The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Empire Builder

Playing 2-player Empire Builder with my son; it wasn’t half bad. It’s a fixed-fun game, so 2 players is fine. I also tweaked it to get rid of false choices (mainly, a derailment only makes you lose a load if you are full …. so you don’t have to pick up items defensively). It’s around 90-120 minutes, which isn’t fast but it’s not horrible and you spend most of your time doing stuff. And you know, my son will probably have a vague idea of where major cities are at some point.

Amazingly, the helpful cheat sheet (“Billings is at G-3”) is wrong for most cities. Apparently they did it, then re-adjusted the letters on the chart. So most non-east coast cities are ~2 letters off (Billings would be at E-3), which is annoying. And the crayons work, but barely.  Mayfair …

Still, since I paid about $8 for this, I’m not going to complain any more than I just did.


Written by taogaming

March 6, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Reviews

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  1. I am a fan of the Empire Builder series as 2-player games. We always play the variant where each player gets two trains and four cards, so there is usually something going on. We also usually play that the trains get 50% more movement (I think these are all variants mentioned in the rulebook). Anyway, the game system is obviously quite dated, but with 2 players it still works and is fun as a logistical game. Although I do think the original two games, Empire Builder and EuroRails, are two of the weakest in the series. We like British Rails, Nippon Rails, and Lunar Rails.


    March 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm

  2. Actually, my three favorites are Empire Builder, Eurorails and India Rails (the first two in their newest editions). Once you learn, you can play fast (my wife and I finish a standard 2-player game in less than 90 minutes). One variant is to draw new cards only at the end of your turn, to speed play (you think about them on opponents’ turns).

    Eric Brosius

    March 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm

  3. […] for all I know they haven’t been there for a decade. I commented a few weeks ago about Mayfair’s crappy products, but I’ve never felt that the company was shady. Until […]

  4. You used to be able to buy the large laminated maps directly from mayfair. Well worth buying, then you can easily use dry-erase markers. I think Eurorails is probably best.

    Derailment is something to manage besides null loads, it can sometimes be worthwhile to minimize risk by not delivering a smaller load on the way to deliver a larger load. I agree that’s pretty small.

    For a quicker game you can just start with supers.

    David Finberg

    March 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm

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