empire builder   

Updated Nov. 23, 2013

2013 WBC Report   

 2014 Status: pending 2014 GM commitment

Ken Gutermuth, NC

2013 Champion

Event History
1999     Steve Okonski     64
2000     Bill Navolis      61
2001     Jim Yerkey      44
2002     Jim Yerkey      43
2003     Donna Balkan      57
2004     Tom Dunning      64
2005     Tom Dunning      49
2006     Rich Meyer      52
2007     Eric Brosius      62
2008      Harald Henning      66
2009      Mark Kennel      56
2010     Tedd Mullally      58
2011      Rich Meyer      70
2012     Bart Pisarik      59
2013     Ken Gutermuth      63


Rank  Name              From  Last  Total
  1.  Richard Meyer      MA    13    218
  2.  Eric Brosius       MA    12    125
  3.  Harald Henning     CT    12    115
  4.  Jim Yerkey         MD    03    110
  5.  Tom Dunning        NY    08     97
  6.  Dave Steiner       DE    11     91
  7.  Debbie Gutermuth   TX    13     84
  8.  Mark Kennel        DE    13     84
  9.  Ken Gutermuth      NC    13     83
 10.  Tedd Mullally      NJ    10     79
 11.  Donna Balkan       on    04     61
 12.  Steve Okonski      MD    02     60
 13.  Paul Van Bloem     MD    11     52
 14.  Bart Pisarik       IA    12     50
 15.  Bill Navolis       PA    00     50
 16.  Eyal Mozes         NY    09     46
 17.  Kyle Greenwood     HI    10     40
 18.  Mike Zorrer        DE    10     40
 19.  Chuck Foster       TX    06     34
 20.  Greg Mayer         MO    00     30
 21.  Trella Bromley     FL    13     24
 22.  Jennifer Thomas    NY    11     24
 23.  John Haas          DE    04     24
 24.  Olin Hentz         CT    03     22
 25.  Cliff Ackman       PA    07     21
 26.  Mark Giddings      NY    12     20
 27.  Tom Wade           IN    08     20
 28.  Bill Duke          MD    07     20
 29.  Mark Franceschini  MD    00     20
 30.  Mike Backstrom     MN    05     16
 31.  Rich Shipley       MD    03     16
 32.  John Clarke        FL    06     15
 33.  Chris Gnech        PA    13     12
 34.  Bryan Eshleman     NC    07     10
 35.  Winton Lemoine     CA    06     10
 36.  Ken Good           OH    05      9
 37.  Brian Smith        NY    02      6
 38.  Norm Newton        on    10      5
 39.  Debbie Otto        MO    99      3

2013 Laurelists                                              Repeating Laurelists: 

Rich Meyer, MA

Trella Bromley, FL

Debbie Gutermuth, NC

Chris Gnech, PA

Mark Kennel, DE

Past Winners

Steve Okonski, MD

Bill Navolis, PA

Jim Yerkey, MD

Donna Balkan, on

Tom Dunning, NY

Rich Meyer, MA
2006, 2011

Eric Brosius, MA

Harald Henning, CT

Mark Kennel, DE

Tedd Mullally, NJ

Bart Pisarik, IA

Ken Gutermuth, NC

Alexandra Henning, Jeff Kahan, Mark Kennel and Catherine Raymond

Barb Flaxington and Bob Stribula; does the GM have time to play too?

Vasili Kyrkos, Ken Gutermuth, Len Scensny and Bill Peeck

Gus McDonald's long reach helps on those round tables.

Do the Loco Motion ...

The Usual Suspects ...

The Tuesday 5:00 P.M. teaching demonstration seemed to indicate that Empire Builder is a mature game. Bill Peeck demonstrated the game to only two prospective players this year. After all, the flagship title is now in its 31st year. The GM watched, mentally preparing himself for the 20 hours of intense activity to follow that evening and over the next two days.

