Rail Baron® Play FAQ

This FAQ describes how to get more fun from the Rail Baron® software (RBP). Information applies to the most recent version.

Also see: tech FAQ | board game FAQ | order FAQ | detailed RBP install instructions

Game Play
Q. How do I learn how to play? A. One way is to jump in and start a game; RBP will guide you and can give hints upon your request. RBP's AI computer opponents provide tireless practice. Until you can beat these bots regularly, set their skill levels lower in the Game Setup window.
Q. How much cash do my opponents have? A. Per the rules, prior to announcing, a player's exact cash level is private. When playing face-to-face one can guesstimate an opponent's cash stash by seeing his pile of money. In RBP, in the cash box at lower left, the number of $ symbols is in proportion to cash level. You can get a more refined estimate via the Game, Status pull-down menu; in the windows that opens choose Display, Graphs. There see the Cash | Next Payoff bar graphs.
Q. How competent are RBP's AI bots? A. In the Game Setup window you can choose the skill level of RBP's computer opponents. At the maximum skill setting, the AI competes like a tournament-grade human player. Only very good human players can beat a group of max skill AI bots from time to time.
Q. The AI turns go by so quickly. Can I slow them down? A. Yes. To do so, in the Game Options window, enter a non-zero value in the "Pause after computer turns" field. If you enter -1 in this field, RBP will pause and wait for you to click OK (done) after each AI player's turn. This gives you more time chance to examine what he did.
Q. In the Game Status stats, why do the AI bots always have a higher Avg Turn Roll than me? A. All movement rolls are honestly randomized. The average die roll for a player usually ranges (due to randomness) from 3.2 to 3.8; yours and the AI bots will likely be in that range. Upgrading your engine lets you roll more dice, which drives up the Avg Turn Roll. If the AI bots are upgrading sooner than you, their Avg Turn Roll will likely be higher.
Q. Engine upgrades? How do I get mine? A. When you can purchase a railroad you have the choice of purchasing an upgraded engine instead. See the dropdown list in the Purchase window. Before upgrading you must have sufficient cash.
Q. I'm learning... how can I make the game easier? A. Try any/all of the following: When starting a match, set the skill level of the bots to Min, and Type/Style to IA Newby. Set your own Skill level to Max; this tells RBP to offer you suggestions at its Max skill. Reduce the number of opponents. In the Purchase window, use the Advice button, however keep in mind that if you always follow the advice you will never play better than the AI bots.
Q. I'm skilled... how can I make the game more challenging? A. Increase the number of opponents to maximum. Set the AI bot Type/Style to James Hill or Jay Gould and skill level to Max. Play on a map unfamiliar to you.
Q. How can I train myself to win tournaments? A. The way to become an expert at most anything is practice, practice, practice. RBP's bots are tireless, perfect practice opponents who win enough to keep you on your toes. An important skill is to know when to spend to upgrade your engine to a SuperChief vs. holding the cash for an upcoming auction.
Q. In a game vs. AI bots, I don't know whether purchasing RR "A" or RR "B" would be better. How can RBP help me learn which to buy? A. RBP's Scenario feature can test this (or any game situation) for you and report the results. It takes a few steps to set up:
  • close the Purchase window and save the game (File, Save Game menu)
  • reopen the Purchase (Turn, Purchase menu) window and buy RR "A"
    • choose the Game, Edit Configuration menu
    • change your player type from Human to one of the AI bots (James Hill is the best) who will sub for you
    • click the Scenario button, in the window that opens click OK
    • the Game Setup window reappears, there click More Game Options
    • in the Game Options window's Computer Play frame enable checkboxes for Non-stop play, Continuous game repeat, Skip brute force search; then click OK
    • back in the Game Setup window, click OK
    • a window will appear: "You've selected a computer-only game...", click OK and the Game Status window should open
    • in the main gane window click OK (done) to nudge RBP to resume play
    • for faster play, minimize the main game window
    • RBP will now replay the Scenario repeatedly, gathering stats... let it do so...
  • start a second instance of RBP (invoke RBP as you usually do)
  • open the game you saved in the very first step above (File, Open Game)
  • reopen the Purchase (Turn, Purchase menu) but this time buy RR "B"
    • repeat the steps above starting at "choose the Game, Edit Configuration menu" to engage this Scenario and initiate repeated play
By this point two Game Status windows should be open, one for Scenario A and the other for Scenario B; they will basically look the same so you'll need to remember which is reporting for which Scenario. RBP should be busy playing over and over revealed by stats updating every few seconds in each Game Status window. Let this continue for at least 100 matches each, or perhaps overnight for thousands of matches. After many matches have been played, in the two Game Status windows, reference turn order stats (were you player 2? 3?) to find the % of matches "you" win under each Scenario -- which reveals the better RR purchase in that game situation.

Q. What's the easiest way to move my train? A. Permit RBP to suggest a route, click the most distant of the bold "tunnel" symbols with which RBP marks that route, then cliok the OK (done) button.

To change your mind about a route, Backspace or Swipe to undo before you click "OK (done)".

