This week, I am joined in the studio by my lovely podcasting wife Mur, of Geek Fu Action Grip, I Should Be Writing and Pseudopod. We discuss the Empire Builder series of games from Mayfair Games, as well as drift into some other random topics.

Show Notes:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 0:22 – News
  • 3:48 – Mur bumper
  • 4:00 – Introducing the Mur
  • 4:45 – Empire Builder history
  • 5:45 – Base game description
  • 18:30 – Other games in the series
  • 36:25 – Discussion and digressions
  • 48:00 – James Ernest bumper
  • 48:07 – Closing


Final Thoughts:

It’s hard to say railroad without sounding like Elmer Fudd.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 17th, 2006 at 4:20 pm and is filed under Board games, Podcasts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 comments so far

Robert Richardson

Keep you wife on the show. While I enjoyed your prior episodes, the addition of Mur’s whimsy is a wonderful improvement.

August 18th, 2006 at 7:48 am

Now you see why I married her! As far as future appearances, I don’t think that will be practical or possible for every episode — but she’ll definitely be back.

August 18th, 2006 at 11:06 am
Robert Richardson

She clearly is the ying to your yang.

August 18th, 2006 at 8:24 pm

Excellent show. A couple of questions.

1. How long do the Empire Builder games take to play?
2. How do they compare to other train games? Are they similar to Age of Steam? 18xx?
3. How do the crayons work? Do you just wipe them off when done? Do they damage the board?

August 20th, 2006 at 4:16 pm

Thanks! And to your questions:

1. Depends. An inexperienced group of 4 can take up to four hours to play. An experienced group can knock a game off in an hour. I’d say that the average time is about 2 hours, assuming everyone is focused on the game and avoids analysis paralysis.

The main thing that takes all the time is planning out your deliveries — if you don’t know the map well, you spend a good deal of your downtime and your turn just trying to find the cities.

I don’t recommend playing the game with more than 4, btw. It takes way too long between your turns, the map gets too crowded, and black and yellow are wretched colors on the board (black doesn’t wipe off easily (see below), and yellow is too hard to see).

2. I haven’t played either Age of Steam or 18xx, but my understanding is that Empire Builder and its ilk are less complex. There is no stock/trading aspect to it, for example.

3. Whoops, that would have been a good thing to cover during the show… the crayons are specially treated to wipe off the board when done. However, if you don’t wipe them off right away, some residue can remain behind. Because of that, some people lay down a sheet of plastic and use transparency pens instead.

When the crayons run out, you can use china markers or grease pencils.

August 20th, 2006 at 5:34 pm

In tournaments, we plan for about forty-five minutes per player. Inexperienced players, or experienced players on a new map, will need about an hour each. When you break out a brand new game, add a half hour of setup to apply the game’s load stickers to poker chips. On a computer things can be much faster, for example, EB Player handles the contract deadling, banking and other chores thereby reducing game time to about 20 minutes per human player and 1 minute per AI.

Empire Builder is less complex than 18xx, and less of a brain burner than Age of Steam. The crayons included with the game are softer than the common Crayolas, and they wipe off the smooth map with a paper towel.

August 22nd, 2006 at 3:16 pm


I’ve been a subscriber to the Vintage Gamer since episode #8 and really enjoy the show.

The idea of bringing your wife on was genius. The rapport that you two have really comes through. I like that you both bring your own lively perspective to the review of the game and comment on each other’s play style. In fact, I’d love to hear more from the people you actually play the games with. Bring them on as guests, too! It lets us know a little more about you. Hiding your money, eh? Sneaky, Jim.

August 22nd, 2006 at 7:54 pm

Thanks for those comments, Steve — those timing tips will be useful for planning out our next games. I will say that more than once I’ve been in a tournament situation where someone has pulled off a win in an hour while the rest of us were barely getting started, but that’s not very common and I bow to the man with more experience.

Speaking of experience, I’m going to assume that you are the Steve associated with this FAQ, which does a better job summarizing the different games than we did. There’s also a list of variants, which some people might find useful.

August 23rd, 2006 at 7:24 am

Adrian, I’m glad you liked the show! We had a lot of fun, so we’ll probably be doing it again, depending on the game. I do have at least a couple more shows planned around other people as guests, as they know those games a lot better than I do, so there will be more…

And truthfully, stacking your money only does so much. Once you start cashing in for fifties, people get a pretty good sense of how much you have, even if you have a single on top.

August 23rd, 2006 at 7:40 am
Joey Konyha


Great show! I enjoyed it more with your wife as a co-host. Hope to hear her more on The Vintage Gamer, as well as maybe a little more of you on Geekfu. By the way, she is right-Lunar Rails is the best of the lot. I widh my Iron Dragon addicted game buddies would see the light, though.

August 27th, 2006 at 9:30 pm

Another fine show on a game I don’t like at all. I still say it is a testament to the enjoyable quality of The Vintage Gamer that I have listened to you talk about Pit, Cosmic Encounter, and now Empire Builder and enjoyed it. Let’s see, what’s next? Devil Bunny Needs A Ham? Flat Top? Super-Deck?

Also, having Mur on was a blast (and it reminded me that I’m behind on “I Should Be Writing” because I didn’t want her making me feel guilty about not writing). Please bring her back again, although you have to fear her becoming more popular than you, like Garrett’s wife has on his show – heck, that’s why my lovely wife Christina will be kept off future episodes of Boardgame Babylon…;)


August 31st, 2006 at 11:41 pm

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