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Empire Express from Mayfair Games

By James Jester
Published: November 14, 2012
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Product: Empire Express is the latest addition to the Empire Builder crayon rail board game series, published by Mayfair Games. It is meant to be a simplified introductory edition of the game made for two to four players ages 10 and older.

Components included in the game are of decent quality, especially the thick cardboard chips and laminated, puzzle-piece board. The cards are printed on good stock and have a clean, easy-to-understand layout. The game also includes a concise eight-page rulebook, crayons, "locomotive" markers, and lots of play money in large denominations.

Gameplay:
In Empire Express, players will attempt to make the most money by craftily laying track and completing deliveries with their locomotives as efficiently as possible. Each player will take turns drawing line segments of a designated color on the laminated gameboard. Players will move their locomotives, picking up supplies and completing deliveries as they go while discarding and drawing new contracts for possible completion in the future. A player wins by being the first to earn $150 million. Under the advanced rules, a player must also lay track to connect all four major cities in order to win.

All decisions in the game are tied directly to efficiency. Is paying to lay that extra line to Pittsburgh going to be worth it, or should you just pay to use someone else’s line instead? Which series of moves will allow you to complete the most deliveries the fastest? Do you complete a potentially costly delivery or discard it and hope to draw something better? But even your best laid plans could be foiled by another player’s actions or a random event.

Much of the original Empire Builder has been adjusted in Empire Express to make it easier for new players to learn everything they need to know by the end of each player's first turn: suggested starting tracks for the players are printed on the game board; the map is smaller, leading to a shorter play time; players are given three contract cards at the start of the game that they will be able to almost immediately complete using their starting track configurations; and card layouts for contracts include a small map showing where both needed supplies and delivery destinations for the contract are located.

Marketing:
Empire Express is ideal for players new to the crayon rail genre and for those who may be intimidated by the scale and time requirements of Empire Builder. Genre veterans won’t find anything of interest here, but they may find it a good way to spark interest in the genre among their friends by giving it as a gift.

If Empire Express is selling well for you, it will only be a matter of time before players will want to branch out to the myriad other crayon rail games available. Other train-themed or business-management games may also do well alongside it, such as Ticket to Ride or Power Grid

All the extra effort Mayfair has put into making the game easier for new players will also make the game easy to demonstrate in your store. Be sure to highlight some of the tough choices that will need to be made as the game goes along, as well as the high replayability of the game. And if your customers are looking for a few more options in their game, be ready to recommend the original Empire Builder.

VITAL STATS
Product: Empire Express
Maker: Mayfair Games
Stock number: MFG4499
MSRP: $30
Availability: Various distributors

BOTTOM LINE
• For new players
• More accessible card layouts
• Shorter play time is huge plus