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Subject: The Uncontested Player rss

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Scotty Pruitt
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I've played 11 games of Railroad Tycoon. I have also been taking note of the winner's position after each game. What I have come to realize is that the uncontested player has always won. What do I mean by uncontested? This is the player that was able to build track and deliver goods in one of the 3 key areas (Northeast, Southeast, Chicago) without any outside intervention. There is a minimum time frame required for a player to be uncontested. It seems to be in the two thirds of the game mark. What do I mean by this? If a player is uncontested for the first 2/3's of a game, its generally enough to get a lock on the area.

Since the uncontested player doesn't have to compete for cube delivery or fight for the key links within his starting area, this player may build track as efficiently as possible and have the guarantee that all the cubes within his area are his to deliver. At the same time, everyone else is fighting for track and cubes. Someone building in a contested area may deliver a 1 link good to keep someone else from delivering that same good three links away. These two players are fighting over the same goods, therefore each player will only get 1/2 of them.

This is a frustrating aspect to this game. Its almost as if I can determine who will win after 2 turns. I look at the board... If anyone is building in one of the three key areas alone, chances are high that that player will walk away the winner.

Has anyone else experienced this?

I know what some of the responses may be so I'm going to try to address them ahead of time.

1.) Don't let them be uncontested: In anything but a 6 player game, the chances are high that someone will be alone.

2.) At some point in the game, someone will build into a players area to start pulling cubes from it. At this point, its generally too late. The uncontested player in that area can see the other player building into his area and start delivering the cubes before the other player can.

 
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Kevin Brown
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I agree that 2/3 of the game is too long to leave someone alone.
 
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Hunter Shelburne
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pilight wrote:
I agree that 2/3 of the game is too long to leave someone alone.


And thats why I have never finished a game with an uncontested player. We have never had a situation where one person controls most of the board (ok, well maybe the first couple of plays, but none since.)
 
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John Paul Sodusta
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The problem is that the map is so big and the prime areas are so far from each other that if you want to slow down the winning/uncontested player, it will almost always cost you the game. You might have slowed them down but have given the game to another player. Being forced to be the martyr in any game sucks.
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Jon G
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The wild card here is that some people will build more localized loop networks that can milk a small number of cubes for a lot of points (making them inherent defensible), while others will run linear networks (typically in the NE or NY-Chi). I find that the loop networks are more consistently effective, even with competition, and usually beat the lines. The linear network can win if the cubes lie right, but you will end up competing almost by definition.
 
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Scotty Pruitt
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Barkam wrote:
The problem is that the map is so big and the prime areas are so far from each other that if you want to slow down the winning/uncontested player, it will almost always cost you the game. You might have slowed them down but have given the game to another player. Being forced to be the martyr in any game sucks.


Based on experience, I agree with this completely. Once everyone realizes that "Hey, that guy is alone!", its up to someone to step up and make his life difficult. In doing so, they must divert resources from developing their own network to developing their network and making life difficult for the uncontested player. As said above, that usually means death for the guy that comes in late to an area.
 
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Scotty Pruitt
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dr.mrow wrote:
The wild card here is that some people will build more localized loop networks that can milk a small number of cubes for a lot of points (making them inherent defensible), while others will run linear networks (typically in the NE or NY-Chi). I find that the loop networks are more consistently effective, even with competition, and usually beat the lines. The linear network can win if the cubes lie right, but you will end up competing almost by definition.


Loop vs. Linear. An interesting point. We haven't been noting what *type* of network the winner has been winning with...

However, the type of network doesn't debunk my original point. That the uncontested player has always won.
 
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Paul Sauberer
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Perhaps the answer is to contest everyone. Your links do not have to be contiguous. You can get in on any area of the board you wish, or all of them.

Don't be afraid to use others' links if it sucks cubes off the board and doesn't let them complete a long, high-scoring network. Remember, you don't have to own the complete route a cube takes, just the first link. If you build a bigger loco and can move a cube over a track where you get 2 VPs and two other players each get 1, you are still ahead. It's far better than playing multi-player solitaire and letting one player ship the same cube for a gain of 3 VPs because you don't want to spread out.
 
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John Paul Sodusta
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Psauberer wrote:
Perhaps the answer is to contest everyone. Your links do not have to be contiguous. You can get in on any area of the board you wish, or all of them.

Don't be afraid to use others' links if it sucks cubes off the board and doesn't let them complete a long, high-scoring network. Remember, you don't have to own the complete route a cube takes, just the first link. If you build a bigger loco and can move a cube over a track where you get 2 VPs and two other players each get 1, you are still ahead. It's far better than playing multi-player solitaire and letting one player ship the same cube for a gain of 3 VPs because you don't want to spread out.