Preliminary Round

The Empire Builder event is unique in how it handles the preliminary rounds. There are 14 published titles / geographic maps in the series. They include: Agent of Change (AoC), Australian Rails (AR), British Rails (BR), China Rails (CR), Empire Builder [without Mexico] (EBno), Empire Builder [with Mexico] (EB), Eurorails (ER), India Rails (IR), Iron Dragon (ID), Lunar Rails (LR), Martian Rails (MR), Nippon Rails (NR), North American Rails (NAR), and Russian Rails (RR). In addition, GM Bob Stribula brought a fresh playtest copy of Möbius Rails (MöR). Agent of Change, also known as West Virginia Rails, is disallowed in tournaments because of its nonstandard nature. Empire Express, the lighter, faster variant is also disallowed for this tournament. Players are welcome to place any of the other titles on a table and solicit opponents. As long as four gamers are willing to play, the game may start. With odd numbers of players remaining, three player games are allowed. Furthermore, players are allowed to select which game and influence which opponents they face. There is this element of meta-gaming during the preliminary rounds.

Ten tables saw action during the first heat. The first table to finish in two hours and 20 minutes was won by Pam Gutermuth (EB). Rich Shipley (EB) also finished about the same time after one of the players at his table got an urgent phone call and left to deal with it. Other first heat winners were Brian Smith (EB), Trella Bromley (BR), Ron Secunda (EB), Donna Balkan (ER), and Mike Zorrer (MR). In a Lunar Rails game that must have taken place during a meteor shower, Mark Kennel was best able to avoid the disasters and achieved a fairly easy victory. Five of the six possible meteor strikes destroyed track along with other disasters affecting major, medium and small cities. All this occurred within the first 40% of the deck. In a close India Rails game, Eric Brosius and Glen Pearce both made a delivery on the twelfth movement point of their last turns and declared. Eric ended with 266 M rupees versus Glen's 255 M, giving Eric the win. Surprisingly, Glen was able to acquire this total while never upgrading to a Superfreight. Another India Rails game ended strangely. Dave Steiner drew the Indus River flood event. On the next round, Tony Newton repaired his bridges and declared. Jennifer Thomas also repaired her bridges and thereby finished in second place. Christina Harley and Dave, starting first and second respectively, were unable to repair their bridges. Without the bridges, their major cities were not connected. According to the tournament rules, even though they had more cash than Jen, they finished lower in the game's rankings. Later in discussions with Trella Bromley, we learned that the Train Gamers Association (TGA) allows a building turn after the declaration turn to address this issue -- a rule change to consider for next year's EPB tournament.

Heat 2 began at 9:00 A.M. the next morning with 11 4-player and one 3-player tables. The first game to finish in 2 hours and 20 minutes was won by Chris Gnech (EB). This heat also included a game with two declared players with the required victory conditions. Rich Meyer with 264 M beat Ted Mullally with 251 M in a game of Eurorails. Other winners in Heat 2 were Erica Kirchner (MR), Mark McCandless (EB), Mark Kennel (MR), Mike Zorrer (EB), Chester Lanham (EB), Ken Gutermuth (BR), Eyal Mozes(EB), and Paul Van Bloem (ER). In a Lunar Rails game that needed to be adjudicated after four hours, Tony Newton was awarded the victory with the necessary cities but only 87 M. Meanwhile, Inger Henning achieved an amazing victory in Möbius Rails. This was the first time she had seen this map. Inger bounded ahead of the designer and a MöR playtester, Barb Flaxington, for a relatively easy win. We attribute this to the lower gravity on Möbius. Glen Pearce, who also had never seen the game before, finished second.

Eight games were played in Heat 3 with two 3-player games. Heats 2 and 3 are scheduled back-to-back. It gets challenging to wrap up the slower games and get players ready for the next heat. The truly dedicated players lined up to enjoy their third game. Others hoped for their first victory to qualify for the semifinals. A handful of players signed in for their first try. Those participants playing for the Tom Dunning Memorial Award (see below) wanted to play a different title than they previously played. Others held out for their favorite game or the one they thought would give them the best chance to advance.

The winners in Heat 3 were Ron Secunda (EB), Jeff Kahan (EB), Debbie Gutermuth (BR), Cathy Raymond (ER), Dave Steiner (LR), Mark McCandless (LR), and Bob Stribula (MöR). Ted Mullally (RR) won by the narrowest of margins, 251, against an also declared Mark Kennel at 250. As previously noted, Ted was in a previous two-declarer game in the second heat. That time he came in second with 251; this time he won with the same cash total. Besides being the third game with two declared players, it was the closest game of the tournament.

