. It’s a game not about who is the most efficient, but who is business savvy. There’s nothing funnier than people buying up shares on your very successful company, drive up its share price, and then sell your shares at its high water mark and crash your company to the ground!

Defo worth check it up if you want something other than those damn trains.

Ignoring 18xx’s. Cube Rails are fantastic. I love them. Chicago Express, Irish Gauge, and Paris Connection are superb. I need to get the other ones. German Railways and Iberian Rails are the next one in my hit list.

I tried Railways of the World - Nippon and Mexico (specifically) and I didn’t seem to like it that much. I want player interaction. In here, you’re just expanding in your own section and actively avoid each other, and occasionally steal cubes from other people. A bit underwhelming. :frowning:

Crayon Rails like Empire Builder? Not sure if I want to get into that.

Sigh. People in my gaming group thinks that I’m the “trains” guy. Yes. That’s true. But then they often confuse “train games” with train-themed games. If anything, I’m a “ship” guy. I got Transatlantic because of the ships (and also it’s by Mac Gerdts!), and I love Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails because of the cutey little ships!

There was me hoping this would be games you can play on the train. Eye spy tends to get tedious after a while. Especially when fellow passengers tell me to get off at the next stop.

  • games to be played entirely in your seat, no table
  • games to be played with an individual table (the aeroplane model)
  • games to be played with a shared table

City of the Big Shoulders is in contention for my game of the year (pending my playing more of the Essen releases).

It’s really a distinct category that people tend to reference as “train games”. Most are economic games, but there are some common mechanics like auctions and route building.

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I have City of the Big Shoulders (I had 3 copies, actually, since I won the grand prize on the BGG contest) and I wish I had the Quined version with the better name Chicago 1875. I haven’t played it yet; it seems a really solid design but I watched Paul Grogan tear into its rulebook and that make me cautious.

I have a feeling it’s never going to be a great experience at 2-player so I have no idea when I’ll have a chance to play it.

I still feel 18xx itself is worth pursuing, for me at least, because I love route-building mechanisms- hence me talking about 18CZ so much as I immerse myself in the rules and try to get ready to teach it to my neighbor.

I think he was a bit dramatic in this instance. Rulebooks are his livelihood and he has the right to tear it apart, but I personally didn’t notice anything wrong with it. There were a couple things I needed to confer with BGG with (not uncommon with good rulebooks either), and it was a bit long for what what it is, but otherwise I wouldn’t let it be deterrent.

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I am not a fan of Ticket to Ride but I absolutely adore Trains and came here specifically to mention it.


Yes, I was just clarifying. “Train games” can also be broadly interpreted by people unaware of your definition to means “games with trains as a theme”.

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It can also be interpreted by people fully aware of that definition to mean “games with trains as a theme” because sometimes it’s fun to be “obtuse.” Haha.