empire builder   

Updated Nov. 23, 2012

2012 WBC Report   

 2013 Status: pending 2013 GM commitment

Bart Pisarik, IA

2012 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


Rank  Name              From  Last  Total
  1.  Richard Meyer      MA    12    182
  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.  Tedd Mullally      NJ    10     79
  8.  Mark Kennel        DE    09     78
  9.  Debbie Gutermuth   TX    11     66
 10.  Donna Balkan       on    04     61
 11.  Steve Okonski      MD    02     60
 12.  Paul Van Bloem     MD    11     52
 13.  Bart Pisarik       IA    12     50
 14.  Bill Navolis       PA    00     50
 15.  Eyal Mozes         NY    09     46
 16.  Kyle Greenwood     HI    10     40
 17.  Mike Zorrer        DE    10     40
 18.  Chuck Foster       TX    06     34
 19.  Greg Mayer         MO    00     30
 20.  Jennifer Thomas    NY    11     24
 21.  John Haas          DE    04     24
 22.  Ken Gutermuth      NC    12     23
 23.  Olin Hentz         CT    03     22
 24.  Cliff Ackman       PA    07     21
 25.  Mark Giddings      NY    12     20
 26.  Tom Wade           IN    08     20
 27.  Bill Duke          MD    07     20
 28.  Mark Franceschini  MD    00     20
 29.  Mike Backstrom     MN    05     16
 30.  Rich Shipley       MD    03     16
 31.  John Clarke        FL    06     15
 32.  Bryan Eshleman     NC    07     10
 33.  Winton Lemoine     CA    06     10
 34.  Ken Good           OH    05      9
 35.  Brian Smith        NY    02      6
 36.  Norm Newton        on    10      5
 37.  Debbie Otto        MO    99      3

2012 Laurelists                                            Repeating Laurelists: 

Eric Brosius, MA

Mark Giddings, NY

Harald Henning, CT

Rich Meyer, MA

Ken Gutermuth, NC

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

Eyal Mozes, Donna Balkan (fresh off her Rail Baron victory, and Mark Sciera build rail lines.

Pam Gutermuth, Joshua Coyle and Ron Secunda plan their routes to their next distination.

 Rich Meyer and Natasha Metzger (faring very well at her first WBC) plan their moves.

 Bart Pisarik, Ron Secunda, Grant LaDue, Mark Kennel and the Chairman.

Do the Loco Motion ...

The Missing Cork Controversy ...

The teaching demonstration seemed to predict a good year. More people crowded around the table to learn the basics of playing "crayon rails" than any time in recent memory. Natasha Metzger asked many questions and genuinely seemed interested in learning the game. She and a few others followed the GM from the demo area to Heat 1. Natasha must be a quick learner. She won her first game! Thanks were given to Debbie Gutermuth and Claire Brosius for their help in Natasha's first game. As always, their patience and teaching skills are appreciated.

Preliminary Round

Empire Builder is somewhat unique in how it handles the preliminary rounds. There are 13 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] (EPB), India Rails (IR), Iron Dragon (ID), Lunar Rails (LR), Martian Rails (MR), Nippon Rails (NR), North American Rails (NAR), and Russian Rails (RR). Agent of Change, also known as West Virginia Rails, is disallowed in tournaments because of its nonstandard nature. Players are welcome to place any other title on a table and solicit opponents. As long as four are willing to play, the game may start. Furthermore, players are allowed to select which game and which opponents to face. As the late Tom Dunning said more than once, "The sharks recognize each other and we certainly recognize the guppies." There is this element of meta-gaming during the preliminary rounds.

Nine tables ran during the first heat. Besides Natasha's Empire Builder (EPB) win, other first heat winners were Mike Zorrer, Mike Holmquest and Harald Henning (EPB), Mark Kennel and Bob Stribula (MR), Brian Smith and Donna Balkan (ER)). Since this heat was late, no games needed to be adjudicated. On the other hand, Eric Brosius demonstrated that games don't need to take four hours. He took only 1 hour and 50 minutes! He admitted that he had unbelievably good cards. It also helped that the Mexican earthquake struck his closest opponent, Dave Finberg.

