Iron Dragon

Invented by ??
Published by Mayfair Games
Reviewed by Julie M. Prince (

Game play: 7
Components: 9

Iron Dragon, the latest crayon rail game from Mayfair, is yet another variation on the classic "Empire Builder" with several new concepts thrown in to keep it interesting.

Like Empire Builder and all the other Mayfair rail games (Eurorails, Australian Rails, etc.), Iron Dragon has a large map for a board, with mileposts marked in a grid. Unlike its predecessors, it's set in a fantasy world peopled with elves and trolls. The commodities include wands, spells and armor, and the trains are harnessed dragons.

Those are cosmetic differences. The differences that affect game play are:

* New terrain types. In addition to the usual clear, mountain and alpine, Iron Dragon also adds underworld, rock, forest, desert and jungle terrain, each with an extra building cost. The underworld terrain also has special building rules.

* Foremen. Every player gets a foreman, who belongs to one of the races (human, elf, orc, troll, dwarf, wee folk, cat man). Each foreman has his advantages for the player. For example, a player using an elf foreman can build to forest mileposts for 1 gold piece (instead of 2).

* Ships. Players can build track to and from seaports, and hire ships (with varying speeds) to ferry their trains from port to port. This can be a cheap, efficient way to deliver loads early in the game, without building much track.

So, is it a good game? Yes and no. The map is larger than usual for a Mayfair rail game, and the major cities are widely scattered. Also, most commodities are only available in one narrow area (as opposed to Eurorails, in which many commodities are available in more than one region). A typical game of Iron Dragon takes three to four hours, much longer than Empire Builder.

The rules require players to connect 7 of the 8 major cities in order to win, but while in Empire Builder players usually connect the major cities naturally in the course of the game, in "Iron Dragon" it feels more like an artificial requirement. It is entirely possible to play a successful game of Iron Dragon without ever connecting to two or three of the major cities.

Whether this game is worth spending $35 on will depend on the player. If you like fantasy fiction and the crayon rail games, you'll love this one. If you're not interested in fantasy fiction, however, you might want to stick with the earthbound rail games like Eurorails and Empire Builder.

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell