Once settlements grew into towns and communities, people needed a way to transport and trade goods. First came the rivers, which were fine if you lived alongside one. If you were in the heartland of your country, you needed something designed to haul heavy loads over land.
Enter the steam locomotive.
Steam locomotives came to Europe and the United States in the earliest part of the 1800s. Throughout the century, bigger, faster trains were designed, and the competition to build/own those railway lines—and control the major shipping hubs—was fierce.
Sounds like the making of some great board games to me.
NOTE: I’m intentionally excluding the 250+ 18XX games here, as they would take up the entire list.
Ticket to Ride
Lay down trains to connect cities and earn more points than your opponents in this modern-day classic.
A complex, rewarding economic game of creating a business empire through cities, buildings, and trade routes.
A tile-laying game about building your best train routes to deliver people and goods.
An economic, worker placement game about the railroad business in 1839 Austria.
A bidding, stock trading game where you also build tracks across Ireland.
A tile-laying engine builder that sees you moving people and robots around on a magnetic levitation rail system.
Switch & Signal
A cooperative roll & write about delivering goods via a network of train tracks.
Lay tracks or buy stock. Those are your two options per turn in this modular board game that plays in about an hour.
Age of Steam
An economic bidding game where players compete to create the best railroad connections to some of the biggest industrial cities in America.
Empyreal: Spells & Steam
A modular board game in which you’re a Techromancer, casting spells and creating train routes to deliver goods.
Railways of the World
Build the most successful railway system across a massive board.
A worker placement game about connecting cities while upgrading your trains and workers.
A programmed action game where you and your opponents are each trying to rob the same steam-driven locomotive at the same time.
A train route game with 45 European cities, designed by Friedmann Friese.
A puzzly game in which players both build and navigate an overlapping maze of hex-tiled train tracks, racing multiple locomotives across the map.
First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express
In this set collection game, players draft cards from an open field over six rounds, both developing the train and the route while managing passengers, luggage, and even the occasional murder.