Dampfross (Laurin edition)

Designed by David Watts
Published by Laurin
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 "Laurin" edition of the rules, published in 1993 by Laurin Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Hamburg, Germany. The rules are very similar to the "Schmidt Spiele" edition which won the German "Game of the Year" award in 1984, but the material has been significantly improved, not least by the rule book appendices.

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. Material
  2. Overview
    1. Introduction
    2. Preparation
  3. The Construction Phase
    1. The First Round
    2. Construction Cost
    3. Accounts
    4. Payments to Rivals
    5. After the First Round
    6. End of the Construction Phase
  4. The Operating Phase
    1. Transports and Special Transports
    2. Conditions to Participate
    3. Joint Transports
    4. Running a Transport
    5. Winning a Race
    6. The Tally Bar
    7. Additional Construction
    8. End of a Game
  5. The Maps
    1. Bavaria
    2. Russia
    3. Kentucky & Tennessee
    4. Ireland
  6. Additional Rules
    1. "Jumping" Connections
    2. An Alternative Bonus System
    3. 2-Player Dampfross
  7. Author's Remarks
  8. Background Information
  9. The History of a Game
  10. Autobiography of David Watts


Remark: This game is not suited for children with an age of less than 36 month. It contains small items that might be swallowed. We recommend to keep the packing with the company name and address for future reference.


Dampfross is a family game for 3-6 players aged 10 years and above (rules for 2 players are included, see below). Experience says that the game runs -depending on the map used- for about 2 hours.


Each player is company director of a railway company. You play on maps designed specifically for Dampfross. There are many different maps, but the rules are basically the same for all of them. The game is played in two distinct phases- the construction phase and the operating phase. Included are some rules that refer to the specific maps.

In the construction phase each player draws his own network of railway lines track by track (i.e. stroke by stroke) on the map. Everyone tries to be first to connect cities that have not been, so far , connected to any network. If you succeed in this you get a bonus (credit) and, even more important, you create an efficient network that connects as many cities as possible along the shortest possible route. Alas, hills, rivers and the other players at times get into your way.

In the operating phase players run their trains from city to city. They use their own lines free of charge but must pay to use other players' lines. For each transport the first and second to arrive get credits to their accounts. The players may use this money to build more lines in the operating phase. The player who has made the highest profit wins at game end.


First, you decide which player goes first (e.g. by the roll of a die: the highest roll goes first, and the other players follow in clockwise order).
Each player selects one of the 6 pawns and also takes the crayon of that colour.
One player is chosen as accountant. He manages the accounts of all players- in plain view of them as they may wish to check on his accounting! (see fig. 3, "Accounting Sheet" (Company / Current Balance (in units))

The Construction Phase

The First Round

The first player openly rolls one die. This roll constitutes the construction budget for all players for this round. For example, a "4" means that each player may use up to 4 points for construction in this round. Each player, in his turn, builds his network by drawing lines in his own colour on the map, starting at his home terminal.
The home terminals on each map are given in the map descriptions, see below. (Each player chooses his home terminal freely, and more than one player may choose the same city as their home terminal. Ed.)

Railway lines are always built from the centre of one hex to the centre of an adjacent hex, crossing the middle of a hex border (see fig. 2). You may only build lines where there are hexes on the map.

A hint: you should not draw lines in the city hexes, for the lines tend to obscure the city number.

Construction Cost

All construction costs are given in fig. 1: as you can see, it costs 1 point to build from plain to plain (or city). To build into a mountain (or down from it) costs 3 points. To build from one mountain hex to another costs 5 points. River crossings always are given as additional cost, namely +2 points.
Accordingly, to give some examples, the combination "from plain, across river, to plain" will cost 3 points, and "from mountain, across river, to mountain" 7 points.

Some maps have special features like broad rivers (see the "Kentucky & Tennessee map where crossing the Ohio may cost up to +4 points in some places). All such cases are described explicitly, however.

Fig. 1: Construction Costs Fig. 2
from PLAIN to PLAIN: 1
across a RIVER: +2

Examples of construction costs:
Mountain- River- Mountain: 7
Mountain- River- Plain: 5
Plain- River- Plain: 3
Plain- City: 1 (the city is in a plain)
"from hex centre to hex centre"

You may not build in foreign areas (with the exception of the Kentucky & Tennessee map). All lines must end in the first hex beyond the border, or at a junction station. You may build more than one of such lines connecting to foreign areas.

If, as an exception, you are allowed to run a line through foreign areas this is indicated by a wide white line ("permitted build" in the map legend). Along such a line you may lay your tracks to the usual conditions. Parts of such lines that have not got a track laid by players are considered to have a track laid by a fictious foreign railway company- they may be used in the operating phase against payment of the usual fees.

Important: In the construction phase, construction is paid for by die roll points, not by the units (money) from the account. Points that are not used in a round are lost, they are not carried over to the next round.

(Rem.: From now on, I will always say "points" if I refer to die roll points, and "units" if I refer to accounting units (think of them as "currency units"). Ed.)


Each company director starts out with a balance of 20 units. In the construction phase this balance may not be changed to pay construction costs. Instead, two other factors may change the balance:

The first player to connect a city to a network gets 6 units credited to his account. Other players do not get any credit if they connect the same city to their networks later. In most cases, though, it will still be quite useful to connect to such a city or near it so you can run your trains there cost-efficiently in the operating phase.

When a player builds a line into a hex that already contains another player's line he must pay a connection fee to that player (see the next chapter, and fig. 4).

The accounting sheet shown above (fig. 3) may be used as a template for the management of accounts.

Payments to Rivals

When you connect to another player's line, or cross it, or build parallel to it in the same hex, you must pay units to his account. Any junction or crossing of differently-coloured lines is termed "connection".

