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Subject: The Triple Upgrade opening rss

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Kevin Brown
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So, the opening cards aren't exciting, or maybe they are and you got outbid. Maybe you just want something different to beat up your home group with. Let me tell you about the opening strategy I used to win the PrezCon RRT tournament.


TURN 1

Upgrade your train on all three actions. It takes five shares and you'll get four points for the New Train bonus. That will put you at an income of $6, so you make $1.

TURN 2

Don't bid on going first. You really don't want to. Your objective this turn is to connect onto someone else's track and take the Speed Record.

Before your first action, take a look at the other players. Have any of them upgraded to a 2 train? If not, then none of them can get the Speed Record before your third action. In that case, you want to take a card. Government Land Grant is ideal, but Perfect Engineering or a good Hotel is a decent fall back position. The most important consideration is that you're not spending any money. Almost anything you spend here means an additional share. If someone has moved to a 2 train, you need to go ahead and build track. What you're looking for in this track build is a place that you can make a three link delivery, one on your track and two on someone else's. It doesn't matter if the two enemy tracks both belong to the same player. It's better if they don't, but don't get hung up on that. Keep an eye out for a place where you can get a Service Bounty. If there's one that can't be made with a 1 train and someone has built two links to set up for it, see if you can add a third link that can claim it. If there's a setup like that, you should skip the card taking on the first action and go ahead and connect it. You'll want to try to limit the cost of the build to no more than $6, so it will only cost one share.

For your second action, if you took a card with the first then lay track as outlined above. If you got a Government Land Grant on your first action, use it now. If you laid track, check to see if anyone has a three train. If not, you can go ahead and grab a card now. Make sure no one can steal the cube you're planning to deliver before taking a card! If someone has moved to a three train, go ahead and make the three link delivery. One for you, two for others, plus you get the Speed Record for three to make a total of four for you.

For your third action, if you took a card on either of the first two actions then make your delivery, one for you and two for others plus the Speed Record. If you didn't take a card before, do it now. If there are no cards to take, see if you have a one link delivery. If not, you'll have to bite the bullet, take another share, and build some more track.

At the end of this turn, before income, you should have 8 points, 6 shares (7 if you're unlucky and had to build for more than $6 or had to build twice, 5 if you were fortunate enough to get a Government Land Grant) and a small amount of cash (whatever change was left from building plus the $1 you started the turn with). That puts you with an income of $10 and a net of $4 in most cases. That should put you with $5-$7 in hand going into next turn.

TURN 3

You want to build track twice then make a three link delivery. Try to build without taking any shares, no more than one at the worst. If you snagged a Government Land Grant after you built last turn this is an ideal time to use it. I usually wind up taking an additional share to build here unless I was able to get a Government Land Grant somewhere along the way. At the end of the turn you should have 13 points and no more than 7 shares. That puts you at a net income of $8.

AFTER TURN 3

Build, deliver, upgrade like you would in any game. At the end of the third turn, you've got a 4 train while everyone else will most likely be sitting on a 2 so you should be able to pull away from the pack. You'll want to maintain your train size advantage if you can do it without taking on too much debt. If I can connect to Charleston or Chicago, which isn't always possible since I don't build on turn one, I like to work towards a western link.

TYCOON CARDS

If you're stuck with fewest shares or most money, go ahead and write it off. You won't make it. New York to Chicago is also tough. It's hard to get into NY without building on turn one. If you have first 6 train, you're the happiest clam around, that should be easy. The rest are no easier or harder to make than normal. Having the early train size advantage plus pulling down both New Train and Speed Record will generally more than make up for missing your tycoon card.


SUMMARY

I've had great success doing the Triple Upgrade. As mentioned at the top, I won the RRT tournament at PrezCon doing it. The gang at home won't even play with me most of the time because I've won so often with it. It's worth noting that it doesn't work as well on smaller maps, espceially those that make for shorter games. Occasionally when I've built on top of someone too much early I've gotten bogged down into bouts of malicious track building, which usually has painful results for everyone involved. It's a powerful strategy if done right, but can get you in trouble if you get off track.
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Jon G
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I've only had an opponent use that strategy once, and he finished in the middle of the pack. It seems to me that the 3 & 4 train bonuses can be game-winners IF the following occur:
1. One person gets both bonuses
2. They issue <6 shares while doing so
3. They manage to set up a good network in the process
4. Their opponents don't collect tasty bounties while they're doing so

With a gov't land grant you should be able to achieve 1 & 2, but I don't see how you keep up on bonuses unless you get a bounty, and your opponents should have already claimed most of these, plus the Atlanta-Richmond line if it's out. In this case, you finish turn 2 with 8 points, 5-6 shares, and one length of track. Since you need to build a network quickly, you'll probably have 10 shares by the end of turn 4.

