Octopus's Garden Issue Thirty-Two

Current Issue
Back Issues
Other stuff
Last issue
Next issue
Search site


HELLO, good evening and welcome to issue 32 of Octopus's Garden, the subzeen with its very own FAQ. An html version of this subzeen is available on the Web at http://www.manorcon.demon.co.uk/octopus/index.html. It's also sent to the TAP mailing list, which you can join automatically by sending the message 'subscribe tap' to majordomo@igo.org. The message 'unsubscribe tap' sent to the same address will get you off the mailing list.

Round 12 (RR 1549 FR)


Railway Rivals (France)

22) (21-@4) Brest -- Switzerland (re-offer)
1st RAVEL/CANCAN 20 (joint).
36) (43-26) Dijon -- La Rochelle
1st FREAK 20-5 ; LFffCC +5.
37) (62-13) Montpellier -- Paris
=1st RAVEL 15 ; =1st FREAK 15-1+1 ; TBNS 0+1+1 ; LFffCC 0-1-1
38) (33-64) Lille -- Marseille
1st RAVEL 20-9+3 ; 2nd FREAK 10-1-3 ; CANCAN +9; LFffCC +1
39) (@2-42) BeNeLux -- Mulhouse
1st CANCAN 20-3-2 ; LFffCC +3 ; FREAK +2.
40) (51-31) Clermont Ferrand -- Amiens
1st TBNS 20-1+4 ; 2nd RAVEL 10-4-5+1 ; LFffCC 0 ; CANCAN +5
41) (24-52) Nantes -- Limoges
1st CANCAN 20-7 ; =2nd FREAK 5-1-3 ; =2nd LFffCC 5+7+3+1.
42) (11-@5) Paris -- Italy
No entry. (One proposed entry invalid - uses more than 10 of another's track).

Scores on the Doors

       b/fwd  22  36  37  38  39  40  41  42  c/fwd 
       -----  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  -----
LFffCC   186       5  -2   1   3   0  16       209  4th
FREAK    182      15  15   6   2       1       221  3rd
CANCAN   144  10           9  15   5  13       196  5th
TBNS     233           2          23           258  2nd
RAVEL    280  10      15  14       2           321  winner
       -----  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  -----
        1025  20  20  30  30  20  30  30   0  1205

Game-end statements by 23:59:59 Greenwich Mean Time on FRIDAY, 1st JANUARY, 1999, to Peter Sullivan. E-mail : octopus@manorcon.demon.co.uk PGP key available for the paranoid.

I wrote back in issue 25 about the need for a Railway Rivals FAQ. Although I subsequently got about two-thirds of the material written, it was only in the past few weeks that I have got a round tuit and finished the following. Any comments, praise, suggestions, abuse, money, etc to the usual address.

Railway Rivals Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Railway Rivals?

Railway Rivals is a boardgame designed by Geography teacher David Watts in the early 1970s to help teach his students some of the geographic and economic concepts behind railway building in the USA and Britain in the 19th Century.

The game takes about 2-3 hours, and is suitable for players aged 11-111. It's normally played on a paper map with a laminated surface. The game splits into two phases ; in the first phase, players build their rail networks on the map by drawing them on with non-permenant felt-tip pens. In the second half, players run races from and to all the towns on the map, winning points in order to determine whose network is the best. They can also use some of their winnings to extend their networks at this point. The winner is the player with the highest points total at the end.

2. Where can I get hold of a copy of Railway Rivals?

David Watts has finally managed to find a buyer for Rostherne Games, his small company that has been producing Railway Rivals and other games for almost 25 years. He's sold it to Eamon Bloomfield and associates. The new company will be known as Spire Games (formerly Rostherne Games) and their postal address is 105 Dalrymple Way, Norwich, NR6 6TR, England. E-mail - diceman@games.u-net.com. There are no plans for an official web site yet, but watch this space!

David has retained the Railway Rivals and Bus Boss 'trial' maps, and also has a number of bent/creased/rumpled but playable maps at 50 pence each, plus 50 pence to total for post [which ones?]. More details from 102 Priory Road, Milford Haven, Dyfed, SA73 2ED.Orders for everything else to Eamon.

Some other games manufacturers have produced licensed versions of the game over the years. Several German games manufacturers have sold DampfroB, the German version of Railway Rivals, and these have sold over 350,000 copies, as well as winning the "Spiel de Jahres" prize for best game of the year in 1984. In addition, Games Workshop produced a boxed set edition in the 1980s in Britain and America, which sold 11,000 copies.

