"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
This game of Railroad Tycoon was contested between four players. In turn order they were: Myself, my wife Cristy (veteran of only 2 player games thus far), Clint, and Kevin (the latter two were new to the game entirely). The rules were explained, questions were clarified, cards were dealt, and so it began.
My Railroad Tycoon card was the one which awards 8 points for having the most consecutive links. The initial 11 Railroad Operations cards contained the Major Routes from New York to Chicago (10 points) and Baltimore to Toledo (6 points). Since these routes mostly overlap getting one means you can probably get both for quite a windfall. Also, getting them lends itself to having a lot of consecutive links and so my plan was formed. I would try to connect New York to Chicago while passing through Baltimore and Toledo to collect both cards. The first step necessary to execute that plan is to claim the Baltimore to Philadelphia route and then Philadelphia to New York as those two routes are usually snapped up early. To that end and also to claim the bonus for first delivery I wanted to go first. I ended up paying $3,000 for that privilege and with my first action spent $2,000 to claim Baltimore to Philadelphia.
Philadelphia to New York was claimed by Cristy and Baltimore to Washington DC was claimed by Clint, so immediately I was surrounded. Kevin began in the Midwest. My second action was to make a delivery netting me two points (one for the delivery and one for the bonus card). With my third action I wanted to set up for another delivery to boost my income level. Since there was no delivery possible between New York and Baltimore (Cristy having taken the one that could be made) I delayed claiming that connection and instead issued another share to connect Pittsburgh to Wheeling enabling a delivery next turn and cementing my claim to the Appalachian crossing.
In the early game it was Kevin who got out to a slight lead by making several 1 and 2 link deliveries in the area between Indianapolis and Lexington. Clint and Cristy fell slightly behind as they didn’t have many opportunities for short deliveries.
The game progressed as follows:
After my initial two deliveries things dried up for me a bit. There was nothing else for me to deliver on the east coast and nothing much presented itself in the area between Pittsburgh and Chicago. I needed to add some goods to the board so I claimed a City Growth card and applied it to Pittsburgh (two yellows). The next turn I won the auction for $4,000 and claimed an Industrialization card which I applied to Columbus (making it yellow of course). This enabled several two link deliveries and I was able to get my income up to respectable levels. At this point I was at 3 shares. I finished out the mid game by connecting down to Indianapolis and up to Chicago making some deliveries along the way. I also claimed Philadelphia to New York (the long way thanks to Cristy owning the short way). As we went into the end game I was in second place.
Cristy build up into the North East claiming New Haven, Boston, and Providence, she also went south to Dover. She issued a lot of shares to quickly upgrade her engine level but didn’t make many deliveries. At the end of one turn she actually had to pay money to the bank because her income was lower than the number of her outstanding shares. Timely industrializations of New Haven and Dover and a build to Albany however enabled some 3 link deliveries. She was able to claim both the 3-link delivery bonus (3 points) and the engine level 4 bonus (4 points). These bonuses combined with the 3-link and a 4-link delivery shot her out to a commanding lead heading into the endgame. She had nearly double the score of the rest of the players.
Clint built in the Southeast, down from Richmond towards Charleston. He claimed a hotel card for Charleston and delivered a couple of red cubes. Unfortunately, the distribution of cubes was not entirely favorable for him and he struggled to make longer deliveries. He was falling behind until the Richmond to Atlanta Major Route card came up which he was easily able to claim to keep his score competitive. He built up to Philadelphia with his eye on a couple of blue cubes which he could deliver 5 links to Columbia (industrialized blue) but I stole them out from under him by delivering them west across the mountains while he was focused on getting to Atlanta. Heading into the endgame he was in third
Kevin doggedly continued to extend his railroad down through Nashville, Memphis, and Montgomery, eventually he went all the way to New Orleans. He also built up to Chigago. All of this building came at the expense of deliveries however and Kevin began to fall behind. The deliveries he did make simply weren’t long enough to keep his score competitive.
The endgame began with Cristy way out in the lead but I was not concerned with this at all because I knew the points that were about to come my way from the two Major Route cards. Even better the 20 point New York to KC Major Route card had come up and, calculating furiously, I decided that I would be able to make it. The game was running long because of all of the industrializations so there would be plenty of time for me to connect all the way to KC. At this point I figured the game was mine, comfortably.
