In 'Steel Driver' each player represents an investment broker, handling massive capital sums that were available to be invested in the nascent American railway.
There are two forms of 'money' within the game. Large capital sums are represented by white investment cubes. Profits are paid in cash, represented by paper money. It helps to equate cash to victory points; you cannot re-invest cash as it is too small a proportion of the investment cubes to make much difference.
The game lasts for five turns. At the end of five turns a special phase is carried out, where the final company values are determined. The winner is the player with the most cash, which will be earned from investing in the best rail networks.
Each turn consists of five phases. In the first phase each player will receive investment cubes, the actual number determined by the number of players in the game. Players receive the same number of cubes each turn, and can retain unspent cubes from previous turns, so it is possible to gain an advantage in investment cubes.
In the second phase the control markers for each of the six railways companies are auctioned off. Players bid for these with investment cubes; the cubes of the winning bid go into the company's box.
When a player buys the control marker of a company he also takes one of its shares. Note that control of a company goes to the player who has the control marker, not the player with the most company shares.
The third phase sees each of the six companies spending their investment cubes on building railways. The map shows the potential routes and the cost to build, (marked in cubes). The first time a company builds it must build from a hexagonal city.
After that its track must always connect with track of the same color. The order in which companies build track in the first turn is the same as the order of the
Company boxes, (from left to right). In subsequent turns it is determined by the order in which companies passed in the previous turn. Each company must build as much track as it possibly can. When a company connects with a location it adjusts its profit level by the amount indicated in the location.
If a transcontinental link, (a continuous series of track links between New York and San Francisco), is created then each participating company receives a bonus to its profit levels.
Players now receive a cash payment from each company they control. This profit is determined by the locations to which the company connected in the present turn. Once profits have been paid out the profit level for each company is reset to zero. Other players who may have shares in a company do not receive a payout.
In the final phase the new company order is marked on the Order of Play display. This order is determined by the order in which companies passed during the track building phase.
After five turns the game is almost over. There is now a special phase where the final value of each company is determined, followed by a final profit payout for each share held. Each location has a particular color, there being five colors in all. Goods cubes matching the color of each location are placed on the board.
Final control of a company goes to the majority shareholder. In company order each company takes a goods cube from a location to which it is connected. This procedure is repeated until all possible cubes have been claimed.
The final profit level of a company is determined by the sets of goods cubes it ends up collecting. A set is made up of cubes of different colors; the larger the set is, the bigger the profit. This mechanism is an incentive for a company to spread out around the country.
The winner is the player with the most cash at the end of the game.