The GLG's Variant
Rules and Options for Santa Fe Rails
Santa Fe Rails is a beautiful game and one deserving a place in any train loving gamer's library. Here are some rules and options that we think add more tension in two player games and also some ideas to make the overall game work even better in multi-player sessions. Enjoy!
Variants for 2 Player Games
Rotate first player at the start of each round. Now each player will get back to back plays and always a chance at the 2X card.
Use three 2X cards instead of one. This harkens back to the first edition rules. This way there's always enough 2X cards to go around and this makes using the 3X and 4-in-1 a bit more of a personal choice as opposed to a forced choice.
Roll dice to determine the first player in each round. Each player rolls 2 six-sided die and then the player with the most City cards played to the table also gets to "add" the difference (+1, +2, +3, etc.) to his dice roll. High roller then chooses to play first or second that round. Repeat each round. The original game rule states that once a first player is chosen, he remains first player for the rest of the game which creates a static situation that handcuffs both players. This variant rule opens things up even beyond just rotating each round. You might have 2 or 3 first round turns in a row or maybe your opponent will. There's no pat strategy here that says you will have the 2X card available to you whenever you want it. Also, City cards tend to be played most often at the end of the game but this rule encourages players to play City cards earlier as not to create the same end-game structure. Players won't want to fall to far behind in played City cards or they'll lose most of the first player deciding dice rolls.
- Remove 1 Branch line card per major Railroad. The second edition game contains 3 Branch line cards per Railroad and that's simply too many given only two players. You'll never dead-end a major Railroad with 3 potential branches (and the first edition only used 2). This will also help to slightly shorten the game which can get a little long for what should be a quick and moderately simple 2 player game.
Variants For Games of 2 or More Players
City Ownership Tokens. In order to enhance competitive play, we suggest using or creating city ownership tokens that are placed on the board after a City card is played. This token helps to indicate which player benefits economically from the city. This helps to determine who might be in the lead and which cities to steer the rails away from. We found that it is quite difficult to remember who has played which City card and nearly impossible (unless you read well upside-down) to view another player's played City cards. As to the ownership tokens, something from another game (El Grande's little cubes are good) or create small, square tokens with a unique image for each set to represent a player. There are so many colors already associated with the Railroads so symbols would be a better choice and all of the same color (like a monopoly tokens, playing card symbols or whatever set of MS Word symbols appeal to you).
Limited Short Lines. Removing some or all of the Short Lines from the game has a couple effects: it shortens the game and focuses play on the continuing flow towards the west. Elliminate them all and the game pace picks up but the east is even more de-valued. Include only 1 or 2 in the last half of the card deck and this will lend some potential help to the lower scoring cities back east but it won't slow the game down as much as having 3 or 4 in the game. Go west young man!
$100 Gold Bar. Though the gold ($10), silver ($5), and copper ($1) chips are ok for in-game payoffs, the overall number of chips just aren't sufficient for end-game payoffs without reaching for scrap paper (which should be avoided in any game at all costs - we're gamers not accountants!). So the creation of $100 gold bars (worth 10-$10 gold chips) are very useful (enough for about 3 per player or 15). And if you don't want to actually create some gold bars (craft time!), I'd suggest buying a bag of Hershey's mini chocolate bars and declaring a bar (Special Dark is my favorite) as the gold bar (great for little kids). And if a player eats it before the final count is over, they lose that money. Teaches patience too!
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Page Last Updated: 9/16/03