Riding the Rails ...
Finalists (from l to r, Malcolm
Robinson, Chuck Foster, Ed Rothenheber, Steve Okonski, Mark McCandless,
GM Steve Okonski captured his first Rail Baron championship
with a come-from-behind victory in a close and exciting six-player
Final match. At the end of the 390-minute Final, three players
had a solid chance to win on their next turn. The very balanced
match saw no players bankrupted, and no railroads auctioned or
Also advancing to the Final by means of victory in their five-player
semifinal matches were Chuck Foster, Mark McCandless, Ed Rothenheber
and James Wicht. Former Rail Baron champion Kevin Quirk advanced
by finishing as the top runnerup in the semifinals, but was unable
to attend, and was replaced by first alternate Malcolm Robinson.
The turn order for the Final was Mark, James, Malcolm, Chuck,
Ed and Steve. The railroad purchase order was fairly typical.
James was first to arrive (round 2) and chose the WP. Ed also
arrived in round 2, but opted to not make a purchase. Chuck grabbed
the NYC upon arriving in round 3. All other players arrived during
round 4, with Mark snapping up the valuable PA, James the B&O,
and Malcolm the C&O. Shut out of the important NorthEast
and with Chuck bound for Charleston, Ed took the SAL, and Steve
Perhaps distracted by having the first unfriendly destination,
Chuck did not make a purchase upon arriving in Charleston. Later
he expressed regret about not buying the NYNH at that point.
With help from the $5000 from Chuck's use of the ACL, Steve was
barely able to afford the AT&SF during round 8.
The race for NorthWestern railroads began early, with Ed picking
the CMStP&P in round 9, James taking the GN in round 14 to
connect to his WP, and Malcolm the NP in round 19. At round 13,
Mark upgraded to an Express engine; he was the only player to
do so. Later that same round, James opted for speed and decided
to make his second purchase the Superchief ($28,000, as per RBN
The next big western railroad to be purchased was the UP;
Ed selected it in round 14. Players who were close to affording
the SP instead punted by selecting cheaper railroads: Mark took
the D&RGW and James the C&NW in round 16. But Chuck,
who had been saving up, was first to manage SP's $42,000 price
tag in round 19.
From the rapidly shrinking supply of railroads, Steve connected
his ACL and AT&SF by means of the GM&O in round 17. This
left only the SLSF as the way for Ed to connect his SAL and UP,
but the other players worried more about their own networks than
disrupting others': Mark selected the CRI&P, James the CB&Q,
and Malcolm the NP. Because of a trip to unfriendly San Diego,
Ed was unable to afford the SLSF before Steve arrived again.
But Steve chose the SOU with an eye to getting nearer the NorthEast
rather than picking up the SLSF and sabotaging Ed's network.
Because the SOU serves Washington, Steve would be able to connect
to Mark's PA and James's B&O without having to also use Ed's
RF&P. The SOU was a fortuitous choice because Boston was
his next destination, and rail use fees were about to increase.
Due to a series of sluggish dice rolls, Chuck arrived one
turn too late to purchase the IC, the last available that would
connect his network. Mark had already bought it in round 27.
Later that round when Ed purchased the N&W, all the railroads
had been sold and the match was about 2.5 hours old. The networks
were as follows:
destinations served and monopolized were a weighted percentage
of being drawn.
PA, NYNH, L&N, D&RGW, CRI&P, IC
|| WP, B&O, GN, C&NW, CB&Q, T&P
C&O, NP, MP
NYC, B&M, SP
SAL, RF&P, CMStP&P, UP, SLSF, N&W
ACL, AT&SF, GM&O, SOU
Malcolm and Chuck struggled with non-connected networks, but
both managed to stay in the game without auctioning or selling
back any railroads.With their connected, but limited networks,
both Ed and Steve had trouble generating and keeping cash. Steve
didn't manage to upgrade to a Superchief until round 40, and
Ed not until round 47. James built his own western RR by connecting
WP, GN, and C&NW; combined with his B&O in the NorthEast,
his main problem was the SouthEast. Mark, who had started with
the always useful PA (not to mention the NYNH), could not get
further west than the D&RGW without incurring unfriendly
rail use fees.
When Mark stunned the group in round 49 by announcing he had
reached $150,000, both Ed and Steve lagged way behind with around
$50,000 in cash. As if the announcement were a jinx, Mark promptly
began a series of difficult trips to Seattle, Little Rock, Las
Vegas, Pueblo and back to Las Vegas. In the 15 rounds from 48
to 63, Mark paid Ed the $10,000 use fee an incredible nine times.
