Drawing RR Deeds
A Variant for Rail Baron
by Mike Isom
We have a group of three who play regularly and have been playing for over ten years. Although we occasionally have more players we have added our own variations in the rules to make the game a little more interesting.
At the beginning of the game we remove all deeds that are under $10k and over $20k. The remaining deeds are put face down in a box and mixed up. Each player draws one card and keeps it secret. When someone goes on that line during the game you flip up your card and they pay you as normal. Now the rest of the deeds are mixed in face down. During the game whenever you hit a destination you may draw a card. Your choices are then to pay for it (if you have the cash), keep it until you can pay for it, or toss it back. You can only purchase or draw when you have made a destination. When you get to your next destination you may draw a card as long as you have paid for any you are holding. If you are holding a card to buy and are forced to sell a RR you must also toss the unpaid for one back in the box.
Another thing we added was the "one out insurance card". It costs $10k and will add one movement point to your turn only if it makes you reach a destination. It can only be used once per turn and can be used on your "in" or "out" move. It can be real handy at the end of the game when you've hit a destination very close to home, declared, and are using your "out" to reach home.
Drawing your railroads adds some unexpected twists to the game as you may not connect well very often. Also, someone cannot buy out in front of you unless they happen to draw that line. Holding the secret railroads makes things treacherous from the beginning as several lines are owned but you don't know which ones. You sometimes end up circling a destination trying to get a good roll to go in on only to find that nobody owned it after all. Since they weren't in the draw, the very large and very small lines are safe to use. You also pay attention to what's been drawn and thrown back as you know it's safe. There is also trying to decide whether to keep a mediocre line or throw it back hoping for something better next draw. The good part is that the other players may well be getting as unbalanced a selection as you are. With 3 people playing I've ended up with as few as 4 lines and as many as 15 (I hold the record there). I've lost while owning all the good ones and won when I didn't think I had a chance. It really comes down to the destinations everyone rolls.
Just for some added information- the box we draw the deeds from is commonly referred to as "The Box of Joy" and catching someone on your "secret" railroad is drawing "blood".