Stephenson’s Rocket

So, as requested by Iain, here’s my thoughts about Stephenson’s Rocket. Tommy has been carrying this Reiner Knizia game around to many events, but hasn’t ever been able to play it with more than 2 players. To help out the poor guy, I suggested we play it. We soon had two other players and a game going.

At first, the game looks like to be a very confusing. The rules are not overly complicated, but you’re pretty much puzzled about what you should be doing. In that way the game reminds me of Tigris & Euphrates. Also the turn structure is similar: in both games, players choose two actions from few choices. In this one, instead of developing ancient civilizations, players develop railway lines in the 19th century Great Britain. Another thing where Stephenson’s Rocket meets Tigris & Euphrates is how the railway lines are not owned by particular players, but instead anyone can and will advance them to fulfill their own needs.

During the game, the railroads merge, stocks are combined and exchanged and players accumulate money. Longer the railroad, more money it brings to the shareholders and those players, who have managed to build most stations on the railroad. I can’t help but wonder the logic of the British railroad builders: first they build stations and then hope that the railroad goes by… That’s a bit silly thematically, but it has to be that way for game mechanic reasons.

I enjoyed the game. Not as much as Tigris & Euphrates, but it was a pleasant experience nonetheless. You have lots of things to do: you must build stations, get railroad shares and acquire tokens, so when the railroads merge, you get to reap the benefits. In the end, when there’s only one huge monster railroad (the British Rail is born), you should have either most stations or most shares in that line. Preferably both, of course.

The first game we played, I won. I was lucky enough to have most stations in the final huge railroad line (well, I did that on purpose…), and thus I was rewarded about 30.000 in the end. That was enough to beat the other players, as I think the shareholder majority was shared between two players. In the second game, I didn’t manage to get enough stations or enough shares in the last railway line, so I was out of the competition and lost clearly.

So, my final verdict is that I would rate the game probably about 8. It’s a good game and one I hope to play again. However, while it shares mechanics with Tigris & Euphrates, I still prefer the latter.

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2 responses to “Stephenson’s Rocket”

  1. Thanks for the very nice review. Can I put a link to it on the Boardgamegeek? Or maybe you could just insert it directly as a user review?
    I’m attracted to Stephenson’s Rocket as I am such a fan of Reiner Knizia’s work. Tigris and Euphrates, Through the Desert and the LOTR card game are among my favourite games. The best word to describe them is elegant. The rules are simple and short; the depth of strategy is great; the themes are appealing. Many people slate his work for being too abstract, but the themes are good enough for me. The game is most important. T&E confirmed me as a German games player.
    I’ve heard very conflicting views about Stephenson’s Rocket. The loves it. On the other hand, Andy Daglish ( said he thought Knizia was having a laugh when he wrote it. Bruno Faidutti hates it.
    I’m just going to have to try it and see. I’ve heard it’s similar to Acquire, so maybe that colours other people’s opinions.
    After Puerto Rico, Mexica and Vinci, it’s fourth on my to-buy list.

  2. I put it in the ‘Geek. I’ll post my photos there as well as soon as I get them prepared.
    If you like Tigris & Euphrates, Stephenson’s Rocket is a good buy in my opinion. I guess there’s some connection to Acquire (merging of the railway lines), but it didn’t bother me. I’ve played Acquire (some old computer version) and I didn’t like it very much. I do enjoy Stephenson’s Rocket.
    Too bad it’s out-of-print and will probably soon be hard to find. If you see, I suggest go grab it.