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Subject: In-game statistics using a spreadsheet rss

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Daniel Corban
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I have been playing a lot of the Empire Builder series lately. I've been wondering what sort of strategies pay off better in these games. Long and high-value deliveries? Short deliveries to give more options? Building a lot of track and making a lot of deliveries? Or building low amount of track and making fewer deliveries?

I decided to put my spreadsheet skills to use and created a rudimentary sheet on my iPhone to track deliveries and track expenditures for each player as we play. I tested this out last night with two two-player games of Eurorails.

It wasn't that difficult to keep track as the game was played and didn't distract me that much. Looking back at the data, I can see at least one omission for each game (a missed delivery or expenditure), but I feel the results are pretty accurate.

My stats in this trial run are not that extensive. I just calculated the average delivery size and per-turn income. I have remade a new spreadsheet that had built-in calculations for more than this, along with a line chart, and will give that try tonight.

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Game 1 (67 turns): The winner has an average delivery of 26.9 and earns 6.83 per turn. The loser's average delivery is 28.1 and earns 4.62 per turn. The two players spend almost the same on track, but the loser spent 20 more on upgrading to the super freighter, while the winner stayed with the fast freighter.

The delivery size may not be significant, but we can clearly see that the loser made much less per turn than the winner. With both spending the same on track, the lower income efficiency is the game-loser here. If you are going to earn less per turn, you need to spend much less on track.

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Game 2 (77 turns): The winner's average delivery is 31.4 and earns 7.35 per turn. The loser's average delivery is 25.9 and earns 7.06 per turn. Both spent almost the exact same amount for track over the entire course of the game (338 and 334). Both players upgraded to super freighter.

Here we see that the income per turn was very similar, and the amount spent on track was very similar. The winner did have significantly larger deliveries. The winner had built into Spain and delivered high value goods such as fruit and cork, while the loser didn't go near Spain and settled on the occasional trip to Oslo and Napoli.

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Some of these observations are obvious, so I am not sure what to derive from these stats. It will be interesting to see what other stats I can pull from the raw numbers in my updated spreadsheet.

I am also trying to think of a way to note when players spend their build on a train upgrade. The more I think about it, the more it seems ideal to keep it separate from the track build stats.
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Stephen Smith
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From time to time, I've seen posts from Steve Okonski derived from numerous automated runs of his Empire Builder Pronto software. Hopefully, he will comment here. I think he could provide some useful insight.

At one time, I kept up with similar data on my games. Little of it comes to mind, though. Edit: 67 and 77 turns seems kind of long. I have nothing to base that on other than gut feeling
 
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Dave C
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Did you count the value of the Super Freighter in the totals?
 
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Daniel Corban
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I'm not sure what you mean by "value". The train upgrade costs were factored in as track building. I plan to somehow extract this from my future stats.

I find that Eurorails in particular requires more turns to complete, more than Empire Builder and definitely more than Martian Rails for sure.
 
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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I have played a lot of crayon rails. I've been more and more convinced that the first imperative is to play the cards you are dealt. Of course, if they tell you to go to Scandinavia, you are allowed to feign deafness, but if they scream at you, go to Scandinavia. I recently won a game in which I connected every Scandinavian city except Aarhus, and I usually refuse to go there.

Joe Rushanan won a game last year in which his first two deliveries were Oil and Wood to Krakow (I think.) Not a usual route to build, but with those two cards, you build it.
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Joe J. Rushanan
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Eric Brosius wrote:
I have played a lot of crayon rails. I've been more and more convinced that the first imperative is to play the cards you are dealt. [. . .]

Joe Rushanan won a game last year in which his first two deliveries were Oil and Wood to Krakow (I think.) Not a usual route to build, but with those two cards, you build it.


I have been thinking a lot about these same issues (long versus short deliveries) and agree with what Eric says, with the added proviso that track reuse is an imperative. In that game, I am pretty sure I hit Poland and the Balkans a lot. Other things being equal, I am leaning towards shorter initial deliveries to upgrade to go fast as soon as possible if it is on "main drag" track. Presumably track reuse is somewhat captured in track building stats.