On the other hand, an opponent who collected a bounty has 6-7 points, 2-3 shares, and a 3-link network with a 2-train. This seems like a wash, but it certainly beats the guy who got a hotel, 3 links, and has 4 points with 2 shares. But I guess that's why we play the games, eh?
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Kevin Brown
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I rarely end up over eight shares at game end. Land Grant or no, I'm gonna get both the Speed Record and the New Train with six shares by the end of turn two and I'll have a 4 train.

Quote:
On the other hand, an opponent who collected a bounty has 6-7 points, 2-3 shares, and a 3-link network with a 2-train. This seems like a wash

Having a bigger train is a larger advantage than you make it out to be. The key is to press the advantage while you've got it. Make some 3 & 4 link deliveries while everyone else is plodding around with a 2 train.
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Jon G
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I see how you can really blow away the competition if they're complacent and don't upgrade with moderate haste. But you've got a lot of building to do, and will be taking second-best track wherever you go, no? I can see that it's a valid opening if none of the easy freebies are available, but the Louisville, Raleigh, Jacksonville, and Atl-Richmond bounties, and the NY/Chi hotels seem like they'd usually set you up better.

To my mind, as a low-share, organic-growth player, you've basically taken the 3 & 4 train bonuses off the table without getting a large (points-shares) payoff. I'm okay with that, since it means that I don't have to break my build-upgrade-ship rhythm to prevent someone from running away with those bonuses too cheaply.
 
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David Hawkins
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pilight wrote:
Keep an eye out for a place where you can get a Service Bounty. If there's one that can't be made with a 1 train and someone has built two links to set up for it, see if you can add a third link that can claim it.

Don't you have to own all three links to claim the service bounty?
 
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Harald Torvatn
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DavidhGeek wrote:
pilight wrote:
Keep an eye out for a place where you can get a Service Bounty. If there's one that can't be made with a 1 train and someone has built two links to set up for it, see if you can add a third link that can claim it.

Don't you have to own all three links to claim the service bounty?

There is no such reqirement. You get the bonus by delivering the cube.

Neither do you need to own all links you use to collect the speed record bonus.
 
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David Hawkins
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Harald wrote:
DavidhGeek wrote:
pilight wrote:
Keep an eye out for a place where you can get a Service Bounty. If there's one that can't be made with a 1 train and someone has built two links to set up for it, see if you can add a third link that can claim it.

Don't you have to own all three links to claim the service bounty?

There is no such reqirement. You get the bonus by delivering the cube.

Neither do you need to own all links you use to collect the speed record bonus.

Yep sorry, I think I was referring to the 'New Line' cards or whatever they are called. My apologies.
 
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Kevin Brown
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dr.mrow wrote:
To my mind, as a low-share, organic-growth player, you've basically taken the 3 & 4 train bonuses off the table without getting a large (points-shares) payoff. I'm okay with that, since it means that I don't have to break my build-upgrade-ship rhythm to prevent someone from running away with those bonuses too cheaply.

That's actually kind of the point. You don't really have a lead at the end of claiming those bonuses, but you've kept anyone else from getting them on the cheap. It's a prophylactic measure more than an act of aggression. You're pretty much even in terms of points/shares with everyone else through these 2-3 turns, but you've got a bigger train. You pull ahead making longer deliveries while the low share people are debating about whether to upgrade.
 
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Randy Brown
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Let's assume that Joe Blow is going second. Joe is pretty straightforward. He likes to play every game the same way. That's why he makes such a great baseline. Here's how Joe plays RRT:

Turn 1: Build, Run, Run. He ends with 2 points, 1 share, and $5K.
You're at 4pts/5s/$1.
Turn 2: Build, upgrade, run. He ends with 4 points, 2 shares, and $7K
Your're at 8pts/6s/$7 (being pretty generous, and assuming your opponents are also being generous--i.e. conservative).

