Steaming Onto Steam: Bounty Train

When a game with more stats than sense lands in the RPS inbox, it’s only a matter of time before someone nudges me in the ribs and asks me to take a look. “This looks like your kind of thing,” Graham will murmur, before dropping an actual spreadsheet in my lap and tittering into his hand. “You’ll enjoy this,” John says on occasion. “It’s my tax returns.”

I’m a nerd and watching the Bounty Train trailer has made me realise that my condition is worse than I thought. It’s a game that’s part FTL and part Elite, set in America during the age of rails and steam. It made me realise that I like trains more than I like spaceships.

I want more train games. Not train simulators, which I always hope to fall in love with but never call back for a second date – no, I want murder mysteries, globetrotting and weird rail-bound science fiction. I would definitely play a Snowpiercer RPG. Bounty Train looks a little rusty but I’m intrigued:

Bounty Train is a complex, tactically challenging game. The player has to keep many balls in the air — dealing with real time skirmishes with bandits, trading good for the best prices, resource management, train optimization and keeping the line (and train) in good repair. In addition, Bounty Train confronts the player with historical events, from the onset of the Civil War to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln — and depending on player choices and performance, the course of history may be changed.

Bounty Train borrows elements from many genres and uses them to build a greater whole, a new unique strategy game experience. A masterpiece for strategy fans everywhere.

A masterpiece, eh? I’m just hoping it’ll be more than a curiosity so that I can indulge my inner train-nerd.

Do trains actually rank higher on the nerd spectrum than spaceships? Even though sci-fi is increasingly mainstream, trains are an actual part of daily life for many people, which is about as mainstream as you can get. Steam trains are still quite niche though (shout out to my local steamteam at the East Lancs Railway) and I reckon Star Wars Lego kits are considered cooler than model railways. Of course, it’s probably only a matter of time before Hornby become hot property due to an explosion of hipster railroad cafes made up like dining carriages, with tiny trains running between the tables.

If you were offered a ride on a train or a ride in a spaceship though, it’d seem unusual to pick the train. There’s something about the rails that sets my heart racing though – give me Grand Central over Deep Space 9 any day of the week.

Bounty Train is coming to Steam Early Access on August 17th.


  1. amusingthebrood says:

    Mainsteam, surely?

  2. tangoliber says:

    I’d prefer trains in space. I vaguely remember Galaxy Express 999

  3. suibhne says:

    Deep Space 9 is most definitely not a spaceship, notwithstanding what Miles was able to accomplish in the series opener.

  4. Dilapinated says:

    This looks really cool! The closest I can think to Snowpiercer is Transartica, an old DOS game about driving a coal-powered megatrain around a post-apocalyptic winterland.

    • Lightbringer says:

      This really looks like a remake of Transarctica. I wonder how nobody picked up that idea for such a long time.

    • Klingsor says:

      That looks indeed a bit like Transarctica. I’ve absolutely adored that game back in they day. Still waiting for the day when someone shows up at Kickstarter offering a remake of Transarctica.

    • Rev_Sudasana says:

      Also known as Arctic Baron in certain markets!

  5. Darth Jimmi says:

    I love how in the trailer they say “Discover the American Old West!”, yet they show a map of the American Old East…

    • freedomispopular says:

      If they showed a map of the Old West, then it wouldn’t need to be discovered…

    • RQH says:

      It’s hard to discover anywhere wholly new by train.

      • RQH says:

        “Where is this track going, Jim?” “I don’t know, Pete, but we’ll soon discover it!”

      • dajt says:

        Happens on Thomas the Tank Engine all the time. Somehow.

        • JimboDeany says:

          With Thomas the Tank Engine it’s more an allegory for him discovering himself sexually

    • Leland Davis says:

      That’s the thing about the Old West … it was never the same place twice. Depending on the time period, Ohio and Michigan are “Old West,” or Missouri and Kansas, or Colorado and Nebraska, or Arizona and California.

      • Aetylus says:

        As was Wales. And before that Spain. And before that Italy.

      • RQH says:

        Yeah, but the American Old West in the age of steam trains is fairly specific, and I think west of Detroit.

