empire builder  

Updated 11/21/2010

2010 WBC Report   

 2011 Status: pending 2011 GM commitment

Tedd Mullally, NJ

2010 Champion

Offsite Links

  Rio Grande Games

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

Rank  Name              From  Last  Total
  1.  Richard Meyer      MA    10    112
  2.  Jim Yerkey         MD    03    110
  3.  Harald Henning     CT    08    100
  4.  Tom Dunning        NY    08     97
  5.  Eric Brosius       MA    09     95
  6.  Tedd Mullally      NJ    10     79
  7.  Mark Kennel        DE    09     78
  8.  Donna Balkan       on    04     61
  9.  Debbie Gutermuth   TX    08     60
 10.  Steve Okonski      MD    02     60
 11.  Dave Steiner       DE    10     55
 12.  Bill Navolis       PA    00     50
 13.  Eyal Mozes         NY    09     46
 14.  Kyle Greenwood     HI    10     40
 15.  Mike Zorrer        DE    10     40
 16.  Paul Van Bloem     MD    03     40
 17.  Chuck Foster       TX    06     34
 18.  Greg Mayer         MO    00     30
 19.  John Haas          DE    04     24
 20.  Olin Hentz         CT    03     22
 21.  Cliff Ackman       PA    07     21
 22.  Tom Wade           IN    08     20
 23.  Bill Duke          MD    07     20
 24.  Mark Franceschini  MD    00     20
 25.  Mike Backstrom     MN    05     16
 26.  Rich Shipley       MD    03     16
 27.  John Clarke        FL    06     15
 28.  Bryan Eshleman     NC    07     10
 29.  Winton Lemoine     CA    06     10
 30.  Ken Good           OH    05      9
 31.  Brian Smith        NY    02      6
 32.  Norm Newton        on    10      5
 33.  Debbie Otto        MO    99      3

2010 Laurelists                                            Repeating Laurelists 

Rich Meyer, MA

Kyle Greenwood, NV

Dave Steiner, DE

Mike Zorrer, DE

Norm Newton, on

Past Winners

Steve Okonski, MD

Bill Navolis, PA

Jim Yerkey, MD

Donna Balkan, ON

Tom Dunning, NY

Rich Meyer, MA

Eric Brosius, MA

Harald Henning, CT

Mark Kennel, DE

Tedd Mullally, NJ

Kyle Greenwood, Barb Flaxington and Bob Stribula contemplate their routes.

John Clarke and Laurel Stokes probably haven't paid such attention to crayons in years.

Do the Loco Motion

WBC's Empire Builder got off to an early and sad start in early 2010. Tom Dunning, our two-time champion and four-time GM died suddenly in March at much too young an age. While sick, Tom asked Bob Stribula to ensure the event continued. So, with a promise to Tom not to change anything significant, Bob took over the role of GM. Helping from the start were previous GMs Chuck Foster and Debbie Gutermuth, Empire Builder Pronto designer Steve Okonski, Assistant GM Paul Van Bloem, and Claire Brosius.

Preliminary Rounds

As usual in the preliminary heats, players choose the variant they prefer. If they can find three other participants, they can begin playing. With twelve different titles in the Empire Builder series to choose from, sometimes getting enough players for a game can be a challenge. In the first heat, it worked perfectly. We filled nine tables with four players each. In the second heat, we had nine filled tables and one table for the remaining three players. Balancing the games in the third heat was more difficult. We finally arranged ourselves into five full tables and three tables of three players each. Illustrating the importance of being on time, one person came 30-minutes late and could not be accommodated.

In a significant switch from prior years, Eurorails was the variant played most often with 11 games. Since Mayfair released a new version in 2009 with a new card mix, and since Eurorails 4 was announced as the game for the Final, EPBers may have been getting in some last-minute practice. Empire Builder with Mexico had eight plays. Historically, this is the most popular variant. Surprisingly, Empire Builder without Mexico, after being used for the 2009 Final, made no appearance this year. Martian Rails had three plays, followed by Iron Dragon and British Rails with two plays each. Lunar Rails rose in the East once. Six titles did not make an appearance this year.

