Mississippi Queen Review

In Mississippi Queen, players race their paddle wheelers down the Mississippi, picking up passengers along the way. But onboard coal supplies are limited, so each ship's acceleration and maneuvers must be carefully planned. The twists and turns of the river are unknown at the start of the game and are revealed only as ships progress downstream, so captains need to be alert at the wheel and ready to change course - Keep Exploring Games

Everyone has their list of words that they hate. Whether it's because they can't spell it or say it properly or it just grates them. Mississippi is one of those words for me. Nothing against the location at all. It's just one of the most painful words for me to spell, I literally could start a counter during this review of how many times I've misspelt it. Already at "1" from this paragraph alone.

At least I can pronounce it fine though, so playing Mississippi Queen...... "2".....wasn't a problem. A reprint of a very old racing game where you sail your boat across the famous river of the same name (ha ha, avoided that one) and pick up passengers. Not much else to say really, it's a pretty simple game over all and I'm all up for a racing game, we need more of these family friend ones and less of the 2-3 hour long simulation monstrosities.

However I don't recall hearing everyone clambering for this game to be reprinted, most wouldn't have even heard of it. And given how old it is, have they tweaked it so that it will stand up against the modern day competition or is it already DOA (Dated On Arrival)?

Let's go into more detail........


Once you're comfortable with the rules, Mississippi Queen (ooh I got it right that time) is only going to set you back about 45-60 minutes of game time unless you have that one player who can incur analysis paralysis over a choice between a million pounds and being literally run over by a paddle boat. That's not to say you don't have options, but it shouldn't take long for turns to play out and as such downtime should be kept to a minimum with maybe a little bit of waiting if you max out to 5-6 players.

Even the setup is pretty fast as the track is built as you play. Just dish out the boats, explain the rules which in "basic" mode will only take a few minutes and you can get going. You'll never call Mississippi Queen (I think I've got it down now) a filler, but nice and short, that's a fair assessment.


I mentioned the "basic" rules before, movement, picking up passengers and "crashing" are very straightforward to explain with one exception that kept getting the odd raised eyebrow. The application of ramming other boats and pushing them out of the way requires a few working examples to fully get to grips with, particularly when multiple ships are involved.

The "advanced" rules, which to be honest you should throw into every game, are not that hard to explain either, most of them relate to simply restricting movement over certain terrain and some you can ignore completely unless you're playing the variant to control multiple boats, which personally I wasn't a big fan of.

All in all, it definitely fits within the category of family weight games.


Other than using a die to determine where each new river tile is placed and of course the random draw of said tile, there's no other luck in the game. Players are able to control their ship without a random element being thrown in the mix, just the occasional pain of another player getting in your way so even experienced gamers can get something out of it. Now that's a double edged sword however and I'll get back to that when I look at Immersion. . . .

I also like how the track is built as you race so you don't know when the passengers are going to turn up or what obstacles await you. This adds to the feeling of not knowing whether to hold back or bomb it forward and hope for the best, though you would think that anyone daring to race on the Mississippi river would have some idea of what the layout was like, but I guess you can never know it inch by inch and it's nice to see that this aspect remains fairly unique among racing games.

Mechanically, everything works smoothly and as intended, but there's very few choices you're picking from on your next move. You've got one boat and probably one path to follow or at most two. Doesn't take much to decide and it can make some turns feel like they're on rails.

As a further small nitpick, I also rolled my eyes when I saw a rulebook paragraph that stated the winner is the first person to finish with 2 passengers, but the game didn't end until all boats had finished. . . . why? What's the point? You're really going to have that winner sit there doing nothing while the slow racers finish? That felt definitely like a rule from the 1990's. . .


Mississippi Queen looks colourful on the table, but lacks that "wow" factor to make it stand out. You'll build up this long train of blue and green and not much else.

However, the passengers are a nice little touch and I like how the speed/coal values are represented on the paddle boats themselves on little wheels making the information accessible to everyone. Small word of warning though that the values aren't the easiest thing to make out at a distance.


The manner in which you control the paddleboats makes sense thematically. They were generally big lumbering vehicles, not known for their maneouvering capabilities and certainly not known for stopping on a dime. This you quickly learn as you try to gauge speed and stopping distances for picking up passengers, hampered on frequent occasions by unsafe boat drivers ramming you out of the way.

I will admit however that even though the theme is a little lost on these occasions, it is quite funny when you get a group of players treating the scenario like a giant form of water dodgems. Not as often as you would like though. But now for that elephant in the room from earlier which is a big one to get past . . .

One of the best aspects of a racing game is that element of chance and pushing your luck. It doesn't have to be there in spades, but that little hint of going for it to generate a bit of excitement is welcomed. Snow Tails has the dog cards, Flamme Rouge has your two decks, Formula De has the corners of death and Downforce, though it doesn't have random card draw, has the chaos factor of having up to 6 cars moved every single turn multiple times before it gets back to you.

Here though, because the only external factor is players ramming, it makes this race feel very dry. You're not going to get a stand-up cheering moment or a chant of "GO ON MY SON" playing Mississipi Queen when you're parking a boat and then gradually moving off again twice. There's a lack of excitement in the race itself and when you think "race", isn't that the feeling you expect?


Even with the included Black Rose expansion, there isn't a great deal here to inspire replayability. The track will be different each time, but it doesn't usually result in any fundamental difference in gameplay. If the game doesn't grab you the first time, it's not going to the next.

The biggest problem is that with the rest of the competition like Camel Up, Downforce, Flamme Rouge and Snow Tails, there is little here to make it stand out from the crowd. Despite its merits, if you were to put all of those games in a line and ask me which one I fancy playing, it would be one of those over this purely because each one offers something that feels unique and interesting. I can see how Mississipi Queen was a solid hit back in its day and it's still fine now, nothing inherently wrong with it, but a lot has changed since 1997 and this certainly feels as old as it is.

THE FINAL WORD...........

Mississippi Queen is certainly suited for families, being quick, simple, and generally fun to play and even might appeal to experienced gamers. But it lacks that excitement factor that's going to make it stand outcompared to the current racing competition. Whereas it may have made a name for itself in 1997, I feel that in 2020, it's simply a bit dated.


Complexity Rating