Meanwhile outside in the real world, Lancaster was experiencing a severe thunderstorm with strong, gusty winds, pouring rain, vivid lightening, and occasional hail. Inside, crayon railers were dealing with sand storms on Mars, flooding in the Mississippi Valley, and snow plus fog in Germany. Most of the players were completely oblivious to the outside weather. Some were oblivious to the goings on at nearby tables. Not so for Claire Brosius, the Assistant GM. One of the younger players quit a game in progress for another event. Soon afterward, he came back to the group and attempted to rejoin his game. Claire quickly, quietly, but forcibly explained to him that that was not how WBC tournaments function. His behavior was decidedly not sporting. Perhaps being a parent helped Claire learn how to dispense "tough love." In any case, she has earned the title of Empire Builder Disciplinarian to add to her resumé.

After a much too short night for this GM, Heat 2 began at 9:00. Another nine tables were manned with four players each. One table generated the only game of the event with two declared players with the required victory conditions. Barb Flaxington's 275 M beat Bob Stribula's 272 M in a game of Lunar Rails. Ironically, Bob also played in the only game with two declared players last year.

Meanwhile in an Iron Dragon game, Ken Gutermuth was putting on a demonstration of how these games combine luck and skill. After delivering Steel to Azu Zarkh, a major city in the Olde World, he drew a Wikkede wants Dragons for 59 Gold Pieces. Wikkede and Azu Zarkh are magically linked cities. He next delivered another load of Dragons to Oulde Mordel for 68 GP. He picked up a Cloth and two Spells in the process of delivering these three loads. The replacement cards were nothing special. The Empire Builder games allow a player to use an entire turn to discard his three demand cards for three new ones. Knowing when to "dump" cards is a key to victory. Ken knew. He "ditched" his cards and drew replacement cards for exactly the three commodities he had on board. Three turns later in the north central part of the map, his three deliveries earned him 131 GPs. Along with the deliveries to the southeast corner, he had made 222 of the required 250 GPs.

Other winners in Heat 2 were Mark Kennel (LR), Rich Shipley (EB), Ted Mullally (ER), Mike Zorrer (EB), Gus McDonald (EB), Rich Meyer (ER), and Bart Pisarik (EB).

Ten more games occurred in Heat 3. Two of them were 3-player games. Heats 2 and 3 were scheduled back-to-back. It gets challenging to wrap up the slower games while getting 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 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.

Winners in Heat 3 were Eyal Mozes and Mark Kennel (BR), Ted Mullally and Grant LaDue (AR), Cathy Raymond and Mark Giddings (ER), Alex Henning, Chris Gnech and Paul Van Bloem (EPB), and Glen Pearce (MR).

Of the 13 allowed Empire Builder titles, seven were played in this year's tournament. During the 28 preliminary games, Empire Builder with Mexico was the most popular with eleven plays. The others in declining order of popularity were: Eurorails (7), Martian Rails (3), Australian Rails (2), British Rails (2), Lunar Rails (2), Iron Dragon (1).

During the Preliminaries, the following players had the highest winning cash total in the named titles:
Lunar Rails (LR) H2 Barb Flaxington 275
Empire Builder (EPB)* H2 Mike Zorrer 272
British Rails (BR) H3 Mark Kennel 268
Eurorails (ER) H2 Ted Mullally 263
Martian Rails (MR) H1 Mark Kennel 262
Iron Dragon (ID) H2 Ken Gutermuth 257
Australian Rails (AR) H3 Grant LaDue 257

* Bart Pisarik bettered this EPB finish in the semifinals with 277.

