In a three person game, I drew the Alexander Lyman Holley baron card: to connect to the most cities. Colin went first, connecting Paris with Essen-Rurr. With a load of purple cubes around Moscow, I headed East, linking Minsk to Moscow on my first turn. I figured I’d let Jeff fight Colin in the West. Last time we played Railways of the Eastern US, Jeff and I fought over the sparse West, while Colin had the Northeast all to his lonesome. That didn't work out so well.
Unfortunately for me, Jeff drew the Baron card for 2 points for every link out of Moscow and quickly built up to St. Petersburg, cutting me off from half of my Purple bounty. I extended to Kiev, but while Colin was chugging along in the fertile valley of France all alone, Jeff and I were taking shares out to stay afloat and fight for cubes. The cube distribution wasn’t friendly to expanding long distances to the East, but I had to… somehow… and with no cash and plenty debt.
I needed a boost: the Four Color Cube Bonus was still available. I connected Milan to Rome with the intent to trade blue for yellow, except when it came to deliver the yellow, I suddenly realized that the yellow I saw was *already* sitting in Rome. I was one color shy as Colin grabbed that second bonus as well. Since Jeff fought with me over Russia, and I had now gone to Italy, Jeff immediately followed me – you guessed it: to Italy- connecting Milan to Marseille to grab a 3-point service bounty. So I had wasted a turn and shares to build a nearly useless link. I was destitute and a wreck. My last hope was to make a three link delivery to claim the final starting bonus. Vienna to Budapest was a cheap two-hex link, but Budapest to Kiev was costly, mostly in terms of additional shares. The saving grace was that I claimed the first completed major line! Suddenly, quite to my surprise, we were all about tied. I upgraded my train to a level 3 one turn before Colin, and grabbed the delivery bonus. In the span of a few turns, I went from being blown out to having some viable prospects.
Colin built up nearly every hex in Northern Europe, and Jeff expanded into Spain with the aid of some Tunnel Engineers, and the call of the major line to Madrid. I built parallel to Colin up to Berlin, and strategically laid track to make it impossible for him to connect to Rome to grab that major line as well . Now with a second major line, and a fairly extensive network, I started making 3 & 4 point deliveries. Colin’s abundance of cubes in the North sat undelivered, but safe, as he quietly built and upgraded. For one who was floundering in the start, I was now surging ahead big time. Jeff wasn’t far behind, but I surprisingly felt I had a shot to win this.
A service bounty to Constantinople was nice of the deck to supply me, in addition to the two 5-point cube deliveries that city offered. As the game was coming to a close, I was making a few 5-point deliveries as Colin made a half dozen 7-point deliveries. With some many links and loops, he was able to take the long way around his Large Hadron Collidor of trains to maximize profits. Every city except for Gijon, Bordeaux, Malaga and Athens by this point was being utilized by one of us. It was going to be tight. Jeff had managed to claim two major lines himself, and was also getting late-game six and seven point deliveries from Spain into Amsterdam (how he found his way up there among Colin’s tangled web of track is truly remarkable).
How tight was it? At the end of the last delivery, I had 85 points, Colin had 81, and Jeff had 81. Minus shares (11 , 5, and 8) the order adjusted to Colin with 75, Myself with 74, and Jeff with 73. Both of them made their baron cards (5 and 4 points), while I missed mine – I had connected 12 cities contiguously, while Jeff had connected 12 as well (9 in the West and 3 in the East). Final score: Colin 80, Jeff 77, Me 74.
By far the most interesting session we’ve had so far.