Dampfross (Bütehorn edition)

Designed by David Watts
Published by Buchholz Verlag / Bütehorn KG
Translated by Lutz Pietschker

"Dampfross"  ("steam steed", a romantic German nick-name for "railway") is the German version of the "Railway Rivals" game by David Watts. "Dampfross" is a family game of building a railway network, and then testing it for efficiency by running trains on it in competition to the other players. Several additional maps compatible to the game have been published over the years.

The game has been published some times over in Germany. This text is a translation of  the "Bütehorn" edition of the rules, published between 1979 and 1982 by Buchholz Verlag / Bütehorn KG, Sarstedt, Germany. Unfortunately, Bütehorn decided to shorten the rules in comparison to the original (English) edition, probably to adjust it to what they thought was acceptable for a family game.

Texts in Italics and signed "Ed." are my own additions and (hopefully) clarifications. Otherwise, I left the rules as they were written by the publishers.


  1. Overview
  2. Material
  3. Objective of the Game
  4. Preparation
    1. Starting Space
    2. Accounting
  5. Game Play
    1. Building Railway Lines
      1. Terrain
      2. Cost of Building
      3. Bonuses
    2. Operating Railway Lines
      1. Setting a Course
      2. Operating Cost
    3. Victory / Bonuses
    4. Continued Operations
  6. Game End
  7. Advanced Rules
  8. Clarifications


Dampfross is a leisure game for the whole family- up to 6 players may participate.

The game is played on a map on which the railway lines will be drawn. Three different maps are included in the game. The game is played in two distinct phases: First, you build railway lines (i.e. draw them with coloured pencils). Then, you run your trains on those lines.

Each player uses a pencil of his distinct colour to draw his lines on the map. The length of the line segments that may be built is given by the roll of a die. For each point one line segment may be drawn, from the center of one hex to the center of an adjacent hex. Each player may choose which cities he connects by lines. The first game phase ends when all cities are connected to railway lines.

In the second phase, the lines go operative. Start and end terminals are determined by die rolls. The player who is first to arrive at the end terminal scores points. At game end, after a number of transports, the player who scored the highest total wins.

But it ain't that easy: to use lines of other players costs money, if other players use your lines you get money. You can build new lines with this money, or you can save it. It's up to you to decide which and when- or?


Maps: 3 different maps, 6 each (In the first print of this edition, throw-away maps printed on normal paper were used. Bütehorn later switched to laminated maps. Ed.)

Coloured pencils: 6 pencils in different colours
6 pawns in different colours
2 dice, one red and one blue
1 rule booklet

Objective of the Game

Your objective is to be the first player to score a certain total of points:

Experienced players may wish to use higher winning scores and add 50, 100 or more points to the above totals.


First, the players decide on which map they want to play. In every game 6 or less players may participate.

Each player chooses a colour and gets the pawn and pencil of that colour.

Determine the start player by the roll of a die; play will proceed clockwise from there. For determining the starting space, see below.

Starting Space for the First Game Phase

For the different maps, different starting places (cities) are used:

Each player chooses his starting hex, beginning with the start player and proceeding clockwise. More than one player may choose the same starting hex, there is no limitation on this.


For each game one player must be chosen to do the accounting. We recommend to make a table similar to this one:
Player's Name Account (Points)
1. 20
2. 20
3.(etc.) 20

Each player starts with a 20 points credit. When the account changes, erase the old sum and fill in the new. On this accounting sheet all income and expenditures must be noted.

Game Play

The game is played in 2 phases: First, railways lines are built (drawn with pencils). Then, the lines are operated to score points. In this phase the network can still be extended.

Building Railway Lines

The start player begins. Each player in his turn rolls one die. He may now draw a line on the map with a length corresponding to the die roll. Each line begins in the middle of the start hex and ends in the middle of another hex. The length of the lines depends on the terrain you build it in (among other factors, Ed.) (see next paragraph).

If a player cannot use all points rolled the surplus is lost. It cannot be carried over to a later turn. You may build on more than one line in one turn, i.e. you may split the die roll.

Lines may not be built unconnected, they must connect to existing lines (of that player, Ed.) The exception to this is the starting hex.

Terrain: In the plain, building costs are 1 point of the die per hex.
Example: Player "Red" rolls a 1, player "Blue" rolls a 6, player "Black" rolls a 3. <Fig. 1: Building railway lines in the plain>

Crossing a river costs 3 points.

To build a line into mountains, or from mountains into the plain, costs 4 points. To build from one mountain hex to another costs 6 points.
Example: Turn 1 costs 4 points (into mountains), turn 2 also 4 (out of mountains), turn 3 6 points (mountain to mountain), turn 4 3 points (across a river). <fig. 2: Building railway lines in difficult terrain>

Cost of Building: (in account points) Expenditures are caused (spending account points) when you use hexes in which other players have already built lines. The points are payed to the player(s) whose lines are already there. If more than one player has lines in hex, the full amount must be paid to each of them. Only the use of city hexes is free.
The tariffs are:

Important: All lines leading into the same hex are regarded to meet in the middle of the hex.

Examples: <fig. 3: Cost of building railway lines>
The costs for player "Blue" refer to the crossing of each hex:

The points must be paid to player "Red" immediately after "Blue" ends his turn. The accountant then calculates expenditures and incomes of the players and notes the new account balances. Then, the next player takes his turn.

