rail baron [Updated August 2001]

RBN  6 prizes Beginners Mult Ent Sing Elim Scheduled 
  Demo 12  Rnd1 Heat1  13
  Rnd1 Heat2 19   Rnd1 Heat3  11   Round 2  17 
  Round 3 15 Final    

  Rnd1 Heat1 Salon A Rnd1 Heat2 Round 2 Salon EF  Rnd1 Heat3  Maryland 3   Round 3 Salon B

Steve Okonski, MD

2000-2001 Champion

2nd: Mark McCandless, LA

3rd: Stan Buck, MD

4th: Chuck Foster, TX

5th: Eyal Mozes, NY

6th: Inger Henning, CT
Event History
1991    Chuck Foster       28
1992    Kevin Quirk       29
1993    Kevin Quirk       38
1994    Bill Fellin       37
1995    Heikki Thoen       63
1996    Heikki Thoen       46
1997    Kim Lemmons       94
1998    Eyal Mozes      100
1999    Heikki Thoen      58
2000    Steve Okonski      69
2001    Steve Okonski      56

AREA Ratings:

GM: Steve Okonski

One Top-Six GM Nomination

"Rail Baron is a Scary Game"

By winning the 2001 Final, Steve Okonski joined Heikki Thoen and Kevin Quirk as repeat Rail Baron champions. No tournament at the WBC has more repeat champs than Rail Baron, a testament to both the enduring popularity of the game as well as confirmation of what we already knew: that skill, not luck, is dominant in this game. The 6-player Final also saw the return of two other 2000 Finalists: Chuck Foster and Mark McCandless. Rounding out the group were Eyal Mozes, Stan Buck, and Inger Henning. Alternates Chuck and Eyal advanced when Doug Galullo, Brian Bouton and Ron Secunda were
unavailable. Assistant GM Paul Van Bloem kindly oversaw the final and recorded its details.

As in the 2000 Final, all six players survived without going bankrupt, but unlike last year, railroad auctions and sell backs played a major role in the outcome. At the end, only Mark had a fully interconnected network, and Chuck nearly achieved an amazing victory with a network consisting of but two unconnected railroads. During the first round, one player quipped "Rail Baron is a Scary Game." Well, in a 6-player final, it is a brutal slugfest. And, that's how we like it.

Turn order was Mark, Eyal, Steve, Stan, Chuck and Inger. Despite the availability of the Home Swapping variant, all the finalists retained their assigned Home Cities. Eyal was first to arrive, and used his $4,500 payoff to purchase the B&M. Stan was next and opted for the NYNH&H. When Chuck arrived, he purchased nothing, and was thus able to afford the PA upon his second arrival. Eyal arrived again, and snagged the NYC, even though it was a monetary stretch. Later that round Steve selected the B&O and Stan the C&O. By the time both Mark and Inger had completed their cross-country trips to Los Angeles, the NorthEast had sold out, so they bought the SAL and ACL respectively.

On the trip to his third destination (Boston), a couple of low movement rolls exhausted Eyal's cash, and he was forced to auction B&M. Steve captured it for $11,500. Suddenly Boston was unfriendly for Eyal, which set him back an additional $10,000. By the end of the round, Steve was in good shape with the B&O, B&M,WP and an Express, while four other players had just one railroad and their original locomotive. He came up a couple of dots short of solidifying his position via the AT&SF, which was recently purchased by Stan, and settled for the UP instead. Meanwhile, both Mark and Inger had departed Los Angeles for another cross-country trip. Their NorthEastern destinations had long ago been locked up, and they were forced to pay use fees. Thanks to the always helpful PA, Chuck collected from both.

Mark then began a series of shorter trips which gave him desperately needed purchase opportunities. He managed to patch together a decent network with good coverage in the SouthEast and access to the NorthWest. Unfortunately, Inger continued to get long trips, and had few chances to purchase good railroads. Stan filled in the gaps in his network with help from the CMStP&P, on which so many players were established that he collected $1000 payments at least ten times. Meanwhile, Eyal and Chuck focused on the race for the SP, the last of the Big Three. Chuck arrived in unfriendly Dallas and employed the daring move of buying the SP even though it meant he would not have enough cash left to pay his pending railroad use fees. He proceeded to auction the D&RGW, but most players were low on cash, so Mark was able to claim it for just $7,000. When Chuck's turn was over, all the railroads had been sold and the match was 2.5 hours old. Player holdings were as follows: Mark: SAL, SLSF, CRI&P, D&RGW, NP, T&P; Eyal: NYC, SOU, GN; Steve: B&M, B&O, N&W, GM&O, UP, WP; Stan: NYNH&H, C&O, IC, AT&SF, CB&Q, CMStP&P; Chuck: PA, L&N, SP; Inger: ACL, RF&P, C&NW, MP.

Chuck had hoped the D&RGW would sell for more; when he came up $500 short on his next trip, he sold back the L&N, severing his network, and seemingly dooming his chances. Mark was next to arrive and grabbed the L&N before Chuck could repurchase it. No other railroads changed hands until close to the end of the match. The city access and monopoly percentages were as follows: Mark 50.0%, 5.1%; Eyal 39.85%, 0.0%; Steve 48.0%, 4.3%; Stan 59.3%, 1.62%; Chuck 49.0%, 0.0%, Inger 29.4%, 0.7%.

