What are "Crayon Rails", anyway?

Mayfair Games publishes a series of railroad games in which players construct rail lines and run trains to deliver loads. Since the rail lines are drawn on the board using crayons, these games are sometimes referred to as "crayon rail" games. The series includes various maps, such as the United States (Empire Builder), Great Britain (British Rails), Europe (Eurorails), and so forth.

We've played these games hundreds of times. Over time, we developed a rules variant called "Public Locking" that makes the games more directly competitive. (Under the original rules, there is relatively little you can do to hamper the other players, so some people view the games as a form of simultaneous solitaire.) Even with the added element of competition, however, the games began to feel too similar from one playing to the next. We always knew where to build to get the most profitable rail lines, and knew what commodities paid off the best. Some of this repetition is driven by map features such as mountains and hard-to-find commodities, but some of it is also due to each game coming with a fixed set of cards representing the demands for particular commodities to be delivered to particular cities. The cards are shuffled, but the same demands would come up sooner or later in each game. So we decided to add some variety by generating our own decks of demand cards, and playing with a new deck every time.

We spent quite a while developing a formula for how much to pay out for any given delivery, and have continued to tune the formula as we add new maps to our repertoire. (E.g., it takes a lot of money to make it worth going to a non-producing city at the far end of the map, such as Penzance or Holyhead in British Rails, or Wakkanai in Nippon Rails.) Some of the details of our formula are affected by additional rules variants that we play, especially the price of building through deserts and the movement cost for using a ferry.

Note: The Empire Builder decks are based on the map that comes with editions published prior to 1999. The map in the 1999 edition includes Mexico; it's very nearly the same as that of North American Rails. (The biggest difference is that Culiacan produces sugar in NAR, but not in EB. The EB map also has fewer rivers, and some city locations are shifted slightly.) If you have that map, use the "Empire Builder with Mexico" choice when generating new decks. Similarly, our British Rails decks are based on the roll-up map, not on the very old first edition puzzle-board map. (In the first edition, for example, you could pick up Tourists in Liverpool.) The most recent edition of British Rails again uses a puzzle-board map, but it's the same as the tube game's roll-up map, so the decks work for either. And we recently discovered that the puzzle-board edition of Eurorails differs slightly from the older, fold-up board; in particular, some ferry prices have changed, which might affect our payoffs. (Our decks are based on the fold-up board.)

We do not yet include support for Australian Rails, China Rails, or Iron Dragon.

The form that led you to this page is intended to make our deck generator available to other crayon rails fans. You can use the form to download a PDF (or PostScript) file that will print a deck of cards, as well as a chart showing all the demands present in that deck. We also provide instructions that describe how to turn the printout into a deck of cards and a bit about how to interpret the cards. (In particular, our decks do not include any "random events", which we felt did not improve the game, except for the "taxes" event. The instructions describe how to identify when the taxes event arises.) A separate page tells you how to use the form itself.


Empire Builder®, Australian Rails™, British Rails™, China Rails™, Eurorails®, India Rails™, Iron Dragon™, Lunar Rails™, Nippon Rails®, North American Rails™, Russian Rails™, and Martian Rails™ are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Mayfair Games.