Homesteaders is an auction and resource management game in which players bid on the right to build certain types of buildings, and then build their desired building of that type. Each round features an income phase, where players acquire resources, and an auction and building phase, in which players bid for available land, and then spend their resources to develop a building on that land.
Each piece of land that is available for auction is suitable for certain types of buildings, such as:
• Residential land for buildings such as Farms, Housing, and Ranches.
• Industrial land for buildings such as Steel Mills, Mines, or Forges.
• Commercial land for buildings such as the General Store, a Bank or a Train Depot.
• Special land for buildings such as a Rodeo or Fairgrounds.
In each round, the auctions determine what land is available, and players will bid to acquire the type of land appropriate for the building they wish to build that turn. Players who do not acquire a piece of land will instead contribute towards the development of the railroad.
The game is played over 10 turns, made up of 3 stages. Turns 1-4 comprise the Settlement stage, turns 5-8 comprise the Town stage, and turns 9-10 comprise the City stage. The buildings which are available for development vary through the stages, as buildings that were important when the settlement started, such as Farms and Markets, are no longer needed and new buildings become important as the city grows, such as a Train Station and Railway Terminals.
After the final round is over and the City is built, players assess their contribution by counting the victory points earned during the game, as well as bonuses from buildings they have in play, and subtract a penalty for unpaid debt. The player with the largest score has contributed the most to the thriving city, and will then lend their name to it as well, as they are declared the winner of the game!