EMPIRE BUILDER® - Frequently Asked Questions
This is an unofficial FAQ for the Empire Builder® series of board games published by Mayfair Games. As with most board games, the printed rules for Empire Builder contain several gray areas. The rule interpretations found below are those used during the annual World Boardgaming Championships, which is host to the largest Empire Builder tournament anywhere. Note: some of these issues are rather picky and/or esoteric. This FAQ is maintained by Steve Okonski; send Steve your comments and questions at email@example.com. For EBP questions, see the software FAQ. Last update October 2016.
What is Empire Builder?
Why is it sometimes called "crayon rails"?
Is Empire Builder currently being published?
Where can I get a copy of the board game?
I need only the rules.
Will Empire Builder continue to be published?
Does Mayfair know of the EB Pronto computer version?
How do I get added to the list of top Empire Builder players?
BUILDING OUT OF MAJOR CITIESAfter the start of the game, can I build out of a major city I do not serve?
HALF RATEMy train was in a half rate movement area. Can it move full speed when it get out?
TOURNAMENT VARIANT RULESWhat special rules have been used at the World Boardgaming Championships?
4-contract Start: At the start of the match, deal one extra demand card to each player. Immediately before each player builds track for the first time, he must discard one of his four cards to the discard pile.
Equal Turns: After a player declares victory, play continues until the last player has gone. If another player can also declare victory, the player with the most cash wins. If there is a tie, play continues with the cash requirement raised to $300.
Late Payment (modified): Even if he doesn't have the money, at the beginning of his turn, a player may use the track of others and pay the track usage fee from payoffs obtained by delivering loads. Such payments must be made at the end of the turn during which the track was used.
Backtracking: A player may reverse his train's direction on any non-city milepost at a cost of losing 1 full turn. This may not be done at the same time a turn is to be missed for any other reason or if not able to move. The train may move in any direction the next turn.
TOURNAMENT RULE INTEPRETATIONSWhat rules interpretations have been used at the World Boardgaming Championships?
Starting Player: Start with the player that has the highest numbered demand card (not payoff) in the initial draw.
Switchback Start: All matches will use a Switchback Start where the second build round is counterclockwise starting with the last player.
Discard Start: A player may discard demand cards instead of taking one of the initial building turns. As with the initial demands, event cards drawn have no effect and are shuffled back into the deck along with the original load cards. Draw only 3 cards.
Start Anywhere: A player's train may start in any city, even if the player has no track there.
Build-outs: When you are allowed to build, you can build out of any major city at normal cost. The $5 charge applies only if you build into a major city. Note that such build-outs are limited to two per turn.
Speak Up: Count building costs and movement out loud so that the other players can double check.
Dots: When counting distance, start counting with the first milepost away from the indicated place.
Faster Play: To help reduce match duration, players may move their full distance non-stop, even if a load drop off or pickup occurs mid-move. However, if you draw a card that impacts your subsequent movement, before the next player's turn, adjust your engine position to what it would have been had you taken your turn slowly, step-by-step.
Major Cities: Deliveries and load pickups may be done in any part of a major city.
Cash: Players' money is not considered public until an Excess Profits Tax (or similar) card is drawn. This card is then removed from the game. If a game does not include a tax card, money is secret until victory is declared. Cash may not be kept hidden from view of opponents, but may be placed in a single stack in front of the player.
Half Rate: When a train enters (or starts in) a half rate movement area, the remaining movement is halved (rounding up). This applies for the rest of the turn, even if the train exits the area.
Half Rates & Ferries: When crossing a ferry, start counting the half rate movement at the first milepost beyond the ferry milepost across the water.
Lost Turns: If you arrive in a city, but have not yet consumed your full movement that turn, and draw an event card that causes you to lose a turn, you lose both the remainder of the current turn as well as all of the next turn.
Lost Turns do not Accumulate: When your next turn is already lost, another event card cannot cause you to lose additional turns (lost turns do not accumulate). However, an event drawn after your lost turn is over may cause you to lose more than one turn in a row.
Twiddle Thumbs: During a lost turn, a player may not do anything (including exchanging cards). Being prohibited from moving is not the same as a lost turn. If you are only prohibited from moving, you can still build or exchange cards as normal.
City Center: For major cities, use the center milepost as the place indicated, for example, use the center milepost to determine if a major city is affected by an event.
Text vs. Icon: Use the text on demand cards if there is any discrepancy.
Win: After a player announces he has sufficient cash and city service to win, if during the final round that follows such an announcement, an event card is drawn that causes some of the "announced" player's track to be erased (typically, a river flood card) and which consequently severs his track network such that it no longer connects the minimum number of major cities, that event shall not prevent him from being declared winner (provided he indeed has the most cash). Similar is true of a tax card: a tax card drawn after an announcement does not prevent the anounced player from winning, even if it drops his cash below the usual winning cash level.
Walls: No "walls" or other obstructive track may be built that would prevent another player from building into any city to which he is otherwise allowed to build to or from.
Disruptive Builds: Players may not build track solely to disrupt another player's track builds. Gaining access to a city/port/etc. or building the best route through an area is not considered solely disruptive - spending extra to block other routes is.
MAP CLARIFICATIONSWhat special rules and clarifications are there for the various maps?
Empire Builder (without Mexico):
Empire Builder (with Mexico, also called North American Rails):
Empire Builder is a registered trademark of Mayfair Games used here under license.