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Can I just draw on Canada?

April 4, 2013

Years ago I had quite a lot of time playing games with a lovely family who kept on letting me into their house despite the fact that I spent a lot of the time eating their food and playing their board games. Several of the games we played regularly came from the “Empire Builder” range of train games, including Euro Rails, Nippon Rails, and Iron Dragon. They all shared the mechanic of drawing a rail network onto the board with crayons and then driving trains around delivering goods to fulfil demands specified by cards. This was all good stuff, though the games could go on for quite a long time.

The green track gets extended to DC, lining up a couple of big payouts.

The green track gets extended to DC, lining up a couple of big payouts.

Recently I found out about a newer member of the range, Empire Express, which stripped out some of the more complicated elements of the system (which nonetheless weren’t actually complicated), made the map smaller, provided a core railway to get you started, and sped the game up quite a lot. Sold!

I’m quite impressed with the optimisation of this game. The fact that you can start with a load of track already built and some demand cards that fit that track means that you are off to a flying start without having to have a few turns of trying to figure out a plan and initial network from whatever dross you are dealt. To be honest I missed the train upgrades, which aren’t available in Empire Express but are in the sister games. But the easier start and speed of play make up for the simplifications. Miss B and I took about 90 minutes to play this from a standing start, which is far quicker than I expected.

Miss B took to the crayon aspect like a duck to water. She didn’t need much help with route planning or drawing; we quickly got into a routine where when she drew a new demand card I would explain her options from it, she would make a decision as to how it would fit into her plan, and then she was off again pretty much on her own until a new card came out.

I’m definitely very happy to have got hold of Empire Express as it allows us to play a style of game I enjoy and haven’t had much chance to do for a very long time indeed. But as usual I will leave the last word to Miss B herself…

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼): “I like it when I get long routes because then I get more money but I have to make sure I don’t spend too much to make the tracks otherwise I might lose the game. ”

The game: Empire Express (Mayfair Games), 2 to 6 players aged 10+.

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