Connections: any connection to a rival's line costs 1 unit. All lines in one hex automatically meet in the hex centre, you can not pass each other without connecting, e.g. by tricky drawing.

Parallel lines: If a player builds parallel to another player's line in the same hex he pays 2 units per half-hex. In addition, he must pay 1 unit connection fee because even parallel lines automatically have a junction in the hex centre.

Cities: Inside city hexes neither connection fees nor fees for parallel lines are paid. Only if cities are adjacent a parallel line between them incurs a special 3 unit fee (example: Nürnberg-Fürth on the Bayern map).

Foreign Countries: When building abroad no fees are paid to other players, neither for connections nor for parallel lines.

Important! If lines of more than one player are present in a hex, full fees must be paid to all of those players!

Fig. 4: Fees to be Paid to Other Companies
Junction: 1 unit
Crossing: 1 unit
Parallel line (per half-hex): 2 units

Examples ("Black" pays to "White")
To build parallel for one complete hex costs 5 units. That is, you pay 2 units for each half-hex, and 1 unit for the "potential" junction rsp. crossing in the hex centre.

After the First Round

After the first round the player who rolls the die and may begin to draw his lines changes clockwise to next player. The start player is changed like this in every round. Other than that, all procedures remain unchanged.

A player may construct his network as he pleases, he may build junctions and may split his point budget between two or even more line segments, but his lines must always be connected in one network. In other words, he may continue to build only from hexes already connected to his network.

On some maps, it makes sense to use the optional "jumping" rule, see below.

End of the Construction Phase

Round by round, one city after the other will be connected to the networks of the various companies.

Once all cities but three have been connected to any of the networks the first phase of the game ends immediately. This is true even if some players have not had their construction turn in this round.

The Operating Phase

In the second phase of the game the owners of the railway companies run trains between the cities. After every other turn they are allowed to extend their networks.

Transports and Special Transports

In each game there are 21 transports- 15 between cities and 6 to special destinations. As you would expect, Ireland makes an exception; in Ireland 18 regular transports are made, and none to special destinations.

Each of the 36 stations is the start (departure) or end (destination) terminal of a transport once in the game. Stations are numbered 11 to 66, and some cities have more than one station, i.e. number.

Special transports go abroad or to special locations (like the ski resorts in the Bavarian Alps). All special destinations get a number from 1 to 6. This number is not printed on the map but is explained in the map section of the rules, see below.

For each transport both dice are rolled, the red die giving the tens and the black die the ones of a number. Accordingly, a red "3" and a black "5" give "35", which of course refers to station number 35. The station of that city is the start terminal of the transport. Now another dice roll is made for the destination.

The 4th, 7th, 11th, 14th, 18th and 21st transport of a game are special transports. For them, the start terminal is determined as described above, but for the destination only one die is rolled.

On each map a square table is printed, to check off the stations already used.

When more than half of the transports have been made you will increasingly happen to roll the same numbers over. The following method might speed up the procedure: if a number is rolled for the second time, take the next possible number (for example, "45" instead of "44", and "51" instead of "46").

When special transports go abroad you may, depending on the map used, either build lines into any hexes of your choice that are across and adjacent to the border, or to any junction station in that country. Each player chooses the hex or station that is the most convenient for him. The same hex may also be chosen by other players.

Important! The shortest existing line between start and destination terminal of a transport must be at least 3 hexes long. Else, another destination must be rolled for.

When a station is rolled that has not yet been connected to any network this transport is cancelled, and both stations (even one that is connected) are not used in this game and are checked off on the station table. (Check of the transport number on the tally bar as well. Ed.)

Conditions to Participate

Every company director decides for himself whether he wants to participate in a transport. The richest company is the first to declare its decision, etc. Before running the trains, each participating player clearly indicates the route his train will take. He may not change the route later. Then, the pawns are placed on the departure station hex.

The chosen route must, at least partially, use own lines. On own lines you run your train for free, but to use other lines you must pay a fee of 1 unit per hex to that player (even if only a half-hex is actually used). The fee must be paid before departure. You must let other players use your lines if they pay the fees.

For each transport, no more than 10 units may be paid as fees to a single other company. However, you may pay, for example, 9 units fees to company A and 8 to company B.
It is also allowed to add fees up against each other. An example: company A wants to use the network of company B to the extent of a fee of 15 units. At the same time, B uses 12 of A's line hexes. This is legal for both companies in spite of the 10-unit-limit because the sum of payments is just 3 units (of A to B).

Joint Transports

For this, two companies join their efforts for this one transport and run only one train. They share costs and income equally, no matter which lines their train uses. This train may use lines of both companies for free. If fees or income are an odd amount they are shared in favour of the poorer company. For example, of an income of 15 units, 8 units are paid to the poorer company, and 7 to the richer one.

Running a Transport

After all fees have been paid the transport can begin. In order of wealth -the most wealthy company begins- each player rolls one die to determine his movement points for that turn and then moves his pawn accordingly, along the previously chosen route.

To move a train one hex costs 1 point regardless whether it moves in the plain, in the mountains or across a river. Only climbing a mountain from the plain costs 2 points (one of them for the ascent). See also fig. 5.

If the available movement points are not sufficient to climb the mountain -the player has only 1 of the required 2 points left- the train stops on the hex border. In its next turn, the train will climb into the mountain hex for one more point and then move on with whatever is left of the die roll result.

Important! Two or more trains may occupy the same hex, and trains may pass each other without inhibition.

Fig. 5: Movement Points
Movement from one hex to another always costs 1 point, regardless of terrain. Only to climb a mountain costs 1 additional point, for a total of 2.

