This session report comes from a single playing of the game Union Pacific on 6/20/09 with the Carrolton Texas Board Gaming Group.
You can see the full night's report here:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/guild/9
To kick off our usual Saturday Gaming session, we selected an old favorite that had been collecting dust for several months, Union Pacific. By this time, a few of the regulars had arrived: Bryan, Eric, Eddie, and our special guest, Gary [Bryan's brother in from Raleigh].
Eddie gave quick review of the rules for Gary who was our designated Union Pacific rookie for the day. Once the rules were explained and initial hand’s dealt everyone revealed their initial investments. Gary began with Miami Southern (MS), Eric with Denver Midland (DM), Bryan with Wyoming & Western (W&W), and Eddie opened large, as he usually does, with El Paso & Rio Grand (EP&RG). Initial hands were spent with each player grabbing as many Union Pacific (UP) stocks as they could and expanding the lines of their initial investments. But, by late in the first round, nearly all of the rail lines were being expanded with investments shown on the table.
A tight fought battle on many fronts:
The first round kicked off with all players vying for control of the contested UP stocks with each player choosing to grab two stock certificates every turn. Eddie and Bryan both skipped one round of double UP pick-ups to grab some irresistible stock certificates from the market, and this decision haunted both of them in later scoring. Once the UP stocks were gone, Gary settled into a strategy of expanding his MS lines while dangerously foregoing any increased investment in MS stock. Eric took the opposite position, and invested heavily in the first round without expanding too many rail lines. Eddie played his preferred game of building and investing in EP&RG. Bryan took singular control of both the small W&W, and the potential-laden, Billings Northern Lines (BNL). By the end of the first round, MS was very large, but only one share had been invested by Gary, while Eddie's EP&RG stratagem was being foiled by Eric who was close behind in investments.
Early on in the second round, everyone laid down their UP investments revealing that Gary had won the lion's share of UP which gave his weak investment portfolio a boost. With Eric challenging Eddie for control of the growing EP&RG line, Eddie opted to turn the tables on Eric by retaliating with DM investments which Eric had quietly grown up to a substantially sized railway. Rather than take the bait, Eric switched over to BNL and knocked Bryan out of the leader chair creating a shifting sands of strategies as players realigned their favored stocks and building choices. Gary, however, kept increasing the size of MS, and added Sioux Falls Royal Blue (SFRB) to his portfolio. As round two closed, Eric was emerging as the clear leader with his set of scavenged stocks that took advantage of other player's expansion, but Gary was showing unlimited potential with his small portfolio, while Bryan's portfolio began to look like a mutual fund of small lines.
With Gary as the established UP leader, players began to settle into the hard-nosed battles for the growing lines. Bryan began challenging Gary on MS and SFRB investments; Eric and Eddie were alternatively fighting over DM and EP&RG with leadership shifting several times. Side battles were waged over the fate of BNL between Eric and Bryan, but the game was becoming two simultaneous pas de deux ballets between Bryan & Gary or Eddie & Eric. Stocks were often split evenly at the payout. In one case United Mexican Railways (UMR) was divided into three even payouts. At the third dividend, Gary had edged in front of Eric as a result of his leadership in UP, and Eric's loss of control of the DM line to Eddie.
The final round was short, with most players opting to build up their lines, while drawing blind from the top of the deck to prevent any other players knowing what stocks were in their hands. Bryan was unable to shake control of either MS or SFRB from Gary's hands, and both lines were respectably sized by this time due to Gary's diligence. Eddie took control of the small UMR line, but this was the only real shift in power, as everyone managed to hold onto their thin margins of control through the short round.
In the end, Gary's dominance of MS and UP set the stage for the final scoring.
Full Scoresheet here:
Gary -- $147M
Eric -- $138M
Bryan -- $125M
Eddie -- $124M
Editor's note: Eddie pointed out that he realized he had let one of the UP stocks get away from him, and how important it was to keep a balance in the early game of building and acquiring UP stocks. So, just to see how much of a difference, UP stock payouts make in the game, I calculated the scores again without UP bonuses. In this case, three players would have ended with $102M and one with $103M, so not losing the UP investments is critical. I don't think it guarantees a win, but I do think that without at least a second place showing in the bonus rounds, you won't be on top in the final scoring.
Why did the players who ended up in third and fourth place for UP bother picking up any UP stock at all? What a waste of effort!