First Impressions: The Last Spike

Hello fellow board gamers! I’m here in this beautiful new week and ready to give you a new review. I hope you have had a wonderful week. This week, I will be looking at a railroad building game called The Last Spike. It is published by Columbia Games, and plays two to six players. It is listed as playing in about 45 minutes, however, I have played games on average of about 60. Anyway, with that, lets dive in!


How It’s Played

The goal of The Last Spike is to construct a continuous railroad from Saint Louis, to Sacramento, while collecting land and as well as monetary payouts when certain sections of the railroads are completed. A typical turn plays in two to three fairly basic steps. The first part of the turn, you will place a section of railroad and pay the cost on the tile to place it. You then have an option to purchase a land card. This is an option only if the free land card has been given out. This is received if you play a tile directly next to a city. The final stage of your turn will be to draw a new tile and go back to a full hand of tiles. A full hand is four tiles. The land cards are collected for when a section of railroad is completed. At the point of a completed section, each player receives a payout based on how many land cards they have purchased. The game will continue until there is a completed rail line from Saint Louis to Sacramento. At this point, players will count the money that they have accumulated, and the player with the most money is declared the winner.


The Pretty Little Bow

I very much have enjoyed the art in this game. It has a very classic feel that reminds me of a time when trains had a more prevalent role in society. I would also like to mention that the name of the game is really awesome. I generally don’t make any comment on the title, but I think the theme and winning condition of the game make this the perfect name. The railroad tile pieces are made of nice thick wood (Ha. Thick wood. Check out the reference here) as well, giving them a great quality to them.  The money tokens were also made of wood, however I found them to be slightly lacking due to the fact that they were not labeled in any way. There was only a reference in the corner of the board which delineate their values. The money tokens are made of wood as well, and are of nice quality otherwise. They match the quality of the rail road tokens, however slightly thinner, as they have no need to be placed on their edge. The biggest area of confusion for me is the game board. All other aspects of the game appear to be made to last until the end of time, but the board is one of the thinnest I’ve ever come across. Even after only a dozen or so times opening and closing the board, I’m noticing wear along the centerfold.

A Giant Pile of Money Tokens

What’s Not To Love? 

Regarding the gameplay, I think the only thing I think comes up short is the bonus you receive if you are the player who plays the last spike. Not because of it being too much of a bonus or anything along those lines, but because it is such an easy rule to slip your mind after playing for so many turns. When you aren’t thinking about that bonus it is very easy to forget at the end of the game. This is the only issue I have come across so far. Having only played a couple of times (this IS a First Impressions review), I have noticed that there has been one clear cut winner in each game played about half way through. The over time review however, will give me a better idea of it being a gameplay thing, or me being an unfair teacher and not helping opponents with strategies. The other issue I found with the game is the quality of the board and money tokens. It isn’t something that bothers me personally, since it doesn’t affect game play, but I am well aware that people have expectations that are higher than my own and feel that this is something that should be mentioned. If you feel you absolutely need a nice sturdy board, this may be something you need to consider as a shortcoming. Also, with the money tokens, I feel that there could have at least been stickers to apply that show the worth of the token. Although, once you reference the board a couple of time, you pretty much remember the amounts anyway. It’s just nice in my opinion to be able to look at your piece and read its dollar value there.

Gorgeous Game Board. Unfortunately Thin However.

What’d You Think?

This is a very simplistic game that is easy to teach and for the ease of teaching, there is really a lot of strategy to be found. Do you complete rail lines quickly and take a smaller pay out, or do you try to wait a turn or two to purchase more land cards so you can get yourself a bigger pay out? For me, this is likely going to be a great tile laying game to use as a gateway. As much as I have enjoyed other tile laying gateway games, I think this is going to be a nicer more gradual introduction to the genre of game for me. There aren’t too many different things going on, but there is enough to keep you on your toes. In my opinion, if you find yourself playing with people who aren’t into the hobby as deeply as yourself, this is a must have game for tile laying. Even with an unfortunately thin game board, I think that aspect is quickly overlooked, as the game play is going to immerse you no matter what the board quality is. Realistically it just sits on the table anyway right? Right.

Look at that nice thick wood!

Anyway, I think that just about does it for this weeks review. I hope you have all enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it! What is your opinion on a component that some may find lacking? Can you look past it and enjoy the game still? I’d love to hear about your opinions on it in the comment section! One last thing, Remember I love you all!!

2 thoughts on “First Impressions: The Last Spike”

  1. My wife is a fan of trains and games related to them. In this case, the review was informative. I would agree that a thin gameboard could be a deficit over time. As for the money tokens, as long as the money is simple, such as white is $1, blue is $5 and red is $10 then, I would not have much of a problem with that, although having some monetary value on the does give it better appeal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear it’s been informative for you! In new posts I will also have a section for what I love about each game, to even out the downfalls I note in my what’s not to love section as well. Which may make the reviews even more informative for you 🙂


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