The Last Spike rules are below. The game is easy to learn yet outcomes are different and exciting every time.
Building the great railways of America involved land speculation and engineering.
In this game, players cooperate to build a continuous railway from St. Louis to Sacramento. Each player also competes to accumulate the most money from land speculation before the last spike is laid.
The game can be played by 2–6 players, but works best with 3-5 players. Average playing time is 45-60 minutes.
- The gameboard shows nine (9) cities and the twelve (12) routes that link them.
- Railway Track
- 48 wooden blocks represent railway track sections. Four blocks fit between each two cities.
- Deck of 45 Deeds, 5 each of 9 cities.
- Game Money
- Currency chips: $1,000 (White). $5,000 (Red), $10,000 (Blue).
One player is chosen to be the banker. The banker gives each player, including himself, a sum of money that varies on the number of players:
- 2 Players, $60,000 each
- 3 Players, $50,000 each
- 4 Players, $40,000 each
- 5 Players, $35,000 each
- 6 Players, $30,000 each
Sort the land deeds into 9 piles, one for each city. Stack the five deeds of each city “Free” on top, and then the cheapest to most expensive on the bottom.
Place the 48 railway tiles face-down. Each player draws one tile and reveals it: closest to A1 has the first turn. Keep the first tile and then draw three (3) more tiles. Stand all tiles upright on the table, their identity and value hidden from the other players.
Game starts with the first player and proceeds clockwise around the table for the remainder of the game. Each turn, a player must play a track tile on the appropriate space of the map, buy one land deed (optional), and then draw a new track tile.
The track tiles contain a unique letter and number that corresponds to one space on the gameboard. The tile shown above is “A3”, played in the St. Louis – Omaha route. There is only one tile for each space.
There is also a “cost” on each tile. The cost per tile varies substantially, reflecting terrain such as bridges and tunnels, etc. The bank must be paid this cost to play that tile. Players who cannot afford to place a track tile must sell a deed or deeds to raise the cash needed.
Note: The cost of a track tile is doubled if not played next to a city or another track tile previously played.
Free Land Grants
One deed of each city is a Free land grant. To get this deed, a player must be the first to play track adjacent to the city. That is, to get the Free deed for Omaha, play A4, D1, or C1. There is only one Free land grant per city. Players cannot buy deeds for cities that have no free deed granted.
Playing a track tile earns you the right to buy one deed of your choice. Choose the deed wanted, pay the “Deed” price noted on the card ($2,000 for the Denver deed shown) and place it face-up in front of you.
Important: Players cannot hide the deeds they own. Ownership of land is public knowledge. Deeds must remain face-up on the table.
Players are never obligated to buy a Deed. They may decline. To end your turn, draw a new track tile so you again have four.
When all four (4) track sections in a route have been built, every deeds owner of the two connected cities collects a payout from the bank. That is, if the Dodge City – Denver route is completed, all players owning deeds from these two cities are paid.
The amount paid to each player depends on the number of deeds held for the two cities. Deeds have five increasing payouts. If you own two cards of the same city, collect the amount indicated by the number “2” on that deed.
Example: if you own 3 Dodge City deeds, collect $24,000 each time a connection is made to Dodge City.
Cities have the potential for multiple payouts. Denver can pay four times if all four routes get built. Yuma can pay three times, but St. Louis can pay only twice.
A city might not earn every possible payout before the game ends. With the exception of St. Louis and Sacramento, both of which must be connected at least once before a game can end, a city might never earn a payout for its owners.
A player who cannot pay for laying a track tile, cannot buy deeds. You may not borrow money from the bank or from other players. No mortgages allowed. To raise needed cash, you must sell deeds by auction as needed.
A deed auction is run by the bank, conduct them as needed. The opening minimum bid for any deed is one half the Payout #1 value ($4,000 if Payout #1 is $8,000) but players are at liberty to bid higher as they wish. The deed must be sold to the highest bidder.
If no player wishes to pay more than the minimum bid, the deed is sold to the bank for the minimum bid. The bank may resell that deed normally.
Important: A free land grant cannot be sold at auction.
If you cannot raise the cash to lay a track, you are bankrupt and out of the game. Any remaining deeds go to the bank.
THE LAST SPIKE
The game ends when the last spike is laid. This is the track tile which, when played, forms a continuous railway from St. Louis to Sacramento. A player is never forced to play the last spike if he can play elsewhere. However, the player who plays the last spike receives a bonus of $20,000 from the bank.
When the last spike is played, the payout for the two connected cities is collected. The player with the most cash then wins the game. Deed value is not counted, just cash.
See diagram below:
• Deed Values: Although the payouts for a city are the same on each deed, the cost of buying the deed varies. Players will want to buy the cheapest deed available.
• Cooperation: The payout system requires players to both compete and cooperate in track laying. Buying 4 or 5 deeds of the same city is rarely a good plan. It’s better to let other players also own some deeds so they will help build the railway to that city.
• Cash Flow: Players must manage their cash with care. Running out of money to pay for track will force you to sell deeds to raise the cash needed. Failure to raise sufficient monies to play makes you “bankrupt” and out of the game.