There were two contenders for this role – Railways of the World and Steam. Similar games in which you need to build railways and transport goods along them. Already last year I got ROTW, and now I have Steam in my collection. So in just a year, my desire to get acquainted with the railway games was fully realized.
We are already well acquainted with Railways of the World, and now it’s time to talk from Steam. I will only make a reservation that it is recommended to read my ROTW review first, because I will talk about Steam, constantly comparing it with Railways of the World.
To build a road from point A to point B and carry goods along it, earning good money on it? Or maybe you have ever played Transport Tycoon or Railroad Tycoon on the computer and want to repeat this experience at the table? Or do you just like economic strategies where you need to develop your economy and make a profit? All of this can be done on Steam, the railroad board game created by Martin Wallace.
Purpose of the game
On Steam, players become entrepreneurs intent on building the most profitable railroad network. During the game, players build railways on the playing field and transport goods along them, earning money and receiving victory points.
The same can be said about ROTW, here you also need to build railways and transport goods along them, and the one who scores the most victory points wins. There is, perhaps, only one fundamental difference – the number of moves on Steam is limited, and in ROTW the game lasts until the goods are taken out of a certain number of cities. Moreover, players can increase the duration of the game by performing the “urbanization” action, in which new cargoes can appear in empty cities.
Both games are built on the same principle: there are multi-colored cities on the field, in which, at the beginning of the game, multi-colored cargo cubes are randomly laid out. Players will have to build their own railroads between cities and carry goods along them, delivering cubes to cities of the corresponding colors (red cubes to red cities, blue cubes to blue ones, etc.).
In this description, I rely on the beginner variant and, whenever possible, I will mention changes in certain rules in the advanced variant.
Steam is a small, oddly shaped rectangular box that contains a compactly packaged double-sided game board, over a hundred railroad tokens, seven role cards, cardboard coins, and lots and lots of wooden tokens. The complete set of the game roughly corresponds to ROTW, where there are also many, many rail tokens and multi-colored cubes. The Steam box is quite small, smaller than Ticket to Ride and about the size of Stone Age. ROTW is much more, like 2 boxes of Steam. It is equal in size to Age of Empires III.
ROTW has two playing fields. One is smaller for 2-4 players (Mexico), the other is larger (much bigger) for 4-6 players (US East Coast). In Steam, the field is one, but double-sided. On one side is a field for 3-4 players (America), on the other – for 4-5 (Germany).
The playing fields in ROTW look like a photograph of the United States and Mexico. Cities, mountains and plains are drawn in a style similar to a photograph. The cards look very good, attractive and visual. It is impossible to confuse the plain with mountains, rivers or water. The only complaint is the poorly chosen colors of the cities. Purple and blue city can be confused.
On Steam, the graphics are simpler and closer in style to traditional Euro games like Puerto Rico and Louis XIV. Here, too, there are plains, mountains and cities, but they are drawn in a darker style, and the cities are depicted somewhat schematically. From a functional point of view, there are no problems here, as in ROTW it will not work to confuse the types of areas, the colors of the cities are well chosen. The only thing is that the images of cities themselves are too strict for my taste.
Another notable difference is chips. If in ROTW, after building a new section of the road, the player puts a plastic engine of his color on it (to mark that this is his road), then on Steam, colored wooden circles serve this purpose (I like steam engines much more prettier than abstract wooden euro-discs). Finally, play money is also different. In ROTW, these are paper bills made of not very thick paper, in Steam – cardboard coins. The colored cargo cubes in both games are very similar. Also in both games there are opaque bags from which the cubes are laid out on the field at the beginning of the game.
Steam has 7 more role cards, and ROTW has two dozen plastic houses and railway structures that mark empty cities. Also in ROTW there are action cards, and task cards.
Let’s start with ROTW, because it has easier moves. All players perform 1 action for 3 rounds in a row. There are few actions: build a road, transport cargo, upgrade a locomotive, develop a city (urbanization) and collect an action card. It is up to the player to decide which actions to perform. He wants to lay rails three times in a row. Wants – improves locomotives or carry cargo.
On Steam, a turn also consists of three phases, but they are clearly defined. In the first phase, all players can only build roads. In the second and third phase, the players transport cargo (instead of one of the transports, you can also upgrade the locomotive). There are no action cards in the game. Urbanization is present, but performed a little differently.
So, in general terms, the similarity is clearly visible. Now let’s talk about the differences. There are action cards in ROTW – they give players some advantages: free urbanization, a longer road, extra points for transporting goods to a particular city, etc. There is nothing like this on Steam.