So after 2 turns, you have 2 levels on his train, the same in the bank, and you're only 1 link down. Looks pretty good, as long as Joe did not get any service bounties.

The problem is that you need to a bit more building before you can really press the train advantage. It would take an entire turn of building before you could make a 4 link delivery on your own track. Let's go back to Joe:

Turn 3: Build, upgrade, run. Joe has 7 points, 3 shares, and $6K. Now I'm being generous to Joe by assuming a mild-mannered opponent like him would get 3 straight $2K builds.
The question is, what do you do. Going by the above (where you are loathe to take more shares), I assume you build, and try to get off two runs. In that case, you're at 12pts/6s/$11K (see, I gave you another $2K build too, though I'm not sure there are that many on the board unless it's a 2p game).

Turn 4: Joe decides to switch things up a bit by going with a build, upgrade, run strategy. That leaves him at 11pts/5s/$10K (now Joe is finally building $4K links). You're sitting on a pile of money, and somehow you have two 4 link deliveries! So in this best case scenario, you end up with 20pts/6s/$19K.

Well it certainly looks like you've smoked Joe Blow. Of course there are a lot of flaws with this model. About the only way that I can see it happening just so is in a two player game with no service bounties or major lines appearing (and the cubes would still need to be distributed just so).

A more realistic model might go like this:
1--As above
2--JB as above, You at 8p/7s/$6
3--JB 8p/2s/$9, You at 11p/7s/$6
Note: Joe did not upgrade this turn.
4--JB 11p/3s/$10, You at 15p/8s/$9
5--JB 15p/4s/$13, You at 19p/9s/$10
In this scenario, you've both spent a bit more on tracks (you more so than Joe), and had to work slightly harder for the deliveries. At the end of 5 turns you each have level 4 trains, and you have one extra link. If you and Joe continue to grow like this, he will win (for having fewer shares). It will be neck and neck until the income slide starts, but then having twice as many shares will start to tell.

Obviously, this is still a flawed way of approaching the game as no bounties were taken into consideration. I still think that a moderately aggressive player (one who honed in on the green circles) would smoke you both.

Since I'm in a typing mood, let's see how the above starts fare against two other popular strategies. Let's say that the Louisville bounty is out, and the Atl-Richmond ML is out.

Slugger wins the bid at $8K. He builds to Louisville. Georgia starts building the Atl-Richmond connections, Joe Blow builds in the NE, and Triple Threat starts upgrading. We'll assume that no other green circles come out, and that no more bidding for 1st player happens.

1--Slug's at 6p/2s/$6, GA at 8p/5s/$7, JB 2p/1s/$5, Trip's at 4p/5s/$1
2--Slug 8p/3s/$11, GA 11p/7s/$8, JB 6p/2s/$9, Trip 8p/6s/$8
3--Slug 11p/3s/$12, GA 14p/8s/$9, JB 9p/3s/$8, Trip 11p/6s/$9

So after plotting this out*, Trip is not doing so hot. In turn 4 he has 3 options: he can move north and duplicate JB's track, he can grab the last link into Charleston, or he can head over the Appalachians. He's probably better off going north as the other two are riskier. I don't think that he can win this game no matter which way he goes unless a bounty/major line comes up that can save his butt.

Trip's only edge at this point is that he has a 4 train to everyone else's 3 train. So if he built into NY and scored two 4 runs (which could happen), would he be out of the hole and catch up? Sigh...let's see:

4--Slug 14p/3s/$17, GA 18p/9s/$8, JB 12p/3s/$14, Trip 19p/6s/$17

Yep, right back in the game, and poised to cross the mountains w/o taking a share. I guess the next question is would he still do so well if only one of the bonuses came out (i.e. he would not be starting in the NE as JB's only competition). I don't know, and I'm too tired to start over.

It seems that my gut was wrong on this one (I've modeled it before, but always let the yeah buts dissuade me from continuing). The triple upgrade is a viable strategy: Kevin, you win.

