Iron Dragon House Rules: “Good” Events

Iron Dragon Board Game Box - Fantasy Rail Building Game

Iron Dragon by Mayfair Games is a board game I was introduced to years ago and haven’t forgotten its fun rail-building, drawing-with-crayons gameplay. Out of print for a little while, Mayfair seems to have solved that problem and recently I picked it up.

Overall the game is a lot of fun, though quite long. My group has tested a few house rules that reduce the playing time considerably, which I’ll also cover. However one facet of the game that stands out as “needs improvement” is the events.

Event cards are mixed in with the deck of demand cards, designed to pop up occasionally during normal play and introduce a random element that can jostle players in their race to connect major cities and deliver loads for cash. The only problem is that almost all events are bad, slowing down trains (“dragons”), wiping out track players have built, etc. In a game that already goes on too long (out of the box), events which serve only to slow down the game are, well, definitely downers.

Thus I’ve put together a list of alternate “good” event effects for each (numbered) event card that can help players in various ways.

Incorporating Good Events with Iron Dragon

These events are designed to be used with, or instead of, the “bad” event effects as written on the cards. Two simple house rules to integrate them:

Whenever a player draws an event card, flip a coin. If the flip was in the player’s favor, use the alternate (good) effect corresponding to the event card. Otherwise use the (bad) effect on the card as written.

Some effects, such as building track, may require resolving the effect for one player at a time. In these cases start with the current player (who drew the event), then proceed in turn order around the table.

Good Event Effects for Iron Dragon Cards

Iron Dragon Event Cards
Peasants are Revolting? If you worked in filth all day you probably wouldn’t be too handsome either.
  • 121: Rainbow Bridge
    (Same as normal; this is the only event card that already has a “good” effect.)
  • 122: Peasants are Revolting
    Traders: All players may sell loads they are presently carrying at 10g each.
  • 123: Snow
    Spring Thaw: All players with trains in Koland, Glyth Gamel, Northern Wastes, Bright, and Pirate Isles gain an extra turn.
  • 124: Sand Storm
    Desert Rainshowers: Until this player’s next turn, the cost to build to desert mileposts is reduced to 1g.
  • 125: Volcanos Erupt
    Rise in Earth Magic: Until the end of this player’s next turn, all trains within 7 mileposts of volcanos double their movement.
  • 126: Rogue Magic
    Invigorating Magic: Until this player’s next turn, each player receives 10g free building credits, and the build limit per turn is increased to 30g.
  • 127: Free Dragons Attack
    Scavenge Dragon Attack Remains: All players with trains within 10 mileposts of Nordkassel receive 1 load of their choice and an extra turn.
  • 128: Flood
    Dry Spell: Until this player’s next turn, the cost to build across rivers is 0g and the costs to build across inlets is reduced to 1g additional.
  • 129: Ice Storm
    Trade Winds: All players with trains within 10 mileposts of Kola draw a demand card, then discard a demand card.
  • 130: Elven Antirailroad Activists Attack
    Elven Traders: All players with trains on forest mileposts may sell loads they are presently carrying at 10g each.
  • 131: Flood
    Treasure Hunt: All players with trains in the Olde World gain 15g.
  • 132: Pirates
    Merchants Ships: All players with trains within 3 mileposts of the sea or inlets gain 1 load of their choice.
  • 133: Evil Prince Summons Warlord
    Wizards Teleport: All players with trains in Bright Kingdom can choose to swap locations with the train of another player.
  • 134: War Tax
    Profits Tax: The player (or players, if there is a tie) with the most gold pays 5g to each other player.
  • 135: Barbarians Attack
    Cross Trade Route: All players with trains within 3 mileposts of a jungle milepost may draw a foreman card from the top of the deck and discard a foreman card.
  • 136: Vampire Attack
    Caged Dragons: All players with trains in the underground may make one free train upgrade.
  • 137: Storms at Sea
    Territory Disputes: Until the end of this player’s next turn, double the usage fees players pay for using another player’s track.
  • 138: Winged Demons Escape Underworld
    Brewery Surplus: Until the end of this player’s next turn, all players with trains making deliveries in Orc Wastes, Iron Holm, Eusarch, and Caicenden receive an additional 10g per delivery.
  • 139: Wizards Strike
    Wizards Flight: All players with trains in Olde World and Wislandor may make a free move to any milepost within 10 mileposts, regardless of whether connecting track exists.
  • 140: Flood
    Fair Weather: Until the end of this player’s next turn, all plains mileposts cost only 1/2 movement point to enter. Ignore unused fractional movement points.
  • 141: Siren Song Seamen Enchanted
    Caged Dragons: All players with trains within 15 mileposts of Ilik-Herb may make one free train upgrade.
  • 142: Foreman Strike
    Invigorating Magic: Until this player’s next turn, each player receives 10g free building credits, and the build limit per turn is increased to 30g.
  • 143: Magic Tempest
    Treasure Hunt: All players with trains in the Olde World gain 15g.
  • 144: Sea Serpent
    Scavenge Shipwreck: All players with trains within 15 mileposts of Opal Bezin gain 1 load of their choice and an extra turn.
  • 145: Runaway Dragon
    Avian Messenger: All players with trains in Rakhatz draw a demand card, then discard a demand card.
  • 146: Hurricane
    Tailwind: Until the end of this player’s next turn, all players with trains in Janoshal and Wislandor double their movement.

