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Subject: Bauxite and Titanium? rss

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Stephen Smith
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Fifth Game: Australian Rails

By now, it was close to 9:00 PM, and Becky was ready for bed. Jared was still interested in playing, so she went on to the hotel. After she left, we decided to play a game of Australian Rails at the instigation of Christine. Since I am almost always up for an Empire Builder game, I was more than happy. Surprisingly, after two crayon rails games in two days, Jared was interested in giving this one a go.

For those interested, the object of the game is to obtain $250 million and connect 4 of the 5 major cities, including Perth. Money is earned by delivering goods to needy cities as determined by load cards dealt to each player. Once a delivery is made, you draw a new card and continue. Deliveries are made along track, which is drawn directly on the board and is paid for from the players' earnings. Since all deliveries are a losing proposition, winning the game requires efficient use of the track that is built.

One of the most difficult problems in Australian Rails is the initial build as the vast majority of the continent is a long way from any of the major cities. This is apparently solved somewhat in the new edition by allowing players to build out from Darwin as though it were a major city. (As an aside, when I checked on this in my tube edition, I found out that this was included as an "easy" rule -- something I had never bothered to read.) I started my run in Adelaide and headed up North, making my way to Darby for some Diamonds and cattle to bring back. Christine had a lot of luck in the last game we played delivering bauxite, so she was laying track in order to make it to Weipa. Jared had a hard time determining what to do. In the process he planned on doing to runs on the same card. He didn't notice until after he made the first delivery. Not wanting to go through the trouble of rebuilding or redrawing, we allowed him to go ahead and make the second delivery as well.

Ultimately, Jared headed out to West Australia to pick up some titanium. When he got there, he picked up an extra load on spec. He ended up toting that load around for the entire game without delivering it. To me, this is the biggest problem with carrying loads on spec. There is no telling how much he gave up in order to have the chance at delivering that one. As for me, I managed to make it all the way out west fairly early in the game. After I got back to the East, I didn't have any loads that I liked, so I dumped everything. Unfortunately, I still didn't have anything worthwhile, so I dumped my loads again. The third time, I still wasn't particularly happy with my loads, but they seemed doable, and I really didn't think I could afford yet another turn out of action. Fortunately, everything from here on out seemed to go in my favor. I was able to make my final drop a couple of turns ahead of my competitors.

Final Result: (in millions)

Stephen -- 270
Christine -- 233
Jared -- 207

Yet another pleasant game from the Empire Builder series. It is not often that Christine and I get a chance to play three of them within as many days, so we were happy campers. I managed to do well this time, winning two out of three. As usual, Jared gripes about being unlucky and how the whole game is dependent solely on luck of the draw. I still maintain that good play will trump luck 90% of the time. I guess we will always differ on that, but he has still never won a game that we have played. As for Australian Rails, I am unsure whether to get the boxed edition since I already own the tube edition. Sure, they've changed the loads up, but how much difference does that really make? As it is, it seems as though the tube game depends way too much on the long and therefore highly lucrative runs. If this is more balanced in the box edition then that would be a reason to purchase. Still, this is one of my wife's favorites from the series, so I may be getting it anyway Our total game time was about 90 minutes.



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