Winning a Race

When the first train arrives the others continue their race. If two or more trains arrive in the same round the one with the greatest number of movement points left over after arrival wins.

The winner gets a bonus of 20 units, the second one 10 units, and all others nothing. The bonuses are credited to the players' accounts.

When two or more trains arrive in one round with the same number of movement points left over they share the bonuses equally. For example, two players that arrive together first get 15 units each. Three players that arrive together as second get bonuses of 4, 3 and 3 units with the poorest of them getting the 4 units.

The Tally Bar

After each transport it is checked off on the tally bar printed on the map, as a reminder of (regular) transports and special transports done so far.

Additional Construction

After every other transport players may build new lines, e.g. to connect to other cities, or to shorten routes- or just to hassle other players!

In turn, beginning with the poorest player, each player may invest up to 10 units for building. The cost in units is the same as it had been in points in the construction phase, but now it is paid for directly from the players' accounts. In addition, fees for connections and parallel lines have to be paid to other players, exactly as you did in the construction phase.

End of a Game

The game ends after the last transport went through. The winner is the player with the greatest balance of account.

When your time is limited you might decide, before the game commences, to run only 12 or 15 transports.

A hint: Please wipe off the crayon lines from the map with a dry cloth. We have chosen high-quality crayons that do not leave traces if you draw lines with normal pressure. If you are not going to play for some time you should be careful to remove the lines before shelving the game so the lines will leave a permanent impression in your memory only.

On the following pages you will find the rules that are unique for those maps, and information about home terminals and special transports.

The Maps


Home Terminals: regardless of the number of players, home terminals are Nürnberg and München. Each player may choose one of those cities as his home terminal.

Special Transports: to the junction stations (1-5) and to the ski resorts of the Bavarian Alps (Bayerische Alpen) (6).

  1. Württemberg
  2. Hessen
  3. Thüringen
  4. Böhmen
  5. Österreich
  6. Bayerische Alpen

Remarks: To build a parallel line between Nürnberg and München costs a fee of 3 units.
For 5 players or more, the use of the "jumping" optional rule is recommended.


Home Terminals: all players start in Moskau (Moscow), but each of them may leave the city in only one single direction in the first round.

Special Transports:

  1. Finnland ("Finljandija") or Estland ("Estonija")
  2. Lettland ("Latvija") or Weißrußland ("Belorussija")
  3. Ukraine ("Ukraina")
  4. Ukraine ("Ukraina")
  5. Georgien ("Grusija") or Aserbeidschan
  6. Kasachstan

Remarks: For 6 players, the use of the "jumping" optional rule is recommended.

Translation of Russian Names
All names are those that were common before the October Revolution, the German names are given to the right. Names that were only used for a limited time are given in parentheses. At this place, we wish to express our gratitude to Ms. Ludmilla Hufeland from Hamburg for her competent and friendly support in compiling this table.
Countries Waterways Cities
Belorussia = Weißrußland
Estonija = Estland
Finljandija = Finnland
Grusija = Georgien
Latvija = Lettland
Ukraina = Ukraine
Azowskoe More = Azowsches Meer
Beloe More = Weißes Meer
Finski Saliv = Finnischer Meerbusen
Kapieskoe More = Kaspisches Meer
Osero Ladoga = Ladogasee
Osero Onega = Onegasee
Severnaja Dvina = Nördliche Dwina
Tschornoe More = Schwarzes Meer
Ekaterinburg (31) = (Swerdlowsk)
Ekaterinodar (64) = (Krasnodar)
Kirov (23) = (Wjaktka)
Moskwa (51-53) = Moskau
Nischny-Nowgorod (43) = (Gorki)
Nischny-Tagil (26) = Nishne-Tagilsk
Petrosawodsk (14) = (Kalininsk)
Samara (45) = (Kujbyschew)
St. Petrborg (11-12) = St. Petersburg (Leningrad)
Turinsky (25) = (Serow)
Werchne-Uralsk (33) = (Magnitogorsk)
Zarizyu (62) = (Wolgograd; Stalingrad)

Kentucky & Tennessee

Home Terminals:

Special Transports:

  1. Across the Mississippi in Cairo or Memphis; the crossing costs 4 extra points
  2. To Cairo/ Illinois, Paducah/ Kentucky, Evansville/ Louisiana or Cincinnati/ Ohio. Paducah and Louisville are special cases: here, you must build a bridge to cross the Ohio to be able to go across the border.
  3. To Cincinnati/ Ohio, Portsmouth/ Ohio or Kenova/ West Virginia. Kenova is a special case: here, you must build a bridge to cross the Ohio to be able to go to the state of Ohio.
  4. To one of the 5 junction stations in Virginia and West Virginia
  5. To one of the 7 junction stations in North Carolina and Georgia
  6. To one of the 10 junction stations in Mississippi and Alabama

Remarks: Important! On this map you may freely build through foreign countries.
Crossing the Ohio costs 2 or 4 points, depending on the width of the river.


Home Terminals: regardless of the number of players, home terminals are Belfast and Dublin. Each player may chose one of those cities as his home terminal.

Special Transports: there are no special transports in Ireland!

Remarks: The 3 stations in the ferry ports of Larne, Dun Laoghaire and Rosslare all have the number "11". If this number is rolled as the start or destination of a transport each player may choose, independently of the other players, which of the stations he wants to go to.

Additional Rules

These rules may be used in addition to the basic rules (e.g. "jumping"), or alternatively (e.g. alternative bonus system). Obviously, use of these optional rules must be negotiated before game start.

"Jumping Connections"

This rule should be used for maps with lots of mountains, e.g. if 6 companies play in Russia, or 4 in Bavaria.

