At the Rochester/Oakland Boardgamers Association meeting 6 of us decided to play a game of Railroad Tycoon. We were: Jamie, John (me), Mike, Steve, Bill, and Aaron. We started by explaining the rules for Mike and Aaron, who were new to the game, and off we went.
As usual, the opening cards determined a lot of early manuevers. Jamie bid about 7 to go first and build from Wilmington to Raleigh, allowing her to make the first delivery and claim the Raleigh service bounty. She rounded out her turn by claiming a hotel in Boston. The southeast turned out to be quite crowded, as Mike spent his actions building the Atlanta to Richmond major line and Steve built a network centered on Jacksonville and Atlanata and claimed the Jacksonville service bounty.
Bill and I competed over the northeast. I ended up with 3 links running from New Haven to Baltimore, and zero income. Bill had NY to Baltimore and made a delivery. Meanwhile, out west Aaron connected Pittsburgh and Wheeling and made some small deliveries.
On turn two a hotel in Atlanta became available and Jamie bidded another $4-5 to grab first place and take it. Several players also grabbed, and made use of, Government Land Grants. By now most of the good routes around Jamie's original line were taken so she moved west and connected Chicago to Detroit via Toledo. Aaron also built over to Toledo and continued to make smallish deliveries.
I grabbed a New Industry card to convert New Haven into a purple city. Bill surprised me by immediately building from New Haven to Providence and later from Providence to Boston, making my dreams of connecting to Boston much harder but leaving him with two unconnected segments of track. I consoled myself by upgrading to a 2 train and making my first delivery.
In the southeast, Mike focused on making use of his existing track while Steve started building northwest and making deliveries.
By the end of turn 2 Mike and Jamie were in the lead thanks to their big bonuses from cards. The pattern for the rest of the game was also becoming apparent.
Over the next several turns Jamie gradually built up a line running from Duluth (claiming a service bounty) to Toronto via Chicago. Her plans were disrupted somewhat by Aaron turning Toledo into a black new city. Toledo was one terminus of his line, which streched in a crescent to Cincy via Pittsburgh and Wheeling.
Steve continued to steadily expand northwest, making small deliveries as he went. By the end of the game Mike's railroad would extend all the way from Atlanta to Chicago, and then from Chicago to Des Moines where he built a western link. Mike, on the other hand, built hardly any track at all in the middle part of the game, milking his Atlanta to Richmond line for all it was worth and staying at or near the top of the points track for. Jamie's hotel in Atlanta paid off several times thanks to these guys (whereas no one ever made a delivery to Boston).
Bill and I continued to compete in the northeast. I grabbed the bounty for first length 3 delivery, followed shortly thereafter by the bounty for 4 train. This and some deliveries boosted my score from last to near the top of the pack, but gave Bill the edge in building, as he grabbed all the routes leading south from D.C.
By now most of us had 3 or 4 trains and about 9 of 18 cities had been emptied. I faced a decision: Should I push to get my train up to level 6 and claim my secret tycoon bonus? Or should I spend my hard-earned money building through the Appalachians to go after the recently revealed Baltimore to Toledo major line. Since I had little prospect of actually making a length 6 delivery in the northeast, I chose the later and built into Wheeling and eventually completed the major line. This also gave me a few length 4 deliveries. Bill urbanized um... Norfolk? And made a bunch of length 4 deliveries himself.
Steve urbanized Des Moines and made a few 4 deliveries in and out of it, but after that he was in a spot where he either had to gamble on using cards to place new goods in his cities or take a lot of shares and time to upgrade to a 6 or larger train. He gambled on the cubes and was unlucky, getting nothing he could deliver for a good profit (but keeping some cities from emptying and thereby prolonging the game).
Mike continued his slow and steady pace. Having finally exhausted the cubes along his original route he started building southwest from Atlanta, eventually reaching Mobile and making 3 and 4 length deliveries as he went.
Aaron and Jamie both built up their trains (Aaron beat me to the first level 6 train) and started making some nice long deliveries. Jamie built down from Toronto, eventually reaching Pittsburgh. Aaron made use of his 6 train and several links of mine and Jamie's track to claim a service bounty in Toronto, making a nice profit.
By now it was clear that we were down to the last couple of turns. I was in the lead, having just made it to 51 points (and starting to watch my income decline). Jamie and Mike were only 4-5 points behind (and had fewer shares issued), the rest of the pack was not far back. Everyone was running short of good deliveries to make.
I was connected to Indianapolis, headed toward St. Louis and a last few goods deliveries, when the New York to Kansas City/Western Link major line came up on the second to last turn. After figuring the relative returns, I went for it, completing it with my last play to get 20 points (but issuing another 3 shares in the process).
Steve had little choice at this point but to deliver red cubes to Chicago for 2 points and hope Chicago would generate some nice cubes for him to deliver. Once again he was unlucky, with the cubes he drew benefitting Jamie more than him. She made several more 5 deliveries by game's end. Adding insult to injury, Aaron connected to one of the cities in Kentucky that Mike had unsuccessfully (for him) seeded with goods, and used them to make three straight length 7 deliveries to close out his game, briefly passing me on the scoring track.
Meanwhile back East, Bill had run out of good deliveries to make and spent most of the last turn building track from Boston to Albany to Buffalo in an attempt to meet his "Most Links of Track" Tycoon bonus condition. He ended up tying with me, and received no bonus. In fact the only person to claim a tycoon bonus was Steve, who got five points for building the Western link. Mike didn't own a single link out of Chicago, but had way more money than Jamie. I'd failed to ever build a 6 train, let alone the first one. And Aaron wasn't even close to having the most consecutive links of track.
When the dust settled, I had come out on top. This was largely thanks to my claiming two early bounty cards and then claiming the two major lines. Together they made up about 2/5ths of my entire score. I had to issue a lot of shares (10? 12?) to do it all, though. Way more than anyone else. After subtracting out shares I had about 65 points, only 4 points more than Jamie and Aaron, who tied for second place. Mike's slow and steady play put him a few points back of them, followed by Steve and finally Bill.