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The Puffing Billy

Empire Builder Variants

The following are "official" PBT rulings that have come up at past tournaments. In all cases, the Puffing Billy conductor is the one who makes final decisions regarding rules clarifications.

If you have a question about a rule or would like to suggest an addition to this page, email

General Rules

The following general rules apply to the entire Empire Builder family of games. Specific differences between games will be discussed at the end of this section.

The most recent rules published are in effect.

Winning conditions

When a player has met the game-winning conditions of $250M and the required number of cities connected, annd has three load cards (drawing any to replace any loads that were delivered that turn), the game continues until all players at the board have completed that game turn. If two or more players meet game-winning conditions on the same turn, the player with the most cash wins.

Once a player has met game-winning conditions and announced that they have done so, event cards cannot take the win away, even though they may reduce their cash below $250 and disconnect their cities.

When a game is not finished by the end of the allotted time period, a complete turn must be taken prior to the ending time. The winner is the player with the requiredcities connected and with the most cash.; if no player has the required major cities connected, the player with the most cash wins.

Whether the game ends in the allotted time period or must be called, positions after first are determined solely by cash.

Event Cards

When an event causes the drawing player to lose a turn, they lose the remainder of the present turn and the entire next turn; players continue to draw cards until they have three load cards.

When an event allows no movement in specific mileposts, it means that a player cannot move to or from the affected mileposts; half-rate movement would end with the move to the last affected milepost; full movement resumes with the first milepost outside of the affected area.

Cities are considered to be clear mileposts for purposes of disasters that affect clear mileposts.

Always round up for movement when counting out half-rate.

When an event requires the players to count distance from a specific location or geographic feature, count the first milepost from the starting place as '1'. When the starting place is a major city, use the center point as the starting place. When the starting place is a coastline, use the shortest distance to determine the effect of the event. Do not 'insert' mileposts into ocean inlets/lakes when counting mileposts for an event card.


Occasionally, there may be questions regarding whether proposed track would cross a river, lake or ocean inlet; when such occurs, the rules should be checked first as they may clarify the build; if they do not, lay a straight-edge along the proposed build between the center point of each dot -- if the river, lake or ocean is visible, a bridge must be built.

Track once built does not guarantee that right-of-way exists; thus, if an event causes a player to erase track, that route may be rebuilt by another player who has track in that area. If a player's only route into a city is erased, that player is no longer connected to that city.

No player may build track that would block other players from connecting to all major cities.

Players may not build track solely to disrupt another player's track building. This is often called zippering and it is expressly forbidden during tournament play. The PBC is the final arbiter of any final builds.

Track need not be contiguous. The rule is that a player must build from their own track or from any major city; track from different major cities need not connect.

Building two track segments out of a major city counts as building two major city mileposts for the two milepost limit per turn.

Players should verbally count the accumulating costs as they build track with their crayons.


Players should cound out loud as they move their pawns from dot to dot.

Always round up when having to move at half-rate, i.e., a freight train (movement) may move five mileposts.

When crossing a ferry and commencing the turn of required half-rate movement, start counting '1' at the ferry milepost across the water from where the player started. Movement on ferries not drawn by the moving player is considered to be movement on another player's railline even if the moving player only moves on the ferry.

Please remember that a player may not voluntarily turn around on a track until they reach a city.

Turning in cards in lieu of drawing in the first turn is allowed during tournament play.

The Mercy Rule or "borrowing" is not allowed during tournament play even if explicitly allowed by the rules of the various Empire Builder variants.

Once the tax card has been turned up, all money is public knowledge. Until that time, all money is private.

After the initial deal of load cards, all disasters are shuffled back into the deck before the start of play.

Variant Rules

Empire Builder

Starting money is $40. There are two premovement builds, no switchbacks and building across ocean inlets is allowed.

Agent of Change

Starting money is $60M. There are two premovement builds with a switchback start and no crossing of ocean inlets

Australiain Rails

Starting money is $60M. There are three premovement builds with a switchback start and no crossing of ocean inlets.

Please be aware that the border between Queensland and New South Wales runs all the way to the Pacific ocean but that the river Barwon, a tributary of the Murray does not.

Please note that the Rainy Season! event card does not specify that bridges crossing the brown rivers are washed away, only that the costs for bridging the brown rivers becomes the same cost as bridging the blue rivers after this card has been turned up.

British Rails

Starting money is $60M. There are three premovement builds with a switchback start and crossing of ocean inlets is allowed.


Starting money is $50M. There are two premovement builds with a switchback start and the crossing of ocean inlets is allowed.

Iron Dragon

See the Iron Dragon Rules page.

Nippon Rails

Starting money is $50B. There are two premovement builds with a switchback start and crossing of ocean inlets is allowed.

North American Rails

Starting money is $50M. There are two premovement builds with no switchback start and crossing ocean inlets is not allowed.


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The contents of this Web Site are copyright © 1998 by The Train Gamers Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Designed by Scott Lininger. Last modified Thursday, 11-Jun-1998 16:34:30 CDT .