This rule allows to construct one's own network with laps. You may "jump" up to 3 hexes along lines of other companies while making connections (see fig. 6). To do this, you connect to another player's line and go up to 3 hexes along that line before branching off again. Of course, connection fees must be paid for both connections.

Each player may only make 2 such jumps along the lines of one other company. Accordingly, in a 4-player-game he may make up to 6 jumps, 2 along each other network. If a player later connects two separated segments he has another jump available.

Fig. 6: "Jumping Connections"
"Black" connects to "White", coming from the bottom of the sketch. After a lap of 2 hexes (along the white line) "Black" continues his line by branching off again.

An Alternative Bonus System

Especially when playing with children it might be better to give bonuses to all participants in a transport race, not only to the first and second to arrive. Therefore, under this bonus system 30 units of credit are shared between participants as indicated in the table, fig. 7.

A player may not participate if the route he wishes to use is more than twice the length of the shortest route used.

This bonus system will add 15 to 30 minutes to the playing time.

Fig. 7
Arrival as: 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
Two participants 20 10 - - - -
Three 16 9 5 - - -
Four 13 8 5 4 - -
Five 11 7 5 4 3 -
Six 10 6 5 4 3 2

2-Player Dampfross

Dampfross was not meant to be a 2-player-game, but you may play it with only two players using one of the following methods:

The following pages are an appendix to the rules. First, you'll find remarks by the game author, and his texts about the history of railways in those countries whose maps are included in this game.
Then, Matthias Stobbe talks about the history of the "Dampfross" game, and the last word is the author's again who will present his autobiography.

The Laurin Verlag is proud to present "Dampfross" as the first game in their "Author's Edition" series.

(One more remark: David Watts is a Welshman, and as such I expect him to be able to write clear and correct English. This text, however, was translated by me from a German text source. Any mistakes are mine, and any uncommon idioms are not David's. Please blame them on me and consider that English is not my native tongue. Ed.)

Author's Remarks

In "Dampfross", the objective of each player is to construct the best possible railway network. The maps in this box have been chosen to present different tasks to the players.

The fastest and easiest to play is the Ireland map. Therefore, novice players should select this map to begin with. All maps are suited for a 4-player-game. Ireland is also good for three players but gets crowded with five. The Russia map is good for five players, and the Kentucky & Tennessee map has room enough for six players. In Bavaria you should use the "jumping" rule if more than four players are in the game.

My maps are meant to encourage players to (re-)construct existing railway networks. The chances to win are better if you know something about the geography and the railway history of a country. For this reason I have compiled some facts about the history of railways in the countries touched here.

As in real life, you must consider in a game of "Dampfross":

Obstacles: Rivers and mountains increase the construction costs and accordingly slow down the construction work.

Flow of Traffic: What regions and cities must be connected to maximise profits?

Competition: Construction work is always influenced by the actions of your rivals.

There is no recipe to guarantee success because playing games is an art, not a science!

Tactics that work in one game may fail in another, even using the same map. But there are some general guidelines:

  1. All regions of the map can easiest be reached from the map centre.
  2. Connections should be made in an angle that respects the main flow of traffic.
  3. A long, straight line through the map centre, with many short branch lines, is the best base for future extensions.
  4. A monopoly in some region is always worth the effort: try to achieve it, and deny it to others!
  5. The 6-unit-bonus for connecting a city to the network is pocket-money compared to later income: the big buck is earned in the operating phase. City connections only yield a total of 200 units per game, compared to 600 units of transport bonuses.
  6. Always look out for your sharpest rival. Pay as little as possible to him, and upset his plans wherever possible (e.g. by building lines in his regions).
  7. Remember that the maps are designed to re-create real network layouts: it pays to read the remarks to the maps, see below.
  8. Before you erase the networks created in a game, study them minutely to find out why some networks were more efficient than others.
  9. If you play often, and with a different number of players, you will increase your chances to win.

May all players of "Dampfross" have fun, and always travel safe!

David Watts

Background Information: Bayern

Bayern (Bavaria) holds a special position in the history of German railways because the first German railway line was built from Nürnberg to Fürth in 1835. By 1861 a respectable network had been built under governmental control, connecting most regions of the country to each other. Admittedly, the lines were very long and laid in complicated patterns. You see this for yourself if you consider that most of today's trunk lines did not exist at that time.

With trade and demand for railway connections increasing, shorter trunk lines were built between major cities. Branch lines were demanded by local administrations, and accordingly built, to connect to nearly every town and larger village. This led to a wide-spread network, 90 per cent of which still exists today.

Bayern is the largest state in the German federation. High mountains stretch along its eastern and southern borders but the larger part of it is a landscape of rolling hills, not very high, even rather flat outside the valleys. Apart from the two big centres, München and Nürnberg (which are also the home terminals on our map), the population is spread rather evenly. Accordingly, the railway lines are also distributed widely.

Though on first glance the map seems to be full of mountains, there are many by-ways so you are seldom forced to build lines across mountain hexes. A certain difficulty is caused by the slight "hourglass-figure" of the country. This will often cause a competition between players to push towards the central Nördlingen- Ingolstadt- Regensburg region. Whoever has a direct connection between the traffic hubs Nürnberg and München is in a very strong position. Realistically, however, you cannot expect to develop more than 60 per cent of the map on your own.

More often than other maps, Bayern will see joint transport efforts of players that have begun at the two centres. You should consider to plan the network towards this option from the very beginning- it is not very effective to build lines in the centre, parallel to another player, if you are going to join trains regularly later in the game!

With 5 or 6 players, you should use the "jumping" rule to allow an interesting game.

One design problem was that some important cities (e.g. Ingolstadt, Regensburg and Passau) straddle rivers with the station, to put it mildly, on the less lively side. We have decided to put the city always on the side where the station was situated (and still is).

