Iron Dragon Tournament Rules and House Rules

I’m resurrecting some material from my previous web life. A version of this article was originally published on or before November 15, 2003.


A game of Iron Dragon in progress at Origins 2006. Photo by ben haley (yelahneb on Flickr)

Iron Dragon in progress. Photo by ben haley (yelahneb on Flickr) under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Iron Dragon, published by Mayfair Games, is my favorite entry in the Empire Builder series of crayon rail games. It lacks some of the educational value of most of the other entries (it won’t teach you any geography), but the fantasy theme is a winner for me, and the addition of foremen gives players additional useful decisions to make.

This is a collection of rules and rulings for Iron Dragon from the official FAQ (now archived—the official FAQ doesn’t appear to have survived a website restructure back around 2007) and from various tournaments. My own suggestions for varying from those rules and rulings are also included.

Iron Dragon FAQ

Stuff not covered by the rules (errata)

  • Piggnytz is a small city.
  • The milepost near Caldeen that is the color of jungle but is otherwise a normal dot is a clear milepost and not a jungle.
  • On card #20, there is demand for Iron but the card has a Fur symbol on it. On card #57 there is demand for Iron but the card has a Steel symbol on it. Always use the demand and not the symbol whenever there is a discrepancy between the two. Therefore Iron is the correct demand for both of these cards.
  • Boarding cost for Ships are between 1 and 3 GP, not 1 and 5 GP as listed in the rules.
  • You can dump during your initial 3 building turns. This takes the place of your building. Any disasters that are drawn do not take effect.
  • You may upgrade your train during your initial 3 building turns.
  • The Fire Drake is a dragon loco (even though it doesn’t say “dragon” on the card).
  • You can go from a train with 3 load slots to 2 load slots on an upgrade and you must discard a load if you have 3 loads.
  • You may change foremen once per turn.
  • Disaster cards prohibiting movement prohibit both moving into and moving out of the specified terrain. House Rule: Disaster cards prohibiting movement prohibit only moving into, not moving out of, the specified terrain. Everything else depends solely on the target milepost, and there’s no reason to make a special exception here.
  • Trains on desert mileposts during the Sandstorm are returned to the last city or port passed through. House Rule: No, they’re not; they’re just stranded.
  • When an event causes the drawing player to lose a turn, he loses the remainder of the present turn and the entire next turn; the player continues to draw cards until he has three load cards. [This is the tournament rule for both kinds of tournaments below, but I place it here because it needs a rule in regular play as well.]
  • 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.

Tournament Rules

These rules are for both Puffing Billy tournaments (PB) and for the World Boardgaming Championships tournaments (WBC) unless otherwise tagged for only one of them.

  • The starting player is the player who cuts the highest-numbered demand card, not the demand card with the biggest payoff. (WBC)
  • The second pre-movement build round is conducted in reverse order.
  • 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 solely disruptive—”zippering” or spending extra to block other routes is.
  • Cities are considered to be clear mileposts for purposes of disasters that affect clear mileposts. In non-tournament games, I would say that cities are cities; see, they get a separate line on the costs chart.
  • Players may only lose a maximum of one load and one turn from a single event card. (WBC)
  • When an event requires the players to count distance from a major city, use the center point as the starting place. In non-tournament games, I would suggest using the edges of the city, since the edge of the city is not one milepost from the city.
  • The Rainbow Bridge is a permanent effect, ended only by the Wizard’s Strike event.
  • Once the tax card has been turned up, all money is public knowledge. Until that time, all money is private.
  • Play continues after one player can claim victory until all players have taken a turn in that round. If two or more players have claimed victory by the end of their turns during the final round, the winner is the player with the most money at the end of the round.
  • If there is a tie, play continues with the cash requirement raised to $300. An event that reduces cities connected or cash cannot take a victory away, but another player who subsequently achieves the victory conditions and has more cash at the end of the game can. (WBC)
  • If time is called before a game ends, the round continues until each player has another turn and the last player has gone. The winner is the player with the required cities connected and with the most cash; if no player has the required major cities connected, the player with the most cash wins. (Puffing Billy)
  • If time is called before a game ends, the round continues until each player has another turn and the last player has gone. The winner is the player with the most cash minus $50 for each city connected under the minimum. (WBC)
  • Whether the game ends in the allotted time period or must be called, cash alone determines positions after first. (Puffing Billy)
  • If a player withdraws from a game, that player’s track is kept on the board and any usage fees are paid to the bank. (WBC)

Stuff covered by the Rules

  • You may change foremen anytime during your building phase. For example, you may build with your elf foreman change to the dwarf foreman and build some more. You may of course change before you begin building or after you have finished all of your building. The cost for changing foremen is part of the 20 GP you have to spend per turn.
  • The Troll foreman builds through all points in the underground for a cost of 2 GP. The Clear mileposts cost 2 GP. The Underground Rock mileposts cost 2 GP. If you cross a river, you still only pay 2 GP. If you enter a city, you only pay 2 GP, etc.
  • The Troll foreman does not have to pay the bribe to the Orc to build in the underground. However you are still required to pay the bribe to the Orc when you travel in the underground; the Troll only avoids the bribe for building.
  • The bribe that you pay to the Orc for moving in the underground does not count towards the 20 GP limit on spending per turn. However, the bribe paid to the Orc for building in the underground does count towards the 20 GP limit on spending per turn. Therefore, if you build in the underground, you may only build an additional 19 GP worth of track because 1 GP must be paid to the Orc. If you are the Orc, you may build 20 GP worth of track even if you build in the underground and do not have to pay yourself a bribe.
  • The Rainbow Bridge lasts until the end of the drawing player’s next turn.
  • The Wizard Strike event card lasts until the end of the drawing player’s next turn.
  • Your train may start in any city. This can be a small, medium, or major city. You do not have to have track built to the city that you start your train in (for example, you could ride someone else’s track at the beginning of the game.)
  • You may not build from a port that you have not already built into. For example, you may not build from the port near Piggnytz unless you have already built into this port. You cannot start building from this port.
  • To obtain a ship when you get to a port, you draw a ship. If you like the ship, you end your movement and board the ship. It will sail out on your next turn. If you do not like the ship, you have the option of continuing your movement. It is possible to stop at more than one port in a single turn. Once you turn a ship down at a port however, you cannot go back and claim it if you continue your movement. You may also not attempt to board (draw) more than one ship at same port in the same turn.
  • When you are building your track, you must build from a major city or from your track that already exists. This means that you can build out of a major city without having built into it. There is a cost for building into a major city only because you may only build out of 2 major city mileposts per turn and it is possible that you might want to build into a major city once you have used your 2 builds out of major city mileposts. However, this is a very rare occurrence and does not happen very often.
  • All players must have access to build to all of the major cities. Since there are only a total of 4 Underground entrances, each allowing only two players to build into them, there are only eight routes possible into the Underground. Therefore, you may not be able to build to all of the underground entrances because you need to leave a route in for the other players (whether they end up using it or not.) For example, in a six-player game, one person may only build 3 of the 4 entrances and may not build all four because all five other players must have access to the underground.
  • An Alpine does not count as a mountain for the dwarf foreman. The dwarf foreman must still pay 5 GP to build through an Alpine.

Derived in part from the archived online FAQ, which is © Mayfair Games.


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