More detailed rules are at Rail Baron Rules for the 21st Century.

A summary of the rules of the old Rail Baron board game is given below. For specific details, please consult the rules that came with your copy of that board game. The rules below can be used with the current Rail Baron® board games.


This is a board game about building railroad empires. Players attempt to construct the best network by gradually purchasing desirable railroads on the map, while simultaneously preventing others from doing so. The railroad owner collects valuable use fees from opponents who travel upon it, while he can ride it at very low cost. The winner is the first player who can return home with $200,000 or more in cash.


Players start the game with $20,000 cash, a standard engine, and no properties (railroads). For each player, an initial city on the map is assigned at random via the Destination Table (see "Destinations" below for detailed instructions). This becomes that player's home city; he places his engine there. To win the game, he must return to this home city with $200,000 or more.


During the game, each player makes trips to a series of destinations assigned at random. After all players have been assigned a home city, the first player uses the Destination Table to learn his first destination. He rolls all 3 dice and looks up the new region (the uniquely colored die indicates whether to look in the Even or Odd area of the table). If this region is the same as the player's current region, he gets to pick the region he prefers. Then, he rolls all 3 dice again and consults the table to find the city within the region. If he rolls the city in which he is currently, he loses his turn; otherwise, he should proceed with the Movement.


During his turn, the player must travel (move his engine dot-to-dot on the map) from one destination to the next according to the movement amount assigned (2D6, plus bonus; a standard engine awards a 1D6 bonus if the player had rolled double sixes, "boxcars"). The full roll must be consumed, except if the player arrives at his destination.

For travel, a player may use any route and railroad desired, provided that he does not reuse any particular dot-to-dot route of a particular railroad. This limitation is reset (cleared) each time he reaches his next destination. Where multiple railroads connect the same two dots, he must indicate which he is using. If he has not arrived at his destination, the player's turn ends after his movement is complete.


Upon arriving at his assigned destination, the player stops moving his train (losing any excess movement, except as noted below), and is awarded a payoff as indicated on the chart. Payoffs are fixed amounts, and are generally proportional to the length of the shortest possible route between the departure and arrival cities.


Immediately after collecting his payoff for arrival, the player has the option to make a purchase. He can purchase any unowned railroad that he can afford, or can upgrade his engine to an Express ($4000) or Superchief ($40000). The upgraded engines move faster on subsequent turns: an Express produces a 1D6 movement bonus if the player had rolled any doubles; a Superchief produces a 1D6 movement bonus every turn.


After arrival and purchase, if a player has not consumed any portion of his bonus movement (if he is entitled to one), he is assigned his next destination and begins his trip with that bonus. Players often call this a "bonus" or "bounce" out of a city. If he has no bonus remaining, he is not assigned his next destination until the start of his next turn.


At the completion of each turn (after the bonus roll is moved, or after the normal roll, if he had no bonus), the player must pay use fees. If he traveled upon an unowned railroad, or his own, or both, he must pay the bank $1000. If he traveled upon one or more railroads owned by a particular opponent, he must pay that opponent either $5000, or if all railroads have been sold, $10000. It is possible for a player to pay multiple opponents as well as the bank after the same turn, if he has used the railroads of several players. Note that even if he uses two (or more) railroads belonging to the same opponent, he still pays that opponent only one $5000 or $10000 fee.

If the cost of travel upon a railroad increases while a player's engine is at a dot served by that railroad, that player is said to be "established" (or "grandfathered") on that railroad at the lower cost for as long as he uses it, and no other railroad, for travel. Once he uses another railroad, the price goes up.


If a player has insufficient cash to pay use fees, he must either auction one of his railroads to the other players, or sell it back to the bank for half its original purchase price. During an auction, bidding starts at half price, and bid amounts must be multiples of $500. The highest bidder wins and assumes ownership. If no one bids, the railroad is purchased by the bank for half price. This is the only time in the game that property can be sold. If a player is unable to pay use fees after auctioning all his railroads, he is declared bankrupt, and is immediately out of the game.


To win, a player must return to his home city with $200,000 or more in cash (after paying all use fees). But, this trip home is a special one: when he wants to make it, he must "declare" to his opponents that he is about to begin it. This declaration must be made immediately before he is about to be assigned his next destination, and he must have at least $200,000 in cash. Upon declaring, the player is assigned an alternate destination which is used only if he becomes "undeclared" (fails to reach home safely). He then moves normally toward home. A player becomes undeclared if either he 1) drops below $200,000 in cash, or 2) is captured by the "rover play" described next.

If a player reaches home without being rovered, and with $200,000 after paying all his use fees, he wins and the game ends immediately.


While a player is declared he is vulnerable to what is known as the "rover play". To make a rover play, any opponent must move his engine either to or through the dot at which the declared player's engine sits. When this happens, the declared player becomes undeclared, and must pay a fee of $50,000 to the player that performed the rover. The now undeclared player must then move to his alternate destination (after which he may try to declare again, if he has sufficient cash).

There is no obligation to declare. Most players wait until they are about to depart a city that is located near their home. If a player declares while in his home city, he wins immediately.


Railroad purchases are the key to Rail Baron. Try to purchase railroads that serve important cities on the map. In general, the more populous a city, the more frequently it is assigned as a destination; thus it is important to own a railroad that serves that city. It is essential that your network is fully connected by the time all the railroads are sold; if not, you'll be forced to frequently employ the railroads of opponents (and will incur high use fees). You can also try to purchase railroads to monopolize cities, which will force opponents to pay those use fees to you.


As with most board games, the printed rules for Rail Baron contain several gray areas. Please consult the unofficial FAQ at the Rail Baron Fanatics Web site.

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