As for Eurorails, I personally dislike having to go to Spain; I find the fruit/cork strategy boring (even if highly effective).
 
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Daniel Corban
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Played two games tonight.

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Game 1 (75 turns): We both performed rather poorly for the whole game. Average per turn was 6.59 for the loser and 6.80 for the winner. Average delivery size was 32 for both players. The game was close, with the loser at 213 when the game ended. Both players bought super freighter.

Winner had $65 by turn eight ($100 by turn 11), which helped quite a bit.

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Game 2 (58 turns): Winner earned 9.19 per turn and the loser earned 5.74, so as you can guess, this one was a blowout. Loser had 161 at the end. Average delivery size for the winner was 41(!) versus 26 for the loser.

The winner had two very lucrative early deliveries to Kobenhaven and Oslo. She received $55 on turn three via those two deliveries! She also ended the game with a bang, delivering for a total of $120 in the final four turns.

The winner also spent $60 more on track than the loser, so you can see that the blowout was even larger than you might think! Winner also bought the super freighter upgrade.

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Getting over the $20 hump so you can upgrade early does seem very important. If you can make a few smaller deliveries and reuse your initial track, the upgrade can turn into an extremely good investment. It does seem like the player who can get the earliest decent size deliveries has a big advantage. Winner in both games tonight had that advantage.

I guess it would require a lot more stats to decide anything in regards to long/short or high/low deliveries. All I see is the obvious: that you want to be efficient on a per-turn income basis. Get the fast freighter upgrade as soon as possible, and probably the super freighter as soon as possible if you are performing long deliveries (of which Eurorails seems to specialize).
 
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Steve Okonski
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I agree with Eric: play the contracts you have. Since each AI bot in EB Pronto plays with a different style / emphasis, the stats the program sums from repeated play can be compared. To my surprise, the bot that weights large payoffs higher does not perform as well as the others. In Eurorails, a 4-bot match completes in about 63 rounds with the winner earning about 7.3 per turn and the losers 6.2. The average delivery payoff for the winner is 28.7 and for the losers 25.5.
 
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Pete Storz
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Not sure how much new info I can add here, but ...

We have 5 EB series games, EB, Euro, Lunar, India and China. Each seems to have areas to which one builds infrequently (e.g.: in EB I seldom build to both Atlanta and Seattle; in India Rails I seldom build to Guwahati and Dibrugarh). In EuroRails I seldom build to Scandinavia, unless my cards scream, "Go to Scandinavia!" That usually means two or three high-paying loads picked up from the same, nearby or enroute locations and then delivered to the same, nearby or enroute destinations. I also seldom build into Scotland, go to the Balkans and Napoli infrequently, and seldom build into Paris and Wien.

EuroRails seems to have a relatively high number of very frustrating Demand cards. One such type is the cards that have deliveries that are all under $20M. I've been beaten on more than one occasion by getting 2 or 3 of these in quick succession. You have to play them to have a chance to get better Demands, but 2 or 3 at around the same time can waste quite a few turns, while the other player(s) are making more profitable deliveries. The other frustrating type is the kind with two under $20M and a high-paying delivery to Scandinavia. If you are drawn into Scandinavia or already have another high-paying Demand for Scandinavia, that can be OK, but that is very seldom the case.

The bottom line with all EB games, especially EuroRails, is that you have to play your cards, make the most what is there, not fight your cards. And be prepared to change your plans every time you get a new Demand card.
 
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Steve Okonski
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Generally when dealt one bad contract, I'll set it aside, and deliver upon the others hoping the new contracts will mesh better with the bad contract. Two bad contracts will often give me reason to pitch the hand, especially if my train is near an edge of the map where high paying goods can be found.
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Daniel Corban
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railgamefan wrote:
Generally when dealt one bad contract, I'll set it aside, and deliver upon the others hoping the new contracts will mesh better with the bad contract.

This is exactly what I do as well.
 
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