Eyal was the first to upgrade to a SuperChief ($28,000), with all except Inger doing the same a few rounds later. The networks
of Stan, Mark and Steve offered the best map coverage and connectivity, and therefore the players appropriately rode the railroads of others whenever possible. Chuck, in particular, was the main beneficiary when several players made west coast trips via his SP rather than Stan's AT&SF. Meanwhile, Steve had collected no railroad use fees from others since near the start of the match, nor had he paid any out. That changed radically mid-game when Mark visited Pocatello, and Stan, Inger and Eyal in quick succession visited Las Vegas, cities monopolized by Steve's UP. However, almost simultaneously, Steve visited three consecutive unfriendly destinations himself.

Steve was first to announce reaching $150,000, followed almost immediately, and to the surprise of the group, by Chuck. Chuck soon collected a $27,500 payoff, to put himself within single-trip range of victory. Steve was first to cross over $200,000, but Chuck managed to get a series of short trips between the NorthEast and NorthCentral to destinations served by his PA. Before long, he was just a few dots from Chicago where the payoff would put him slightly over $200,000, and where he'd be just six dots from his Pittsburgh home. If Chuck tossed a 6 bonus on his next turn, he'd be able to arrive, then declare and bounce out to home to win. His roll gave him plenty to reach Chicago, but only a 5 bonus. In the vicinity Chuck owned only the PA, and therefore he was unable to wander to consume the bonus die without paying $10,000 (which would drop him below $200,000).

So, Chuck headed directly into Chicago via the PA, and thought long and hard about whether to declare with that bonus bounce of 5. Inger sat 10 dots away (but had only a Standard engine), Mark 11 and Steve 16. Chuck boldly declared, and moved his pawn to the western suburbs of Pittsburgh, just one dot from pulling out an amazing victory next turn. Inger rolled too low, but Mark's dice totaled 16, more than enough to make a rover play on Chuck and collect $50,000, which put him close to $200,000. The B&M that Steve had acquired at auction finally paid for itself (and more) when Inger visited Portland. That
money pushed him far enough past $200,000 to afford the trip home to New York, but Steve opted to not declare when departing unfriendly Jacksonville. The excitement from the climactic rover play a moment earlier was quickly dispelled because Steve then rolled New York (his home) as his next destination. Two turns later he arrived and declared without danger of rover to successfully conclude the defense of his Rail Baron crown.

Because five of the six players had unconnected networks, a huge amount of cash changed hands during the final: over $1.2 million! Income, payouts and net cash flow for each finalist was (in thousands): Mark $211 in, $209 out, +$2 net. Eyal $219 in, $336 out, -$117 net. Steve $190 in, $100 out, +$90 net. Stan $164 in, $120 out, +$44 net. Chuck $270 in, $147 out, +$123 net. Inger $147 in, $279 out, -$132 net.

This year saw a slight decrease in the number of entrants, but it remains one of the most popular WBC games. We were saddened by the loss of longtime player, and 2000 finalist, Malcolm Robinson who succumbed to illness only a few weeks before the WBC; may he always roll boxcars. In all, 56 different people played 22 first-round matches which produced 20 different winners (both Assistant GMs Paul Van Bloem and Chuck Foster won two preliminary games). For the semi finals, 19 of the 20 showed and top alternate, Mark McCandless, advanced by virtue of 16 Bonus Points. The Bonus Points experiment, which awarded the most points to the tables that finished the quickest, appeared to be a success. The average match duration was cut by about 30 minutes as compared to the prior year! In the total of 27 matches played, the railroads most often owned by the winner were the NP (16 times), N&W (13) and PA (12). What is the N&W doing on this list? The curse of the C&O continued: it was owned by only two match winners. The IC and MP were next with three winners each. Of the big western railroads, AT&SF was the most frequently winner-owned (11).

Prizes were awarded in grab-bag fashion at the start of the semi-finals. The Casey Jones Award (most unfriendly destinations: 17) went to Philip Evans. Stan Buck was the Efficient Engineer with his victory with the lowest cost network ($102,000). Bob Foster took the Riches to Rags Award by managing to survive to the end of a match with just $14,500 net worth. John Haas and Chuck Foster shared the Long Haul award by visiting just 17 destinations while winning. Doug Galullo won the JP Morgan award with the highest net worth ($463,000). And, Charles Davis was named Sportsman for his persistence and cheerfulness despite coming up just shy of advancing to the semi finals yet again this year. We hope to see you all again in 2002!

For year-round game news, and a graphically enhanced version of this report, visit the Rail Baron Fanatics site at http://www.insystem.com/rbp

Finalists (left to right): Mark McCandless, Eyal Mozes, Steve Okonski, Stan Buck, Chuck Foster, and Inger Henning.

 GM      Steve Okonski  [3rd Year]   P. O. Box 477, Fulton, MD 20759
    intersys@insystem.com   NA

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