I am sorry but that is horrible. That exactly illustrates what a forced martyr is. It is the "percieved" 2nd place player's job to mess with the "winning" player so that he can rise to victory. The people that are lagging has their own problem of catching up to deal with the person that is winning.

Playing a game as you described is a sure recipe for a loss. You can only steal so many cubes and it isn't easy to do since the map is so big. It might work if everyone is doing the same thing, but I'll bet that everyone won't be up for it.
 
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John Paul Sodusta
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littlechild_zu wrote:
.) Don't let them be uncontested: In anything but a 6 player game, the chances are high that someone will be alone.


One of the reasons why I only play the game with 6.
 
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Kevin Brown
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Barkam wrote:
The problem is that the map is so big and the prime areas are so far from each other that if you want to slow down the winning/uncontested player, it will almost always cost you the game. You might have slowed them down but have given the game to another player. Being forced to be the martyr in any game sucks.


What we've found is when two people are in the same area they tend to push each other into other areas, and it quickly dominos into everyone having someone competing with them.

dr.morw wrote:
The wild card here is that some people will build more localized loop networks that can milk a small number of cubes for a lot of points (making them inherent defensible), while others will run linear networks (typically in the NE or NY-Chi). I find that the loop networks are more consistently effective, even with competition, and usually beat the lines. The linear network can win if the cubes lie right, but you will end up competing almost by definition.


Looping hasn't worked that well here. It takes a long time to get a good one going. Someone will come and mess with you before it gets where you want it to go.
 
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Paul Sauberer
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Barkam wrote:
Psauberer wrote:
Perhaps the answer is to contest everyone. Your links do not have to be contiguous. You can get in on any area of the board you wish, or all of them.

Don't be afraid to use others' links if it sucks cubes off the board and doesn't let them complete a long, high-scoring network. Remember, you don't have to own the complete route a cube takes, just the first link. If you build a bigger loco and can move a cube over a track where you get 2 VPs and two other players each get 1, you are still ahead. It's far better than playing multi-player solitaire and letting one player ship the same cube for a gain of 3 VPs because you don't want to spread out.


I am sorry but that is horrible. That exactly illustrates what a forced martyr is. It is the "percieved" 2nd place player's job to mess with the "winning" player so that he can rise to victory. The people that are lagging has their own problem of catching up to deal with the person that is winning.


Well, if you wait until there is an obvious leader, then sure, you would be commiting suicide.

The point is to start getting footholds in other areas immediately and start shipping cubes ASAP. Don't let any player establish a bulletproof network and then try to throw yourself on the grenade. Get the links where they can be used to steal the cubes before they can turn into big points for other opponents. If you can earn 1 VP when they are earning none and 2 when they are earning 1, even when you use links of other players, you can stay competitive and eliminate the problem of an uncontested player.

If you insist on establishing your own network first and wait until you see who is uncontested you are right, it willb e too late.

Quote:
Playing a game as you described is a sure recipe for a loss. You can only steal so many cubes and it isn't easy to do since the map is so big. It might work if everyone is doing the same thing, but I'll bet that everyone won't be up for it.


Start stealing cubes early to get some VPs in the bank and use other people's track to do so later and turn their planned 3 point delivery into 1 point and they will have to play your game, but whoever starts it (namely you) will have the edge. The board may be big, but no one can claim a big section of it at the outset of the game.

Sure, if someone will leave me alone in the midwest in the first couple of turns while they all pile up in the NE, I'll leave them be and coast to a win, but if it's, say a 4-player game, and there are 2 in the NE and someone else in the SE, I will drop a link in the SE and grab a cube that looks like it will be juicy later. Then I will think about dropping a link the the NE, especially if there is an opening in NY to be able to ship cubes out of there to steal them. If everyone else does not respond by going to the midwest then they deserve what is coming to them.

If I start in the NE, I will work to get links in the midwest and SE if they are alone. I will also drop non-contiguous links in the NE and let my opponents connect routes for me. If I can ship a cube and have at least as many VPs as any other opponent, then I have made a gain. I don't have to run cubes over just my links in order to make a gain.
 