All in all, the Bayern map is certainly more difficult to play than the other maps of this box, and it will be more fun for experienced players than for beginners.

Figures: The station of Munich / Station signal at railway crossings / Announcement of the opening of the Munich-Augsburg line.

Background Information: Irland

Around the middle of the 19th century Ireland had a rather large population- 3 million people. Most of them, however, were impoverished peasants who had no real use for a railway. Moreover, the population decreased constantly, eventually halving inside some 100 years. Heavy industry scarcely developed, and there was little coal and iron ore. And then, there were no major cities except Dublin and Belfast.

In spite of this Ireland boasted a good railway network. With the exception of a few villages in the west, no town or village was more than 15 km from a railway station. To some extent, this was caused by the typically Victorian optimism: even if there was not much money to be made with railways, the business would certainly develop! Then, the major land-owners supported the railways in the hope to increase the value of their land- and the rent. Finally, national and international governments and administrations agreed to give credit payments and allowances to railway companies.

If you know Ireland you will not be surprised that the first three lines had all different gauges. And when they finally agreed to use one gauge, it was different from that in the rest of Europe.

Ireland is rather flat, and despite some swampy regions it is not too hard to construct tracks. There are many mountainous regions of course, especially near the coast, but there is always room enough between them or to go around, so there are few tunnels.

The largest cities are also the most important ports: Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Waterford and Limerick. And naturally, exactly these cities were the homes of most railway companies. In the poorer mountain regions not even the most optimistic would hope for some "large" railway. Accordingly, no less than 18 narrow-gauge lines were built. Most of them were short connections between small towns or agricultural centres and a market. On a market day there was often as much traffic as in the whole rest of the week.

With this background, only a few big and wealthy companies existed, all operating on the same pattern. They ran lines into the country from Dublin, Belfast and other ports. By and by, the networks expanded, either by construction or by buying weaker companies. In addition there were numerous smaller companies with one or two short lines each that connected to the trunk lines in market towns.

Three big companies supported 90 per cent of Ireland. The "Great Southern & Western" was founded in 1844 to build the trunk line from Dublin to Cork. Determined to keep their monopoly it swallowed many smaller companies like the "Waterford & Limerick" that had built across GSW territory all the way to Sligo.

The "Midland Great Western" was founded in 1845 and started out by building a line from Dublin to Mulligar. The usual process of construction and buying of small companies carried it right through the centre of Ireland to four towns on the west coast.

The "Great Northern" (one of their beautiful engines, the Kestrel, is reproduced on page 9 of the rule book) was founded in 1870 as a fusion of three companies that formed the trunk connection Dublin- Drogheda- Portadown- Belfast between them. Like the MGW and the GSW they expanded westward and took over the rich northwest: Dundalk- Eniskillen- Derry.

The "Belfast & N. Counties" was much smaller, but their main line connected the busy towns between Belfast and Strabane.

To the "Dublin & SE" belonged the line, established as early as 1834, from Dublin to Dun Laoghaire, one line with the imposing name of "Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow & Dublin", and the even more imposingly (though entirely correctly) named "Dublin, Rathmines, Ratgar, Roundtown, Rathfarnham & Rathcoole" line.

The "Sligo, Leitrim & North Counties" was the only company that could offer a working connection between two larger networks. Other lines like the "Cloher Valley" and the "Cavan & Leitrim" looked like connections but were only narrow-gauge railways that could, obviously, not offer a continuous flow of traffic.

The majority of the smaller companies around the fringes of the island ran narrow-gauge lines. Most of the lines were short, but in the far northwest the "Londonderry & Lough Swilly" as well as the "County Donegal Joint" had networks of more than 1500 km of tracks. The most unusual line was the "Listowel-Ballybunion", a Lartigue system monorail of 15 km length near Tralee, shut down in 1924.

The division of Ireland in 1922 caused the fusion of all lines in the new (southern) Republic of Ireland into the "Great Southern Railway", with the exception of those lines that crossed the border.

Inevitably many lines have been closed down in the last 40 years. More than half of the network is no longer used, and all narrow-gauge lines have vanished over the years. None of the lines that crossed the border exist any more, except the trunk line between Dublin and Belfast. And even this line is often closed because of bomb attacks by the IRA, though I cannot see how disrupting the only existing railway connection between north and south could help the Irish reunion.

In the game, probably more lines will be built than Ireland ever had!

A second or even a third connection Dublin-Cork, and more North-South connections than existed in reality, will be built time and again. Many short connections that were missing, or never completed because they would have drawn traffic from the existing profitable lines, will be possibly be constructed. This could be lines from Sligo to Donegal, a direct coastal line from Cork to Waterford, and the line from Wicklow to Kilkenny and through the regions beyond Drogheda.

Perhaps you will create the network Ireland might have had if it had possessed more coal and iron ore!

Figures: Ticket printing machine

Background Information: Russland

Russia is the largest state of the former USSR. Most Russians live in the relatively small European part of Russia, which nevertheless is larger than the complete European Union!

Along the southern border lies the Caucasus, the highest mountain range in Europe and even in 1992 not crossed by any railway. The lines to Georgija and Aserbeidjan run through the plains along the Black Sea and Caspic Sea.

To the east is the Ural. It looks impressive on the map- a long straight line of mountains, with plains on either side. However, it is no obstacle really worth mentioning because it has many relatively easy passes.

The rest is a part of the huge Northern European Plains- low, frequently swampy and relatively plain. There are two stretches of a more hilly landscape: one between Moscow and the western border, the other between Moscow and the Ural.

