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Canal Mania Description

Canal Mania Description

It's a game about the great Canal building era of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that captures the feel of the period and gives players plenty of decision making in their attempts to complete some of the most famous British canals.

Players will engage brilliant engineers such as James Brindley and Thomas Telford in their efforts to create canals linking emerging manufacturing centres, providing the waterways that supplied the goods generated by the Industrial Revolution.

Canal Mania - this Ragnar Brothers Game recreates the growth of the English Canal System during the late 18th and early 19th centuries before the railways took over. It's a game for 2 to 5 players and takes 90 minutes to 2 hour to play. You can see their Design Notes for the game as well if you are interested.


The object of the game is to score the highest number of total points by:

  • Building Locks (1 point on completion of the Canal);
  • Building Aqueducts (2 points on completion of the Canal);
  • Building Tunnels (3 points on completion of the Canal);
  • Successfully completing the Canal (you are awarded the Contract Value);
  • Shipping Goods from one town to another (awarded a point for each Town travelled through).


  • One Game Board with a map of England, bordered by the Score Track and showing Towns and Terrain types.
  • 35 colour coded tiles per player, colours are Black, Green, Red, White and Yellow comprised of:
    • 16 stretches
    • 12 locks
    • 4 aqueducts
    • 3 tunnels
    • 3 narrowboats per player (Black, Green, Red, White and Yellow)
  • Build Cards showing Stretches, Locks, Aqueducts, Tunnels and wild card Surveyors.
  • Canal Contract Cards representing permission from Parliament for the construction of the Canal.
  • 5 Engineer Cards representing James Brindley, John Smeaton, William Jessop, Thomas Telford and John Rennie.
  • 20 brown cubes representing Goods Tokens.
  • A Train Marker showing the arrival of the railways and the start of the decline of the canals.
  • 5 Reference Cards, 1 per player.
  • 1 Rules Booklet.

    Setting Up

    Place the Game Board centrally then each Player chooses a colour and takes the tiles and narrowboats of that colour.

    Place the train marker on the finish point (2 players - 80 points, 3 players - 70 points, 4 players - 60 points and 5 players - 50 points).

    Shuffle the Engineer Cards and deal one to each player.

    Each player takes a Junction Contract, two if only 2 players.

    Separate the initial 6 contract cards and place 5 face up close to the board and then place the 6th on top of the other contracts which should also have been shuffled.

    Shuffle the Build Cards and place 5 face up next to the board.

    Place the Goods Tokens and 1 of each players Narrowboats in the Canal Basin (top right of the board).

    The initial player is the person with the lowest numbered Engineer.

    Game Play

    Starting with the 1st Player and continuing clockwise each Player takes an action in each of the 3 phases:

    In phase 1 the player can either:

  • Take a new contract from parliament, no more than 2 active at one time.
  • Exchange Engineers with another player or from one of those beside the map.
  • Discard the 5 face up Build Cards.

    In phase 2 the player has the choice of:

  • Select 3 face up Build Cards.
  • Play Build Cards and place the appropriate tiles on the Map.

    In the 3rd and final phase:

  • Move a goods token.
  • Add any points for completed Canals and Contracts and for any moved Goods Token to the score track.
  • In each phase there is an additional possible action and that is to Draw a facedown card from the Build Pile.

    End Game

    The end of the game begins when a players scoring marker reaches the Train Marker, at this point the round is completed and then 2 further rounds are played.

    Once the 2 rounds are complete then tiles on incomplete canals are scored and the contract isn't. Finally any remaining Goods are moved and scored in the standard way.

    The Hooks

    The Engineers - you need the right engineer for the job, if you're building through the hilly country then Jessop and Telford help reduce the card cost of that difficult terrain. Brindley allows you to place locks from stretch cards, this is important as you can't have 2 adjacent matching tiles. Rennie allows the collection of additional cards and lastly Smeaton, with this engineer you can place 2 consecutive tiles with a single Surveyor card. You can always hire the engineer you want but it does stop you from selecting a new contract from Parliament.

    Moving goods is essential so can you help ensure they are in the places you can ship them from, can you move them through enough of your own towns to score the best number of points before you have to deliver them.


    Canal Mania is a relatively straightforward game to play, however that doesn't mean you aren't faced with difficult choices and it doesn't mean that you can't affect your opponents game plans.

    This was an interesting time in British history, allowing the mass movement of raw materials and goods and this is reflected by allowing the goods tokens to score additional points.