Dampfross (Schmidt Spiele edition)

Designed by David Watts
Published by Schmidt Spiele
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 "Schmidt" edition of the rules, published by Schmidt Spiele, Germany, 1984. It is the edition that won the German "Game of the Year" award in 1984. The German rules of this edition have been revised by Knut-Michael Wolf who also commented on a previous German edition of the 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. Preparation
  3. Game Play
  4. Building Phase
  5. Operating Phase
  6. End of the Game
  7. Additional Rules for Experienced Players
  8. Maps
    1. Germany
    2. France
    3. Eastern USA
    4. Western USA
  9. Play-by-Mail Dampfross
  10. Player Aid Card


Dampfross is a game about railway economy for 2-6 persons aged 10 years and up which will last, typically, a whole evening.


4 different maps (laminated)
6 pawns
6 coloured pencils
2 dice, one red and one white
1 rule booklet

Short Description

Each player is the owner of a railway company. His first task is to construct a network of railway lines for his company. He tries to build the best connections between as many cities as possible. He must cross rivers and mountains to do this- and keep an eye on the construction activities of his competitors at the same time.

This network has to prove it's worth in the second phase of the game. Running transports between cities, the player must try and get there first, ahead of the competition. Income generated can be used to extend the network to increase profit on later transports. In the end, the company with the best management will come out first and win the game.


First, the players decide on which map they want to play. For beginners, the Germany map is recommended. Each player chooses a colour and gets the pen (for marking railway lines on the map) and the pawn (for the transports later in the game) of his colour.

One player is choosen to be accountant. He will continuously note the balance of each player's account on the map (or on a piece of paper). Each player begins with a balance of 20 "units".

Game Play

The game is played in two distinct phases. In the building phase players build railroad networks and draw them onto the map. Later, in the operating phase, the trains (pawns) move from town to town to make profit. Those profits may either be credited to the player's account or invested in the extension of his network.

Building Phase

First, draw lots who may begin to build. The other players will take turns clockwise. The first player position also proceeds clockwise from turn to turn.

Each player, in his turn, rolls a die, chooses one city as his home terminal and draws his railway line onto the map according to the number he rolled.

Depending on the map used, home terminals may be

More than one player may start in the same city.

If you want to give equal chances to all players you may decide that only one die roll is made per turn and that all players must use the number rolled. If you want to speed up construction you may roll two dice so you get more points to build your lines.

Cost of Building

Lines are built from one hex to the next, from hex centre to hex centre. The cost of building depends on the terrain:

You may not build across lakes or ocean hexes.

The example in fig. 2 shows how the terrain influences building costs. To build a line from city 1 to city 2 costs

You'll find an overview table at the end of the rules. You may want to place this near the map as a quick reference chart.

Income and Expenditures

The player to connect a numbered city to a railway line for the first time gets a bonus of 6 units credited to his account. A player that builds lines in hexes where other players already have built lines pays a fee to those players:

If you connect to a line inside a city no fees are due. But, if you continue from there parallel to another line the 1 unit connection fee must be paid afterwards. (Example in fig. 4: It's the "White" player's turn, and he must pay 7 units to "Black".)
If more than one line is already there you must pay the full fee to all of the players.

Fee transfers are noted by the accountant. You will find a detailed overview of fees at the end of these rules.

Track Routes

Players may construct their network as they please, but all lines of a colour must be connected. So, each new segment of a line must continue an existing line, or branch off one. Under this condition only, you may add line segments to different locations of your network in one building phase (splitting die roll points between them, Ed.). Unused points are lost, they may not be carried over to the next round.

Lines may not cross the red country borders. (An exception to this rule you will find in the section "Additional Rules for Experienced Players".)

When several lines enter a hex they always meet in the hex cemtre (fig. 5). Therefore, in the operationg phase you may switch between lines if they run through the same hex.

As a variant, two players may build a common track section.This segment must begin in a hex in which lines of both networks meet. Both players roll a die and they may use three quarters of the total to build. (Example: If they roll 4 + 4 = 8 they may spend 6 points for building. If they roll 3 + 3 = 6 they may spend 4 points, a half point is lost.)