Q. Sometimes RBP does not let me mark a route I want. What's wrong? A. First, note standard rules do not let you backtrack between two given dots on a RR you have used previously (since the last destination). However, where two RRs parallel each other, you can backtrack via the unused RR. If you have trouble getting RBP to recognize a route, either 1) Shift+Click on the next desired dot of the route, or 2) right click on the desired dot and from the popup menu select Choose RR to ride. Doing so displays a list of RRs and you can choose the one you want.
Q. Why does RBP sometimes make me move one dot further than my movement roll? A. The small square dots on the map ("intersection-only dots") do not count for movement. You can find one such square dot on the USA map just west of Boston. Your route probably moves through one of these square dots.
Q. How does RBP calculate the game score? A. This is described in the Hall of Fame topic of the in-game help.
Q. What's my next destination? A. Find your player info left of the map. The text below your name lists your destination city. Hover the mouse over it to blink it on the map, or click to zoom.
Q. What's that movement info in the history, the SC1, NC15, NC20... ? A. That's the list of the dots visited during a move. Each dot has a unique identifier that consists of a 2-character region code and numeric value. SC1 is South Central dot number 1. To center the map display upon that dot, choose the Information, Find pull-down menu and enter SC1.
Q. Can the route of a prior move be highlighted on the map? A. Yes, in the Game History box below the map, double click on a line of text that has a list of dots (SC1, NC15, NC20...).
Q. How far away is a particular dot from my train? A. To learn the shortest distance to a dot, right click on it and choose Information.
Q. Why does RBP suggest I ride the RRs of two opponents (A and B) when a route using a RR of only one opponent (C) is cheaper? A. Though the AI bots (who create the suggested trip) do not always find the best route possible, the situation you describe is likely intentional for game balance. If, in this example, player C is already leading, riding his RRs (and giving him more money) will increase his lead and let him win sooner. By riding RRs of both A and B you will allow trailing players to compete, and thus give more players a chance to win. If you do not like this operation, you can turn it off via the Game Options window, "Balanced rail use" checkbox.
Q. After my next arrival I'm ready to declare and make my trip home, so why does RBP sometimes suggest a convoluted route? A. Usually you want to make the dash home with a high roll, one generated by 3 dice (SuperChief) rather than by 1 die (bonus). By taking a longer route, RBP is consuming your bonus die so that you can declare next turn and likely have a larger roll for the victorious trip home.
Q. The game keeps sending me to an unfriendly destination! A. Destination randomization matches the probabilities specified by the map. Some cities, typically the larger ones such as New York and San Francisco on the USA map, are more likely than others. Player ability to choose destination region slightly skews destination probability. Since RBP imposes no randomization bias, any other apparent pattern is categorized as pareidolia. If you have doubts, use the Game, Quantum Randomize pull-down menu to introduce a non-deterministic factor into the randomization process. If despite quantum randomization you believe you find randomization bias, document it, because such a finding will make you a Nobel Prize candidate.

Q. Before I start playing, how I can learn about the railroads? A. Point to any dot served by only one railroad and click. RBP will highlight that RR and show its statistics above the map.
Q. Before I start playing, can I assemble a trial RR network? A. Click on a RR name in the list left of the map. Then Ctrl+click on another to add it to your trial network. Statistics about the network are displayed above the map.
Q. How can I view info about all RRs at once? A. Select the Information, City and Property pull-down menu. In the window that opens, click on a railroad name, or the Summary button.
Q. How can I learn which RRs serve a certain city, or its probability of becoming a destination? A. Right click on the city and choose Information.
Q. During play, can I highlight one player's network? A. In the cashbox at the lower-left corner, click on that player's name. Statistics about that network are displayed above the map. To reveal what connections can still be made, unowned RRs are also shown.
Q. Which is the best RR? A. The best RR on the USA map is the Pennsylvania: its owner wins about 50% of the matches. These days most people deem the PA's excessive dominance a weakness of the game, so we recommend switching to our U21 map (it's free!) that fixes the trouble by connecting the B&O to New York City, as the actual railroad had done albeit via ferry or bus across the Hudson River.
Q. What's the best RR to buy? A. The best one to purchase is the one that fits well with your existing network. To get suggestions, in the Purchase window click the Advice button.
Q. On the US2 map, why don't the computer players buy many railroads? A. Because they have determined that is a good strategy. If you want the AI players to buy more railroads, try a match with 6 players and the winning cash level set to $500,000.

