Rail Baron

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Rail Baron is a board game for 3 to 6 players. It was one of the first board games with a railroad theme, and helped establish a sub category known as train games.[citation needed] Rail Baron was initially published in the 1970s under the name Boxcars by the original designers R.S. Erickson and T.F. Erickson, Jr. It was soon acquired, renamed and reissued by the Avalon Hill Game Company where it became one of the company's top sellers.[citation needed]

Gameplay[edit]

Rail Baron is played on a map of the United States on which the routes of 28 historic railroads, such as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad have been marked. The map is divided into 7 regions, Northeast, Southeast, North Central, South Central, Plains, Northwest and Southwest. Major US cities which are connected by the railroads act as destinations for travel. Dots on the railroad routes represent small towns along the way, and serve as distance markers for player movement.

The goal of each player is to accumulate money by moving his or her train token to map destinations which are generated at random via a lookup table. Large cities like New York City and Chicago are more likely to be generated as destinations than small cities. Travel from one destination to the next is accomplished by rolling dice to determine distance that can be moved. Players then move their train token along map dots toward their destination.

Upon arrival at a destination, the player collects a cash payoff, and may use the money to upgrade his or her train engine to a faster model, or purchase a railroad. Railroad purchases are key to the game because an owner collects substantial fees from other players who ride his or her railroad during their movement. Meanwhile, the owner can ride his or her own railroads at no cost. Thus, an important decision in the game is whether to buy a variety of railroads in order to gain access to all areas of the map for oneself, or to buy railroads in a given area in order to monopolize it and collect the valuable use fees from opponents.

Winning[edit]

To win the game a player must accumulate $200,000 and then make a daring run back to their home city (their first city in the game) before any opponent can catch them via what is known as a rover play.

Strategy[edit]

Winning Rail Baron requires a combination of skillful railroad purchasing, negotiations with opponents, and some luck with the game's random elements. According to research published at railgamefans.com [1], computer analysis of thousands of games shows the Pennsylvania Railroad to be the railroad most frequently owned by the winner and thus players rush to purchase it at the beginning. Additional computer simulation by railgamefans.com reveals that in matches with 3 players, monopolizing areas of the map is a viable strategy. In matches with 6 players, there are so few railroads to go around that simply getting close to most areas of the map is the best approach

Railroads[edit]

The 28 railroads depicted in the game correspond to 28 actual real-life railroads that operated in the early 20th century. The table below lists these 28 railroads, their cost within the Rail Baron game, their real-life years of operation and eventual corporate outcome, and their current status as of 2009.

Railroad Game Cost Real-Life Years of Operation Real-Life Eventual Outcome Currently¹ Part Of...
Southern Pacific $42,000 1865–1996 Purchased by Rio Grande Industries but retained Southern Pacific name. Later purchased by Union Pacific Union Pacific
Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe $40,000 1859–1996 Merged with Burlington Northern to become BNSF BNSF
Union Pacific $40,000 1862–Present Currently operating Union Pacific
Pennsylvania $30,000 1846–1968 Merged with New York Central to form Penn Central Amtrak,
Norfolk Southern
Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific $29,000 1852–1980 Liquidated N/A
New York Central $28,000 1831–1968 Merged with Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central Amtrak,
CSX
Baltimore and Ohio $24,000 1830–1986 Taken over by the Chesapeake and Ohio to become the Chessie System CSX
Missouri Pacific $21,000 1849–1982 Merged with Union Pacific Union Pacific
Chesapeake and Ohio $20,000 1869–1972 Renamed to Chessie System CSX
Southern Railway $20,000 1894–1982 Merged with Norfolk and Western to create Norfolk Southern Norfolk Southern
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy $20,000 1849–1970 Merged with Great Northern, Northern Pacific and Spokane, Portland and Seattle to form Burlington Northern BNSF
St. Louis & San Francisco $19,000 1876–1980 Acquired by Burlington Northern BNSF
Louisville and Nashville $18,000 1850–1982 Merged with Seaboard Coast Line to create Seaboard System Railroad CSX
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific $18,000 1847–1985 Acquired by the Soo Line Railroad Canadian Pacific
Great Northern $17,000 1890–1970 Merged with Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, Northern Pacific and Spokane, Portland and Seattle to form Burlington Northern BNSF
Seaboard Air Line $14,000 1880–1967 Merged with Atlantic Coast Line to form the Seaboard Coast Line CSX
Illinois Central $14,000 1851–1999 Acquired by the Canadian National Railway Canadian National
Chicago and North Western $14,000 1865–1995 Merged into Union Pacific Union Pacific
Northern Pacific $14,000 1864–1970 Merged with Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, Great Northern and Spokane, Portland and Seattle to form Burlington Northern BNSF
Atlantic Coast Line $12,000 1840–1967 Merged with Seaboard Air Line to form the Seaboard Coast Line CSX
Norfolk and Western $12,000 1838–1982 Merged with Southern Railway to create Norfolk Southern Norfolk Southern
Gulf, Mobile and Ohio $12,000 1938–1972 Merged with Illinois Central to form Illinois Central Gulf Canadian National
Texas and Pacific $10,000 1871–1976 Merged with the Missouri Pacific Union Pacific
Western Pacific $8,000 1903–1983 Acquired by Union Pacific Union Pacific
Denver and Rio Grande Western $6,000 1870–1988 Renamed to Southern Pacific after purchasing that railroad Union Pacific
Boston and Maine $4,000 1836–1983 Purchased by Guilford Transportation Industries (a.k.a. Pan Am Systems) Pan Am Systems
New York, New Haven, and Hartford $4,000 1872–1969 Merged into Penn Central Amtrak
Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac $4,000 1836–1991 Now part of CSX CSX

¹ = As of September, 2009

Variants[edit]

Several variants are gaining in popularity. The "Home Swap" lets players switch the home city and first destination before moving for the first time in case their first destination is an easily monopolizable one, or if they want to try to get a better home city. "Free Superchief" lets players upgrade to a SuperChief engine at no cost if they already have an Express engine; this both speeds the game and lessens the dominance of the Pennsylvania RR.

Fans of the game have created dozens of alternate maps for play. There now exist game maps of Europe, New York City, Colorado, and many other locations, as well as fictional regions. There is also a computer version which both speeds play and supports online multiplayer matches.

References[edit]

External links[edit]