*Note: I spent way too much time on this, but if you care to see how I plotted it out, here are the missing details. Slug ends turn 3 with a Lv 3 train and 4 links, GA has 3t/5l, JB has 3t/3l (got that upgrade out of the two points that Trip fed him in turn 2), and Trip has his 4t/3l. Slug has connected Lexington-Louis-Cinci-Columbus (or Indy). GA connected Rich-Raleigh-Columbia-Atl-Savannah-Charleston. JB connected NY-Phila-Baltimore-DC (w/ the $4K connection). Trip hooked up Rich-DC-Baltimore-Phila.
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Mitch Willis
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Wow, Kevin, I can't believe you went public...I thought you were going to patent that opening. In our group we call it the "Brown Opening" since he's dusted us with it so many times. And he's right, there's a couple of guys in our group that don't particularly like playing RRT with Kevin now. I've played against him at least five times and he's won every game but one...I was able to win on the UK map but I think that was primarily because another player beat Kevin to the upgrade on turn 1...even then I think I only beat him by a couple of points. Can't argue with how effective it's been within our group...
 
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Kevin Brown
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I appreciate the math. The thing is, if there are hot bounties on the board they're going to get bid up. I'll bid them up some, just to make sure they go for a fair price. If I wind up getting them because everyone else bails early, hey I'm flexible enough to work with a cheap bounty.

With a bigger train I'm in a better position to overcome poor distribution than someone who's working with a smaller one. Joe Blow has to have four cubes in position in the first three turns to get where you have him while I only need two. If the cubes are set up that well for him, he's going to draw competition and/or have to bid to go first to make it work. The cube I'm looking for in turn two isn't immediately useful to someone with a 2 train, so I'm not too likely to have to fight for it.
 
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Jon G
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Mitch, why don't you or your buddies beat him to it, then? As long as he's not sitting to the left of the guy who wins the bid, any of you can upgrade on your first action and force him to change strategy.
 
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Randy Brown
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If there are a couple of juicy bonuses out there, you can only bid up one. The second player will get his for free. The likelihood of Joe Blow, building in the NE, having two 1 link deliveries, one 2, one 3, and one 4 is very high. Whereas you're having two 4's somewhere else is less likely.

However, I believe I already conceded the effectiveness of your strategy despite it not agreeing with my gut.
 
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Mitch Willis
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dr.mrow wrote:
Mitch, why don't you or your buddies beat him to it, then? As long as he's not sitting to the left of the guy who wins the bid, any of you can upgrade on your first action and force him to change strategy.

That's actually what happened the one game that I've won against Kevin. One of the earlier players upgraded before him and kind of forced him out of that strategy. In the last game we played, I upgraded just before Kevin, and I ended up getting the Speed Record but Kevin was able to get the Engine 4 bonus and he ended up winning by a few points. Just to note, Kevin is really good and doesn't solely depend upon the "triple upgrade opening." It's just that when he gets it, he's even harder to beat...
 
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Chris Trimmer
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I posted this strategy long ago (Feb 2006) in a session report, but with less analysis and follow-up.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/818796
 
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Bart Bouman
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Question:

Would it work to simply stay ahead in train upgrade from your opponents instead of doing all three upgrades on the initial turn?

For instance, you could build, deliver, upgrade on the first turn. As long as no one else upgrades on turn 1 you would be able to begin your network and possibly grab a service bounty without losing the benefit of the speed record and level 4 bonuses. I have found that as long as I am one full upgrade in front of the opposition at the end of any given turn (early game of course) I am able to snag both of these bonuses while still pursuing other free points or beginning my network.

I don't have the experience in play that many of you have so I would like your thoughts.

Thanks...
 
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Jon G
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Yes and no. The advantage of the triple-upgrade opening is that you immediately capture four points and can pay your dividends on the first turn, then are hard to beat for the 3-link bonus in turn 2. This gets you four more points with only one extra share, with one action to spare. The downside, as I complained above, is that you have to make up for an inferior board position.

If you open build-ship-upgrade, and no one else upgrades on turn 1, you are in the lead for the 4-train, but probably tied for the 3-train (i.e. if you use your own track, you need 3 builds & 2 upgrades. Upgrading first only helps if you can use 2 links of your opponents' track). And you only scored 1 point vs 2 shares.

My usual preference (if there are no juicy cards/bounties) is to build-build-ship in such a way that I can use someone else's track to ship a 3-link in turn 2 (upgrade-upgrade-ship), or make it easy for them to do so on my track while feeding me two free points. If it succeeds (depends mostly on cube distribution), I can claim the 3-train bonus before others upgrade to 3, which sometimes deters others from upgrading and gets me the 4-train cheaply; if not, it forces an opponent to sink 3-4 shares to deny me, which is almost a wash. If it's not going to work, I can back out of the 3-4 train race, take fewer shares, and claim prime track instead.
 