Q. What's a map? A. The map box is the large area in which the "board" is displayed. The term "map" can also refer to a group of computer files that contain the content of a particular game title, such as Europe. By purchasing more RBP maps you gain access to and can play additional game titles.
Q. It's my first time playing this map. How do I get an overview? A. Sometimes it's easier just to begin play and learn as you go, but if you want a overview, do any/all of the following:
  • Use the Information, City and Property pull-down menu, and in the window that appears click on each city. RBP will blink that city on the map.
  • Use the Information, Evaluate Network pull-down menu to get an idea of what RRs go together well.
  • Use Information, Map Notes to see note the map's designer may have provided.
Q. How to I zoom/move the map view? A. Many people point to an area then rotate the mouse wheel to zoom into it. The same can be done on the thumbnail map. Repositioning can be done by left-clicking, holding then dragging the map. In situations during which clicking could move or build, click between the map edge and dashed rectangle and then drag. Touch screen users can double tap to zoom/unzoom; pinch and spread gestures also work.
Q. What's the quickest way to refresh the map display to full size? A. Click the Zoom text above the OK (done) button, or press the center 5 on the numeric keypad.
Q. I'd like to use a different text font. A. Use the File, Display Settings pull-down menu, then in the window that opens, choose in the Map Settings pane the "Map Text Font" and size you prefer.
Q. What about other text, like that in the cash box? A. Use the File, Display Settings pull-down menu, then in the window that opens, choose in the Other Display Settings pane the "Info Boxes' Font" and size you prefer.
Q. I prefer a single-color background. A. Toggle the background off / on via the File, Display settings Map Bgnd Image checkbox.
Q. I'd like the main map window to be as large as possible. A. First maximize the size of RBP's window by clicking the "maximize" icon near the window's upper right corner. Next, immediately outside the lower-left corner of the map display box is a small box. Drag that box down and to the left.

Online Play
Q. How do I play online? A. There are three ways to play other people online: local, play-by-email, web. For each of those, one person serves as GameMaster, or game initiator, while all other participants are considered opponents. The GameMaster gets things going as described below.

Local means playing others live at your house or location where participants connect to the same router (the device that permits many residents to share the same internet connection). To do this, in RBP

  • choose Game, Start to open the Game Setup window
  • in Game Setup, enter your name and color in player slot #1
  • then choose Web, Make Me GameMaster a window will open with "Your local Web Dot Address is: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx" where the Xs are digits that might resemble
  • tell that dot address to your opponent(s) each of whom on their separate device(s) starts RBP, and chooses Game, Start to open the Game Setup window
  • next, each opponent enters their name and color in player slot #1, then chooses Web, Make Me a Player
  • a window will open in which they should enter the GameMaster's dot address, upon which the player and GM copies of RBP will connect, as RBP will report via various messages
  • when all opponents have connected, in the Web GM window the GM should choose Match, Begin / Resume.

Play-by-email (Pbem) means playing others in a turn-by-turn fashion in which RBP emails the match to the next person so that person can take their turn. Participants can be anywhere with a copy of RBP and a working email address. Pbem does not require all participants to be online concurrently.

  • Before starting the first match, each participant should in RBP choose File, Display Settings, and enter his/her email information in the Play by Email / Web section
  • use the Help button there to get details about what to enter
  • after entering the info, each person should test that their settings are proper and working: close the Display Settings window, and choose Game, Play by Email, then Options, Self-mail test.
  • if your self-mailing gets sent, then arrives in your own email inbox, you are ready to play by email.
  • to begin a Play-by-email match, one person, the "initiator," should begin the match via Game, Start
  • then in the Game Setup window enter player info (name, color, etc.) of all participants.
  • if desired, the initiator can place one or more AI bots in player slots below those of the human players.
  • the initiator also chooses/configures the map and match settings to those agreed in advance by the participants
  • after all info and settings are as desired, in the Game Setup window the initiator chooses Web, Play by email
  • in the Pbem Control Window that opens, the name of each player will be shown, along with their email address (may be missing or blank)
  • if any person's email address is missing or not proper, double click on it and enter the correct address
  • after having set/confirmed email addresses, the initiaor should click on the Game Setup window and click the OK button there to begin the match
  • when a player completes their turn, RBP will email it to the next player
  • the match will arrive as an email attachment that can be double-clicked to open, or saved to disk, then opened manually from RBP via File, Open Game
  • later, when you want to play a new match, the initiator should perform the same steps as before, except when they reach the Pbem Control Window choose Match, Copy setup and RBP will reuse your prior settings.
  • if desired, the initiator can tweak those settings before starting the match via the Game Setup window's OK button
  • there's more about Pbem in the tech FAQ.

Web play refers to live games between non-local online opponents. This is the same as local play, except

  • the GameMaster tells opponents his External Web Dot Address (as displayed by the game)
  • also, the GameMaster usually must configure his Web equipment to permit the remote players to connect
  • typically this means telling firewalls (if any) to permit incoming connection requests, and opening ports on a router
  • the tech FAQ has details and examples
  • the GameMaster task for Web play is probably best handled by the most computer-savvy of the match participants
  • error 10060 is generated from outside the game; it usually means the GM has not properly set his firewall(s) and/or router ports
  • to get around firewall and router issues, some users favor employing a virtual network such as LogMeIn Hamachi.

More information can be found in the in-game help via the displayed Help buttons, menu items, and links.

For all online play options, each participant needs a copy of RBP plus to have paid for a copy of the map in use (if not one of the free maps).

For all online play options, the built-in AI bots can fill as many player slots as the GM/initiator wishes. For example, the most common play-by-email arrangement is for two humans to play along with two bots, making for four total in the match, but keep in mind one of the bots might win!

For technical issues, see the tech FAQ.

Got a play tip you'd like to share with others? Send it to us via email.

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Rail Baron® is a registered trademark of Intersystem Concepts, Inc.