Though the highest summits only reach up to 300 m MSL they cause a deviation of railway lines from a straight bee line. The lakes and wide rivers are a larger obstacle. Along the Wolga and the Don dams create artificial reservoirs that may not be crossed by railway lines in this game (in some cases, there have been railways there before the lakes!) and often influence the path of those lines.

The path of the line between Moscow and St. Petersburg has been decided upon by the Czar who put a ruler on the map and drew a straight line!

Many of the early lines were built under contract for the government by private companies. 1913 there were still 13 private and 25 public lines. After 1917 all lines came under governmental control, and many new lines have also been built. Most lines were built for freight transports and because speed is not a decisive factor for them, many lines do not run as straight as they could have done. The population is distributed quite evenly outside the cities with only the north having a lesser density because of the cold climate. The Ural is one of the richest mineral deposits of the world. Most cities are east of it (which makes the game rather more interesting). It is nearly impossible to win without having a line running into the Ural. The breach near Swerdlovsk is an obvious objective for everyone. In all parts of the map the hills and the lakes along the rivers make it more difficult than one would think on the first glance to copy a rival's line. Note the double special transports into the Ukraine. Because of the fertile soil and the huge deposits of coal and iron ore traffic between Russia and the Ukraine is quite busy. Lines running to the isolated northern ports of Murmansk and Archangelsk as well as the north-eastern coal region can make a tidy profit. It is doubtful, however, whether two lines to these far apart locations are worth the effort. When the other players do not spoil your plans you might try to construct a line triangle Moscow- Ufa- Zarizyu (Wolgograd/ Stalingrad), with short branch lines to other places. The map is suited for 3 to 5 players. With 6 players, any one player can not even cover half of the map if you do not use the "jumping" rule. Even if the map is longer from north to south than from east to west, most of the traffic runs in east/west directions, especially between the Ural and the region of Moscow. All in all, this map is harder to play as it might seem at the first glance.

Background Information: Kentucky & Tennessee

These two states in the interior of the USA are bounded by the Mississippi to the west, and by the Ohio to the north. To the south, a dead straight line is the border to the neighbouring states of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. To the east the Appalachian Mountains constitute a barrier. Even if rising to "only" 2000 m, they run in parallel mountain ranges in a direction from south-east to north-west. A large valley stretching from Chattanooga to Bristol makes it easy to build in that direction, but for lines running from west to east, and even more so for those from north to south, you will have to build tunnels.

To the west and the north there are plains that slope gently towards the Mississippi and the Ohio. Here, the main obstacles are the tributaries, especially the Tennessee and the Cumberland where they run parallel near Paducah.

In the centre lies a wide plateau: numerous valleys offer room for railway lines, but the area is populated so thinly that is has no interest for a railway builder- except that he must cross it! Consequently, right in the middle of the map, around the Cumberland valley, is one of the two largest areas east of the Mississippi that does not have any railways.

Apart from this nearly uninhabited centre, the population is distributed fairly even. Most of the larger cities were founded as river harbours, and of course the first railways originated from those cities. In turn, this led to a faster growth than that of other cities. Because railway lines met here, these cities became important hubs where different railways connected to exchange cargoes. Besides the local traffic of the big cities, the transit traffic was important: trains from the interior states of the North and the West connect to trains from the ports on the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and to the Atlantic ports to the east, off the limits of the map.

Of the traffic originating in Kentucky itself, a considerable part comes from the coal mines in eastern Kentucky around Middlesboro, Hazard and Pikeville. This is one of the richest coal deposits of the world and today more is mined there than in the famous "coal states" Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Accordingly, the railway lines in eastern Kentucky have many short branch lines running into the mining valleys.

The leading company of this region was the "Louisville & Nashville". Also known as the "Old Reliable" it was one of the few companies to survive without changing its name, or going bankrupt. Determined to maintain the leading position, it extended its network and bought out rival companies to eventually cover nearly all of Kentucky, most of Tennessee, and notable parts of other states.

The "Nashville- Chattanooga- St. Louis" does not connect to all towns mentioned in its name, similar to many other other American railway companies! The main line runs from Chattanooga via Nashville to Memphis. The Paducah line connects to other company's lines that do indeed run to St. Louis. For a long time the "L&N" had known how splendidly the "N, C & St.L" would fit into its network, and slowly acquired a majority of shares. The final fusion came in the 50's.

The "Southern Railway" has important lines in this region, as part of its huge network covering nearly all of the United States. Especially important are the lines from Chattanooga to Cincinnati that boasts 27 tunnels, and to Memphis where it connects to many other companies.

The "Tennessee Central", true to its name, runs east/ west lines and connects the "Southern" to the "Illinois Central".

The "Illinois Central" strikes out south through western Kentucky and Tennessee towards the Gulf of Mexico. It clashed with the "Gulf, Mobile & Ohio" that extended in the opposite direction into the same area. Only in the 60's both companies fusioned into the "Illinois Central Gulf".

The "Chesapeake & Ohio", an important coal carrier, stretches through the north-east of Kentucky on its way to Chicago and has important branch lines into the coal regions, and to Lexington.

The "Norfolk & Western", another major coal carrier, is reaching out farther into the country but most of its network is outside of Kentucky, with the exception of short mine branches crossing the Big Sandy River that constitutes the northern border of the state.

The "Clinchfield", one half of which is owned by the "L&N" since 1926, is a well-frequented if short line. It needed 55 tunnels on its complicated route across the mountains!

As described above those companies existed from around 1890 into the 50's. Most of the approximately 100 independent companies have since merged into 6 big corporations. Taken together, these groups control more than 90% of today's network. They almost exclusively run freight trains, there are next to no passenger trains. The exceptions are the passenger services run with the support of national ("Amtrak") or local administrations. The "Norfolk & Western" swallowed up several other railway networks in the 60's, built one big group and eventually fusioned with the "Southern" to establish the "NWS Corporation" in 1981.

