Ah, we love it so...
U.S. and Canadian sweated and froze, experienced unexpected victories,
or stared in disbelief as the evil dice snatched away certain
victory in Rail Baron yet again. There was, no doubt,
such a tale at each table all the way to the final game. Congratulations
to this year's champion, Doug Galullo. Also playing in the final
game, finishing in ranking order (net worth): Brian Conlon, Larry
Kratz, Phil White, Mike Brophy, yours truly, GM Ron Secunda,
who, I might add, was happy just to not go bankrupt and remain
in the game to the end.
The order of play for the final was Phil, Doug, Larry, Ron,
Brian, and Mike. Departing from their homes, the howl was "Westward
Ho," as each player headed in a safe, westerly direction.
As each arrived, the predictable railroads were grabbed up. In
order of purchase, PA (Brian), NYC (Larry), B&O (Ron), C&O
(Mike), SAL (Doug). Whereas the initial movement was to the west,
the players clearly sought the eastern railroads. Brian quickly
added the ACL, Phil grabbed the SOU, Larry the L&N, and Ron
the NYNH. Doug was first at the western Big Three, selecting
the ATSF, and also picked up the RF&P. Brian followed by
capturing the SP and upgraded to an express. Phil managed to
buy the UP. Mike acquired the WP and DRG&W, upgraded to an
express, and purchased the B&M.
By mid-game, Phil was holding the SOU, UP, NP and N&W
as well as an express. Doug, holding the ATSF, SAL, and RF&P,
was locked out of the Northeast but endured a trip to hostile
New York; he then received a safe, long trip to San Francisco
on his ATSF, and upon arrival added the CMStP&P. Larry survived
a trip to very hostile Miami, managed to upgrade to an express,
and later added the GN, C&NW, and T&P to his NYC &
L&N. After Ron returned from San Francisco to Memphis and
purchased the NYNH, he next traveled slowly to friendly, nearby
destinations, upgraded to an Express, and was then the first
to upgrade to a Superchief. Brian, holding the PA, SP, and ACL,
was the only player with both a major NE and SW railroad; he
found himself traveling to Doug's hostile San Diego, but then
had a friendly trip to Kansas City. Mike, after a trip to hostile
New York, next traveled to Minneapolis, and purchased the GM&O.
The finalists are all smiles before
the big game: (Left to right: Doug Galullo, Larry Kratz, Ron
Secunda, Brian Conlon, Mike Brophy, and Phil White.
Now the game really got interesting. Brian departed Kansas
City for San Francisco, and upon arriving, purchased the CB&Q.
Had this been a chess match, that decision would have been noted
with a question mark because only the CRI&P and MP remained
available to connect Brian's big railroads. Doug, having left
San Francisco, now found himself en route to Louisville, with
only one non-hostile RR left to ride in on, the IC. Ron, having
arrived in New Orleans, and finding himself trailing all other
players in RR acquisitions, snatched the IC, which connected
to his B&O, in hopes of cashing in on Doug's arrival at Louisville.
Doug initially expressed a non-willingness to accommodate Ron,
but relented when Ron's next destination was a very hostile San
Francisco. Thus a symbiotic relationship ensued. Doug arrived
in Louisville, paid Ron, and bought the SLSF, breathing a sigh
of relief, as it gave him the last available connection into
his SAL. Next, Ron arrived in San Francisco and, in an act of
desperation, purchased the CRI&P. Mike soon purchased the
last railroad available, the MP, which connected his eastern
and western RRs. This turn of events left Brian with no connection
from his PA+CB&Q to his SP or his ACL.
OK, I know money is supposed to
be in full view but this is ridiculous.
Due to the jump in railroad use fees, immediately more than
one player found himself strapped for cash. Only Doug had saved
some dough for the inevitable auctions. He won the WP from Mike
for $22,000, plus the B&M for $8,000. Doug also won the NYNH
from Ron for $10,000. At this point the networks, with access
and monopoly percentages, were as follows: Phil: SOU UP NP NW
(38.2%, 3.2%), Doug: SAL ATSF RF&P CMStP&P SLSF WP B&M
NYNH (60.7%, 7.4%), Larry: NYC L&N GN C&NW T&P (48.5%,
2.0%), Ron: B&O IC CRIP (31.8%, 0.7%), Brian: PA ACL SP CBQ
(65.4%, 0.0%), Mike: C&O DRG&W GMO MP (28.3%, 0.0%).
Clearly Doug was in the best position, even without a major
Northeast railroad. Brian's network service percentage was tops,
but the lack of connections was a big problem. Larry could not
be counted out because he had an excellent route between the
Northeast and Northwest. Indeed, both Larry and Brian announced,
but Doug was able to amass the most cash, thanks, in part, to
collecting about $70,000 in use fees from the B&M NYNH combo.
In the "end game," Doug, sitting in Albany, declared
for Home (Louisville), but rolled only half of the10 he needed;
he was rovered and had to proceed to his alternate destination,
Sacramento. His next destination, however, was Chicago, and then
he easily made it home to Louisville.
The tournament would not have been possible without the contributions
of my assistant GMs, Chester Lanham, Paul Van Bloem, and especially
Steve Okonski, without whose help it couldn't have happened.
Additionally, Steve was recognized for a significant accomplishment
at the 2004 tournament, and a gift was presented to him just
before the commencement of the final game. The award was given
for an unprecedented win record in RBN first-round heats: Steve
not only won all three he entered, but then also voluntarily
filled in for another player (who had to drive a friend to a
hospital) in another first-round heat. The player was already
in the lead, and Steve won that game also.
As a prize the winner of the tournament, Doug, received an
RBN Player Ambassador CD from Intersystem Concepts, and the first
through fifth place finishers received a BPA plaque. Each finalist
received a donated magnet depicting the oldest continuously used
train station, President Street Station (Baltimore, MD). As for
other awards, everyone who played in the semi-final received
a B&O Railroad Museum ruler, and prior to the start of the
semi-final, Chester Lanham was awarded a gift of round dice in
recognition of his encountering the most hostile destinations.
(His luck held in that first-round-heat, when after declaring
for home, he felt confident that the nearest player couldn't
possibly roll a 16 to rover him. He was right. That player rolled
a17.) There are, of course, many tales of cruel and unusual punishment
from the dice: I overheard one player exclaim "Thank you
sir, can I have another?" How many players experienced hostile
after hostile destinations, or couldn't roll a 7 with three dice
to win (hmm, wait, that was me!). Ah, we love it so...
Some interesting statistics: 87% of the players who made it
into the semi-final games started playing on the first day first-round
heat, 13% made it in by starting on the second day, and no players
who entered the tournament at the third preliminary heat advanced.
24 winners advanced to the semi-finals, and to fill out the five-person,
five-table semi-final, one first-round alternate, your GM (with
$500,000 net worth) advanced to that last seat. In addition,
three Preliminary winners were unavailable for the semis and
forfeited their seats to the next two alternates: Charlie Davis
($481,500) and Jeri Freedman ($443,500). Moving down the list
of alternates present, Rod Davidson ($341,500) snagged the last
seat. The five semi-final game winners were joined at the final
round. six-player table by the first alternate; you guessed it,
your GM again ($392,000). Hoping for a no-show at the final,
but destined to be disappointed were the remaining alternates:
Francis Deveraux ($347,000), Stan Buck ($336,000), Steve Okonski
($331,000), Donna Balkan ($312,000), and Chuck Foster ($307,000).
For pictures and year-round Rail Baron news see http://www.insystem.com/rbp/wbcrbn.htm