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Subject: Player Interaction Variant rss

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Nat Levan
United States
Glenside
Pennsylvania
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Background: We like to play this game over lunch at work (in 30-45 minute sessions, not in a single 4 hour lunch). After a few plays with the basic rules, we had some complaints. First, the game took too long. With 4 or 5 of us playing, it could be 3 or 4 weeks of playing to finish a game because people were constantly stopping to review their plans when every new card was revealed. If someone is out during that period, it stretches even longer. So we wanted to speed it up, and fast trains/fast start wasn't enough. We also didn't like that at a certain point, you could just count turns to determine the winner. The limited loads rarely, if ever, came into play. More generally, we wanted more interaction than the occasional competition for a few good routes over the Rocky Mountains, or the rare city that required more than 2 people to enter. We still liked the overall structure of the game, so we developed our own variant, using some of the variants proposed in the rules, to improve our experience.
Start of the game: Shuffle the demand cards and deal 4 to each player, re-dealing any disasters. Each player selects 2 of their demand cards and discards the other 2. Next, public cards are drawn, one less than the number of players. These cards should be placed in an area visible to all players. Any disasters revealed in the initial hand or initial public cards are re-shuffled into the deck.
Public Cards: Any player may make any delivery on a card. The card remains in the public area until the delivery is made. It is then discarded and replaced with a new card. Any disasters are held by the player who made the delivery, as if it were one of their cards.
Double Loads: A second load of a good can be delivered at the same time as the first. The second load only earns half the value. The double load is delivered in a single transaction, and cannot be interrupted by a disaster. However, the player must decide to deliver the double load before drawing a new card. I.e. the player may not wait to see what card is revealed and then deliver the second part of the load.
Negotiable rental: Rental on another player’s track is 4 per turn, but may be negotiated lower.
Trading: Trading of loads between players can be performed at any city. Trading of demand cards between players can be done at any time. Players must exchange demand cards, so all players always have 2 demand cards. Money, track rental and binding promises may be offered as part of any negotiation. (i.e. agreement to not deliver a load)
All obligations must be met before winning at the end of the game. Obligations must be paid as negotiated, and at the negotiated time.
Fast Trains: The 9-speed train can move 12, and the 12-speed train can move 16
Fast Start: Each player receives $70m to start, instead of $50m. Only two building turns are given.
Loans: Loans of $10m each may be taken at any time, and $20m is paid back for each individual loan, as soon as the player is able. E.g. a player with two loans earns $25m, and $20m is immediately paid for the first loan.
Disaster Effects: Because the game plays more quickly with double loads and fast trains, some disasters must be toned down (ex: under the basic rules, if the player draws a flood and is unable to move due to a destroyed bridge,the flood is still in play on his next turn, so he cannot build until the end of the turn after that, and finally move). To mitigate this, the earthquake causes players to lose at most 1 turn and 1 load. For floods, players may rebuild bridges in the first building phase after the flood (This means the drawing player may rebuild a bridge in the same turn)

We only tested these rules a few times, and only with 4 players, but we believe they should scale. Even with wheeling and dealing between players and our tendency to over-analyze every move, we can now complete a 4-player game in about 5 sessions, which we think is only partially due to our becoming more familiar with the game.
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L H
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Lehi
Utah
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We like to play with the "open contracts" as well. We typically play by the fast rules anyway and take the two discarded cards from each player and turn them into open or public contracts.

Instead of trading loads, we have played the warehousing rule where a load that is dropped in a city, but not delivered to the city, remains in the city for anyone else to pick up on their way through.

Have not tried rebuilding a bridge immediately after the flood though. Will have to try in the next game. I know my son would like that as he lost two full movement turns because I drew a flood as he was about to cross the river.
 
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