Similarly, the so-called "family lines" (L&N, NC&St.L, Clinchfield and others) merged with the so-called "Chessie system" into the "CSX". The "Deanne Connection" between Pikeville and Hazard was one of the more interesting results: one kilometer of newly-laid track shortened the the route of the coal trains to Georgia and North Carolina by 300 km!

Today, the "Illinois Central Gulf" is the only other railway company of that region and it is common knowledge that it hopes to be taken over by some other corporation.

On this Dampfross map it is rather easy to build southwest towards Memphis, starting from the Cincinnati- Lexington- Louisville area. It is somewhat more difficult to go south to Chattanooga on one of the three routes that make sense, but the east-west connections really have their limitations. You should consider that Chattanooga as well as Memphis are not only "double" cities but also connections to other states, as are Louisville and Cincinnati.

The design of the game map is meant to prevent players from building through the "dead" regions in the centre, between Nashville and Somerset. You are not allowed to cross the Mississippi, and indeed it is not necessary, but a line from Evansville through South Indiana to Louisville and Cincinnati may be an option for a player starting in Nashville when he finds the normal way to Louisville- Lexington blocked.

Tennessee & Kentucky is by no means a map that is easy to play, and marginal victories are common.

This map has room enough for up to 6 players but in that case you better plan to do many joint transports with players that started out from different home terminals.

The History of a Game

To find someone who is at the same time a Dampfross addict of the first hour, a game critic, and a friend of David Watts, and who is moreover ready to write about the history of this game, simply (?) means to ask Matthias Stobbe.

Unloved Educational Media: Beginnings of a Modern Classic

Few contemporary games have had a history as turbulent as Dampfross. As early as 1948 the author, the Welshman David Watts, wrote down some first thoughts. To be sure, a landscape overlayed by a hex grid was all that marginally reminds us of the game as we know it today. Until the mid-60's nothing more happened.

When David Watts began his career as a teacher of geography this was the inducement to resurrect the idea of his younger days. In a playful way his students were meant to learn the relations between landscape, settlements and traffic. For this reason the game maps were always developed to be close to reality.

First, David Watts copied to existing railway lines to a grid paper. Then he chose the exact positions of towns and terrain obstacles -mountains and rivers- in a way that in the game the real routes were mirrored as often as possible. But as good as the idea may have been, Dampfross was no real success, and no favourite of his students.
However, his "Simulation of Geography of Traffic" was much more well-received by his colleagues and other adults.

Therefore, from 1969 on Dampfross was sold under the name of "Railway Rivals" by direct marketing, and by and by the home-made copies enjoyed an extended popularity. This certainly was not by reason of appearance: the game consisted of just the photo-copied rules and a few sheets of A4-sized paper with a numbered hex grid overlay. Another sheet gave the locations where players were supposed to mark mountain and city hexes, and the rivers. Depending on the artistic standard required by the owner of such a "Do-It-Yourself Kit" some time might pass before a map was ready for play. Clear protector sheets and felt-tipped pens made sure the maps were re-usable.

A side effect of the hex co-ordinates which were essential for drawing the maps was that you could play Dampfross by mail. You only needed an umpire to whom the players would send their construction orders, and a newsletter to regularly publish the results and the conditions for the next round. The first play-by-mail game started in 1976 and lasted 10 months; historians may want to note that a certain T. Ball won the game.

To promote sales of his game David Watts started his own play-by-mail magazine in September 1977. It has been a source of new rules variants and map prototypes that has never been depleted to this day.

>From the smallest map, "Isle of Man", to the largest, "China", to this day some 40 countries and regions have been offered as Dampfross maps. Probably the best-known curiosities are the Fidschi Islands and -neither official nor licensed- the most famous of all fantasy worlds, J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.

First, No Mountains... Then Too Many: Dampfross in Germany

Finally, via a detour Dampfross came to Germany: the journalist Walter Luc Haas from Switzerland can claim to have turned "Railway Rivals" into "Dampfross". He came to know and to like it by his involvement in playing by mail so that he dedicated a short review to the game in the first edition of his gaming magazine "Joker". Furthermore, he managed to place the game in the "Bütehorn" collection of games, published by the Buchholz Verlag, Sarstedt. But even though Bütehorn choose to use a handsome box in bookcase format, the material was a definite throw-back. With 6 maps for each of the regions (Germany, England and the USA East Coast), printed on plain paper, and normal colour crayons you could only 18 play games. Only the 3rd Edition mended this deficit and provided laminated maps and felt-tipped pens.

A far greater problem of the Bütehorn edition faulted the game's launch cleanly: in the first edition, the mountains were omitted from the Germany map. Even if the construction of lines was simplified greatly ,players must have got the impression that railway building in Germany must have been a rather boring activity.

In spite of this, success came with the placement on the list of "best games" towards the "Game of the Year" contest in 1980. For David Watts this meant nothing but the honour. He didn't get a brass farthing of royalties because the Buchholz Verlag had to end its activities before the first revenue could be transferred.

Dampfross vanished, but not for long. In 1984 the Schmidt Spiele + Freizeit company took things into their hands. They bought a license but did not seek contact to the author. For simplicity's sake, they took the short route and made the game maps themselves. Alas, the concept "take a map, put a grid on it, and voila! here's the Dampfross map" didn't work. When the first copies were ready for delivery a storm of criticism rose among "authorities" and the press. Especially the Western USA map was torn to pieces because the Rocky Mountains were stretched along the west coast 6 hexes deep, without any breach- a really insurmountable obstacle that would have forced even the Union Pacific experts to surrender before the task!