3. What different maps are available?

This is not an easy question to answer, as anyone can design their own map, if only just for play among their friends. However, according to RR statistician, Tony Robbins, there have been *postal* gamestarts for the following maps up to March 1998 :

A South Wales Coalfield (East), AF Africa, AG Argentina, AL South East Australia, AP Alpine Passes, AR Arkansas, B London & Liverpool, BA Bavaria, BE Belgium (Brosius), BL Belgium & Luxembourg, BN Benelux, BU Bulgaria, BW Baden-Wurttemburg, C Western USA, CAN Canada, CB Canterbury (NZ), CD Chad, CE Central Europe, CH China, CK County Cork, CN California & Nevada, CO Chesapeake & Ohio, CR Carolinas, CS Central Scotland, CT Chilterns, CY Cyprus, CZ Czech Republic, D New York & Chicago, DC Devon & Cornwall, DE Derbyshire, DI Dingle, DO County Donegal, DX South East USA: Dixieland, E Atlantic & Lake Erie, EA East Anglia, EG Egypt, EN Europe '94, EU Eastern USA, F South Scotland, FN Finland, FR France, G Central Scotland, GA Georgia, GE Gooi & Eemland, GR German Reunification, GU Guam, GY Germany, H Western Canada, HK Hokkaido, HL Hannover & Leipzig, HU Hungary, I Ireland, I(N) Ireland (North), I(S) Ireland (South), II Illinois & Indiana, IL Illinois, IM Isle of Man (first draft), IN India, IO Iowa, IR Iran, IS Isle of Sodor, IW Isle of Wight, IX Iowa (Township), J Mersey & Humber, JA Japan, K London & South East, L France, LD Lake District, LE London & South East, LH London & Hampshire, LI Lithuania, LM Liverpool & Manchester, LU London Underground, LW London & Western, M London & Midlands, MA Malta, MC Montgomery County, MD Central Germany, MU Manchuria, MW Mid-Wales, MX Isle of Man, MZ Mozambique, N New England, ND North Germany, NE New England, NG Nigeria, NL Netherlands, NO Northern England, NP New York/Pennsylvania, NR North Rhine-Westphalia, NS Norfolk & Suffolk, NW North Wales, NY New York State, NZ New Zealand, O South Wales Coalfield (West), OH Ohio, OS Austria, OX Oxfordshire, P Northern Italy, PA Pennsylvania, PL Poland (both versions), PN Pacific North West States, PO Portugal, PR Prairies, Q Southern Italy, RE European Russia, RM Rhein-Main-Neckar, RO Romania, SA South Africa, SC Scotland, SD South Germany, SDC San Diego County, SH Schleswig-Holstein & Hamburg, SK Slovakia, SL Sicily, SN Sardinia, SO Soviet Union, SP Spain, SS South Scotland, SU Finland (Reader), SV South Sweden (both versions), SX South East USA, SZ Switzerland, T Middle Earth, TC Transcontinental, TK Kentucky & Tennessee, TN Tennessee, TT Tyne-Tees, TX Texas, U London Underground (Thomasson), UA Ukraine, VS Valley of the Severn, WB West Berlin, WC West Cumberland, WT Wine Train, XA Xanth, XB Belgium (?same as BL?), XC China (first version), XK South Korea, XP North Pennines, XX Discovery Variant, YC New York & Chicago, YK Yorkshire, YU Yugoslavia, ZN Zineland.

4. Where can I play Railway Rivals face-to-face?

Games clubs in the UK

Details of UK board games clubs are occasionally posted to the newsgroup uk.games.board. I'm sure some of these must play RR - any details, please?

UK Conventions

To the best of my knowledge and belief, Manorcon is currently the only UK convention which has a formal Railway Rivals tournament. See http://www.diplom.org/manorcon/ for more details.

Other conventions which have arisen out of the postal games hobby will feature some games of Railway Rivals, mainly as part of the general gaming going on at these events. See http://devel.diplom.org/Face/cons/ for more details.

5. Where can I play Railway Rivals by electronic mail?

The Bluesmobile

Berry Renken blues@chal.xs4all.nl is trying to fill various Rivals games in his e-mail `zine "The Bluesmobile," which also runs Diplomacy and a wide variety of other games, plus lots of interesting `filler' (chat, etc.). Deadlines are projected to be quick (fortnightly), and Berry has shown a tremendously reliable pattern in all his dealings until now, so you can be assured there won't be any bog-downs as there have been with me and some others. Truly, Berry has the best e-mail `zine going - speedy, enjoyable, reliable and generally a lot of fun. If you have interest in some good RR games (or other things) in an electronic format - there are no hard copies - send him a message. But one bit of warning: Be prepared to stay to his schedule, as he WILL be on time. There is a small fee requested for his services as well as for the maps.


This started as a postal flyer to finish off some orphaned games, but now runs both snail-mail and e-mail games. Contact Tony Robbins at 101234.1602@compuserve.com for more details.

