Locomotive Werks review

Locomotive Werks Box

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Published in 2002 by Queen Games and designed by Dieter Danziger, this economic game pits 3 to 5 players as investors in building factories that produce locomotives and aim to sell them to a dice-driven market where turn order is critical.

Locomotive Werks’ main gimmick is “obsolesce”; the idea being that the demand for older trains dries up, often at a very quick pace to the point where older trains become removed from the game entirely.

This mechanic is often referred to as the “Train Rush” part of an 18XX game.

So how is the game played?

The game is a race for coins, specifically, 300 coins (its actually 330 coins once 10% tax is added on); whereafter the game will end and the player with the most coins will win.

Player’s play in a sequential turn order flow in rounds which are split into 5 phases which are: Purchase Locomotives, Purchase Production, Selling, Pay Taxes, Market Demands.

The first phase is allowing Purchasing Locomotives, where players have the option to buy a new locomotive factory plant; however they can only buy 1 factory and can only purchase each factory once.

Further, if its the first to be purchased; then the next factory will become unlocked and available to buy.

This can cause a chain reaction where players will often buy the next factory because they give a better return on investment.

Once all players have completed this phase, players move to the next phase: purchasing production.

Players will go in turn order and optionally choose to buy production units.

Players must weigh up whether they will be able to sell their production and how long their investment will make a return.

After purchasing production, the next phase is Selling; this phase is 100% automatic whereupon all locomotive factories sell and fulfil the demand as per the die roll they have; giving the players owning those respective factories a financial payout. Except sometimes, dependent upon die rolls and demand fulfilment, some players may not get any payout at all; and this is where player turn order becomes important.

Once everyone has sold, everyone will pay taxes of 10% rounded down; so if you have 10 coins, you’ll be paying 1 coin as a tax.

After tax, if any player has over 300 coins; then the game is ended, with the winner being the most coins; if not, then the game will continue play.

The final phase is Market demands, where new orders are given and older generations start lose demand and slowly become obsolete.

For example, if there are 2 green generation train factories on the market; then the older factory will steadily lose dice and lose potential orders to the point where it has no orders at all and is considered obsolete.

Worse still is there are 3 green generation factories in play then the eldest locomotive train is removed from the game.

Players with those factories are lumbered with produced units that they can’t sell and their only resort is to shift production to better technologies.

So, what are my thoughts on the game.

The game is about sales fulfilment speculation, buying production and sales turn order; with players usually aiming to grab a monopoly as they will be the only one to sell for that factory.

There is one major downside to the game. Everything in the game is public knowledge; and feels like a game with perfect information.

This opaqueness comes from the fact that all players’ factories, coins and ability to produce is publicly visible to all players; so you already know who can sell what, how many they can sell and whether they will sell at all!

From this point of view, new players will feel that are hardly any real meaningful decisions; except one — will you buy production and will you sell this round, and if not this round, can you manipulate turn order to sell the next round?

At lower player counts the ability to sell becomes even more opaque and our group felt there were no real decisions to be made, except whether to buy a factory, whether to produce or not.

The factories are also lined up in a sequential list order; this means you know that better tech will pay out better than lower tech. For newer players; the better technology is almost always better to buy whereas the more astute players can manipulate sales turn order in their favour; even buying on factories that are due to be obsolete; just so they can squeeze the turn order further.

This linear progression of each train’s costs, incomes and production costs further enhances the illusion that the only decision in the game is to keep buying new locomotive engines; except I feel that this is a newbie mistake.

This opaqueness and linear progression really masks the true modus operandi of this game — its really all about manipulating turn order so that you can sell first and have certain factories with low competition.

If players realise this, then the turn order’s importance will result in players’ buying a lot of production so that they don’t hit the tax threshold and going earlier in next round.

However, no matter how many times I’ve played this game, people go through the motions and it sadly feels the game is playing automatically, that there are not enough hard decisions to be made and that because everything is opaque that unless people try to compete in factories you can play without humans as all decisions seem to be automatic and binary.

Further there are no other routes to success; you have no direct impact on sales; you cannot influence it via sales people or use marketing as a way to drum up business.

Despite all of this, I’m still drawn to playing Locomotive Werks; I see it as a good way to teach kids about sales forecasting, and also the train rush aspect of the game can be interesting every now and again.

In all, I believe the game really only shines at 4 or 5 people; and is something I would play every now and again but isn’t in any way a game I can recommend to purchase except to 18XX and train fans.