However, the mistake was corrected soon enough -this time with help by the author- to give the game its greatest success so far: winning the "Game of the Year 1984" award. Without any doubt the game was a worthy winner. For David Watts this turn of fate -400.000 copies of the Schmidt edition were sold in Germany alone- meant he was able to retire early. He is now able to concentrate fully on his two obsessions: his wife Anne, and the development of new games.

But the story of Dampfross does not end by far with the "Game of the Year" award. The Schmidt company also published the game through its subsidiaries in France and the Netherlands, and now, finally, David Watts found an English publisher that produced "Railway Rivals" in 1985 in a very handsome edition. That this publisher was the Games Workshop that had more than once turned down the offer to publish the game seems astonishing today. But in 1985 it fitted rather well into their program of state-of-the-art family games by well-known authors.

Lately a Swedish edition appeared under the name of "Rail", published by the editor and game author Dan Glimne in the Alga company. Even in the former CSR Dampfross was sold for some years, but the author has never seen royalties or even specimen copies of that edition. To his chagrin it was also published in an abominably bad edition as a wall calendar, showing a map of the complete USA. As a compensation for it being only one single motif the respectable amount of twenty copies was included.

With this new edition of the Laurin Verlag David Watts has the opportunity to co-operate for the first time in the creation of maps and the presentation of the game. To the delight of his numerous friends he has gained new momentum in the process. The visible proof are about 10 new maps he created since 1991 which Laurin plans to publish over the next years. They think about a double-sided game board with two maps, plus some bonus. Whether this bonus will be additional or variant rules (like the "Frachtross" ("freight steed") rules by Derek Carver) or even other accessories will remain a secret for now.

We may assume that it will be a pleasant surprise.

Other Games by David Watts:
  • Bus Boss (GBP 8.50) Build the most profitable bus lines on given routes
  • Send! (GBP 8.75) A game of economy about distribution networks and depots in England
  • Slick! (GBP 11) Up to 7 oil refineries must supply all of Great Britain
  • Manchester & Thataway (GBP 10) 2 excellent abstract games of tactics for 2 players
  • Chafts & Overdraft (GBP10) 2 more excellent abstract games of tactics for 2 players

All those titles are available with English rules directly from the author. The price includes packing and postage. (Please add 25% to the total amount if you want air shipment.) Payment is by international money order or by euro-cheque, in GBP (pound sterling).

Rostherne Games
102 Priory Road, Milford Haven
Dyfed SA73 2ED, Wales, Great Britain

You will get a catalogue of all games by David Watts by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope and an international reply coupon that is available at every post office.

Autobiography of David Watts

(The preface to the "Author's Remarks" applies here as well, or even more so. Ed.)

I was born on September 3rd, 1932, in Purfleet, Essex. I spent my youth in South Wales. On July 30th, 1958 I married Anne who I came to know during my college time in Aberystwyth and who is now actively working for "Rostherne Games", our common company. The name "Rostherne" is taken from the house we have lived in since 1977. The former owners had named it after a small village in Cheshire.

We have two sons, a daughter, and three grand-children. From 1957 to 1983 I was teaching geography in a primary school in Milford Haven. When I was offered early retirement in 1983 I accepted to be able to concentrate fully on my games.

I have been interested in railways, maps, and board games as long as I can remember and so perhaps it does not come as a surprise that my most successful game, Dampfross, unites all three hobbies.

As far back as my own schooldays I noticed that between two towns there were often two different railway lines. I learned that they had been built by different railway companies and asked myself what would happen if someone would build a third line there. A short time after, on many maps in our school you would find thin pencil lines drawn between towns.

In my own lessons, and especially for homework, I have often used games to awaken an interest for the topic. As you might imagine, most of the games had to do something with maps.

In the early 60's I tried to inspire some interest for my games in English games companies, but I never had any success with that.

Eventually, in 1973, I began to market my games on my own. My first customers were schools that could use the games in the history and geography lessons. Today, I'm sad to say that the sales to schools have gone down to 1%.

First, I sold (for the equivalent of about 1 German Mark) cheap sets of hex-grid paper together with a sheet that described how and where you had to draw mountains and rivers before getting to play- with your own pencils, mind you. In 1977 we published the first laminated maps, and in 1980 the first colour maps.

I have to thank Walter Luc Haas (anybody remember him?) that the just established Bütehorn company included Dampfross in its program in 1977. Unfortunately, the company went out of business a few years later, still owing a high amount of royalties to me.

Then, the Schmidt company took over the game. However, they produced some maps there that proved unsuitable for play. Fortunately, by then many people knew Dampfross already and gave their opinion to Schmidt which resulted in a request to me to create new maps. The revised version of the game was elected as "Game of the Year" in 1984. In spite of this, British companies still showed no interest in the game, and when the Games Workshop eventually published it did not fit into their program and accordingly sold bad.

I still invent games, most of them having to do something or other with maps, but also some abstract ones. Apart from Dampfross I sold only my game "Pirateninsel" ("pirate island") to a company other than Rostherne Games (it went to Schmidt), all my other games are sold by mail order directly to gamers worldwide. Ever since I began to sell games two thirds of my income were from Germany, and I do not see that changing in the next years.

I create new maps for Dampfross regularly: thus, by end of 1992 some 70 maps had been completed. I still try to model them to mirror reality. That means that I draw existing lines first, and then place mountains and rivers (if possible) in a way that players are forced to re-create existing lines.

I still have a lot of fun working on new maps, and I hope this will remain so for many years to come.

Milford Havens, in August, 1992
David Watts

The Game Cabinet - editor@gamecabinet.com - Ken Tidwell