Below is a summary of the rules of both the Empire Builder® board game and EB Pronto™ software. These are generic rules that apply to most "crayon rail" titles in the series, including Empire Builder, British Rails, Eurorails, Australia Rails, Nippon Rails, and Russian Rails. Iron Dragon is somewhat different. For specific details, please consult the rules that came with your copy of a board game.


Empire Builder is a strategy game of building railroad networks. Upon the game's map, players attempt to connect mileposts into an efficient network of track so as to enable swift deliveries of demanded goods, called "loads". Players earn cash by picking up loads from a city at which they are supplied, using their train to transport the loads along track, and delivering the loads to where demanded to collect a payment. The winner is the first player who can accumulate $250 (million) or more in cash while interconnecting the required minimum number of big (hexagonal) cities with his track network. Commonly, this required minimum is one less than number of big cities present on the map.


Each player starts the match with a certain amount of cash, usually $40 to $60 million depending on the map, three load demand contracts, a Freight engine that has room to carry 2 loads, and no track. Each of the three contracts lists three different cities, each of which demands a particular type of load (such as Coal, Machinery, Fruit, etc.) and offers a particular cash payoff amount. The player may choose to satisfy (deliver the demanded load) any one, and only one, of the three demands on a contract. Players observe which loads are demanded by their contracts, and where load supplying cities are on the map. Most game maps depict loads via small, representative icons.

In order to deliver a load and collect the payoff, players need railroad track that connects the supply and demand cities; during the build phase of a turn a player can build track. In many cases, it is best to build track to connect the demand city with the closest supply city. When a player satisfies a contract by delivering to one of the three listed cities the load that city demands, he collects a payment, and discards that contract for a new one.


Play begins with two "build-only" rounds during each of which each player may build up to $20 (million) worth of track. The cost of track varies with the terrain: building to clear mileposts (plain dots) costs $1, to mountains (triangles) $2, across rivers an additional $2, into small (red circle) or medium (red square) cities an additional $2, etc. Players may only build track from either their existing track, or from major cities (red hexagons). Note that building into a major city costs $5 but building out from it (to a clear milepost) costs only $1. Such inexpensive build outs are limited to 2 per turn.


After the initial build-only rounds, during his turn, the player starts his train at any city on the map, picks up loads, and then moves. Typically this movement proceeds from the supply cities, to the demand cities. He may travel (move his train milepost-to-milepost along previously constructed track on the map) from one location to another up to the maximum amount allowed by the speed of his engine. A Freight engine moves 9 per turn. A player does not need to consume his entire allowed distance: he may stop early.

For travel, a player may use any track desired, provided that he does not reverse direction of movement except at a city or ferry port. If during a turn the player rides upon any track of an opponent, he must pay that opponent $4, and must have that money available prior to moving. There is no fee for moving upon one's own track.


When his train is at a city, a player may pick up at no charge one or more loads supplied by that city, up to the carrying capacity of his train (2 or 3). If he no longer wants to be carrying a load, he may toss it at any time. The total quantity of each type of load in the game is limited (usually 3 or 4), and if all available are already aboard trains, the player may not pick up another of that type. Though any player can pick up any type of load, generally players pick up loads that are listed on their contracts and then travel to the delivery city to collect the payoff indicated.

Each train is limited as to the maximum number of loads it can carry. The basic Freight train with which each player begins can carry two loads. Certain upgraded trains can carry three loads.


After a player has moved, he may construct up to $20 more track if he has sufficient money. His track establishes a "right-of-way" between the mileposts the segment connects, and no other player may build parallel track directly between the same two mileposts.

Instead of building, a player may exchange his Freight engine for a Fast Freight ($20) which moves 12, or a Heavy Freight ($20) which moves 9 but has room to carry 3 loads. From either of those engines, a player may later upgrade again to a Super Freight (moves 12, carries 3) for $20.


When a player moves to a city that, according to a player's own contracts, demands a load type aboard the player's train, the player can pause movement, make the delivery (removing the load from his train in the process and discarding that contract) and collect the payoff indicated. He then obtains a new contract, can pick up loads supplied at that city, and can move any of his allowed distance remaining. Payoffs are fixed amounts, and are generally proportional to the length plus build cost of the shortest possible route between the closest load supply city and delivery city.


The deck of contracts also contains events. When a player gets a fresh contract upon delivery, it may instead turn out to be an event. Events include storms, derailments, labor strikes, etc. that temporarily impact play and track in various ways. Follow the instructions of the event. If an event is drawn, keep drawing until the player gets a contract to replace the one discarded as part of the delivery he just made.


Instead of taking his turn, a player may choose to discard all of his contracts and draw new ones. This is typically done when the set of contracts does not offer lucrative payoffs or efficient trips; experienced players discard about 1 to 4 times per match. A player may not selectively discard just one or two contracts.


Typically, most train movement is done on the player's own track, but players can choose to move their trains along the track of opponents. Before the end of the movement phase of a turn during which an opponent's track was used, the player pays that opponent $4. If the tracks of more than one opponent were ridden, each of those opponents must be paid $4. Such payments by the player never exceed $4 per opponent per turn, regardless of the distance or number of times a player rode opponent tracks that turn.


Some maps have ferries. To access a ferry, a player builds track to it, and then out from its opposite port. The cost of building to the ferry is displayed within the circle along the ferry's route. To use a ferry, the player moves his train to the port, and loses the remainder of his movement. On his next turn, he "teleports" his train to the connected port, where he begins counting his movement, but only moves half the normal amount (rounding up). Each ferry can be built to by up to two players.


A maximum of two players can build into a small (circular) city. A maximum of three players can build into a medium (square) city. All players must be able to build into major (big hexagon) cities. No track may be built that would prevent another player from building into a major city, or other city to which he is otherwise entitled.


Play continues until completion of the round in which a player reaches $250 (million) or more in cash, and has connected via his track the required number of big cities (usually one less than the total number of big cities on the map). That player is the winner. If more than one player reaches these goals during the same round, the one with the most cash wins. If there is a tie for cash, the game continues with the new winning cash requirement increased by $50.


Efficiency is the key to Empire Builder. Maximize your payoffs by moving via direct, short routes while not overbuilding track. Try to make long distance trips (i.e. one map edge to the opposite) while carrying multiple loads you can deliver either along way or near other delivery cities. On many maps, routes that directly connect the big cities are helpful because they are often the most frequently traveled rail corridors.


As with most board games, the printed rules for Empire Builder contain several gray areas. Please consult the unofficial FAQ at the Crayon Rail Fanatics Web site.

Empire Builder Pronto™ is authorized by Mayfair Games. Empire Builder® is a registered trademark of Mayfair Games.

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