Back in 1994, I invited a group of my college buddies to come hang out with me at my parents' lakehouse. Since we've always played games, a lot of game playing went on. This has turned into an annual gathering with the amount of gaming increasing dramatically in the past few years. This year I was able to play 37 games (27 unique) over essentially four days time. If you are interested in all of the games we played, they can be found on the following Geeklist:
The players: Stephen (Myself), Christine, (longsuffering wife), Dwight (single friend), Jared (from Dallas), Becky (Jared's better 9/10), Clint (Preacher), Cheri (Clint's better 3/4), Glen (from Vicksburg), Amy (Glen's better 1/2), Jody (from Dallas), CJ (Fleeing hurricane), Steph (CJ's wife), Page (from Arkansas), and Lori (Page's wife).
Day 4, Sixth Game: Eurorails (33)
I've been a huge fan of the Empire Builder games since I first played Empire Builder back in 2002. Each of the different games has a little something different about it. In this case, there is a massive board with great distances to travel on many deliveries. We played this last year in the middle of the night, and it was the only game that CJ specifically requested we bring (and play). So, Jared, CJ, Christine, and I set up a game to play. Christine and I have had some bad experiences with the event cards making otherwise good games somewhat unpleasant, so we removed all of them from the deck. We then dealt out the starting cards and began counting our initial builds.
If you have never played, the object of the game is to collect 250 million dollars and connect 7 of the 8 major cities. Each player builds a set of rail-lines, drawing them in crayon between the mileposts on the board. Depending on the terrain and whether you are entering a city, the cost to build each milepost varies. Each player may make 20 million in improvements each turn. Instead of building, you can spend 20 million to upgrade your train--either to a faster train or one that can carry more cargo. This may then be upgraded later to a train that is both faster and larger than your original train. On each turn, before the building portion, you move your train. Each player has a set of three load cards. Each of these shows three loads (which are only available in certain cities) with their destinations and how much money you receive upon delivery. You must first move your train to a location that has the load you are interested in, load it up (if available and if there is space on your train). You then move to the destination city and turn in the load and load card for your payment. You then draw another load card. All single trips lose money. The challenge is setting up a network that reuses lines so that you can make a profit and carrying multiple loads at one time to reduce the loss. Needless to say, analyzing all of the possibilities can take a while for some people. In Eurorails, there are also ferries to carry you across water. In the normal game, there are event cards mixed in with the load cards. If you draw one of these, they can have negative effects on the various players. Also, if you are unable (or unwilling) to build rail-lines in certain areas, you can use your opponents' rails for a fee--and they can't stop you!
This game started off really slow as we all had to make rather long journeys for our initial deliveries. Not only did it take several turns to get where we were going, but it took a while to count off our building so that we could make sure we could get where we thought we were going. While we were playing this, another group was watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Legend of the Black Pearl. This was something of a distraction to several of us playing. An additional problem was that two players were spending way too much time analyzing their builds and moves. As it turned out, after my initial delivery, it took me over an hour to make my next deliveries. However, once I did that, things began to improve for me immensely, as I was able to now make many relatively short runs with multiple loads. At about the 2-1/2 hour mark, it was 1-00 AM and Christine decided to call it quits. The other three of us soldiered on. I was eventually able to win with a very efficient network. The other two were close behind, each of them being able to finish in the next 3-4 turns. Strangely, this is the first game I have ever player where I did not take both upgrades on my train. There just was never any benefit to me being able to haul three loads. I am starting to think that is true in general for Eurorails. Despite winning, this is one of the few times where I have seen the luck of the card draw so adversely affect one player. Were it not for some serious network overbuilding by the other two finishers, I would never have stood a chance.
Final Scores: (in millions)
Stephen -- 250
Jared -- 226
CJ -- 217
Christine -- Out
While I enjoy this game, I am not as enamoured with it as many are. True, there is a massive board, but this in and of itself does not make for a better game. There are several areas of the board that rarely see winners visit them -- such as Scandinavia, SE Europe, and most of the Iberian Peninsula. Were it not for Madrid being a major city, I think you would rarely see people travel past the Pyrenees. The other problem seems to be that a lot of the runs are long and, while high value, generally are not profitable. It seems that it is more difficult to set up a network that can be re-used, and therefore become profitable, than some of the other games in the series. Ultimately, to me, this seems to emphasize the luck of the draw more than in the other games. Still, with all that said, I still find it enjoyable and won't generally turn down a game.
We almost always see people building from Spain, particularly at the start of the game. You can re-use that track many times. The Cork runs are golden.
The circle of Milan-Wien-Berlin-Ruhr-Paris can also be very profitable.
Pigs and tobacco are other good starters, as they can be delivered repeatedly.
One of the keys to Eurorails is identifying your best commodities early, then playing to your strengths. If you find you aren't reusing track, you should definitely rethink your strategy.