Blitz Rails: EB in 20 Minutes, or Less
by Steve Okonski

Mom was correct when she said, "It's polite to wait your turn." But chances are Mom never experienced the fun of playing Empire Builder® - Blitz style.

The Blitz Is On

When you want an intensely quick match of EB with a trusted, game-experienced opponent, call for the Blitz. With Blitz, everyone takes a turn simultaneously. There's no waiting for an opponent to decide what to do with a newly drawn contract. Let him think as much as he wants while you move your train, build track and collect load delivery payments.

Never Say Never

At first I thought Blitz was an impractical way to play: surely players would be bumping into each other, tossing loads in disarray, exchanging cash willy-nilly. Yes, there's some of that, but surprisingly little in a 2-player match. I have not tried Blitz with more than 2 on the suspicion the pushing-shoving of a rush-hour subway ride might break out.

Blitz Rules

Here are Blitz's differences from a standard, turn-based EB match:

The first time we tried Blitz on the board (Eurorails), we finished in 20 minutes. With practice, it's possible to finish even more quickly.

Blitz Politeness

This is where Mom's etiquette rules still apply:

Blitz Strategy

Movement is more important than building so do not spend much time figuring the most efficient build route. Upgrade to a 9 Speed, 3 Load locomotive, but no further; a 12 Speed locomotive offers no real advantage since once you move 9 mileposts, you can immediately move another 9.

We Have The Technology

Blitz can also be played via the EB Pronto™ computer version: in the Game Setup window, Round Style panel, change the setting from Turn-based to Blitz. The computer serves as banker, so both accuracy and honesty are overseen. You can play Blitz style vs. other humans as a Web/network game, and/or vs. EBP's AI bots.

Since the AI bots can complete an entire match in just a few seconds, EBP lets you set a minimum duration of a round; the bots will not begin another turn until the time period you specify has elapsed. The typical EB match runs about 60 rounds, so if you choose 20 seconds per Blitz round, the match will be finished within about 60 x 20 = 1200 seconds = 20 minutes. If you find yourself beating the bots, decrease their time per round. This becomes an excellent challenge for an experienced player, as well as a way to hone one's skill at quickly judging good load delivery combinations.

Final Thoughts

Blitz can be a thrilling way to get the full flavor of Empire Builder. Because you keep thinking and moving and building, the roughly 20 minutes will elapse quickly. It's another way to experience the fun of this popular game series.

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Empire Builder and certain board game names are trademarks of Mayfair Games. EB Pronto is a trademark of Intersystem Concepts, Inc.