Of the 14 allowed Empire Builder titles, eight were played in this year's tournament. During the 30 preliminary games, Empire Builder with Mexico was the most popular with 11 plays. In order, with the number of plays in parentheses, are listed the other titles: Eurorails (4), Lunar Rails (4), Martian Rails (3), British Rails (3), India Rails (2), Möbius Rails (2), and Russian Rails (1). China Rails, Empire Builder - no Mexico, Nippon Rails, North American Rails, Australian Rails, and Iron Dragon were not played this year.

During the Preliminary Heats, the following players had the highest winning cash total in the named titles
Martian Rails (MR) H1 Mike Zorrer 270
Möbius Rails (MöR) H2 Inger Henning 269
Empire Builder (EB)* H3 Jeff Kahan 267
Eurorails (ER) H1 Donna Balkan 267
Lunar Rails (LR) H3 Dave Steiner 266
India Rails (IR) H1 Eric Brosius 266
British Rails (BR) H1 Trella Bromley 255
Russian Rails (RR) H3 Ted Mullally 251

* During a semifinal game, Debbie Gutermuth bettered this Empire Builder finish with a score of 271. That was the single highest score of the tournament.

Semifinal Round

The qualifiers and highest seeded hopefuls gathered for the semifinal games on Thursday morning at 9:00 A.M. Of the 30 preliminary games, there were 25 unique winners. Of those 25 winners, eight played and won their only preliminary game. Mike Zorrer, Mark Kennel, Tony Newton, Mark McCandless, and Ron Secunda had each won twice. Given the number of participants in the event, the convention's rules allowed 25 players to advance to the semifinals. The five top seeded players were rewarded for their efforts by being placed at different tables. The next five seeds were seated in reverse order. The next highest 15 seeds randomly filled out the five tables. This year with all 25 winners present for the semifinal, no runner-ups were able to advance. The previously declared semifinal game was Empire Builder with Mexico.

A 5-player semifinal game usually takes longer than a 4-player preliminary game. The additional player and the extra deliberation by most players cause it to play longer. Therefore, before the round started, the GM announced that the elimination rounds were each allotted four and one-half hours. Nevertheless, three semis easily finished in the original time slot. Trella Bromley (251) posted the first win at 11:47 A.M., easily besting Ted Mullally (185) with Donna Balkan, Mike Zorrer, and Brian Smith following. The next game twas won by Ken Gutermuth (252) over Dave Steiner (179), Tony Newton (175), Rich Shipley and Cathy Raymond. Ken's wife, Debbie followed him in the winner's parade with 271 over Mark Kennel's 257. The irony is that Debbie has often declared in the semifinal round only to have someone surpass her total on the last turn. This time she did exactly that to Mark. Eric Brosius, the 2007 champ, Inger Henning, and Paul Van Bloem were close behind. Two-time champ Rich Meyer (253) beat the third Gutermuth semifinalist, daughter Pam and Chester Lanham, Jeff Kahan, and Mark McCandless. As usual, the last semifinal to finish was mine. Chris Gnech (252) had a relatively easy victory. Ron Secunda, the Rail Baron GM, made a mistake all of us have made at one time or another. He attempted to deliver the wrong commodity to his first destination. Ron was able to finish fourth but only $5 out of second place. Erica Kirchner, GM Bob Stribula, Ron, and Eyal Mozes also finished well back from Chris. This game finished after 1:00 P.M. but the winner would not have changed even if it had been adjudicated.

The results were in. Mark Kennel's $257M was the best second-place finish. He was awarded sixth place and the coveted sand plaque.

Tom Dunning Memorial Award

The Empire Builder players continued to remember our friend, fierce competitor, and previous GM Tom Dunning. The Memorial rewards expertise across the entire spectrum of "crayon rails." The award's rules were unchanged this year. Players could total their results from four different games in the preliminary heats and the semifinal. Given that the semifinal was Empire Builder with Mexico, contestants needed to avoid that title and play three different games in the heats. Nine players played in three different titles during the heats. Glen Pearce, Jeff Kahan, Dave Steiner, Inger Henning, Michael Zorrer, and Jen Thomas (2011's award winner) participated in an Empire Builder game during the heats. This limited their total to the better of the heat score or the semifinal score. Mark Kennel and Tony Newton each won two heats and were seeded 2 and 3 respectively going into the semifinal round. Therefore, each played at a separate table. However as we saw, Mark declared in his third heat game but finished second. One of Tony's wins was in a low-scoring, adjudicated game. Additionally, Mark had another declared but runner-up finish in the semifinal round. He thus became the happy fourth recipient of the Tom Dunning Medal and the first to repeat. His scores were LR (263), MR (261), RR (250), and EB in the semifinal (257) for a very respectable total of 1,031.


