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How To Play boxcars (3 Minute Guide) – also known as rail baron

How To Play boxcars (3 Minute Guide) – also known as rail baron


Boxcars/Rail Baron is a historical train game for 3-6 players published in the late 1970s. During the game, players will move trains on railroads, deliver goods, and collect payment in order to create a network across the map.

If you don’t own Rail Baron already, check it out here on Amazon or click here for Boxcars.



To begin the game, one of the players will first be chosen to act as the banker. They will give each player $20,000, a colored game piece, two chips of the same color, and a Freight engine card. Each player will then place their chips on the board at the corresponding cities to where their train is moving. The colored game piece will represent each player’s train as it moves along the board. Each player will roll 3 dice to determine who will go first. The player with the highest total roll will start the game and the cycle will go around the table clockwise.


The object of Rail Baron is to earn as much money as possible while traveling across the board and return your train home safely by the end of the game.

Player Actions

In order of their turn, each player will choose their Home City following the City Lookup process. This will be the location they must return their train to by the end of the game. The first player will then determine their first destination by using the city lookup process and placing their other chip on top of that city on the board. Once their destination has been established, the first player will roll two white dice and the result will indicate how many mileposts to move in that turn. When a player arrives at their destination city, they will stop the train movement and collect a payoff from the bank in the amount indicated on the Payoff chart. After arriving and collecting a payoff, the player can purchase an unowned railroad or upgrade from the bank. The movement phase of a turn is over after the player rolls the dice and moves on the board accordingly. To end a turn, the player will pay fees for railroads they traveled on that they did not own.

How to End the Game

The game ends when any player returns to their home city with $200,000 or more and is declared the winner.


Common House Rules

During the first steps of gameplay when players determine their home cities, more than one player is allowed to choose the same one. Once train piece is moved on the board during the movement phase it cannot be taken back and the position cannot be switched.

Variations of the Game

For a significantly faster game, there are a few rule variations that can be followed like reducing the price of all upgrades by half. Additionally, any player can “early declare” and move back to their home city if they have less than $200,000 after all unclaimed railroads have been sold.

How the Game Changes Depending on the Number of Players

Although Rail Baron is intended for at least 3 players, there are some rule variations that can be followed for fewer players. In a 2-player game, they can create an imaginary third player to offset the excess railroads. Continue to distribute railroads to the imaginary player while completing the turn cycles to keep everything even.


Time to play: 240 minutes

Manufacturer suggested player age: 10+

Community suggested player age: 10+

Community rating: 6.6/10

Popularity: Rank 2,076

Difficulty: Easy

Designer credits: R.S. Erickson, Thomas F. Erickson, Jr.

Published year: 1977

If you like this game you’ll also like:

Ticket To Ride, Ticket To Ride: Europe, Railroad Ink

If you don’t like this game, you should try:

Twilight Struggle, Speed Circuit, Empire Builder