We played Empire Builder (the version without Mexico), and had a great time as usual. We play this less than some of our other games because of the time committment, but completely enjoy each playing - partially because it is a longer game, and thus feels more like an event.
Valerie started out on the east coast making multiple short runs that provided modest, but steady payoffs. I, on the other hand, branched out quited early - linking Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Sudbury. I also upgraded my train fairly early - about 7-8 turns ahead of Valerie so that I was moving at a rate of 12 spaces per turn, and Valerie was at 9 per turn.
Valerie was finally able (or willing?) to upgrade her train and continued doing more of the short runs, while connecting a little further west to Kansas City. In the last part of this third, she struck out for Las Vegas.
A pattern has developed in our games: I often choose and build routes into Canada to Seattle. Valerie will often go across the Southwest to LA. I am often last to connect to one of the west coast cities, in part because the payoffs seem so low for all the investment required. Canada often seems to offer a more reasonable payoff/investment ratio. At any rate, I did move both into NW Canada and the SW of the US for routes I thought would pay off.
Last Third of play
Valerie was the first to connect 5 major cities, and we both were working longer routes with high payoffs trying to reach the $250 million mark. At times, this game feels like a job to me. I've built my routes, and now I'm like a long distance trucker picking up and dropping off loads, hoping to make enough to keep up with the Joneses.
We had few event cards, so neither of us had major setbacks due to them. Final Scores:
Valerie = 254
Joey = 196
Valerie seems to win more of these games than I do - I may need to try more of those short routes in the beginning for longer and see if that changes my outcome.
Regarding the analysis paralysis that often plagues Valerie in this game. I'm tempted to think that it takes me less time to line up my routes because of the years I spent waiting tables. Line up the orders, adjust to changes in plans and keep moving. On the other hand, there is a distinct possibility that Valerie's edge in this game is fed by her deep consideration of what to do next.