Rail Baron® 2022 Rules Revisions

Below are details of the 2022 revisions to official Rail Baron® rules. Use these new rules on both board and computer.

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

B&O Serves New York
Q. What is the purpose of the 2022 revisions? A. These revisions improve the game in a few weak areas. In particular, they fix the Pennsylvania Railroad problem, plus make the timing of the Superchief upgrade into a fun, strategic decision.
Q. What is the problem with the Pennsylvania Railroad? A. Under the old rules, the player who happened to get a few lucky initial dice rolls could buy the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). The PRR was so overly powerful, its owner would go on to win about half the matches. A game is often considered broken when a single random element like this, particularly one within the first few minutes, largely determines the outcome of a multi-hour match.
Q. What is the 2022 revision for the PRR problem? A. The 2022 revision makes it official that the B&O Railroad connects to New York by paralelling the PRR northeast of Philadelphia. In reality, B&O did serve parts of New York City (Staten Island), a fact perhaps overlooked during design of the first edition.
Q. How does the B&O connecting to New York solve the PRR problem? blue dashes A. New York is a bottleneck and gateway into New England within the game's important Northeast region. By adding B&O service to New York, players have an alternate way to reach that destination and those in New England. B&O, which otherwise had been the weakest RR in the game, becomes more valuable.

Instead of the PRR owner winning about half the matches, this change reduces that to about one third. It also boosts the B&O owner's chance of winning from less than one fifth to greater than one quarter. So, this simple modification gives players a viable and strategic way to compete with the PRR owner. Some now purchase B&O even if they can afford PRR.

Note that tests of this modification with the computer version show PRR, which costs 25% more than B&O, appropriately remains more powerful than B&O. With this change, however, the disparity between the two is much smaller, something playtests show not accomplished by minor changes to the destination table.

Q. Can I get a copy of the board with this mod? A. On the U21 map B&O serves New York, You can print a copy for yourself at no charge. U21 is now included with RBP, the Rail Baron computer version. If you don't already have the map for RBP, you can download U21 for free.
Q. Can I modify my older board? A. Certainly -- but only if you are a true Rail Baron fan. It's easy: use a blue pen to add a few dashes for the B&O northeast from Philadelphia, as shown above. There is a movement dot between Philadelphia and New York.

Some older boards also have a dot between Baltimore and Philadelphia that is not found on the current map (U21) but which has little impact on play. Count that dot if it is present on your board, otherwise ignore it.

$20,000 Superchief
Q. What about the Superchief cost? Why was it reduced? A. The price of a Superchief engine upgrade has been officially halved to $20,000. Playtesting at the old $40,000 price revealed experienced players generally did not upgrade to the Superchief until after all railroads had been sold.
Q. Does the new $20,000 price add strategy? Superchief A. Most definitely. Upgrading to the Superchief before all railroads sell out is now a viable strategy. It is a way to catch up to players who have managed to acquire better railroads.

Exactly when to buy the Superchief instead of a railroad is now an interesting and challenging decision. During playtesting, experienced players generally upgraded soon after obtaining a Northeast and Southwest railroad, but somewhat later in matches with 5 or 6 players.

Q. Does the computer AI in RBP handle this? A. You'll need at least version 3.8.7 for the AI bots to handle the lower-cost Superchief wisely.
Q. Any other effects? A. Almost all Rail Baron players prefer the game to move along more quickly. The lower-cost Superchief accomplishes that in two ways: 1) by costing less, less money goes back to the bank, and 2) players acquire the Superchief earlier, a consequence of which is on average they move a greater distance per turn.

The combined effect is about a 15% reduction in average number of rounds per match. This means that along with other New Century rules, Rail Baron can be completed in about 25% less time than by old / Boxcars rules. Instead of an hour per player, it's now closer to 45 minutes. (Play is much faster than than on the computer.)

Furthermore, player elimination, considered a Bad Thing by most modern gamers, is cut by more than half. In the computer version, the old $40,000 price can be retained, if desired.

Other Changes
Q. Anything else with the 2022 revision? A. Players are no longer required to count movement in advance, then move their train without hesitation. Instead, movement can be reconsidered and route redone until the player has removed his hand from the pawn at the final dot of movement. This rule modification reflects the way most people have played for years. Now it is official.

Other New Century Rules
Q. What are other differences from old rules? A. Below is a summary of rules changes from around 2010 that you may have missed. Details are in the New Century rules.
  • There is no fee to ride railroads you own. The fee to ride unowned/bank railroads remains $1000.
  • Prior to moving their train for the first time in a match, each player can opt to swap their Home City and first destination city.
  • Multiple players can have the same Home City.
The board game FAQ has various rules intepretations.

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