Steam and Age of Steam provide a finite set of tiles, and the rules explicitly mention that if a certain type of tile runs out then it is effectively unavailable anymore -- unless a tile comes back after being replaced by another one.

This rule seems quite artificial, as in real life there shouldn't be any problems creating any kind of track as the train line is being built. The original designer Martin Wallace himself wrote that this constraint was artificial and tried to create a "friendly" set of tiles.

I do agree that it is currently part of the game and I sometimes use it myself to get rid of some particular tiles so that my opponents may not use them.

Some expansion maps (e.g., Sun) were designed with the limited set of tracks in mind, as an important aspect of that map.

However for most maps I sometimes wonder if we could just forget this limitation, provided that there's a way to create missing tiles as needed.

So what do you think? What would be the pros and cons of relaxing this rule. Also, how would you implement an "infinite" supply of tiles?

  • Very interesting, I've never had a problem running out of tracks in either game. Haven't played a ton, maybe a dozen games total. Another dozen of Railroad Tycoon.
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 18:58

3 Answers 3


Laminate your boards, play with dry erase markers instead of tiles. Cuts the component count down a lot.

PS: Be sure to document the legal types of tiles, unless you are also allowing arbitrary tiles as part of this change. I always hated finding out which tiles didn't exist just in time to need them :(


One step towards implementing a wider set of tiles, without adding pieces, would be to allow players to swap tiles on the board if it doesn't change their top face. In a small but significant fraction of situations, the tile you need exists as the unused bottom side of a tile already on the table. Within the rules, I have encountered at least one scenario in which the game outcome was changed by my being able to "waste" money upgrading an apparently random tile on the board just to recover the other side of that tile for the move I actually want/need to make.

  • Steam only I assume. Good trick though!
    – squelart
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 5:32
  • Yes, I believe I was playing Steam when that happened, but why Steam only? The Age of Steam sets I have played with had double-sided tiles as well.
    – Sparr
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 5:33
  • I've played AoS 2nd and 3rd ed, and they only had single-sided tiles, so I assumed the double-sided tiles were a Steam-only thing... Maybe a different edition?
    – squelart
    Commented Oct 31, 2010 at 0:04
  • This can happen in Age of Steam with the town disks on towns with 4 exits, since those consume complex track tiles. There can be multiple complex track tiles that are different but functionally identical for a town.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 20, 2011 at 21:46

I like this idea. The ability to run out of tracks is not a key mechanic of (Age of) Steam, and adds some undesirable randomness, so I think it's expendable.

The only thing to be careful about is not to place track piece types that never existed in the first place.

Honestly, there are way too many straight and curved pieces anyway, at least in Age of Steam. Just take a permanent marker and draw new tracks on existing pieces as you need them. "Build sidewalks where people walk."

  • Defacing tiles... shudder :-P
    – squelart
    Commented Oct 31, 2010 at 0:05
  • Some (at least one) AoS map designer is adamant about limiting the track tiles to the original set. Also, I would call the effect chaos, not randomness. The track tiles that a player selects is, in most cases, intentional and not random.
    – Malachi
    Commented May 20, 2011 at 21:48

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