Lords of the Sierra Madre
Questions Answered

Brian Bankler (bankler@rtp.ericsson.se) had a few questions about Lords of the Sierra Madre. Phil Eklund (PHILEKLUND@aol.com), the game's designer, was kind enough to prepare this response in the hopes that other folks would find it helpful.

Brian: Well, I've played LotSM a few times over Christmas. I have to read the rules again to look over stuff; however, I have a few questions I am hoping that you can answer (either by pointing out the rule # or explaining). Also, if you have examples of play to clarify basic tactical stuff, that would be appreciated. I don't have a rulebook in front of me, but here goes.

Responses of RTFM are acceptable for most questions, I realize that at some point I have to read the rules cover to cover, but for at least some of my questions I've looked in the index or where it seems appropriate and found nothing...

1) During the common card auction, the players can basically bid on the cards in whatever order it's yelled out, or do the players go around the table, bringing a card up for auction (i.e., is there a formal method for this).

Phil: I don't have a formal method. I ask if anyone wants a common card, and the first one to bid upon a card initiates the first auction. It seems to go OK, as long as no more than one card is up for bid at any time.

2) I realize that stores get money when things are bought from them, and troops get money for taxation, but when else does money appear on the board? Does a mine give the money straight to the hacendado, or does it appear on the board there? RR? etc.

Per 8.3.8, "Profits from each C card enterprise are considered to be at that mapsheet location for that quarter; on subsequent quarters, the profits automatically transfer to the Hacendado's counter location." We used to have to transfer the money via train or stage during tactical moves, making train robberies common, but this rule was edited out for simplification.

3) The hacendado gets 1/2 tax money if he is with the troops. Round up or down?

Round down. The original rule, by the way, was 10%. The Decision Games rules editor changed it to 50%.

4) If a player defaults on a loan (or chooses not to capitalize) the rule is very unclear. It says the property goes up for auction but then says other property is lost/goes up for auction. Does defaulting on one property default on all? (I wish I could quote the exact rule and what it implies).

Rule 8.42c states that if a C card is abandoned immature, then it is auctioned off and the abandoner forfeits investors capital for a year. It goes on to say that if any other kind of card is abandoned immature, then it is discarded or may be sold to other players.
5) If a player owned bank loans money (say at 2:1), then the bank gets the money back, and it can presumably be picked up and transfer to a player. But where does the money the bank loaned come from? When a bank doubles investors capital, does that money appear on the board? (We were playing no).

Bank loaned money, per 8.42, comes from the treasury, and immediately goes back to the treasury to pay off an enterprise. Bank loans, per 8.42, must be for paying off immature enterprises. They cannot be given out for free cash, like to buy cards for instance. If a player needs cash, they have to negotiate for it, taking out a loan from any player (not just bank players) that have free cash that are willing to part with it (for promise of extra cash later, or any other terms). We give all investor's capital, including that doubled or quadrupled by bank ownership, directly to the player who can use it for that quarter's card auction.

6) Can players freely give loans, sell property, etc. at any time during the turn, or only during various phases (or not at all...but that would seem odd).

Rule 8.51 "Laissez-Faire Players may freely buy, sell, loan, exchange, or donate their cards or money to other players. Any loans other than per 8.42 must be for the duration of the quarter, and the player the card was loaned to has absolute control of that card, including its return."

7) Is there anyway to get from leadership 0 to 1 through combat?


During tactical rounds...

8) does it cost one move to go to/from a police block?

No. It costs nothing.

9) When taxing, you must start in the district you are taxing... (I believe the rules say, you move within a district to tax). So that basically means that the mountain area inside of Chihuahua but accessible only from Sonora can't be easily taxed, because of the 1 turn rule (Only 1 turn outside of districts).

Yes. For instance, the Dolores Mines may only be taxed by Chihuahua forces, which cannot get there to tax unless they go to Sahuaripa using RR25 first. The is historical, by the way. But the rule is, Sonora forces cannot tax in Chihuahua.

10) Can you fight other troops if you just moved into that district on the same turn?

Yes. Per 10.0, the tactical sequence is first player movement, then first player combat, second player movement, etc.

11) Can the ferry, etc. be attacked when it is in a box that is on the coast?

Yes, but only by artillery that is within that block, per 6.81.

12) Can the ferry drop stuff off into the desert (for example, guns by themselves so that they can "cool off" after coming across the border from the Yuma store).

Yes, see 10.6.

13) Can troops in a district (not block) interdict police taxing in the city? (I would say no).