  6. trooperwally says:

    “Do trains actually rank higher on the nerd spectrum than spaceships?”

    They can do, yes. Sure trains are pretty commonplace but if you get sufficiently excited about them then they can rank higher on the nerd spectrum than spaceships. Getting very excited about commonplace is basically one of the central planks of the nerd creed. To support this view, I present exhibit A:

    • JiminyJickers says:

      Haha, that was hilarious. That guy needs to change his undies.

    • Hunchback says:

      Wow, this guy really got a nerdgasm there!
      Can’t believe someone’s so happy about seeing a machine. He’s not even close, he can’t touch it or operate it, or ride on it or anything, and still he’s going all panty and jizz-in-my-pantsy … :D

      I do really enjoy train games, i was very sad when that recent train-building game turned out to be quite bad. I am really tempted from time to time, to install Railroad Tycoon 2 GOLD, but i tell myself it’s so old the gameplay would feel awkward from a modern point of view.

      Anyways, i hope this new game turns out sweet, even tho it’s not exactly what i am looking for in a train game (laying tracks, running an empire…)

  7. maicus says:

    If you have a specific request for weird rail-bound science fiction, I would recommend Railsea by China MiƩville. Post-apocalyptic Moby Dick with trains and a great white mole.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      Is it as aggressively sadistic towards its characters as Perdido Street Station was? He’s a great writer, but if I enjoyed reading about good people being completely, hopelessly screwed with no hope of ever striking back, I’d just read the news.

  8. RedViv says:

    I shall call it Faster Than Horses from now on.

  9. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    Looks surprisingly good.

  10. Cyphran says:

    The rambling end of this article makes me so happy and fits the theme completely.

  11. MithrilWomble says:

    I’ve always wondered what trainspotters actually took note of: was it engines and their ID numbers or do they track the cars that are being pulled?

  12. teije says:

    Please tell me that a Snowpiercer RPG is a real thing. Please. Please.

  13. jonahcutter says:

    This looks bloody brilliant, and I’m sitting here wondering why no one thought of it before. FTL, Convoy, maybe even some XCOM. Now just give me a post-apocalyptic setting to trundle through and I’ll be in heaven.

    Hopefully it plays as good as it looks.

  14. dajt says:

    Well, I am a fully paid up train nerd. I love them from the smallest models to the real thing.

    I don’t think this game will appeal to the train nerd who likes real trains more than the idea of trains. The trains are there as flavour, but everything about them is wrong :( Anyway, that’s okay. The game is not really about the trains.

    But what I’d give for a modern rewrite of the original Railroad Tycoon! Every version after that got worse ending with Railroads! which was horrible and Train Fever which is dead boring.

    • rustic says:

      Railroad Tycoon 2 is the one I’ve returned to every other year or so since I found it available on Steam. UI and graphics makes it fairly accessible by today’s standards. But I would indeed love to see a proper update of those early RT games. Railroads! was a bit shit and I haven’t bothered with Train Fever as what I read about it put me off from testing it.

      However, a new Railroad Tycoon game may skip the DRM of the original title. :)

  15. Shakes999 says:

    As someone who repairs trains for a living, I’m getting a kick out of this game. Gonna buy.

  16. ExitDose says:

    I’ve played so many games now that people claim are ‘just like FTL’, yet FTL is still the only one to pull the formula off. Hopefully this will be the one.

    • Damien Stark says:

      I don’t know that I’ve ever seen RPS say something was “just like FTL”, but certainly there’s a lot of games that are “like FTL”.

      Dungeon of the Endless in particular reminds me more of FTL than any other game, but I certainly wouldn’t say it’s “just like” FTL. I also really really want to love DotE, but I’m having trouble getting along with the difficulty curve. Even on “Too Easy” (an insulting name that makes it harder for me to give it the benefit of the doubt), it is indeed super easy for the first two-thirds, then you hit a point where you don’t have enough dust to secure your perimeter and you’re being swarmed from all directions.

  17. AtlasIsKing says:

    Did it annoy anyone else that the trailer says “Discover the American Old West” but the map seems to cover exclusively the East Coast and Midwest of the country?