Wheels of Steel
2 – 4 players; 60 minutes (but up to 120)
Wheels of Steel is a simple tile laying and resource collection game. The wheels in the games title refer to the steel wheel of trains, and the tiles represent railways; both track and stations.
Wheels of Steel is a print and play game that is only available on BGG but is in the play testing process at "Hans im Glück Verlag".
I’ve played this several times now and found only one other print and play game that I would readily recommend and I’ve tried a few.
The aim of the game is to collect goods from a production source and then deliver them to either a processing facility or to a final destination. Each type of good gives 1, 2 or 3 points when delivered, and the winner is the player with the most points at the end of the game.
The rules are simple and straightforward:
• Select tiles
• Place tiles within basic guidelines
• Collect goods from stations
• Move trains
• Deliver goods
• Upgrade trains
The only negative comment I have regarding the rules is that the pdf pages are all different sizes with no borders around the text so that when fitted to A4 the rules went right to the edge of the page which just looked odd.
The components provided with the game comprise the following:
The tiles represent the train tracks and come in three types; route tiles, production tiles and processing tiles. The route tiles are plain track with various straight sections, curves, crossings, intersections and turntables. The production tiles and processing tiles represent stations where goods can de unloaded or delivered and include farms, bakers, mines, sawmills and cities amongst others.
The counters represent goods that can be collected from the production centres or produced at processing centres. They come in three colours; white worth one point, yellow worth two points and blue worth three points. The yellow and blue counters can only be produced at processing centres.
The images and names for the trains are based on Empire Builder Pewter Miniatures, and these are listed as being the best pieces for playing with, although since you make the pieces yourself it is possible to print and make perfectly acceptable alternatives. There are four types of train each of which can carry different amount of goods (counters) and move at different speeds (all trains always move at the speed of the fastest train type). You start off with one basic train and by delivering goods you can activate more trains of the other types. The upgrades require you to deliver one white good to get the second train type which can go faster and carry an extra good, delivering a total of two white goods activates the third train type which can carry another good and delivering a yellow good activates the fourth train which goes faster.
Each player has a player aid in their colour showing the types of trains with boxes to represent their carrying capacity, pictures of what they look like, the speeds that they can travel and the goods needed to upgrade to them. When goods are collected they can be placed on the player aids in the boxes for the appropriate train so it is easy to see at a glance what each train is carrying.
The artwork on all the pieces is clear and not overly complex so it is easy to see what each piece represents (although one of our group kept getting cows and pigs confused then had problems trying to get milk from pigs).
Making the pieces
There are a number of threads on BGG about making tiles, etc. but I will just summarise the techniques that I used here in case they help.
• I printed the pieces on to A4 satin photo paper, other people use glossy photo paper which I find too shiny and tacky or they use sheets of stickers which I find to be less vibrant and for a game like this you would need whole page stickers. When I print out the pieces I try to get as many as possible on to one page. I also printed out two copies of the goods counters.
• I then used spray mount to mount the A4 paper on to thick card which I left to dry.
• Next I used scissors not a craft knife to cut out the pieces, although at this stage I kept the counters as sheets rather than individual counters
• Since the counters are likely to be piled up and could show either side, I cut the second copy of the counters sheets to the same size as the copy I had already mounted. I then stuck the second copy to the back of the mounted copies before cutting the counters to size, this gave me double sided counters.
• I also designed some tile backs to go on the tiles so that I could identify what type of tile each was from either side and cut these to size then glued them to the back of the route tiles.
• In order to make the trains I folded pieces of the card in half before glueing the trains and trimming them to size.
The end result of all this can be seen below:
The first time we played the game we used version 2 of the rules and found a number of problems regarding stacking, drawing and placing the tile along with speed of play which have been addressed in the official rule change.
When we next came to try out Wheels of Steel we used the updated rules and found that the game progressed much quicker and was easier to play.
When it comes to playing tiles you start with three in your hand and then draw another two tiles before adding two tiles to the track layout. Because you have to place at least one route tile between each station adding two tiles means that you can play both a route tile and a station tile. We found that everyone placed a city tile as early possible and as close as possible to another city so that mail and passenger goods counters could be collected and delivered as soon as possible and we could upgrade our trains early on. During the time that we were cleaning out the cities closest to the start we were able to enlarge the train network considerably.
As the game progressed we found that getting hold of the yellow and blue goods took quite a while as often enough the white goods that we needed to collect first were on the other end of the network so you had to go across the entire network to collect the first good and then all the way back to process it. In fact so far none of us have actually produced a single blue good. Of course if you managed to pick up a production centre that matched a processing centre near one of your trains you could place it nearby and quickly build up points by processing goods and then delivering those processed goods.
In the first game we played we had an early run away leader who managed to process yellow goods on his third turn and then have an extra train advantage over the rest of us, but in subsequent games everyone reached this stage at roughly the same time.
Overall we found that the game was very easy to learn and initially quick to play but as the game progressed it slowed down as trains had to be moved further to reach the goods required. This is not to say that we didn't enjoy playing, more that we haven't found good strategies yet, when we do the game will speed up later on. (Also I had misread a rule about the number of trins allowed in a station and if I had got this right some of the reasons for the game slowing down would have been removed)
I´m trying to get 300 years old, so now I´m a teenager
Thank you to all of you, especially Rupert for this great review !
A little strategic hint: Keep a tile that can process yellow to blue in your hand until you can place it where it´s best for you
I´m very happy about all the good comments about my game and I´m now more enthusiastic in working on my pirate game again.
Soon here at BGG