A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

March 19, 2014

Confederate Rails - a Game of Civil War Railroading

Sample Box Cover Art
Back around 2001 well known game designer Richard Berg developed a board game called Confederate Rails. It is a brilliant depiction of the roles southern railroads had in the civil war. It is not a war game per se. It is more a railroad game, but with a twist.

Players represent the owners of the various Confederate railroad companies. Each player owns a selection of railroads that can be either bought at the start of the game through a bidding process or distributed randomly.  The object of the players is to make money by delivering loads of cargo, passengers and troops, ostensibly in support of the war utilizing your own lines, or lines of others for a fee.

 Unlike most rail games where you build your railroad network, in Confederate Rails, your existing network at the start of the game shrinks as the war goes on. The progress of the war is represented by die rolls on  an historical outcome table resulting in a random, but  inexorable constriction of the Confederacy as the Union closes in. A series of event cards changes the flow of the game and can add unexpected turns, but  in the end the Union wins the war. For the players it is just a matter of when and which railroads made the most money.  The player with the most money wins. Of course the victory is pyrrhic as the money is in Confederate dollars, worthless once the war ends, but that never stopped capitalists before.

I find the concept of the game brilliant as it really captures the attitude that many of the southern railroad companies maintained throughout the war. To learn more about how Southern railroads affected the war effort see  Robert Black's "Railroads of the Confederacy," and Angus Johnson's, "Virginia Railroads in the Civil War." Game designer Berg credits Black's book with much of his inspiration for the game. US Marine Corps officer Ian Pollit did a Master's thesis in 2002 on how Confederate railroad policy hurt their war effort. You can download it free from the Defense Technical Library here.

In addition to being an abstract, but realistic depiction of southern railroad operations during the war, the game is a lot of fun to play.

The new game company, 1A Games, is planning on reintroducing the game with higher end components and box. They have a Kickstarter site for the game. The Kickstarter site is not yet active. They are looking for feedback from potential buyers on what they would like to see.

1A games have asked me to consult on some of the development aspects. My main contribution has been this poster. It will be used as one of the Kickstarter rewards for people that sign up. The poster shows an assortment of typical civil war engines and cars along with some comments. The poster will be about 36x24 inches. In the final print form the engines and cars are in 1/96th scale.

If you like games and civil war railroads, this is the game for you.

A draft copy of the poster.


  1. Thanks for posting this--I did go over and make a couple comments. I'll follow it on KS, and see how it moves along.

  2. Great. I am looking forward to trying this game.