More Iron Dragon House Rules for Fast and Fun Play

Iron Dragon Board Game in Play
The Conclusion of a far-reaching game of Iron Dragon

First off, the length of the game is something that can be addressed. We’ve been trying out a set of house rules found over at the ‘geek. While these rules do streamline the game in several important ways, they also remove events from the demand deck completely. This, combined with the other rules, does seem to take away some of the surprises from the game and leave it a bit dry.

The happy medium, in my group anyway, is thus far a combination of those house rules, the good/bad events, plus a few modifications of our own:

  • Ships are back in (they are slow considering you need to stop at the ports, but also pretty cheap).
  • Players can build track to sea mileposts (“bridges”) at the cost of 5g each, or 3g with the Human foreman (this can come in handy near Wikkede).
  • Using another player’s track costs 3g per turn (still not sure where the right balance is between encouraging using others’ tracks for speed, and encouraging new tracks being built).

Building Credits

Then a bigger one we call Building Credits. Playing with events (bad events anyway) is one way players can become stranded, out of cash and cut off from destination cities (or even the rest of their track, in cases where it can get wiped out). We also like to keep people moving forward even if they’ve miscalculated the costs to build track to their destination; rather than slow the game down by requiring careful calculations up front, an option to get back in the game after mistakes are made seems much better.

Here’s how it works: any player with zero gold at the beginning of their turn may move less than their train’s maximum speed. For every movement point they do not use, up to five, they receive a 1g building credit during their build phase.

So a player with no gold and a Teapot could move five mileposts, then build track costing up to 5g that turn. Not viable as a long-term strategy, but just enough to allow people to get out of a jam.

It also has a built-in drawback by requiring trains to slow down, so there’s little advantage to a player deliberately “staying at zero” to continue building free tracks.

Final Thoughts

With the right mix of house rules, Iron Dragon can be quite fun without taking an entire evening to finish.

Hunter Johnson has an FAQ here with some more general rules-interpretation type information.

I’d like to hear from anyone who has played with any of these house rules. Comments on the good event effects are also welcome. Finally, I know that some of the names of the good events could be improved, suggestions for doing so (and making them funny if you wish) are desired.

Enjoy Iron Dragon!

  1.  
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    Scott Says:

    Thanks Joe, for finding that rules variant link!

  2.  

    Iron Dragon was never my favorite game but getting to use crayons (and the fact that my sister was willing to play it) did make it see table time back in the day. I like the idea of good events, being a fan of events over all. However I find the term a bit misleading. Some of your good events seem to hurt one player while helping others, which is fine, but that certainly doesn’t feel “good” if your the player getting hurt. Also, I found it a bit strange that a coin was used to determine if the event was “good” or “bad”. A phrase like “If the flip was in the player’s favor” could become confusing when the “good” event will only help other players. I would suggest a simple die roll 1 – 3 = Card as Written, 4 – 6 = New Version. It’s also possible that my group (or maybe just me) is far to litigious.

    Good rules over all though, I think that shortening Iron Dragon is a good thing as it generally starts out fun but gets a bit dull after the second hour. 🙂

  3.  
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    Scott Says:

    Yeah, Iron Dragon was one of the few games we played that your sister would join (voluntarily). Plus the crayons- I’m not saying any game involving crayons is an automatic winner, but this is fun.

  4.  
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    Scott Says:

    I can understand your point, but allow me to explain what I was going after.

    Most of these new effects are directly related to the original effects on the event cards. Either affecting the same territory or causing something like the converse effect, in many cases.

    A few of these new effects do help some players at the expense of others, but that still results in some players being helped. Contrast with the original event effects, which tend to hurt some players while ignoring others; nowhere in that are players directly helped.

    Coin flip or die roll both work. The intent is the same.

    In all modesty, feel free to offer a better name, if you have any ideas on something that works better than “good” events. That is something of a multiple-points-of-view dilemma so I wouldn’t be surprised to find a clearer and more compelling name.

    The rules we’ve used do shorten the game nicely, last time it ended with people still wanting a bit more, which seems just about right.

  5.  
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    Andrew Says:

    What we do to get past the crazy events is take about 2/3rds of them out of the deck. That way they are really unlikely and dont slow down the game as much as they can.

  6.  

    My personal house rule – the Rainbow Bridge is a toggle. It goes up when the card is drawn, and goes down when Wizard’s Strike is drawn.

    The very first game I played with that rule I lost because of it – but I STILL think it’s the correct way to play it!

  7.  

    […] Here’s a quick peak at the board, from a web site that has a bunch of nifty looking add-on rules. […]