During the preliminary games, Michael Holmquist observed firsthand the wisdom of reserving 3 million cash for "Bridge Money." Playing Eurorails 4, the Ebro River flooded early. Mike had ¤2M; he was trapped in Spain. Later, Christy Hunnefeld operated her train over Michael's track, allowing him back into the game. In a British Rails game, Johnny Wilson learned that the game can be nasty. By his first movement turn, all the initial loads he wanted had already been taken by other players. He sat for eight turns until the commodities were replaced. In another Eurorails game, Alex Henning missed a win by ¤1M when a river flood isolated her from her last city connection. Fortunately for both, Michael and Alex won other games to advance.

Semi-final Round

Per WBC rules, less than half the event's entrants may advance. The GM elected to establish five tables of five players for the semi-finals. The 27 preliminary games resulted in 23 unique winners. Four individuals won twice: Norm Newton (Euro, EB), Chuck Foster (Euro, Euro), Jim Fry (British, British), and Mike Zorrer (EB, EB). They became the highest seeds. Curiously, over half of the players with one win, won on their first and only game. Bill Duke, with three second-place finishes (Martian, EB, Euro), was seeded 24th. Bill deserves a special commendation for showing well-rounded competence.

The semi-finals featured Empire Builder with Mexico at all five tables. The top five seeds were seated individually at the five tables. Then the next five seeds were seated in reverse order. Finally, the remaining 15 seeds were seated randomly. Family members, team members, and frequent opponents were separated. Many returning crayon rail semi-finalists from previous years were present. And, the winners were...

Mike Zorrer with a score of $258M to Debbie Gutermuth's $252M. It looked as if Debbie was going to be the first alternate for the Final - again! Even more ironically, Mike won on the same card (Cars to Durango for $30M) as last year when he also beat Debbie.

Tedd Mullally ($254M) squeaked by to beat Norm Newton by $1M. Perhaps this proves that Theo's coffee is a better load than Norm's sugar. Norm drew the Tax Card after Tedd had declared. This required a huddle with the GM and the two AGMs since neither Mayfair's rules nor the errata sheets had explicitly addressed this rare occurrence. For the second year in a row during a semi-final game, not reserving "Bridge Money" was consequential. Steve Cameron, with $2M, watched the Mississippi flood on Theo's first delivery. Steve decided to stay in the game. Later, someone paid Steve to use his track. Steve managed to connect all his cities and was accumulating cash at the end.

Dave Steiner had a relatively easy and uneventful victory ($256M to John Morris' $211M). Two games needed to be adjudicated when time was called. Rich Meyer ($232M) had a good but not insurmountable lead over a tight grouping of Chuck Foster ($201M), Sam Packwood ($191M), and Mark Kennel ($183M). In the remaining semi-final, Kyle Greenwood ($235M) had a smaller lead over Eric Brosius ($217M) when timed was called.

GMs dislike adjudicating games. Maximizing our gaming schedule but allowing games to come to their normal conclusion can be conflicting goals. The issue of slow play needs to be better addressed before next year's competition.

Tom Dunning Memorial Medal

Before WBC, Chuck Foster suggested that we create a new award to memorialize Tom Dunning. Empire Builder was a favorite of Tom's and we wanted to honor him. We decided that the player with the highest cash total in the three preliminary heats plus the semi-final would be awarded the prize. Chuck had a special medal created for this purpose.

Norm Newton amassed an amazing total of 1,024M to win the medal. Norm wrote on his first score sheet, "We played for you, Tom." Second place was earned by Mike Zorrer with 1,006M. Norm and Mike easily outdistanced the rest of the field. Dave Steiner, Michael Holmquist, and Mark Kennel had cash totals in the 800Ms. Everyone else had significantly less.

Final Round

After a short break, the Eurorails 4 Final commenced. The five participants were all heavy hitters. Mike Zorrer and Kyle Greenwood were returning laurelists, finishing second and third respectively last year. Rich Meyer won the event in 2006. Tedd Mullally finished sixth in 2009 and second in 2005. Dave Steiner didn't exactly need supplemental oxygen to sit at these rarefied heights. He'd finished fifth in 2008.

The previous versions of Eurorails highly rewarded the deliveries to and from Iberia. Scandinavia was correspondingly disadvantaged. Analysis and anecdotal stories had shown that Eurorails 4 has a better demand card balance. Additionally, the English Channel Tunnel was added to this edition to make Great Britain a more attractive destination. We were about to see if the good publicity about the game was true.