Random Questions...

14) When the earthquake hits (with surprising frequency in our games so far....), you pay 2au to rebuild police/rifles. The normal cost is one. So the money is for "rebuilding the city" and the police/rifles are just to show what is going on. Therefore the money doesn't go to the hospital concession. Is that train of thought correct?

No, I had in mind that the police need 2 au, given to a hospital, to get a new undepleted police counter (1 au would give them a depleted police counter, see 12.24). The rifles also need two au to buy an undepleted counter, this goes to the store. This is the origin of the 4au per city and 8 au per major city.

15) There is a striker card (R17?) that is not a mordida. It must be played instantly? The Mordida cards can be held.

All Striker cards are R cards, yet per 6.7 (or 9.4) they are played like M cards. Perhaps I should have made them M cards. I went back and forth on this question. I ended up making them R cards, which gives you a red counter, but are played like M cards. This is what the rules state.

16) Do strikers push back immature projects in winter. When exactly do strikers do this? (It looks like it might be part of mordida phase stuff, but maybe tactical).

Yes, the Strikers push back in Winter (9.4). This happens during the maturation phase. This is when the project is supposed to be maturing one more quarter, but doesn't due to the strike.

17) Is it legal for policia, federales, etc. to just (Accidentally, of course) drop their guns and leave an area, allowing bandits to (again accidentally) arm? [The policia in question had just had a wonderful time taxing, but without their hacendado. So I offered to sell their gun for money directly to me, and used their money to buy another gun].

This was actually rather common, common enough to have a name (or euphemism) for the process. It was called "Surplusing". U.S. troops would surplus "obsolete" rifles in crates along the border. All perfectly legal.

18) May both federales in a district rebase to the same fort?

Yes, 12.1 and 10.22 allows this.

19) I believe the US troops must rebase to a named fort. And only cavalry can walk from state to state, right? Can units from the same card split up? (Assuming there was a second leader or you just wanted the cavalry to run to another state).

Yes, they must rebase either to Fort Huachuca or Fort Bliss, or to the districts containing these forts. Yes, cavalry are the only Blue units free (in peacetime) to go from state to state, per 6.3. Yes, the cavalry can split up, subject to 13.55.

20) Do Lumber RR's get any rail fees from mines delivering stuff in addition to the 1/mine? [Bonus question--the lumber RR with no mines listed on it...what is the deal? Typo?]

Yes. Lumber rails are treated just as any other rail, except they get a bonus for delivering lumber. The lumber can be delivered to any mine, not just mines listed upon the card, see 8.34. The mines listed upon the card are only those mines which physically link to the railroad. Lumber rails can deliver to any mine, long its rail or any other series of rails to get to the mine in question. The lumber railroad with no mines , like RR17, is not a typo. It just happens to not have any mines along its length.

21) Do cards that go up for rebidding (default or whatnot) go into the discard pile or the common card pile if nobody wants them (or does it depend on what type of card it was).

Common cards go back to being common cards upon abandonment. Other cards are allowed to be bid upon the next auction, and then go into discard pile if no one is interested.

22) Does the owner of Federales/Rurales/Cav/etc. have the right to leave a district (in order to avoid fighting with criminals that are about to enter it?) without putting the card up for rebidding? [Again, the rules seem to say yes, but a 'spirit of the card' interpretation].

Yes, it is legal for law units to run away to avoid a fight, without having to have card go up for auction. If I were refereeing this game, I might have the card go up for auction anyway. Or if the 2/3rds majority of players agree to a "spirit of the card" interpretation.

23) If a hacienda is destroyed and rebuilt, does it start at 0 profit or it's initial profit (1 or 3/sum).

A hacienda starts at its initial profit if rebuilt.

Strategy Questions...

Our big problem is that someone who gets a mine in the early/mid game (Say, starts capitalizing it before 1900) can then capitalize 2-3 things at once when it opens. This usually turns into a crushing lead... especially if there are no red units around. In our game last night, there were probably 5 mines in the first two years, but only two red units in the game by 1906 (by which point there were about 10 mines open or being built). From your comments this sounds odd. No red units were passed up, either (by this point I realized how cool it would be to burn mines down. Not particularly difficult, either).

There are, I think, 18 mines. There are 21 red cards, including Strikers. So there should be about equal numbers of each in a given game.

