It’s no secret that I love Next Station London. So when I heard the designer, Matthew Dunstan, had a new railway flip and write on Kickstarter I was excited! This time the designer has teamed up with Jeffrey D. Allers, whose only game I was really aware of was New York Slice. I really like that game too, so that was no deterrent. Pioneer Rails also had an American Western vibe that appealed. I was therefore really pleased when I got the opportunity to play a prototype version.
How it plays
Pioneer Rails is a flip and write game where you will be building a network of routes to fulfil scoring objectives. The game is made up of four rounds, each with five turns. Players will take it in turn to be dealer. Three cards will be turned over from a shuffled deck of Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks and tens in each suit. The dealer gets to claim one of them, the other players get to pick from the remaining two cards, this will feel familiar to those who have played Ganz Schon Clever.
The card you choose has a dual purpose. The rank helps build a poker-style hand for that round which will gain victory points. The suit allows you to draw three segments of track on the map starting or along the route of a railway emanating from that suit’s station. These tracks will want to surround nearby landmarks and fence in cattle for victory point scoring, you will also want to reach towns which score points and provide useful bonuses too. If this poker hand and route building wasn’t enough to consider, there are also three common objectives to race for too!
Final thoughts on Pioneer Rails
There are lots of different ways to score points and after a good few plays, I felt like I hadn’t finished exploring them all yet! The poker hands are difficult to play for and although you can try to consider probability, there is still some luck depending on what gets flipped and when. Despite this, I really enjoyed the excitement of building the poker hands, even though I suffered some bad luck myself!
A minor quibble was that in a three player game, the amount of times you get to be dealer isn’t equal and when building poker hands this could be important. Maybe this will be addressed in the final version.
It reminds me of an advanced Trails of Tucana, perhaps mixed with the obvious sprinkling of Next Station London. If those appeal, then this is very worthy of your consideration.
I really enjoyed playing Pioneer Rails. My wife however was much more reserved. She found the admin of marking off places a bit too laborious as she would often forget. She enjoyed playing the game but her concern was that we would not get it played if it resided on our board game shelves. I think she’s wrong! I felt like there was oodles of possibility for more plays.
If it was up to me, I would’ve backed it on Kickstarter after each and every play. I’m still tempted to ignore my wife, but I’m aware our sofa isn’t that comfy! If I was more of a solo gamer, I probably would’ve been more inclined to back it. So I guess what I’m saying is, if you decide to back the game, please invite me round to play! I’m gonna miss it!