41 railroad gamers toured a variety of rooms at Seven Springs in the inaugural Railways of the World/Railroad Tycoon tournament. Two preliminary rounds, a semi, and a final were contested in a two-day period. Despite not winning a preliminary round game, Vien Bounma qualified as an alternate, then won his semifinal and the final to win the title.
Preliminary rounds were limited to three hours, which was sufficient time for all but one of the games. A total of fourteen preliminary round games were played, with Europe the most popular map used (four plays), followed by England (three), and the Eastern US, Mexico, and Nippon (twice each). and Western US once.
Problems occurred when the surprising interest in the first round (31 entrants) was coupled with the lack of games available for the first Wednesday evening session. Somehow, we were able to get eight tables with five different games set up, with all but one of them with four players in each. The boards played were Europe (three times), England (twice), and the Eastern US, Mexico, and Nippon (once each). Stephen Squibb edged Mike Horn by 70-69 in the closest game of the first round. Other winners were Don Tatum, Mark Giddings, Brian Hixon, Chris Long, Carolyn Caton, and Jim Fleckenstein in four-player games, and Steve Shambeda winning a three-player Mexico game.
Another six tables continued on with the second preliminary round, following immediately afterwards on Wednesday evening. This presented a problem, because one game in round one ran late and had to be adjudicated, the parts used in it had to be added back into my box of games, and then I had to run quickly to a different section of the convention hall for the next preliminary round. Thanks again to my assistant GMs, Kelly and Carolyn, for starting the setup for the next round before I got there. Six different titles were played at six tables in round two, with ten new players joining thirteen players returning from the first round. Two of the second-round games were especially close. At the England table, David Stoy edged John Henry, Stephen Altbackar, and Jim Dauphinais by 44-43-40-38, as all four players were in it until the end. Stephen Costa edged Vien Bounma and Nick Vayn 82-80-76 on the Western US map. While Stephen, Vien, and Nick took a combined 8 loans, Walt Neumann tried a different tack, taking 99 loans. Despite his creative financing, Walt did still have a positive score, and in fact had the most victory points before loans were deducted.
The fourteen preliminary round games produced no repeat winners. One player did finish second twice, earning Eric Alexopolous fifteenth seed. Mike Horn came the closest to winning a game, which got him to sixteenth. However, Eric and four of the winners did not show up for the semifinal round on Thursday, enabling four runners up to play in the semifinals. The sixteenth slot was filled by Marvin Birnbaum, who finished no higher than third, but showed up and took the spot when no one ranked ahead of him came to the semifinals.
The semifinals were four tables of four players each on Thursday. The players were seeded into the semifinals, based on the results of preliminary round play and the multiple entry-single elimination tie-breaking criteria established by the WBC. Where players remained tied, they were placed according to their best margin of victory percentage over the second-place score. Steve Shambeda claimed the top seed by the largest victory percentage in his win. The first eleven seeds all won in their first try, so they were ranked ahead of the three players who won on their second try, and were seeded by victory percentage. Seeds twelve through fourteen were also seeded by victory percentage in their win. The remaining players were ranked by the percentage of the winning score they got in their games, as well as their relative placement in the game.
Players were seated at the four semifinal tables by rank, with Table 1 matching seeds 1-8-9-16, Table 2 had 2-7-10-15, Table 3 with 3-6-11-14, and Table 4 matching 4-5-12-13. Once seated, the players discussed which games they were interested in playing. If no consensus was reached, the default map was the Eastern US.
The first Railways semifinal table was played on the Europe board. Top seed Steve Shambeda overcame Pierre LeBoeuf’s early lead to pull away for an easy win. The second table was also played on the Europe map, but was much closer. Chris Trimmer edged David Stoy 56-54, despite having four more loans than David. Table 3 was contested on the large Western US board, and was again very close. All four players were close, but Don Tatum took only 2 loans on his way to a 61-59-55-52 win. The final table used the England map, where Vien Bounma got his first win, 80-78, over Jim Fleckenstein.
The four semifinal winners advanced to the Railways final Thursday night, played again on the Europe map. The final matched two preliminary round winners against two second-place finishers. Steve bid 13 to go first in the first round. His first delivery to Lisbon (service bounty of +4) was worth a total of 6 VP. Another delivery later in the first set of turns got Steve to 7 VP ($9 – 4 income), demonstrating the importance of going first. Vien, going second, had the benefit of cashing in a Moscow service bounty (worth 3 VP) without having to take out the 3 extra loans Steve needed to win the bid.
Chris got the first major line built, connecting Amsterdam to Marseille in the first set of turns for 4 VP and a rail network that proved useful as the game continue. Later in the game, a bidding war between Chris and Don to go first in turn 4 was critical for Chris when he won it for just $5, then was able to use this advantage to make the first 3-link delivery (extra 3 VP bonus) and he was the first to deliver four different colored cubes (4 VP bonus).
Chris maintained his early lead through turns 4 through 9, generating lots of cash he used to expand his rail network. Vien began to gain on Chris by upgrading his train to level 6 and making four 6-link deliveries. Chris also went to a 6-engine, but had only two 6-link deliveries. At least, he had two until Don stole one of them, making a 1-link delivery to deny Chris the points. Only Don made his baron condition, good for 6 points, enough to push him past Steve for third place. Vien had two fewer loans than Chris, just enough to push him past Chris for the victory.
Final scores were Vien Bounma 65, Chris Trimmer 64, Don Tatum 60 and Steve Shambeda 55.
I would like to thank everyone for coming to our inaugural tournament, and I hope the event will continue to grow next year. My two main takeaways from this year’s event are “Please bring copies of the game” and “Show up for the semifinals, you never know what might happen”. I hope to see you all again in 2019.