I’m a big fan of Columbia Games. I love the whole look and feel of their games, and Wizard Kings and Hammer of the Scots both helped reinvigorate my love of board games in my mid 20’s. My kids are big fans of Slapshot, and it still comes to the table often with them. I have to admit I was a bit hesitant about The Last Spike. While I like train games, this seemed a bit more abstracted, and more focused on money management than anything.
That’s exactly what the game is…and it does a really great job at it. I sat down with my 10-year-old and 5-year-old to play, and I was surprised at the small rulebook and easy gameplay. Everything boils down to how you manage you money, how you purchase cities, and how you keep your opponents from earning more money.
In The Last Spike, you’re all working together to make a continuous railway from one end of the board to another. You have to pay to lay tile, and buy city cards to earn money when tracks between that city and another is complete. More cards in that city equals more money. There’s also free cards you can get by being the first person to lay track next to a city. The person with the most money at the end of the game wins. It’s a race to make sure you have the most money while quickly completing the rail. You also need to be careful, because completing a segment of track completed may earn you money, but may earn one of the other players more money. Sometimes it’s worth trying for another route that may take longer, cost a bit more, but keep the other players from surpassing you in funds.
It’s a fairly quick game. I played with my two boys in about 45 minutes, my 5-year-old winning the game after stockpiling Saint Louis cards and cashing in huge towards the end of the game. The game keeps the same aesthetic of other Columbia Games with a cardstock board and wooded blocks with stickers for the pieces. It all boxes up in the same bookshelf format Columbia is known for.
This may not be a game for everyone, but it’s certainly a game that it’s audience will enjoy. That being said, it’s a Columbia game that has a broader appeal than their wargame line. The game had a successful Kickstarter campaign, and I’m hoping it spreads out further into the gaming community.
A copy of The Last Spike was provided free for review by Columbia Games.