Banks don't seem particularly useful. Of course, in the last three games I've played (the longest of which ended in winter 08. The other two were called in around 05 because of time or a bunch of new people showing up, etc.) we've had 2 earthquakes, and two stock market crashes. Also some small revolutions. It just seems that investors capital leaves...for years at a time. Could just be us.

Banks are usually not as useful as mines or haciendas. Still, if you can get two of them, this can put you into a commanding position. The number of calamities seems to be higher in your games than I am used to.

General Comments

I don't know what it is recently, but I can't seem to figure out rules any more. Material World, Middle Earth: The Wizards, now this. (Although this has the tightest rules. I just can't always find them). The game reminds me quite a bit of Junta with Economics, and it's intriguing. Intellectually, I can't really commend a long game that can just crush a player out of the game at random (when an earthquake epicenters on your hacienda and closes your mine). However, LotSM is a "gamers game" where (as long as all of the players realize that this could happen) it shouldn't really matter. We did get one of "The wives" (of various local gamers) to play a game, and she seemed to enjoy it. But if that had been her hacienda, she probably would have never played again...and I couldn't really blame her.

I'd be more annoyed; but I find the game fun, so I let it pass. But it's something to consider.

Yes, you are right. But, I have played over 100 games now, and find it unusual for a player to be taken out of the game by a disaster. Usually, they can shrug off the loss. Sometimes, if they are just getting started, this hit can put them down for quite a while, and then they can never quite catch up. But, as I say, this is unusual.

My two big problems are -- the counters and the rulebook. There aren't enough counters. In every game we've played (and one of them was six players) there weren't enough RR ownership counters. Maybe we are building too many railroads, but when everyone is feeling good then I noticed that everyone typically grabs a RR...cheaply. In the last game (which had an earthquake AND stock market crash shut off investment from 02 on) ALL of the RRs were built/under construction by the end of 05, when the game was called. Also, some "Under construction" counters would stop the "I'll bid one for RRX...oh, it's already being built...?" problem. The mats get pretty full, so it's hard to see.

Yes, counters are limited. But note that you can use any depicted counter wha tsoever of your color to denote rails, it doesn't have to be a rail counter.

Really, do you have countersheets available? If so, how much? (Steve might be interested, and when I get a copy... which may be a while...I'll be interested).

I do not. Please contact Decision Games.

Despite my rules questions, the rulebook seems very good. The problem is that I started to read from the front of the book. The first six sections give quite a bit of detail...enough to make you think that there are the basic rules there. But the real "rules" don't really start until section 7 or so. The components (with details as to some rules) should go later. Or maybe a big bold paragraph saying "This is for reference only. New players should start reading at section X" This tripped me up, although only for a short time.

Yes, I wished we had done that. Or, perhaps, an "introductory game", with just enough rules to play. In my games "Lords of the Renaissance" and "Lords of the High Frontier", I am taking the latter course and including introductory games, so as not to inundate the poor gamer.

But, as a counter point, "Running against the incumbent president of Mexico is a crime" might be my favorite rule. Ever.

Yes, it is a fun rule.

Another small bewilderment is the 45 tactical round rule. You could have just as easily made it 30. Now, your choice might have been scale/realism. But it seems to me that if people have a 'tighter schedule' it might make tactical rounds more interesting. I am just always a bit bewildered when the rules say "Here's the rule...but you'll never use it." Steve Nicewarner wanted to know if you had seen the Air Power (? SPI) Chaff rule, which states "Chaff lasts 250 turns. IF THE PLAYERS ARE CRAZY, they may keep track of this on a piece of paper." On the other hand, I've seen plenty of games which gave you options that were utterly suicidal/useless, without mentioning it. So I'm not annoyed with this. Just, as I mentioned, bewildered.

Sorry about that. What I meant to say was, there are no limits to the number of tactical turns because I did not want to slow the game down by having players keep track of it. But, optionally, if you want to keep track of it, the limit is 45 turns. Actually, as you say, 30 turns would be better. 45 turns is only specified because of the two day scale on a one season game length. But, if you were going to keep track of it, 30 turns is superior.

Anyway, it's a rare game that captures 10 hours of my time in a week (4 plays, but only 1 game finished) and probably will grab 10 more in the next seven days, but I was just wondering about the above points. I'd also love to see some sample games...but don't type them in just for me. (Mainly, I guess if you have stuff already on-line that might be of interest...)

