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Subject: Mexico: the good and the bad? rss

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Daniel Corban
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If there is already a thread for this, please point it out to me.

I am curious how much Mexico adds/removes from the Empire Builder gameplay. I have the 1984 version which only has USA/Canada. It seems very easy and relatively fast to play. There isn't much searching for particular cities and the victory conditions seem about right.

I am aware that Mexico increases the victory conditions by one city. This, combined with the extra costs of building to/from the further Mexican cities would seem to slow the game down considerably.

Are there any unbalancing or detrimental aspects to Mexico? The latest version is enticing, but I suspect I would prefer the clean gameplay without Mexico.

I am also curious what changes were made to the deliveries deck. Were the payouts boosted?
 
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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The "with Mexico" version has larger contracts, and this largely offsets the slowdown you are worried about. I prefer it somewhat, because it reduces the heavy east/west bias in the original game and makes San Francisco a bit less critical.

On Sunday I played a 3-player game on the "with Mexico" map that finished in 75 minutes. Admittedly, it was with experienced players who played reasonably quickly.
 
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Stephen Smith
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My preference is for the original (non-Mexico) Empire Builder. It is actually my overall favorite of the all the maps that I have played on. A lot of the reason for this is that the load payouts are relatively tightly grouped with only a few mild outliers.

In the Mexico version, you do have an increase in average payout. You also loosen up the payout average and create greater outliers. Strangely, it seems this is done in the negative direction in addition to the positive direction.

In the Mexico added game, you add a new major city and a few new commodities (Textiles, Silver, and Coffee). Coffee is the now the most valueable commodity in the game with Sugar not that far behind. Tobacco, Textiles, Copper, and Cars round out the list of most valuable commodities.

I think there are some changes to the balance of the game, but I am not convinced that it significantly reduces the influence of San Francisco. In my mind, it significantly increases the importance of the SW area of the board from San Francisco to Mexico City.

Overall, I am more than willing to play it. I think there is a slight increase to play time given the additional area. However, I think a lot of the initial increase in time is learning the new map and will go away with familiarity.
 
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Ben Foy
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I think the track building decisions are more interesting than they'd be without Mexico (caveat: I've never played the original).
 
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Steve Okonski
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According to computer simulation, the average number of rounds-to-victory decreases by about 10% to 20% on recent edition maps with Mexico compared to the older maps without Mexico.

My slight preference is for maps with Mexico. I think Mexico adds interesting build options.
 
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Daniel Corban
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Yes, but does it increase the human analysis time by 10-20%? For example, having to find unfamiliar Mexican cities and the addition of 4 (I believe) new good types.
 
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Eric Brosius
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dcorban wrote:
Yes, but does it increase the human analysis time by 10-20%?


Yes, the first few times you play. On the other hand, one benefit of playing these games is learning about the geography of the countries, and you could consider the extra 10-20% to be time spent learning.
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Steve Okonski
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Yes, analysis time will go up a bit until you are familiar with the map. The contracts/demands are the primary factor in analysis duration since that process is an n! algorithm. Since you'll have the usual 3 contracts / 9 demands to think over, after you know the city and load locations, the map with Mexico should play in less time than the one without.
 
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Pete Storz
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I'm a newbie to this forum, though not to discussion forums in general. I've been playing Empire Builder for about two years, only an edition with Mexico, plus EuroRails and Lunar Rails.

I haven't played a version where Mexico was not an option, though there may have been a few occasions where I haven't gone into Mexico at all. Usually, at the least, northern Mexico is part of my network. The three "majors" that are my most frequently omitted are Atlanta, Seattle and Mexico City. High-value loads like Textiles, Sheep and Silver, and an good route from Monterrey-Torreon to Phoenix-LA-San Diego-SF make northern Mexico pretty important in how I usually play a game. I seldom draw into Culiacan', Hermosillo or Guadalajara, and infrequently into/through Tampico. While I don't go to MXC-Vera Cruz every game, Coffee is a high-value commodity.

Using a strategy of focusing on high- and medium-value loads, Mexico is a very significant addition. First, it adds Coffee, Silver and Textiles, and expands availability of Sheep. Second, it adds a fairly easy route to PHX-LA-SD-SF, easing availability of Copper, Fruit and Sugar, a route that goes near Textiles, Sheep and Silver.

Without Coffee, Silver and Textiles, players are dealing with fewer high- and medium-value loads, located in more isolated corners of the US: Wood and Fish in New England; Tobacco, Iron and Fruit in the SE US; Copper, Fruit and Sugar in the SW US; Wood, Copper, Fish and Nickel in the NW US; Coal, Iron and Nickel in the northern US and Canada. Oats, Cars and Swine are about the only central US high--medium-value loads.

All in all, w/o having played a version lacking Mexico, I think adding Mexico greatly expanded the scope of the game, both by adding territory and commodities and by encouraging drawing into the US SW.

Looking at Empire Builder from an educational view - our family homeschooled - adding Mexico increased its educational value.
 
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Alan Winterrowd
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I have played both versions quite a bit. I think that the new board adds a lot more variety in winning networks that are available. The board is now more of a triangle and I find it much easier to start on the west coast or in the middle than it was on the older board. I haven't noticed much difference in playing time.
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Pete Storz
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I tend to end up with the main trunk for my networks being Chicago-KC-Northern Mexico (and often, down to MXC and Vera Cruz). Without the availability of Textiles, Silver and Sheep in Northern Mexico (and Coffee in Vera Cruz) and the number of medium- & high-value loads demanded in Mexico, I'm not sure I would build that way.
 
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Daniel Corban
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After almost three years, I have finally played the latest version with Mexico. I played a four-player game of it last night and really enjoyed it. I'd say that I enjoyed it more than my older version.

I didn't notice larger contracts. In fact, I had the feeling that the average amounts were lower. Maybe there were just more contracts at the extreme high and low ends. I wasn't built into Mexico until later in the game, so I did miss out on a lot of the big deliveries to and from Mexican cities.

I didn't notice any increase in play time. There didn't seem to be much more searching for Mexican cities than others. I previously overestimated how many cities Mexico added. There aren't that many, and I quickly became familiar with their locations.

I did find that the west coast became viable much more early. In fact, my initial cards were almost convincing enough for me to start there. I was concerned about what to do after I made those deliveries, and I had never seen the delivery deck, so I built more conservatively in the midwest and east. I quickly discovered that my fears were unfounded and a network beginning in the west would have been superior.

Overall, the track building decisions were more interesting. Whether this is a testament to the design of the delivery deck, or the map, I do not know. I had become slightly bored of the old Empire Builder map, and instead we have been playing British Rails exclusively. But now, I could see myself playing this new version instead.
 
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Christian Kalk
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While I prefer the larger/more intricate map with Mexico, I find a lot of the contract cards problematic. Fir example, it's not unusual to find 2 contracts to Mexican cities and a Coffee contract on one card...if your track doesn't run to Mexico yet, the card is completely useless. The original version seems to spread out the required destinations on a single card to make if at least somewhat playable regardless of where you have/haven't built.
 
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