Semifinal Round

The qualifiers and highest seeded hopefuls gathered for the semifinals on Thursday morning. There were 24 unique winners in 28 games. Of those 24, eight played and won their only preliminary game. Mark Kennel won all three of his games. Mike Zorrer and Ted Mullally each had won twice. Given the number of participants in the event, the convention's rules allowed 25 players to advance to the semifinals. Rich Shipley was unable to continue so two alternates advanced. Ron Secunda and Debbie Gutermuth had both finished second in two games and eagerly took their places in the next round. The five top-seeded players were placed at different tables. The next five seeds were seated in reverse order. The remaining 15 were randomly assigned. The game was Empire Builder with Mexico.

A 5-player semifinal usually takes longer than a 4-player preliminary game. The additional player and extra deliberation lengthen the experience. Nevertheless, two semis easily finished within the time slot. Again, Eric Brosius pushed his opponents to a quick game. He finished with $257M with Ted Mullally $100M behind. Against common opinion, Eric left Mexico City out of his network. Coffee, the single highest paying commodity, only comes from Veracruz just three mileposts east of Mexico City. Silver and Textiles are two other commodities unique to Mexico. Mexico also received many high paying commodities. Bart Pisarik, with $277M also won his game in regulation time. He beat Ken Gutermuth by $50M. Bart is a Conductor for the Train Gamers Association's Puffing Billy events and was at his first WBC.

Finishing close to the time limit was Mark Giddings with exactly $250M - besting Chris Gnech by $26M. The other two games needed to be adjudicated. This is an unpleasant task with any game but especially for a semifinal. The Final immediately follows the semifinal and it also has a four-hour time slot. Therefore, the semifinal must finish on time. Fortunately, there are published instructions to count down the remaining time and rules to give all players an even number of turns. Harald Henning was declared the winner in his game at $238M. Michael Holmquest was second and still in the running at $217M. Afterward, Harald said that another two turns should have allowed him to reach the $250M victory condition. Of course, that assumes that no disaster occurred in the intervening turns! Mike and the GM would have preferred to allow the game to reach its natural conclusion if the schedule permitted. Rich Meyer was clearly leading in the last game at $233M with his closest adversary, Brian Smith, at $167M.

The results were in. The finalists were determined. Ken Gutermuth's $227M was the best second-place finish so he was awarded the coveted sixth place, sand plaque. His wife, Debbie, had earned it in 2011 -- when the event only had five plaques! Timing is everything. Debbie's participation in 2011's banner attendance year gave the event a sixth place plaque that Ken claimed in 2012's down attendance year. Life isn't fair. But Ken has no complaints!

Tom Dunning Memorial Award

The Empire Builder players continued to remember our friend, fierce competitor, and previous GM Tom Dunning. The memorial award rewards expertise across the entire spectrum of "crayon rails." The award's rules were changed slightly this year. Players could total their results from four different games in the preliminary heats and the semifinal. Given that the semi was Empire Builder with Mexico, contestants needed to avoid that title and play three different games in the heats. Six players played in three different titles during the heats. Erica Kirchner, Sam Packwood, Jenn Thomas (last year's award winner), and Inger Henning met these conditions but did not make the semifinal. Bob Stribula and Mark Kennel also played three different titles and did make the semifinal. Bob was slightly ahead by 7 in cash going into Heat 3. The two played British Rails head-to-head in Heat 3 with Mark winning with £268M to Bob's £93M. Bob made up a few points during the semifinal but Heat 3 was the difference. Mark finished with 937 total. Bob had 780. Mark was the happy third recipient of the Tom Dunning Medal.


After a short break, the five finalists were ready to begin. There was some joking that if one of them suddenly remembered a pressing engagement, could they get the sand plaque instead? Fortunately, good sense prevailed. (WBC rules state that a player missing the Final does NOT get a lower position plaque. They forfeit all prizes!)

The Final map was Mayfair Game's latest version of Eurorails. The participants in start order were: Mark Giddings, Eric Brosius, Rich Meyer, Harald Henning, and Bart Pisarik. Four of them were among the eight that played and won their only preliminary game. Eric Brosius was the exception. He won his first game but played a second game -- a true devotee of the system. The GM did his best to record the events and deliveries during the game while trying not to distract the players too much. As would be expected, tension is high during a Final.