Thank you very much for your encouragement. There are about 150 games in the log book, the first one recorded in the book was played in 1989. However, I played the first game ever (with my 6 year old son matthew), in 1986. It has taken about 13 years effort to get this game to this point. Matthew has won the majority of the games played since that time.
I will try to enter in some of them in a later letter. Not just for you, but for doctor toxin who is supposed to be writing a paper wars review on the game.

Example Games

Here is one game, played at Economy Con in Phoenix in 1992, with a different card set (allowing 12 players). There were nine players, most of them new. It was during this game we discovered how an incredibly unlikely event, (the annexation of the Gadsden Purchase) can occur if a very high Mexican leader (Carranza), is funded by Hearst money, and given prior dissipation of US forces in useless pursuits without clear goals. Not realistic but fun. after this game, we changed the rules to force players to be "patriotic" during times of war.

Game played October 18, 1992.
Number of players: 9
Winner was Billy Bishop (as Hearst, with his secret "puppet" Carranza) with 25 Au.
Runner up (Mike Jackson) had 24 Au.
Game duration: 4 hours, ending in Fall 1902.

Greene: (Eklund)
Professor Douglas (Sweet)
Wm Rand Hearst (Bishop) 25 Au
Shepherd (Cox)
Epes Randolf (Jackson) 24 Au
Ysabel (Ducket)
Kleist (Ducket Jr.) Killed In Action
Maytorena (Von Trapp)
Slaughter (Malarky) Bankrupt

Greene and Douglas go in on CCCC mine at Cananea. German and Ysabel Yaqui slave plantations are heavily taxed by Greene's Federales based at Moctezuma.

Ysabel, despite pressure, reveals Zimmerman Telegram in return for US Naval protection of Cocorit, starting a US/Mexico War. Greene sends the notorious mercenary Tracey Richardson to assassinate Carranza in his Nogales hotel, funded by Hearst. However, Carranza, alerted by radios lent by von Kleist, escapes. Carranza goes on to win the Chihuahua governorship, funded by a mere 1 Au of Hearst funds. An alliance is formed with Shepherd, the American in deep southern Chihuahua.

The Ysabel/Kleist alliance fund an unsuccessful US invasion of Sonora, along the SudPacifico railroad. The troops return when ammunition runs low. However, Maytorena's plantation was sacked by US troops and Kosterlitsky and his rurales are killed at La Misa. Maytorena himself barely escapes with the shirt on his back, but eventually rebuilds and makes his slave plantation very profitable indeed.

Another US incursion next quarter (Fall 1901) also does poorly. Lt Col. Geo. Patton is captured in Hermosillo, and the Buffalo Soldiers retire to the US again. However, Patton is liberated and, with the mercenary Richardson, orchestrate the fall of Hermosillo.

When Greene moves the Arizona Rangers to Fort Bliss, the Hearst/Carranza Alliance fear a fresh US Chihuahua offensive and respond by crossing the Rio Grande and capturing El Paso. Bisbee and Tombstone volunteers are hastily rearmed with Krag rifles at Fort Huachuca, but they too are crushed.

So as 1901 closes, Sonora is annexed by the US, with Pershing based in Hermosillo. Much loot is carried from La Misa to Fort Huachuca, while El Paso remains in Mexican hands.

In 1902, a fresh Carrancista offensive travels along the EL Paso Southwest rail, invading Fort Huachuca and stealing the gold there. Some Federales try to kill Professor Douglas hiding in his Empire Ranch, but he and his gold barely escape to the protection of General Miles. Empire ranch is torched. General Miles, in a series of engagements, is defeated by Carranza, and Tucson is seized. Carranza has now annexed the Gadsden purchase. Later in 1902, Carranza sweeps into US held Sonora, looting the Cananea bank and destroying the Greene/Douglas CCCC mines. Bandits and rebel Yaquis spring up in Sonora and Baja. German arms are delivered to Carranza via Guaymas, and German 88mm guns exchange fire with the U.S.S. Virginia in this harbor.

Greene, now destitute, launches the Plan of San Luis Potosi, and Professor Douglas initiates a new revolution under Gonzales, which folds due to a US MID counterespionage effort funded by Hearst. The University of Arizona, renamed the Universidad de Major Chihuahua, folds. Von Kleist has a string of slave plantations in the Yaqui and Mayo valleys, and some Yaqui guerrillas in his back pocket. Bandidos and Yaquis rallying under the San Luis Potosi flag, turn against their benefactor, and Kleist is murdered in his plantation. Carranza, now controlling the entire board, runs and wins the Mexican presidency.

The Game Cabinet - editor@gamecabinet.com - Ken Tidwell