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John Paul Sodusta
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You just cannot afford to do that to everyone. While you act police in making sure noone is speeding to a free win, you lose your chance to win. When people start going to my area to mess with me, I start making defensive moves: I start moving cubes away from the city you are going for, further improve my network, lock in a certain area, fill the bottle necks, and etc. This is much more effective and cheaper to do compared to your spider web network trying to get into everyone's face. The game is not very hard, it is easy to see where people are going, the hard part is getting to where people already are.

Yeah that's great by making one player only have a 1 link delivery while you get 3, but the other two players both get a 4 link delivery. It's basic math that you lose out on that one.

I think we are going in circles with this anyways. You say it's easy and you don't throw in the towel as you go to the cross. I say it's very hard and suicidal, as you said. All we have offered are anecdotals and shoulds; nothing that is objective to enrich the discussion any further, unfortunately.
 
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Dave J McWeasely
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You're being too respectful of other's opinions, Barksie. You're just plain right.
 
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Eh, just tell everyone to foil the person on their left, a la Puerto Rico.
 
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Scotty Pruitt
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Barkam wrote:
You just cannot afford to do that to everyone. While you act police in making sure noone is speeding to a free win, you lose your chance to win. When people start going to my area to mess with me, I start making defensive moves: I start moving cubes away from the city you are going for, further improve my network, lock in a certain area, fill the bottle necks, and etc. This is much more effective and cheaper to do compared to your spider web network trying to get into everyone's face. The game is not very hard, it is easy to see where people are going, the hard part is getting to where people already are.

Yeah that's great by making one player only have a 1 link delivery while you get 3, but the other two players both get a 4 link delivery. It's basic math that you lose out on that one.

I think we are going in circles with this anyways. You say it's easy and you don't throw in the towel as you go to the cross. I say it's very hard and suicidal, as you said. All we have offered are anecdotals and shoulds; nothing that is objective to enrich the discussion any further, unfortunately.


I'm agreeing with Barkam on this. I can see where Psauberer is coming from. If everyone played like he mentions, all would be fine. However, everyone doesn't play like that. It turn, the people that do not contest others and concentrate only on their area have the advantage because they are building to deliver 4 link goods while others are fighting over 3 links that split points.

Thanks for all the feedback. It is interesting to see others have experienced the same thing.

I may adjust my opinion of this game. The more I play, the more I realize that it is crucial for people to build in certain areas. If someone breaks the mold and doesn't build where he *should*, it usually means one person's chance of winning is dramatically increased while everyone else's chance of losing goes way up at the same time. That is frustrating in my opinion.

 
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Harald Torvatn
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In our group we have no problem with the uncontestet player, because we have no uncontested player.

Basically we have found that a major concern is to not empty your net of cubes which can be delivered for a lot of points before the game is finished. Actions which saves or gains cubes pay off in the end.

Therefore we build in the directon of uncontested players. Not to stop them from winning, but because we want to win ourselves by deliver some of the cubes in that area.

From this point of view, it also makes sense to make a four point delivery which gives you three and gives another player one, even when the other players are making four point deliveries, if that saves a four point cube for you to deliver later.
 
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Paul Sauberer
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Barkam wrote:
You just cannot afford to do that to everyone. While you act police in making sure noone is speeding to a free win, you lose your chance to win. When people start going to my area to mess with me, I start making defensive moves: I start moving cubes away from the city you are going for, further improve my network, lock in a certain area, fill the bottle necks, and etc. This is much more effective and cheaper to do compared to your spider web network trying to get into everyone's face. The game is not very hard, it is easy to see where people are going, the hard part is getting to where people already are.

Yeah that's great by making one player only have a 1 link delivery while you get 3, but the other two players both get a 4 link delivery. It's basic math that you lose out on that one.

I think we are going in circles with this anyways. You say it's easy and you don't throw in the towel as you go to the cross. I say it's very hard and suicidal, as you said. All we have offered are anecdotals and shoulds; nothing that is objective to enrich the discussion any further, unfortunately.


I'm still not following you here.

The problem is supposed to be "an uncontested player will win." Fine, I agree with that.

However, you also are saying that if you contest the uncontested player, you will lose.

So both uncontested and contested players will win. I can't figure that one out.

I think that the difference here is that you are assuming that nothing can be done before the game is far along and the uncontested player is firmly determined.

That is too late. What I am saying, as someone else also said, is that there should never be an uncontested player. Nip that problem in the bud. Sure, you may not be able to contest everyone's position, but if you are contesting one player and there still ends up being an uncontested player, then that means there would have been two such players if you hadn't butted heads with someone. That means that either a) you have had a very unusual game for there to be two people in that potential position and/or b) the rest of you were playing very poorly and the winner deserves to beat you.
 
