In more detail, the players transport and sell coal to cities and factories along the Ruhr river in the 18th and 19th centuries. By selling coal to cities and factories, players acquire unique progress markers. In the beginning, players have access only to low value coal. By selling coal to certain locations, players gain access to high value coal. In addition to selling coal, the players build warehouses, build locks, and export coal to neighboring countries in the pursuit of the most victory points.
This game, an updated version of Ruhrschifffahrt 1769-1890, includes the standalone expansion The Ohio: 1811-1861. In this game, players transport and trade goods along the Ohio River during a time when Ohio was granted statehood and became heavily populated as its industries flourished. The Ohio is played in a manner similar to The Ruhr, but with new and additional elements.