Mark started building west from Milano. Eric discarded his four start cards in exchange for three new cards. (In case anyone would like to second guess Eric, his start cards were numbers: 2, 29, 83, and 94.) Rich built east from the Ruhr and west into France. Harald constructed track west from Paris and towards Italy. Bart laid track southwest from the Ruhr and to Holland.

In list form, the play-by-play deliveries, events, and builds follow:

Player Delivery City Payout Build

Harold Cattle Paris ¤07M
Harold Machinery Torino ¤20M
Eric, with his new cards, built from Wein to ex-Yugoslavia and northwest...
Eric Labor Antwerpen ¤26M
Bart finished building track to Iberia...
Bart Tourists Barcelona ¤29M
Eric Labor Holland ¤23M Fast Train.
Rich China Bordeaux ¤26M
Harold Wheat Roma ¤20M Fast Train
Bart Cheese Madrid ¤30M
Mark, after waiting two or three turns for Bart to complete track to Madrid for Mark to rent it...
Mark Cars & Wheat Lisboa ¤56M
Eric Wine Paris ¤11M Built Chunnel
Rich Cheese Barcelona ¤21M
Bart (twice), Mark, and Rich all discarded for the much desired but elusive Cork and/or Oranges demands.
Harold Tobacco Marseille ¤21M
Bart Fast Train
Eric Beer Birmingham ¤11M via Chunnel
Rich Fast Train
Harold Wheat Luxembourg ¤10M
Rich Wheat Ruhr ¤13M
Eric Wine Antwerpen ¤16M via Chunnel
Eric Beer Brussels ¤10M
Harold Bauxite London ¤25M via Chunnel Super Freight
Bart Bauxite Holland ¤22M Super Freight
Eric Iron Lyon ¤21M
Rich Flowers Paris ¤08M Super Freight
Mark Sheep Praha ¤35M
Mark built a Malmö-Sassnitz Baltic Sea ferry.
Eric Wheat Cardiff ¤22M
Harold Imports Napoli ¤33M
Mark Cork København ¤62M
Rich Wheat Berlin ¤21M
Bart Beer Seville ¤48M
Rich Flowers Wien ¤18M
Eric Cars Antwerpen ¤12M
Rich Chocolate Zagreb ¤18M
Harald Imports Beograd ¤31M
Bart Steel & Imports Porto ¤73M
Mark Copper Torino ¤24M
Eric Sheep Wroclaw ¤33M
North Sea Gales prevented Harald from building an English Channel ferry. Due to the timing of the event's expiration, Rich built the cheaper route for an Ijmuiden-Harwich ferry before Harald was allowed to build.
Harald also built an Ijmuiden-Harwich ferry.
Harold Tobacco Ruhr ¤31M
Mark Copper Madrid ¤49M
Rich Machinery Manchester ¤18M
Mark discarded twice.
Bart Steel Torino ¤16M
Eric Ham Manchester ¤35M
Rich Cars Holland ¤10M
Harold Tourists Valencia ¤35M
Bart Cheese Milano ¤07M
Rich Chocolate London ¤10M
Rich Cheese Birmingham ¤12M
Bart Cork Wien ¤53M
Bart Wine Roma ¤22M
Eric Sheep Paris ¤19M
Harald Sheep Beograd ¤51M
Eric Fish Bern ¤37M
Rich China Madrid ¤39M
The Rhein River flooded.
Mark Wheat Wien ¤21M
Rich Tourists Seville ¤48M
Harald discarded twice.
Bart built a Portsmouth-LaHavre English Channel ferry.
Eric Cattle Ruhr ¤09M
Rich discarded twice and the Tax Card came up.
Cash after the Tax card was:
Bart ¤144M
Eric ¤122M
Rich ¤112M
Mark ¤ 98M
Harald ¤ 87M