End of the Building Phase

As soon as each city is connected to at least one network the building phase ends. To counter a tactic of deliberate delay each player may declare the building phase closed if there is only one unconnected city left and two more rounds have been played.
The next player then is the start player of the second phase, i.e. the operating phase of the game.

Operating Phase

Now, the lines are opened for traffic. The pawns represent the trains running from city to city.

Start and End Terminals

For each transport, first the start terminal is determined by the roll of both dice: the red die gives the tens and the white die the ones of a number that corresponds to a city on the map.
Example: red die 6, white die 5, result: the start terminal is the city with the number 65 (on the Germay map this is München). The end terminal (destination) is determined likewise. Now you know from where the transport departs, and where it will arrive. The shortest possible route between both terminals must be at least 6 hexes long, else you must roll for a new destination.

After determining the terminals each player decides whether he will participate in the competition. Participation is always voluntary and depends on the player's reckoning of his chances to win the bonus for arriving first (20 units) or second (10 units). Therefore, players must calculate possible routes and expenditures.

Route and Fees

At least some part of the route must use the player's own network. Often players are forced to use parts of another player's network to arrive at the destination.

If more than one line runs through the same hex the player must decide which he will use. He will only pay the one player whose line he really uses.

You may not pay more than 10 units to any one other player if that player does not compensate by paying back for use of your lines. (Example: A must pay 19 units to B, B must pay 11 units to A. Those payments are totalled, accordingly A must pay 8 units to B. Thus, both players may participate in the transport.)

Participating players choose their routes before starting, and that route may not be changed later. Fees are calculated and noted by the accountant before the trains are run.

Running the Trains

Trains (pawns) are moved from the start terminal along the route, using the points rolled by each player with a single die. To move one hex costs 1 point, only to move from a plain hex into a mountain hex costs 1 additional point.
Example: To move a train from city 1 to city 2 in fig. 2, you need a total of 6 points along route A, or 3 points along routes B or C.


The first player to arrives at the destination gets 20 units, the second one 10 units, all others come away empty-handed. Therefore, the race ends once the second train has arrived.

If more than one player arrive in the same round the winner is the one who more points left unused when arriving.
If only one player participates he automatically gets 20 units.

As a special case, two players may decide to participate with one commonly-operated train. They use only one pawn, and only one player may roll the die in each round. The partners share cost and profits. If costs can not be divided evenly the richer player covers the balance.

Extending the Network

After a transport has arrived the players may spend their income (including bonuses and fees received from other players), or part of it, to extend their network. In the operating pahse, the account units take the place of the die roll points (1 point = 1 unit). In other words, building costs are paid from the account now. No player may spend more units (for building and connection fees) than his income of that round.

As a game variant you may decide that all income and bonuses are credited to the account. After every other round players may spend up to 10 per cent of their current balance of account to extend the network. Players with an account of less than 50 units may spend up to 5 units.

More Transports

Subsequently, roll for a new start terminal and destination.
Of course, players might decide to use the destination of one round as the start terminal for the next round. In this case, only a new destination must be rolled for.

End of the Game

The operating phase ends when one player has accumulated a certain balance of account:

Experienced players do not end the game with a fixed profit. Instead, they decide that 18 or 36 transports are run, depending on the playing time available. In those transports each station is the start or destination terminal only once (twice for 36 transports). Cities with more than one number (i.e. more than one station) will be used multiply. The accountant will check off the cities on a table as a reminder which have been used already:
10 20 30 40 50 60
1 *

In this example, the city with number 31 has already been the start or end terminal once.

After running the desired number of transports the player with the highest balance of account wins.

Additional Rules for Experienced Players

As soon as you are comfortable with the basic rules you may wish to try the following optional rules that make game play on the several maps even more interesting. The rules introduce ferries and transports across country boundaries. Railway lines are built into neighbouring countries. To cross the border does not cost any additional die roll points. The lines end on the first hex across the border, and there are no bonuses for connecting to other countries.

In the operationg phase, the destination of an international or special transport is determined using a table. If more than one destinations are given, each player may choose the one most advantageous for him.. Thus, players may start from the same hex in this case, but go to different destinations.