After a short break, the finalists gathered for the ultimate challenge. Since Trella Bromley is the TGA's Tournament Operations Director, we discussed some rule differences as used at WBC. Ken and Debbie Gutermuth are also part of the TGA's hierarchy so no rule difficulties were anticipated. This was undoubtedly the most relaxed Final in the GM's experience. It felt more like a friendly game on our dining room table than the championship game at a tournament. As Paul Bloem & I started to take notes, each player in turn and without prompting handed the GM their crayons to record their respective colors. It was going to be a fun game.

1. Rich Meyer - Green
2. Ken Gutermuth - Black
3. Trella Bromley - Blue
4. Debbie Gutermuth - Brown
5. Chris Gnech - Red

Build Turn 1:
Rich built east and west from Milano
Ken built London to Cardiff and the Harwich - Ijmuiden Ferry
Trella built south from the Ruhr
Debbie dumped her cards
Chris built west from Berlin to Poland

Switchback Build Turn 2:
Chris built from Berlin to the Ruhr and built Ruhr to Holland
Debbie built Madrid to Lisboa
Trella continued building in Switzerland and into eastern France
Ken built Holland to Berlin
Rich built east to Beograd

The Regular Move-Build Turns:
Chris also built the Harwich - Ijmuiden Ferry
Trella made the first delivery
Trella Frankfort Wheat 14M
Debbie Lisboa Sheep 17M
Rich Beograd Wheat 32M
Ken Lodz Hops 35M & Cheese 20M
Trella Berlin Chocolate 13M
Chris Holland Potatoes 12M
Chris Manchester Ham 35M
Rich Firenze Wheat 17M
Trella Zürick Wine 10M
Trella Lyon China 23M
Rich Napoli Labor 23M
Debbie Venezia Cork 46M
Chris upgraded to a Heavy Freight
Debbie dumped cards
Ken Porto Steel 37M
About this time, Trella built the Malmö - Sassnitz ferry.
Debbie Sevilla Cattle 32M
Chris Paris Ham 27M
Ken Paris Sheep 19M
Chris Toulouse Iron 26M
Trella Stockholm Marble 55M & Flowers 34M
Chris Madrid Hops 37M
Rich Beograd Sheep 51M
Ken Holland Oranges 33M
Debbie Zürick Oranges 31M
Rich dumped cards
Debbie dumped cards
Ken Manchester Cheese 13M
About this time, Ken built the Belfast - Stranraer ferry to Ireland.
Rich Wien Sheep 38M
Ken Belfast Hops 17M
Rich upgraded to a Super Freight
Debbie Szczecin Oranges 44M
Event: Tax Card. Everyone had less than 50M.
Debbie was leading with 48M
About this time, Rich built the Ramsgate - Oostende ferry.
Chris Manchester Oranges 40M
Trella Stockholm Copper 36M & Tourists 33M
Trella dumped cards
Rich Paris Labor 25M
About this time, Debbie also built the Ramsgate - Oostende ferry.
Ken Berlin Oil 23M
Debbie London Cattle 16M
Ken Lodz Sheep 36M
Debbie Paris Potatoes 20M
Chris Madrid Cheese 30M
Rich Birmingham Wine 19M
Cash @ 2 hours: Ken 88M, Trella 83M, Chris 68M, Debbie 30M.
Rich Newcastle Tobacco 51M
Trella Lodz Wood 22M
Event: Gales along the Mediterranean Sea and Adriatic Sea coast
Trella Wein Potatoes 29M
Ken Cardiff Copper 31M
Trella dumped cards
Event: Longshoreman Strike
Ken dumped cards
Debbie Madrid Copper 49M
Event: Floods - Donau River
Debbie Praha Oranges 43M
Event: North Sea, English Channel, and Irish Sea Gales
Rich Rome Iron 40M
Rich dumped cards
Trella Warsaw Labor 18M
Chris Warsaw Steel 19M
Rich dumped cards
Event: Derailments at Szczecin, Dublin, Kaliningrad, Wien, Toulouse, & Newcastle
Event: Ebro River flooded
Chris Wroclaw Cork 59M
Event: Wildcat Strike
Rich dumped cards
Ken Madrid Flowers 35M
About this time, Ken with two Cork deliveries on his cards counted the fastest way to get to the demanding cities. He had no track built across southern Europe nor track to Madrid. He counted the number of turns utilizing other's railroads and that cost versus his own less direct track. He chose to ride on other players' railroads.
Chris dumped cards
Event: Gales along the Atlantic Ocean coast
Debbie Berlin Oranges 42M
Chris dumped cards
Trella Nantes Copper 31M
Debbie dumped cards
Chris dumped cards
Rich Beograd Cars 19M
Cash @ 2.5 Hours: Debbie 157, Ken 154, Rich 141, Trella 140, Chris 137M
Debbie dumped cards
Event: Irish Economy Booming
Event: Heavy Snow near Praha
Chris dumped cards
Event: Heavy Snow near Torino
Trella Holland Labor 23M
Event: Rhein River flooded
Debbie dumped cards
Trella Berlin Cattle 17M
Debbie dumped cards
Event: Heavy Snow near Krakow
Rich Berlin Bauxite 14M
Ken Firenze Cork 44M
Trella dumped cards
Debbie dumped cards
Chris København Cork 62M & Imports 13M
Trella dumped cards
Event: Snow near Munich
Chris dumped cards
Rich Antwerp Potatoes 17M
Event: Teamsters' strike
Event: Derailments at Oslo, Berlin, Torino, Napoli, Sevilla, & Cardiff
Rich London Bauxite 25M
About this time, we reshuffled the deck.
Ken Budapest Cork 60M
Trella Berlin Cheese 10M
About this time, Trella built the Le Havre - Portsmouth ferry to connect London to her network for the required cities.
Debbie Wien Oranges 42M
Debbie dumped cards
Ken Holland Bauxite 22M 256 total
Trella Firenze China 22M
Debbie dumps cards
Chris Zürich Coal 24M
Final Cash @ 3.5 Hours and End Positions:
1. Ken 256M 14 deliveries
2. Rich 205M 13 deliveries
3. Trella 198M 16 deliveries
4. Debbie 195M 11 deliveries
5. Chris 193M 12 deliveries

