Iron Dragon is the most recent of the crayon rail games made by Mayfair along the classic "Empire Builder
" series. Unlike the other rail
games made by Mayfair
, it takes place in a fantasy
world that is populated with elves
(and cat people, and wee folk, and orcs...).
For those who have yet to play a crayon rail type game, the idea is to win, you need to connect a certain number of cities on the map and have so much money (250 units - be it millions of dollars or gold coins) at the end of the game. The board itself is either a large laminated paper that is rolled up or a glossy coated cardboard that is assembled. These boards are quite large and can cover the entire table without much difficulty. Players represent different rail companies and rail roads are drawn on the board with crayons (thus the moniker). Mileposts are marked on a hexagonal grid with different terrain. Trains (or in the case of Iron Dragon, magically mutated dragons) run along the trains to deliver goods from one city to another, resulting in more money for the rail baron. These trains can be upgraded to go faster or haul more. Thats the basics of the game.
Iron dragon adds a few new terrain types over the classic clear, mountain and alpine types in previous games. On the surface, forest, desert and jungle are added along with additional building costs to move through each. There is also an underworld (that makes beer!) with rock. These different terrain are linked to "Foremen" from the different races that each player has giving a certain reduction in the cost of building in an area. The classic example is that with one of the elf foremen, the cost to build through a forest is 1 gold, rather than two gold.
The fantasy world setting adds a different challenge to the player - with the classic Empire Builder games, one can look at a real map and get an idea for the best route for a rail network. Playing India Rails against an Indian friend was a display in his knowledge of the rail system in India, and my lack of it (he won, hands down). No one knows the best way to build the network without playing the game, and even then the design is done so that diffrent strategies are equaly viable.
Iron dragon has been made into a PC game too. This can be found at http://www.irondragon.org/. The game is multi-player, though only by "hot seat" (not quite as bad as other multi-player games because there is no hidden information) or going through the server - no LAN play or PBEM (a thing I really wish for). It is still a reasonable game, with an AI that isn't quite the best out there and the fact that you don't need to take over the kitchen table for a few hours to play it.