James was next to announce (round 57), followed later that round
by Ed. A cash check in round 60 showed Mark with $173,000, James
with $172,000 and Ed with $174,500. Not surprisingly, all players
began to minimize use of the leaders' railroads. Consequently,
Malcolm, Chuck and Steve began to collect rail use fees at an
In round 61, Ed arrived in Tampa, just 7 from his Birmingham
home, but had $199,000; his next destination was unfriendly Buffalo.
By the time he arrived in round 64, Ed had received more use
fee payments, and had enough cash to run home, 13 dots away.
However, he decided to not declare, wound up with Kansas City
as his next destination, and promptly tossed 13 for his roll,
enough to win had he declared. Still, Kansas City was only 10
dots from his home, so it seemed Ed's decision was vindicated.
About the same time, Mark was bound for New Orleans (18 from
his Buffalo home) with around $200,000, and James to Denver (4
from his Casper home) also around $200,000.
Meanwhile, Steve was making some long trips: Cincinnati, Phoenix,
Columbus, Los Angeles, and Richmond, and collecting a few use
payments. He arrived in Richmond just after Ed began his trip
to Kansas City, and his surprise $150,000 announcement only increased
the tension of the match further. Steve drew Chicago as his next
destination, meaning he would not be far from many players' home
cities, including his own (Atlanta).
Ed managed to consume his full roll upon arriving in Kansas
City, and in round 67, just 10 from home, he declared. This time
he rolled 5. All players were in the vicinity, and probably any
one of them could have rovered him. The roll was too small to
run away, so to the surprise of most players, Ed headed directly
for home, as well as for his convenient alternate destination
Charlotte. His plan was an interesting one. He figured he had
just enough cash to be rovered, arrive in Charlotte (only 6 from
home) and make another declaration attempt.
Steve went next, and mustered a roll of 6, which was just
one more than he needed to rover Ed and collect $50,000. After
paying use fees, Steve had $213,000 remaining, and was stuck
on an unfriendly railroad. In the next round, players scrambled
for positions all around the center of the map. Ed hoped for
a roll of 12, which would put him into Charlotte ready to declare,
and almost certainly win, the next round. The uncooperative dice
only gave him 8. Next, Steve wandered to consume his roll of
11 into Chicago, where he collected $8500 and sat just 11 from
home. Ed's chances were diminishing: he needed someone to pay
him $10,000, and he needed to roll a 6 bonus bounce out of Charlotte.
Neither happened, and in round 69 Steve declared, rolled 14,
arrived home and ended with $200,500 to capture the win.
Chuck, Rail Baron GM for many years, commented that
only once before had he seen a win in the Final without a major
NorthEast railroad, and never with a network as limited as Steve's.
The cash flow from railroad use fees was (in thousands): Mark
+$85 ($140 out, $225 in); James -$10 ($140 out, $130 in); Malcolm
$-155 ($260 out, $105 in); Chuck -$10 ($130 out, $120 in); Ed
+$115 ($70 out, $185 in); Steve -$25 ($135 out, $110 in). Not
surprisingly, the PA was tops, producing an income of $120,000
for Mark. In the final scoring, Mark took second due to a large
cash stash ($260k), Ed third, James fourth, Chuck fifth, and
Malcolm sixth. Each finalist took home a plaque attesting to
Overall, 69 entrants (up 20% from 1999) played in 29 matches
for a total of over 500 player-hours. That's one of the highest
player-hour totals at the WBC. The longest match was the semifinal
Chuck won that ran for 7.5 hours. The shortest was a first-round
match that finished in about 2.5 hours. Twenty-three players
won first-round matches, and all but one of them plus three alternates
advanced to create five 5-player tables. The railroads found
most frequently in the winner's network were (26 matches total
for which there is this information): UP (15 times), L&N
(13), PA (12), SOU, NYNH, and B&M (11 each). The railroads
least often in the winner's network were: IC (1 time), B&O,
C&O, CB&Q, SLSF, C&NW, and N&W (3 each).
Luke Koleszar earned the Casey Jones Award by virtue of his
11 unfriendly destinations (Carmen Petruzelli also had 11, but
was edged out in the tie-breaker). The Persistence Award went
to Charles Davis (played three first-round games without a win).
The Efficient Engineer Award went to Larry Kratz ($117,000 was
the lowest-cost winning network). The Riches to Rags Award was
won by Mary Kratz ($63,500 net worth was lowest without going
bankrupt). Michael Zorrer took the Long Haul award (winning with
just 17 destinations). Mike Stanley won the JP Morgan award (highest
net worth: $515,000). And Brian Smith was named Sportsman for
helping out in some difficult matches.
Internet users can find more information about this and past
RBN tournaments at http://www.insystem.com/rbp/wbcrbn.htm.
There you will also find an illustrated history of the game,
plus a shareware computer version that you can practice against.
Please join us and ride the rails to victory! And, if you have
ideas on how to make the competition even better, please contact