Mike initially built to Valencia. The Spanish border had been breached. Kyle got close, building to Marseille. Meanwhile, Rich built into England. Kyle extended his track and was the first to Madrid. Rich drew track all the way to Naples and its tobacco loads. Theodore was the second to lay track to Madrid and then on to Sevilla. The latter being the only city with both the lucrative oranges and cork commodities. Theo was the first player to build into ex-Yugoslavia. Per the rules after upgrading his train, Kyle built the Chunnel. He could now avoid the lost turns for the English Channel ferry.

After the rail networks spread throughout Europe, many trains were crisscrossing the continent with high paying deliveries. Payouts in excess of ¤30M and ¤40M were typical; sometimes multiple deliveries in this range were seen. Near the end, Rich delivered machinery to Beograd with a ¤10M bonus for ¤38M total. Then Kyle delivered Cheese to Madrid for ¤30M and chocolate to Porto for ¤40M.

With less than five minutes remaining in the scheduled time, Theodore delivered tobacco to Århus for ¤44M giving him a total of ¤252M and the victory. Tedd's network included all the major cities except London. Rich was a close second with ¤247M. If the game hadn't ended then, Rich would have soon delivered another load to Paris. His network didn't connect to Madrid. Kyle ended with ¤209M and Dave had ¤158M. Mike had his problems. He was only able to connect five of the required seven cities and ended with ¤8M. (We've all had games like that but it hurts more when it is the EPB Final.)

Theodore Mullally was very pleased to accept the first-place plaque. He was also presented with a set of six, hand-painted, pewter locomotives suitable for EPB and Rail Baron. Steve Okonski of Intersystem Concepts, Inc. contributed a complete EB Pronto package to the Empire Builder champion. The package includes the Empire Builder program and 21 maps.

Next Year's Tourney

The GM is soliciting suggestions before next year's event. What do you think about the following issues?

1. The titles for the semi-final and Final are expected to remain the same. It would show more expertise with the game system to rotate the variants but Empire Builder and Eurorails continue to be the most popular titles.

2. Previously in the four-card start, everyone must discard one card before anyone starts drawing track. In a change this year, the players still must discard the fourth card but they can wait until previous players have taken their first draw turn. The GM proposes to make this a permanent change.

3. During a semi-final game, the GM / AGMs ruled that events after a player declares will be ignored. The Empire Builder rules cover the case where a flood disconnects the winner's network after he declares. The rules don't address the Tax Card nor what happens to the other players when a flood occurs after a player declares and the equal turns are being completed. This needs to be reexamined.

4. We need to address the issue of slow play. Some players would like to see the return of player clocks. Others strenuously oppose this proposal. Some players think the semi-final and Final time slots should be longer. Is there another recommendation?

5. Another issue raised was random seating during the preliminary heats. Players are free to choose any of 12 titles. Additionally, players move from one board to another to equalize the number of players per table. Therefore, it is difficult and time-consuming to randomize the seating for titles with multiple boards.

6. Lastly, even after 30+ years, Empire Builder's rules need clarification for tournament play. We are working on the definitive Mayfair Crayon Rails Errata and Tournament Rules book. It is intended that this will be posted on http://www.railgamefans.com/ebp/ebfaq.htm with a link from the Boardgame Players Association web site. Suggestions, comments, observations, and relevant stories for all these issues should be submitted to your GM.

Finally, thank you to all 58 participants of the 2010 EPB event. I appreciated the kind words for a rewarding job running the event after a difficult start. I would like to thank Claire Brosius for painting the miniature locomotives, signing in all the participants for each heat, and handling the early morning demo. Don Greenwood surely appreciates her precise handwriting too. Thank you to the two Assistant GMs: Chuck Foster and Paul Van Bloem for all their help. Thank you to Steve Okonski for discussing rule interpretations as the event drew near, remembering early EPB history, and for the additional Empire Builder Pronto prize. Thank you to Kevin Wojtaszczyk for forwarding Tom's notes from last year and finding the miniature locomotives. Thank you to Bill Peeck for printing the score sheets. As I write this summary, I realize that I really didn't have much to do except say when to start and stop each heat. That's because the EPBers are such a great group of self-directed, cooperative, and fun-loving train gamers. Thank you all!

The finalists pose for posterity before the title game crowns Tedd Mullally the 10th Empire Builder champ in 12 years.

The Tom Dunning Memorial Medal and the six, hand-painted, pewter locomotives honor the two-time champion no longer with us.
 GM      Bob Stribula  [1st Year]  NA 
    stribula@ptd.net   NA

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