Steam: Rails to Riches is a fairly new board game, published a few years ago by Mayfair games, that quickly swept up a few awards and quickly became a staple at hobby shop board game nights. Coming fast on the heels of what felt like a glut of steam-themed games both fantastical and historical, Rails to Riches stood out from the pack as being both fun to play, and packed enough variability and character that it was easy to fall into playing. Besides, if you think about the immense popularity of something like Ticket to Ride, and how simple its core gameplay is, you can add on the complexity of trade and variable turn order, and end up with an immensely engaging product.
|Multiplayer:||Local Wifi, Online|
|AI:||Full (Three levels of difficulty)|
|Purchase for iPhone:||See link below|
|Purchase for iPad:|
On the surface, Steam is a railway building game where the purpose is to develop as efficient a trading network as possible. You create lines between major cities, then attempt to move goods from one city to another, amassing money as you do. Because the points system is tied to number of goods moved, it’s a good idea to try to be as efficient as possible and plan out your moves in advance. While it can be easy enough to get an early lead, long term planning can let you mount an incredible comeback in the late game.
A big part of the game is its variable turn order. There is some element of mind games at work with when you start moving product, where you’re developing your rails, trying to throw your opponents off from interfering too much with your plans and getting in the way of your supply train.
Of course, you need to spend money to make money, and one of the fiendishly clever ideas in Steam is how money is handled. You start out with very little money and must effectively take loans from the bank. Because building tracks costs large amounts of money, you will need to juggle skirting debt, making ambitious build decisions, and leveraging your own power to help build the world itself. Yes, like the steel and rail barons of old, the world is your plaything, and you can construct cities and towns as you see fit in order to expand your rail empire. Need a place to unload a specific good? Build the town or upgrade a town into a city and you’ll be ready to go.
Scaled multiplayer is a nice feature that also helps games move quickly when trying to learn, but also gives you enough space to enact longer, more complicated strategies. If you’re trying to help a friend learn the game and key strategies, for example, a small 3 player game would have fewer turns than a max 5 player game.
One thing you cannot fault Mayfair for is adapting their game as accurately as possible. The art looks like it was ripped straight from the actual board and box, cleaned up, of course. After getting past the initial loading screen, the game seems to load quickly enough, and there are the usual bevy of features. You can change languages, mute the music, set a profile, everything you’d expect of a modern iOS title.
As with most direct adaptations, Mayfair added a few basic features, but kept the focus on rapid multiplayer. There is a tutorial and multiple levels of AI opponent to contest against, but the key ends up being the multiplayer. Local multiplayer seems to work well enough, and online multiplayer is on the way for those who don’t have any friends with iPads on hand. Achievements are also on the way, which is nice for the people who care about those sorts of things, though maybe not really something you can always try in multiplayer.
Unfortunately, Steam: RtR suffers from some technical limitations. The game itself is solid, no glaring bugs or game-breaking issues, but doesn’t feel optimized. This particular game was reviewed on an iPhone 4, so there might be some issues on my end regarding how much memory and processing power I have available, but in that case they might as well have limited the game to 4S and above. I don’t believe most players will have this issue, but for those older iPhone warriors, you might want to stick to something a little less resource-intensive.
Steam: Rails to Riches is a great choice for anyone itching for some deep multiplayer board game goodness. The option for AIs should be enough to tide most players over until the release of the online multiplayer and 6 player map component, which, looking at the game as is, is just going to make a good game better.
Check out other great games:
- Excellent board game port.
- Probably the best rails-based game you can get on iOS
- Some technical issues with loading and optimization.