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Kevin Brown
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bbouman wrote:
I have found that as long as I am one full upgrade in front of the opposition at the end of any given turn (early game of course) I am able to snag both of these bonuses while still pursuing other free points or beginning my network.

It's hard to stay ahead of everyone when there are more players. It's nearly impossible with 5 or 6. What usually happens when I've tried what you suggest is I've gotten stuck having to decide between getting the Speed Record or getting the New Train.
 
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Bart Bouman
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Great feedback.

Thanks to Kevin & Jon.
 
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Kim Milvang-Jensen
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I have been considering trying this for a while, and recently someone else tried it in my group, and i have too. Both time the strategy ended up winning, even if the first game the upgrader go beat to the speed record (its reasonably possibly that someone in the NE reguin can build 2 links and and upgrade in turn 1 and take speed record in 2nd action of turn 2).

It is a very high winning chance strategy, and its worth even considering when going first.
 
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Kevin Brown
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It's certainly possible to get the speed record on the 2nd action of turn 2. It's even possible to do it on the 1st one, if you're really determined to sell out for it. The problem is that if you build twice and upgrade on turn one, you've got no income and you've spent at least $9 ($4 for the track and $5 for the upgrade). That means you have two shares to pay interest on and at most $1 to pay it with, so a third share is required. To upgrade again in the 1st action of turn 2 means two more shares, so you have five shares before you have any points.

I don't like to triple upgrade going first. Paying to go first means an extra share on turn one. The main thing in bidding on turn one is to insure that whatever bounties and/or major lines are available go for a fair price.
 
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John Slefinger
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What are the 3 and 4 train bonuses? and the Speed Record?
 
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Kim Milvang-Jensen
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slefdog wrote:
What are the 3 and 4 train bonuses? and the Speed Record?

They are 2 of the railroad operation starting cards (marked 'S', always available at the start of the game). They are officailly named "Speed record" and "New train". Speed record is given to the player makiing a 3 link delivery, its worth 3 additional points, this is sometimes incorrectly called the 3-train. The new train is giving to the first player to upgrade to a 4-train, and is worth 4 points.
 
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Mark Smalley
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milvang wrote:
slefdog wrote:
What are the 3 and 4 train bonuses? and the Speed Record?

They are 2 of the railroad operation starting cards (marked 'S', always available at the start of the game). They are officailly named "Speed record" and "New train". Speed record is given to the player makiing a 3 link delivery, its worth 3 additional points, this is sometimes incorrectly called the 3-train. The new train is giving to the first player to upgrade to a 4-train, and is worth 4 points.

The "new train" start card is not in the Europe expansion.

I tried this strategy with my group last week on the europe map. during the income phase of turn 1, I kept thinking to myself; "aren't i supposed to be making a little money."

I still managed to finish second, 3 points down, with 10 bonds to their 4, 4, and 12. Had I not mistakenly connected to Moscow instead of st pete's, I'm very confident I would have taken the game since I would have gotten 5 more points from my baron.

All that to say, I went back to reread this thread and then found out, that I got no bonus from purely going big with the train.

Is that card in the base Railways OTW too or is it exclusive to RT?
 
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Devin Schwartz
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gooble wrote:
milvang wrote:
slefdog wrote:
What are the 3 and 4 train bonuses? and the Speed Record?

They are 2 of the railroad operation starting cards (marked 'S', always available at the start of the game). They are officailly named "Speed record" and "New train". Speed record is given to the player makiing a 3 link delivery, its worth 3 additional points, this is sometimes incorrectly called the 3-train. The new train is giving to the first player to upgrade to a 4-train, and is worth 4 points.
The "new train" start card is not in the Europe expansion.

Is that card in the base Railways OTW too or is it exclusive to RT?
The "New Train" Railroad Operations starting card is not included in my copy of RoTW (2nd Edition, comes with Mexico map and the associated Barons and Operations cards specific to Mexico). The "New Train" card appears to have been replaced with a new Railroad Operations starting card titled "Passenger Lines", which grants 4 points to the first player who delivers 4 cubes of different colors.

I would imagine that this change eliminates the Triple Upgrade from being a viable strategy. Has anyone tried using it with the changes made in RoTW?
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