About this time, there was a mix up whether an additional Cork load was available. Rich wanted an extra Cork. He looked for it but didn't find it. The chips were arranged between Eric and Rich. Rich didn't ask for the Cork nor did he poll the others to find if all the chips were out. When Bart asked for a Cork, Eric found one. Rich protested but the table declared that the oversight was Rich's fault and Bart was entitled to it. The GM, present at the table, did not see Rich's original search for Cork and so allowed the group to decide the issue.
Mark Cork Napoli ¤52M
Eric built a Liverpool-Dublin Irish Sea ferry.
Eric Cattle Cork, Éire ¤32M + ¤10M Irish bonus
Harald Oranges Holland ¤33M
Mark discarded twice.
Eric discarded.
Eric Imports Cork, Éire ¤27M Spec load
Rich Imports Birmingham ¤14M
The Ebro River flooded.
Eric discarded.
Rich Oranges Aberdeen ¤53M
Harald Machinery Milano ¤20M + ¤10M bonus
By now, players were asking each other how much cash each had nearly every time a delivery was made. They knew the end was near.
Bart Cork Ruhr ¤44M (total ¤155M)
Eric Beer Antwerpen ¤10M (total ¤221M)
Rich (total ¤153M)
Harald (total ¤125M)
Bart Fish Venice ¤42M and
Tourists Venice ¤19M (total ¤199M)
Rich Iron Toulouse ¤26M (total ¤179M)
Harald Labor Lisboa ¤55M (total ¤184M)
Bart Cork * Budapest ¤60M (total ¤261M)
* Note: This was the disputed Cork chip.

Bart finished in First with ¤261M
Eric finished in Second with ¤221M
Mark finished in Third with ¤185M
Harald finished in Fourth with ¤184M
Rich finished in Fifth with ¤179M

The game ended just before the scheduled slot would have ended. Afterward, the GM questioned Eric about the Chunnel. EB Pronto's analysis shows that the Chunnel may be overpriced. Eric felt that it more than paid for itself in time saved and track rental fees. (Not all the rentals are recorded above.) It was used a number of times and other players often stayed on Eric's tracks to complete their deliveries and/or pickups. Eric felt that a 5-player game does make it more useful. It also had the effect of making Ireland only one ferry ride away from the continent.

Thanks and Next Year

The GM would like to thank all the participants. Without you, all this would be moot. Helping the GM work through the rules for the 13 titles and up to seven editions, Steve Okonski was a great help. It was the GMs goal to make the WBC rules correspond to the EPB Pronto rules. Where they differ, it is because face-to-face play requires simpler rules than those that can be programmed for a computer. Steve Cameron was also very helpful in interpreting the event guidelines into EPB procedures. Past GMs, Rich Shipley, Chuck Foster, and Debbie Gutermuth also were consulted regarding specific rules. Bart Pisarik answered many questions concerning the Train Gamers Association interpretation of specific Mayfair rules. All these items continue to be documented in The Definitive Crayon Rails Book. (The latest version of this book is available as a PDF from the GM.) Continuing thanks are due Chuck Foster for having produced the Tom Dunning medal. Finally, a special thank you to Claire Brosius and Paul Van Bloem for being the Assistant GMs. Claire, with her excellent penmanship, signed in the participants and handled the discipline. Paul helped rule on the tough questions and adjudicated an overtime game while the GM handled another. Both helped in countless other ways.

At this time, the GM hopes to continue running EPB another year. No major changes are anticipated. A ninth hour for the semifinal/Final time slot 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 instead of inhaling them. It should also ease some time pressure on the Final game. Of course, if anyone has additional comments or suggestions, the GM promises to listen to and consider them.

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/.

Mark Kennel receives the Tom Dunning Memorial Award from GM Bob Stribula.

GM Stribula oversees his finalists, all present and accounted for, sans fez.
 GM      Bob Stribula  [3rnd Year]  NA 
    stribula@ptd.net   NA

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