For the different maps special rules are provided:


Ferries: A player who connects to a ferry port (no connection bonus) may buy that ferry line to Gedser. That is, the ferry line is not constructed like a railway line but bought with units from the account. It is marked with the buyer's colour. Each Ferry line costs 6 units and may only be bought by one player. No player may hold both ferry lines.
In the operating phase 5 die roll points are necessary to use the ferry (3 for the trip, and 1 each for loading/ unloading).
Other players pay a fee of 3 units for using the ferry.

International Transports: In the operating phase, every other transport is an international transport. While usually the destination is rolled for with both dice, for international transports the destination is determined as follows:

Roll both dice. Use the points of the red die; the white die result is only taken as odd (U, "ungerade") or even (G, "gerade"). Putting the results together you get these destinations:

1G = Denmark
1U = Poland
2G = Czechoslovakia
2U = Austria
3G = Switzerland
3U = France
4G = Belgium or Luxemburg
4U = Netherlands
5G = Baltic Sea port (Rostock, Lübeck, Kiel)
5U = Major port (Bremen or Hamburg)
6G = Minor port (Emden, Wilhelmshaven, Bremerhaven or Brunsbüttelkoog)
6U = Any port

For international transports costs of the trip, fees and bonuses remain unchanged.


Ferries: A player who connects to a ferry port (including Le Havre) may buy a ferry line to England. Each Ferry line costs 6 units. No player may hold more than two ferry lines that must depart from different ports.
In the operating phase the points necessary to use the ferry depend on the length of the trip, plus 2 points for loading/ unloading. For example, to go from Cherbourg to Southhampton you need 5+2 = 7 points.
Other players pay a fee of 3 units for using the ferry.

International Transports: In the operating phase, an international transport is made after every third regular transport. The destination is determined with the roll of one die:

  1. England
  2. Germany
  3. Switzerland
  4. Italy
  5. Spain
  6. Overseas (i.e. one of the ports Marseille, Dünkirchen, Le Havre, Antwerps or Bordeaux)

Eastern USA

In the operating phase, a special transport is made after every third regular transport. The destination is determined with the roll of one die:

  1. Canada (i.e. Detroit, Buffalo, Albany, or the region between Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario  between Buffalo and Detroit).
  2. Lake ports (Chicago, Cleveland or Buffalo)
  3. Atlantic Coast sea ports (one of the cities from Boston to Miami)
  4. Gulf sea ports (New Orleans, Mobile or Tampa)
  5. Junction station to the Western USA (Chicago, Peoria, St. Louis, Memphis or New Orleans)
  6. same as 5.

Western USA

In the operating phase, a special transport is made after every third regular transport. The destination is determined with the roll of one die:

  1. Pacific Coast sea port (Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego).
  2. Canada (any hex across the Canadian Border)
  3. Mexico (any hex across the Mexican Border)
  4. Eastern port (Duluth, New Orleans or Huston)
  5. Junction station to the Eastern USA (Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis or New Orleans)
  6. same as 5.

Play-by-Mail Dampfross

The hexes have been numbered to enable players to play Dampfross by mail, or to take a note of the current situation.

Player Aid Card

Here you find a summary of the costs for building and operationd the railways, and the bonuses. You may use this as a quick reference card to be placed on the game table.

Overview: Building and Operating Costs and Bonuses
Die Roll Point Costs, Building Phase
Cost Explanation
1 point Building in the plain (no obstacles)
3 points Crossing a river
3 points Building into, or out of, mountains
5 points Building from mountain to mountain
5 points Building from mountain to plain, across a river (or vice versa)
Operating Phase
1 point to go from one hex to the next,
1 additional point to climb a mountain.
In the operating phase, building costs for network extensions are paid for from the player's account.
Payments to Other Players (Building)
Cost Explanation
1 unit Connecting to another player's line
1 unit Crossing another player's line
4 units Building parallel to an existing line in the same hex (2 units per half-hex)
If there are lines of more than one player in the hex pay to all of them. The costs are not applicable in cities. If, however, you connect to a competitor's line in a city hex and build parallel to him from there on you must pay the connection cost (1 unit) afterwards.
1 unit for each hex you use on another player's lines; if several lines are parallel pay only one of the players.
Building Phase
6 units for a player who is the first to connect a city to the railway
Operating Phase
20 Units for the player to arrive first at the end terminal,
10 units for the second to arrive.

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