I had to issue two shares to get the $20,000 needed to connect Baltimore to Wheeling but after that I was flush with cash thanks to the deliveries that link enabled (see above r.e. Clint) and the 16 points in bonuses. All of this was enough for me to take the lead from Cristy. And so I began my inexorable march to KC stopping only for the occasional 3 or 4 link delivery.
Meanwhile Cristy’s deliveries had finally dried up in the North East and she was forced to build from Albany to Buffalo then on through Toronto (claiming a 3 point first delivery bonus) to Detroit. I paid little attention to her shenanigans up there thinking that there couldn’t be much profit in it but I was wrong. She had upgraded to engine level 6 and from this point on never made another delivery below 5 links. More industrializations and City Growth cards kept her supply of goods fresh and so the deliveries kept coming. Before long she had retaken the lead from me.
Clint and Kevin both continued to struggle. Clint went down to Jacksonville for a delivery bonus but it was slim pickings for him besides that. And Kevin, despite his long and continuous track extending from New Orleans to Chicago failed to make any deliveries of significant length. Both fell further behind.
At this point I had built to KC and had the longest continuous train (thus enabling my 8 point bonus). Inexplicably though, Kevin built to Milwaukee tying me for the most consecutive links and threatening my bonus. No matter, I thought, I can always build to Tulsa.
At this point Clint triggered the end game by placing the last empty city marker. I knew now it was time for my master stroke. With my third action of the penultimate turn I announced the construction of a Western Link in Kansas City. Casually I paid $30,000 to the bank in cash and took the New York to KC Major Route card. “Twenty points!” I said. I don’t think anybody was paying attention to what I was doing so there were some expressions of shock. Maybe this card is too powerful, I thought, after all I had achieved it relatively easily and only had to issue shares to cross the Appalachians. I may have to get on BGG and announce that Railroad Tycoon is broken I thought to myself.
Annoyingly Cristy made a 6 link delivery to cut significantly into the lead I had just established.
Final turn. Beyond all belief Kevin continued his build up to Minneapolis, what was he doing besides making it impossible for me to get my bonus? I calculated that the most points I could earn in the final turn was to forget about my bonus and just deliver the red goods from the Western Link to Chicago at 3 points a pop.
Cristy made another 6 link delivery.
Kevin reached Minneapolis and finally I understood. He claimed the 10 point Major Route from New Orleans to Minneapolis. Way too little way too late though, he was still in fourth.
Cristy made another 6 link delivery. Where the hell were all these coming from?
Finally the game ended and against all rational expectation I was not in first. Cristy had reclaimed the lead with a flurry of long deliveries at the end. Has there been a rip in the fabric of space-time? I simply could not believe that I had been in a close second near the end of the game and had scored a 20 point windfall and had still failed to hold the lead.
We moved backwards for our shares outstanding. Cristy moved back 7 spaces I moved back 5 resulting in a tie between us. And so it came to the Tycoon Cards, if we both missed ours I would win on a tie breaker. If we both made ours I would win on points. Instead I missed mine (thanks to Kevin) and she made hers. Her card was 6 points for the first to reach engine level 6 (she didn’t reveal when she reached it like you’re supposed to but she was the only one on level 6 so I’m pretty sure she did it first). Cristy won the game!
The naysayers are wrong. The bonus cards are not too strong in this game. It’s all about the deliveries and who can strategically plan the best to set up their network for major late game points.
I had 37 points from bonus cards, including three Major Routes which mostly overlapped, that should be unbeatable. Cristy had 10 points from bonus cards but had upgraded her engine level and out delivered me. I didn’t waste any actions during the game, it takes a long time to build from New York to KC, I didn’t have time to upgrade my engine level above 4 and I only made one 4 link delivery. Overall I made fewer deliveries than she did because I laid a lot more track.
Granted she was helped by getting some lucky draws on Industrialization and City Growth cubes giving her viable deliveries. But I had good luck in the game too by having all three of those Major Route cards available. About the only person in the game with poor luck was Kevin but he probably shouldn’t have gone after that New Orleans to Minneapolis card. It’s too much effort for the reward; he should have found a way to make some long deliveries on that track of his.
After the game she told me she had seen the possibility of deliveries between the North East and the Great Lakes area early on. So whereas I was making long term plans to go from New York to KC she was making her own long term plans. Turns out hers were better because multiple deliveries are better than single cards, even the best cards.
I’m already looking forward to my next game!