Introducing Penny Rails: An 18-Card Train Game

Button Shy is proud to announce that the next game in our Wallet Games series is Penny Rails, a 2 player game designed by Travis Hill (designer of Reunification and Butterfly Collector’s Club). Penny Rails is an 18-card game where players will be constructing rail tracks beginning at New York City and ending when the St. Louis hub is placed. Each card in the game has three rail lines present: Lincoln, Jefferson, and Roosevelt. Scoring at the end is based upon payouts received from your Train Line Income, and the player with the most money will be victorious.

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One of the most important aspects of Penny Rails is that it uses coins (supplied by the players) to represent shares in the three different Lines being built. In this case, you would be using three pennies, three nickels, and three dimes. The value in shares of each coin is represented by the side of the coin: one share for heads and two for tails. So there are three shares for the taking in the Lincoln line, four for the Jefferson line, and five for the Roosevelt line. We’ll get to how you obtain shares and how they are used in scoring a little later, but the key thing to know about these shares is that a player must own at least one share in a line in order to build on that line.


On a player’s turn they can do one of three actions: acquire shares, reserve a card, or place a card. One of the first actions you will need to do in the game will be to acquire a share in at least one of the Lines, because without that share you will be unable to place any cards. When acquiring shares you can either take a single share from the available pool, trade in 1 share you own for 2 shares in a different Train Line, or trade in 2 shares you own (they do not have to be from the same Train Line) for any 1 share of a Train Line.

This makes a line such as the Lincoln an easy one to grab early, since all of its coins are on heads, making them worth 1 share. It also makes it so the Roosevelt line is harder to get shares in, since two of the three coins are on tails and require more actions to gain those shares. Players are also limited to a maximum of 5 shares total, meaning you can’t simply horde all of the shares, but what you do take is unable to be stolen by the other player - unless you elect to trade those shares in with this action.

(I'm not sure why my camera has reverted to the last century - Jason)


The second action available to players is to reserve a card, either from the top of the deck or the face-up card from the Offer. But there’s a catch, of course: you can only ever have one card in Reserve. That means you’ll need to play that card eventually if you want to snag a different card before your opponent can use it - a defensive tactic you might find quite helpful in gaining or maintaining an advantage in Peny Rails. Those City junctions are mighty tempting cards to take from the Offer, since they score extra points if you can get a continuous Train Line running through multiple Cities.


But the heart of the game comes from Laying Track - an action that you’ll inevitably need to take in order to make the game progress forward. Sure, you could just swap shares all game and never lay a single card but then your opponent would be able to freely build things to their advantage. Laying Track in Penny Rails can be as nice - or as ruthless - as players desire. You can choose the card in your Reserve, the card from the Offer, or the top card of the deck to place. You must place the card so that at least one line is connected, and the card cannot be placed to cover existing Lines. Beyond that, the angle and direction in which you place the card does not matter. So placing a card just tilted so that the Lincoln Line connects, but there is a tiny gap between the two parts of the Jefferson Line, is a valid and strategic move which will increase the potential payout of the Line you’re hoping to improve while cutting their Line short. However, in order to place Track that connects, you must own at least one Share in that Train Line. Which means going all-in on one line will not only limit what you can build, but also how much you can earn at the end.

(Once again, photo weirdness! -Jason)


There are two ways to score the game: Majority Scoring or Dividends Scoring. The easiest to grasp is the first of these, which will award the player with the most Shares in a Train Line with $1 per connected track, plus bonus money for each connected City in a continuous line. If players are tied for Shares, neither player scores that Line. The Dividends Scoring is a little more dynamic, allowing both players to earn based upon how the Line performs if they own shares. Instead of paying the full amount that the Line earns from the previous example, the amount is divided by the number of Shares and players are paid that amount per Share they own in the Line. This can allow players to remain concerned about how a Line performs and owning Shares across multiple Lines even if they cannot obtain a majority. Just remember: you can never have more than 5 Shares overall.



Penny Rails is available for pre-order on our website, priced at $12 plus shipping and will come packaged in our standard vinyl wallet for maximum portability. Gather your pocket change and prepare for a train game unlike any other on the market.

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