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John Paul Sodusta
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Quote:
The problem is supposed to be "an uncontested player will win." Fine, I agree with that.

However, you also are saying that if you contest the uncontested player, you will lose.

So both uncontested and contested players will win. I can't figure that one out.


I agree that we have a disconnect here. The main gist of the problem is that if there are only 4 players, the map is too big for one to successfully implement your suggestion. Two players go to the NE, one SE and one at west of Appalachians. By the time you get to another area it will be too late.

However, if you play with 6 players, this problem is almost non-existance. Your scenerio happens on turn one as you suggest; unlike in a game with less players, which takes 2 or 3 turns. There will be 2 or 3 in the NE, 2 in the SE and 2 west of Appalachians. Those 3 prime areas cannot support 2 players in them, thus everyone is forced to branch out and compete with players from the other 3 prime areas.

This is one of the main reasons why I only play this game with 6 players.
 
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Harald Torvatn
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Barkam wrote:


I agree that we have a disconnect here. The main gist of the problem is that if there are only 4 players, the map is too big for one to successfully implement your suggestion. Two players go to the NE, one SE and one at west of Appalachians. By the time you get to another area it will be too late.


Have you tried building New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-Pittsburg?

That way you will be west of Appalacians after your fourth build. The player starting west of appalachians shouldnt be able to do to much there before that. This connects four cities with a total of 17 cubes, gives you some links to deliver cubes over, easy access to Wheeling (to which you can deliver the purple cubes (which the other NE player does not have a place to deliver), and should later give you access either to Chicago or the area around Cincinatti. You are also likely to pick up several major lines.



 
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John Paul Sodusta
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You can't really be going in a game thinking that. There are just too many variables to start a game thinking of doing something like this. Noone can just respond to your hypothetical.
 
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Harald Torvatn
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Barkam wrote:
You can't really be going in a game thinking that. There are just too many variables to start a game thinking of doing something like this. Noone can just respond to your hypothetical.


This is not hypotetical. How soon you reach another players area depends on how you build.

I take it that you have not tried?

After how many builds (typically) does a NE player reach another players area in your playings?
 
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When I play RRT or any game for that matter, I don't start saying things like what you proposed. I look at the board, I look at the pieces, I look at the players and then decide on what I am going to do. So I cannot honestly say that I have tried and I don't know how many builds it typically takes for NE players to reach another player's area.
 
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Harald Torvatn
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I ask whether you have tried to build that way because you say that in your group players reach other players araes to late. In our group that is not the case. But the typical distribution of players in a four player game in my group (Two in NE, one in SE, one west of Appalachians) is the same as you describe.

In my group, however, the two players who are contested in the NE does not seem to be at any disadvantage compared to the two (initially) uncontested players. I beleive this is because we build out of our starting areas early and often. It could also be because the players in other areas are much better to block than in our group, but the fact that you seem to not have any experience with a very early build across the appalachians make me beleive that this is not the case.

In our group early builds across the apalachians is so common that one player actually once did it as her first action. This did not turn out well, because what she wanted to do was to connect from NY to Chicago, and before she reached NY, all exits was build. The moral is: If you want a link to NY, build it early. But with a link to NY secured, going across the appalachians early works very well.

In our group, a typical build in NE is as follows (the order of builds is not neccesary as here, but the links is typical): Both players builds links NY-Philadelphia-Baltimore. One of them builds a link from NY to New Haven. This basically secures the area north of NY for him. The other typically crosses the appalachians, either from Baltimore to Pittsburgh, or from Washington to Wheeling. The player with the link to New Haven then leaves the area ha has secured in the north undeveloped (to be developed when income is at its maximum) and builds south. The SE player has probably sealed of charleston (but just having to do so cost him an action), but cant afford to keep him out of Atlanta. As atlanta is at the end of the NE players net, he can imediately start delivering cubes from there at high values, when the SE player has it in the middle of his net, and therfore can not as easily deliver them at high values.



 
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I haven't seen an uncontested player in a game of RRT after the first two or three plays. I've played this game nearly 50 times and even in 4-player games this never happens.

Last time I played we had 5 players. The SE was "relatively" uncontested but only because it was not as potentially profitable in the beginning. I had a serious competitor in the NE and the midwest had competition. Despite the SE being pretty much left alone I won the game from a NE starting position competing against one player there and two more in the Midwest.

Paul is right as far as I can see. The only thing that might support the OP's statement is if there are newbies in the game. Newbies can be a real wild card. But then, they are a wild card in most games.
 
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