Overall: 5/10

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A look at UK Games Expo 2016

uk games expo

Now in its 10th year, the world famous UK Games Expo is the biggest hobby games convention in the UK, showcasing various thousands of card, board, role-playing, miniature, and family games games under one roof.

With over 170 exhibitors, publishers, retailers, independent designers and artists; the event is set to the be the largest yet.

Aimed squarely at families, the general public and the enthusiast alike; the UK Games Expo is an accessible, family-friendly annual event held at the NEC Hilton Metropole, Birmingham (just next to Birmingham International Airport/Railway station) and aims to be the peak event where all aspects of the growing tabletop hobby are represented.

Having attended 3 prior events, I can safely say that the event is a fun, friendly atmosphere; easily accessible and open to the general public. Wandering around trade stands, trying out new and old games alike is a fantastic experience.

Usually held over 3 days, the event offers a range of tournaments and championships for popular games, like Ticket to Ride and the chance to play the newest released games.

There is also a large bring and buy trade fair, which attracts many enthusiasts and offers a great chance to grab a bargain, or that rare game you’ve been after.

In addition, the playtest area is a great area; upcoming designers bring their latest creations and get the general public to play them. It’s great to see so many designs that are coming through and shows that anybody with a great idea, that is willing to put in the time to refine it can make it.

One of the great appeals of the UK Games Expo is that it is open to the public, you can book in advance or purchase tickets on the day.

Just look out for the Game Ambassadors in blue shirts – if you are new, on your own or just lost ask them and they will help.

For more information, or to book tickets visit:


My recommended economic boardgames

So, you’re thinking of buying a board game perhaps for a spouse, a friend or family. The typical go to point is Monopoly.

I don’t really like Monopoly. It was invented last century. Let that sink in for a while. A whole century!

Its decisions are also sterile; you really don’t get to make any — its all dependent upon a roll and move mechanic that is pretty archaic.

Further, everyone plays the rules wrong. There is no free parking money pot, properties are bought from the get-go; and auctions/trading are meant to be encouraged.

The biggest problem I have is, it takes forever and I don’t feel like its fun or engaging or rewarding to play.

Since then there has been a revolution in board games from Germany and elsewhere typically called Euro Games; these games are more fun, typically don’t have player elimination, everyone is involved and strategy/well-laid out plans are rewarded.

I’ve heard from someone that board games ruins the entrepreneurial spirit. I disagree. If you have the right kind of game, one that is rewards strategy, and reduces luck and promotes core skills like maths, social connectivity and can be fun.

Having played a number of euro board games over the past 3-4 years here’s a few games I would recommend (In no particular order).


Yes; it was invented last century and can be quite dry and abstract; but it beats Monopoly any day of the week.
Its a stock holding game, where you invest or expand hotels that can merge with other hotels and reap dividends to those who have invested in to them.

The game is perfect for those tech startups whom are looking to be “acquired”; as it perfectly reiterates the mantra of building a small company, build its value and sell it!

I would recommend the 1990 version; not the crappy current cardboard version. Or the earlier 1960/1970 versions as these have a unique look.

Link: Acquire (Amazon)


Currently my favorite game right now. Players are investors in Colonial Africa; but don’t let the theme scare you, its actually got a few really good mechanics – one of which is the way it uses cards into discard piles.

Its a stock holding game, where you are trying to push up the price of the various companies you have invested in, but also offers other routes including moving up a diamond track and creative book-keeping; both of which give you points (cash) at the end of the game.

Highly recommended

Link: Mombasa (Amazon)

Power Grid

Become a “Monty Burns” industrialist building power plant factories on the map representing various locations such as Germany or the United States (other expansion maps do exist) where you need finances to win power plants at an auction, then buy its raw materials (such as nuclear, coal and oil) in a very interesting supply and demand system — where goods can be cheaper if they are plentiful, or alternatively can be more expensive the higher the good costs are.

Its not a race for money (although that certainly helps), but a race to build a number of power plants that can successfully power a number of cities.

Link: Power Grid (Amazon)


Players operate ships laden with goods through the famous Panama canal from one side to the other, timing their movements carefully and ensuring that they do not leave their goods in the warehouse or leave the ship in areas with big taxes. Timed movements can push out other ships.

It also has a simplified 1 dimensional stock market, and players can invest in rival player’s companies.

In addition, players can add their goods onto rival goods. The reason you’d do this is because if you are invested in the company it can pay off for you too as its value goes up.

Link: Panamax (Amazon)

All these games are a good start for economic board games.