I got my copy of Lokomotive Werks a while ago and got it on the table today. It’s a 2002 Winsome title from Dieter Danziger. It’s been reprinted twice and I managed to get a copy of the most recent reprint.
The game’s about building locomotives, but it could be about any technology, really. What matters is economics, the building of an economic engine. Players design locomotive models and produce them. Produced locomotives are then sold to satisfy market demand. The goal is to get at least $300 — you start with just $10 and a simple locomotive model, so there’s some work to do!
It’s a very simple and skeletal game. There’s little flavour, all locomotive models for example are identical: their production cost is twice their income and their design cost is twice the production cost. Only prices and types vary.
The market is the heart of the game. The locomotives are divided in four types. In each type, the latest model in game gets more demand — a die is added to a pool. The older model (there’s usually two models available) loses one die each turn, so the demand diminishes. If there are three generations available, the oldest one becomes obsolete.
The demand is dice. Dice are rolled to get random demand and when players sell the trains, they can sell each model to a single die. If a demand die matches production, good — move the die from orders to satisfied customers. Otherwise the highest die is either moved to the customer pool or adjusted by the amount of locomotives sold. Every player gets to sell each model to just one die at the time, guaranteeing that later players get to sell something.
Image via Wikipedia
The marked mechanism is really clever. In addition there’s turn order, where richest player goes last and poorest first. This way the poorer players can produce what the richer player produces and they can sell their stuff to the market first, annoying the richer player. The richest player gets to adjust their production last, focusing on areas where other players aren’t leeching. They can also buy new technology last, making sure they can get a monopoly in at least one type.
It’s a simple game, but takes a while before players get their engines running and make enough money to win the game (there’s some attrition in the shape of 10% income tax). Our game took about 90 minutes. On the last round, everybody was making about $170-180. I was second, I just couldn’t pass the leader.
Lokomotive Werks is an interesting game. The market mechanism is good, there’s some chaos and unpredictability. A bad roll can screw you, but so can a sudden slump in the economy or some similar real-life event. Figuring out which locomotives to produce was interesting and entertaining. The game is really calculation-heavy, especially when you get to details like optimizing spending to get a good place in turn order…
So, another good Winsome game, I’m definitely playing this again.