Do the Loco Motion
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.