Electric Trains

Compuserve's PBMGAMES forum was the first to run e-mail games of Railway Rivals. Compuserve members can GO PBMGAMES for more details.

Full Steam Ahead

Conrad von Metzke was one of the first R.R. g.m.s in the USA, and now runs most of his games by e-mail in Full Steam Ahead. Contact him at metzke@incom.net.

Octopus's Garden

Available on the web at http://www.manorcon.demon.co.uk/octopus/index.html, or e-mail octopus@manorcon.demon.co.uk.


There is a rather spectacular RR Tournament being formed at the moment by Ryk Downes, ryk@compuserve.com. It will be an elimination tourney with a final "championship" and will be run in Ryk's SVSR, which exists both in e-mail and hard copy form. Ryk is specially designing a new map to be used for tournament play, and there is some talk of having it sanctioned by David Watts as a "World Championship" or some such. Send a message to Ryk and ask to join. Do enquire about fees, and be sure to check format needed if you plan to play solely by e-mail.

6. Where can I play Railway Rivals by snail mail?

In the British Isles

Many of the amateur postal games magazines ("zines") will run a game or two of Railway Rivals, alongside other games like Diplomacy, United or 18XX. A good place to start looking for information is in Mission from God, available on the web at http://www.fiendishgames.demon.co.uk/mfgtoc.html.

In North America

R.R. is not as widely played in North America as in Britain. There is a listing - of U.S. postal games zines generally - on the web at http://devel.diplom.org/Postal/Registry/index.htm#us.

Alternatively, the Zine Register is available from Michael Lowrey, 6503-D Fourwinds Drive, Charlotte, NC 28212. This mainly concentrates on Diplomacy zines, but also covers Railway Rivals and other zines. Cost is $2.00 U.S. and Canada/$4.00 Overseas.


You tell us! We did stumble across the Scandinavian (but only Norway and Sweden) version of Mission from God, Anders Bjorkelid's Fansinlistan, at http://WWW.Update.UU.SE/~nn/huset/arbetsrummet/fansinlistan, though, for RR, this only told us that games were running in Per Westling's Lepanto 4ever, which we knew already - but an interesting listing, maybe there's more out there?

7. What are the main differences between the postal and face-to-face games?

Postal games (which includes those run by e-mail) are run by a central adjudicator, the GM, who gets the orders from the players, adjudicates the turn, and send the results to the players, with a deadline for orders for the next turn. The postal game is normally fixed as twelve rounds, six for building and six for racing.

In the building rounds, there are usually three dice rolls a round. All players build simultaneously. This means that your later builds have to take account of what your rivals may be doing. Builds cannot be conditional on what others have done. However, to help cushion the blow a bit if you get it wrong, payments for parallel track built in the same round (i.e. possibly "accidental" parallels) are at half normal cost.

In the racing rounds, there may be between 6 and 9 races per turn, depending on the map. Players can usually enter just over half of the races, and can negotiate with each other about joint runs and exchange of running powers. The GM then runs the races herself, using average dice (2,3,3,4,4,5). By tradition, players submit game-end statements with Round 12 orders, saying how they saw the game and explaining away why they won or lost.

Postal rules for Railway Rivals are available free from Sprint Games, or ask any postal or e-mail GM for their rules (which may be subtley different from the "official" set).

8. Where can I find player ratings for Railway Rivals?

The Railway Rivals ratings are maintained by Tony Robbins.

9. How are the ratings calculated?

There is a table of points for each game, set up so that the "average" player (e.g. 3rd in 5-player game) always gets 5.5 points. The total points for each player over all her games are then added up, and divided by one more than the number of games played.

This is the basic system, but there are various other amendments to prevent new players having one good game and going to the top of the rankings. Contact Tony Robbins (101234.1602@compuserve.com) for more details.

10. What are the best strategies for winning at Railway Rivals?

I always find the best way is to have more points at the end than anyone else...

Common mistakes that beginners make is to be afraid to pay for junctions and parallels. Never think twice about paying 1 for a junction. Short parallels (one or two hexes) will nearly always pay off, too, although you should always consider the option of just hiring the other player's track, especially if the "Leapfrog" rules are user. Longer parallels are more a matter of judgement.

As far as the overall shape of your network goes, a typical RR map will have slightly more towns around the edges, with slightly fewer in the centre. In such circumstances, a good basic configeration is an 'X' shape, to give you good conections to all four quadrants and a route (albeit with a dog-leg in some cases) for most races.

Of course, since I always seem to end up third in any game of RR I play (not so bad in an eight-player game, not so good in a three-player one), you probably don't want to take too much advice from me anyway.

Version 1.0 of the Railway Rivals FAQ was complied by Peter Sullivan with help from Tony Robbins and Conrad von Metzke.

Search this site powered by FreeFind