Despite the late start, the game ended just before the scheduled slot would have ended. When the very best players sit down for a crayon rails game, it doesn't need to take the one hour per player rule of thumb.

Thanks and Next Year

The GM would like to thank all the participants. Without you, all this would be moot. The GM continues to document the rules for the 14 titles and up to seven editions of some titles. All these notes are documented in The Definitive Crayon Rails Book. (The latest version of this book is available as a PDF from the GM.) Bill Peeck volunteered to run the demo prior to the first heat for any new players; thank you. A special thank you is extended to Claire Brosius and Paul Van Bloem for volunteering to be the Assistant GMs. Claire, with her excellent penmanship, signed in the participants and helped organize the games. Paul helped rule on the tough questions and adjudicated some "interesting" situations. Both helped in countless other ways.

At this time, the GM hopes to continue running EPB another year. No major changes are anticipated. However, some suggestions from Trella Bromley and the TGA need to be evaluated. A ninth hour for the combined semifinal/Final time slot again will be sought. It is to be hoped that this will allow all semifinal games to complete without adjudication. Perhaps the extra time will allow the Assistant GMs, the GM, and the finalists to chew their lunches before the Final starts. It should also ease some time pressure on the last game. Based on other suggestions, the Tom Dunning Award may be run a little bit differently. All this will be decided before and documented in the 2014 event description as submitted to the BPA. Of course, if anyone has additional comments or suggestions, the GM promises to listen to and consider them.

Meanwhile, happy gaming and save the blue locomotive for me. See you next year!

The Definitive Crayon Rails Errata and Tournament Rules Book continues to grow and be improved. The latest version is always available on http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/railgamefan/files/.

Claire Brosius, Brian Schott and Paul Van Bloem

GM Bob Stribula and his finalists.
 GM      Bob Stribula  [4th Year]  22 Zinnia Way, Langhorne, PA 19047  
    stribula@ptd.net   NA

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