More examples: <fig. 4: Cost of building railway lines>
Lines "Black" and "Green" exist already. The "Red" connection A to B costs 8 die roll points. Red must pay 3 account points to "Green" (1 for connectiong, 2 for building 1/2 hex parallel to "Green").
Subsequently, "Blue" builds the connection C to A spending 9 die roll points. "Blue" must also pay 4 account points to "Green", and 3 to "Red".

Bonuses: A player connecting a city to the network for the first time gets a bonus of 5 accounting points (a credit added to his account). This bonus is not given for start hexes of the players.

The building phase ends once all cities have been connected to the network by at least one line.

Now, you go to the second phase of the game: operating your railways.

Operating Railway Lines

In this phase, goods are transported from city to city. It's best to use own lines for transports because you must pay for the use of other player's lines.
For transports, each player uses the pawn of his colour.

Setting a Course: Every city on the map is coded with (at least) one 2-digit number. Using those numbers, you now determine start and end terminals for the transport.

One player rolls both dice. The red die is the first digit, the blue one the second. The number composed of those digits determines the start terminal city.
Example: The red die shows 4, the blue die 2: city 42 is the start terminal for this transport.

The end terminal is determined accordingly.

Next, each player decides whether he can and wants to participate in the competition. This is always voluntary. Two players may co-operate for the transport. In this case they use only one of their pawn and share all costs and income.

All participating players place their pawn on the start hex. A transport will only be attempted if there are at least 3 hexes between start hex and end hex. If they are closer than this, roll for a new end terminal.

Of the participating players, the one with the highest balance of account begins. The other players follow in order of balance of account. Each player decides on a route and declares the chosen route. Again, the first player to move declares his route first. This route cannot be changed later. Each player has the choice of routes, but he must use some section of his own line network on each transport!

Operating Cost:

Costs in die roll points: Each player, in his turn, rolls a die and moves his pawn that number of hexes along his chosen route. Moving one hex costs one die roll point. The only penalty for movement is when you move up a mountain; this costs one additional die roll point. (I.e. every movement from a plain hex  into a mountain hex incurs this penalty, not from mountain to mountain. Ed.)

Costs in Account points: To transport goods on one's own lines does not cost anything. However, if you use another player's line you must pay one account point per hex.
Even if more than one line is in a hex you only pay once. (In this case, you choose, for each hex, which player's line you will use, and pay accordingly. Ed.)
When two players co-operate in a transport ,and an odd number of account points has to be paid, the richer player pays one point more.

Important: The account points a player has to pay are transferred between accounts after the die roll, but before the pawn moves.

Victory / Bonuses

The first player to arrive at the end terminal gets 20 points to credit on his account, the second one 10 points. (If only one player participates he automatically gets 20 points.)
These bonuses can be added to the account, but you can also use them to extend your network. You can also use the income from other players that used your lines to build new lines and extend existing ones. You may only use the bonuses and income from the most recent transport to build.
This is how it works: As soon as all players have arrived at the terminal a building phase is inserted in which you may extend your network. Each player decides how many of his bonus and income points he wishes to use for building, and then extends the network One accounting point lets you build a one-hex-segment in the plain, etc; the accounting points take the place of the die roll points  that were used in the first game phase.
The winner of the race begins to build, the others follow (in order of arrival, Ed.)

Continued Operations

After the first transport has gone through, its end terminal becomes the start terminal for another transport. You only need to determine a new end terminal.
Again, each player may freely decide whether he wants to participate.

Game End

Operations continue until the first player has reached the necessary points for winning the game:

Experienced players may want to raise these limits by 50 points.

Advanced Rules

The advanced rules differ from the standard game as given below:

At last, a recommendation: if you use a clear plastic sheet and non-permanent felt-tipped pens you may use the game maps over and again as often as you like. (Obsolete for the second print. Ed.)


These clarifications were added from an article by Knut-Michael Wolf in the "Spielbox" (vol. 2, 1982, page 31), a German gaming magazine. Ed.

It is important to distinguish between die roll points and account points, a difference often overlooked by novice players. In the first game phase (building phase) players roll the dice and draw lines accordingly. In the second phase (operation) the dice are only used for moving the trains while extensions to the network are paid from the account (in account points). All other cost have to be paid from the account as well (in both phases, Ed.).

Let's dwell on this point some more: the rules recommend that an accountant keeps an account sheet for all players. Because transfers between player accounts are rather common in the game the accountant has quite some workload. If possible obtain some roulette chips (1, 5, 10 and 50-points-chips should suffice) and make all transfers in cash.
If you cannot abolish written accounting you should provide 2 columns per player, one for income and one for expenditures. You may then do the bookkeeping as a checkmark list, totalling at game end. This should make the accountant's job easier.

To speed up building you should roll two dice instead of one and use the sum of both for building (some players even use three dice). This way, mountains and rivers are also easier to pass. By the way, each player must build a continuous network: all lines must be connected to existing own lines (this small addendum is missing in the German rules, alas).

To reduce the irritating luck component introduced by the dice into the building phase you should always use the advanced rules for the first game phase. In this variant, only the start player rolls the die (or dice) and all players use that value. The start player position moves clockwise each round (this also was left out of the German rules) because else he had a huge advantage because he would always be the first to build.

Using advanced rules, all cities are used as end terminal on an equal base. This rule could also be used in the standard game. To mark which cities have already been used as end terminal you may use the table game author David Watts has proposed (see below). When a city is rolled that has already been used as end terminal, re-roll.
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The Game Cabinet - editor@gamecabinet.com - Ken Tidwell