Another Night of Gaming: Lunar Rails

This post is part of my Ramblings on Games»

So I finally got over to my friend’s house again, to get some game time in. It had been far too long since I had made it there, due to conflicting schedules, a bad headache, and some stupidity on my part. But we all made it last night.

We started with a quick 3 person game of Ark of the Covenant, a variant of Carcassonne, which was so much fun the outcome was is blocked from my memory. Or it could be my brain damage acting up again. Whatever.

When our fourth got back from his Good Samaritan work, we turned to a game of Lunar Rails. Another of the many variants of Empire Builder, this one has some interesting changes. Like being able to build completely around the moon, going off of one side and coming back on the other. That is one of the most important aspects of the game, but is also one of the hardest go keep in mind when planning runs.

If you are interested in seeing where the various cities are place on the map, here are a couple of pictures: Near Side Far Side I would not usually worry about this, but is really hard to find good maps of Luna on Google for some reason. They make the cities really hard to see.

I went first, and was planning on running a small payoff of fish from Farside to near Mare Nectaris, then pick up the Circus there (We actually use a variant of the Circus rule. Yes, a variant of a variant. Fun times.) for a double Circus run back to Verne and Mare Ingenii. I wanted to turn over the low paying fish delivery, which I might not be able to do easily if I started with the double Circus run and got good cards heading off some other direction. What I didn’t plan on (Which was stupid of me I know, but again I blame my brain damage.) was Linda going second and starting in Mare Nectaris with a Circus run to the Northwest Near Side.

Needless to say, I had to make a few changes. So I went for a solo Wheat run to Mach, then headed up to Mare Moscoviense for a quick delivery and to pick up Workers. The delivery gave me a Solar Collectors run to Mare Crisium, so it was a build to Kulik for me. Then a build to Hertesprung, where I had finally realized I could pick up the other Circus and deliver it to Mare Ingenii. (This is also where I realized I could have started the game with that Circus for the double run, then went right on to the Fish delivery. Brain damage I tell you. And 3 hours of sleep Thursday night, that didn’t help.)

While I was screwing up my beginning game on the Far Side, Linda was turning over some quick cards on the Near Side, in the small towns between Mare Nectaris and Sinus Iridum. She didn’t get any big payoffs, the Circus to Sinus Iridum being the biggest, but she was cycling cards quickly and had a decent network there. Dan and Dave both started on the Far Side, in Apollo. Fortunately, one needed Aluminum and the other Solar Collectors, otherwise it might have gotten nasty.

They then both headed for Near Side, by different routes. Dan went west, through Mare Ingenii to Balmer and Tranquility Base before taking the remaining cheap routes in the NW that Linda hadn’t grabbed. Dave went north through Hertesprung, to Lorentz, then east to Near Side near Sinus Roris, where he was planning on building through the plains to Hayn, then down to Gauss.

This is where everybody hit a bit of a snag. Dan delivered to Sinus Iridum, and drew a calamity. Linda had drawn the Lava Flow card that prevented movement and drawing in clear spaces, which had stopped Dave’s building in the north of Near Side for a turn and encouraged me to draw to Mare Moscoviense, which didn’t really hurt him, and actually helped me in the long run.

But this time, Dan drew the Moon Quake card that prevented movement or rail building over Alpine, crater walls, and rills and valleys.  Linda lost a few movement, having mostly clear track, Dave was the same, getting caught by a crater wall, I was sitting right outside the crater around Hertesprung, so lost all of my movement, but Dan was really hurt.

His next delivery, was in Pythagoras, only 6 moves away. But he did not have the money to build into the city until he made his delivery in Sinus Iridum. And now he could not draw in because of the crater wall there. He would lose the rest of that turn (No change there, he would have to lose it anyway because he couldn’t draw until movement was over.), the entire next turn (The card doesn’t go away until the end of his turn so no drawing.), then the entire next turn again (Not being able to draw until after movement was over.) This was a really big time sink, so he decided to re-do his entire plan and head east again.

This was the turning point of the game really. I had the Solar Collector run and was thinking about doing a Diamond run to Sinus Roris, since I was going to need to get that way sometime. My initial build had ended just south of the crater wall at Tsiolkovskiy, so I was going to be near that anyway, and it would get me closer to the Golden Spike award. (What can I say? We likes our variant rules.) Then I got to Mare Ingenii. And drew Diamonds to Tranquility Base. Hmm, 33 million at Mare Crisium, 25 million at Tranquility, then 38 million at Sinus Roris. Picking up 2 more major cities and placing me just outside of Mare Nectaris. Yeah, that sounds very good, even moving at 10.

So I chugged to Tranquility Base, after the delivery to Mare Crisium and turned over the Energy Shortage card. Chemicals to any major city for 20 million? And I was 8 outside of Sinus Iridum, 2 out of Archimedes, and needed to build anyway to reach Sinus Roris. All the others could make the delivery. But they would all need to use their next turn to get the product, then deliver on the next. I drew 10 to get to Sinus Iridum and Archimedes, and spent 10 to upgrade to a 12 speed train.

I delivered the Chemicals and finished building into Sinus Roris, and extended my track through Russell and around to the Far side. Next turn I delivered the Diamonds to Sinus Roris and picked up some KREEP to take east for a delivery and finished connecting to Hertesprung for the Golden Spike bonus. In four turns, I made 136 million.

The game was not over at this point, I had spent a big chunk of that money building rail, but I was far in the lead, and the others never got close after that. When Dan drew the tax card, I had 205 million, Linda was just ahead of Dan with 75 million, and Dave was in last with 55 million. Even the 2 meteor showers Dan drew, one after the other, both of which hit my track, didn’t slow me down. I had just went over the destroyed track moving away from the areas hit.

The Decompression and Wildcat Strike I drew on myself did slow me down for a couple of turns, but not enough to matter. Dan was the king of Calamities for the night though. After the Moon Quake card early, he drew both Solar Flares cards, the southern hemisphere Cosmic Ray card, the earlier mentions Meteor Showers, and for his final draw of the game, Airlock Operator Strike. Every one of which, hit him.

The Airlock Operator Strike was especially irritating because of the circumstances. He also drew the Food Shortage card, which pays 20 million for the first person that delivers food to a major city. I was sitting in Mare Crisium with fish on my train, and the 20 million would give me 254 million for the game on my next turn. Dan was in Hertesprung, 2 away from Wine in Michelson, which would keep me from getting the 20 million and help him out big time. But he couldn’t pick up the Wine, because of the Airlock Operator Strike.

So I won the game with 254 million, Linda was second with 165 million, Dan was third with 163 million, and Dave was last with 105 million. I have to say, this was an example of luck making the game a run away. After my initial bad decisions for my start, I had good runs and ran them well. But the 60 million from the various bonuses I got, just because I was in just the right place for them, put me way ahead of the others. The last one for instance. I had the winning run on my train and would have delivered in 3 turns. But all the other players also would have made deliveries in that same time, with at least Dan making it over 200 million.

Most times, the luck is spread out more. But this time, Dan got stomped on, and still did well despite that, and I had it good putting, me way out in front. But Lady Luck is fickle, so it will even out in the future.

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