Railroad Tycoon

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Strategy Guide

Railroad Tycoon


Setting Up:

After the opening credits have ended, select your geographic location; 
each offers tests of your skill with perhaps Europe containing the most 
economic complexities. Next select Tycoon level for the greatest 
challenge and fun. Then choose a complex economy and cutthroat 
competition. Last you must decide whether or not you enjoy playing 
traffic cop.

Railroad Tycoons have divided into two camps: purists who think 
Dispatcher Operation is actually entertaining, and those of us who 
believe life is too short for worrying about train collisions. This 
column will unabashedly favor the later bias. (However, for those of 
you who have never tried Dispatcher Operation it is well worth one or 
two sessions. There's a theory advocating that Dispatcher Operation 
was the inspiration for Lemmings.)

 

Copy Protection Blues and PICTs.:

I absolutely object to being punished for buying a game. I find copy 
protection schemes annoying, inconvenient, and insulting: I don't 
steal software and don't give copies to friends. When I'm on the road 
with my Powerbook I never carry manuals and am infuriated when 
presented with a "check such-and-such stupid code on page twenty-eight 
before the game you purchased graciously allows itself to be played." 
That said, there is a fairly easy work-around for Railroad Tycoon's 
protection: using ResEdit and a paint application, copy the train 
PICTs out of the RT Open Data file, create new PICTs with the train 
names emblazoned across their boilers, and paste your new PICTs back 
into RT Open Data. Now when asked for an engine's name you'll be able 
to read it right on the screen.

 

Your First Line:

Your first terminal is important: find a level area between two 
cities and lay a straight, short line between the two. It is more 
important to make the line short than to link two huge cities: simply 
find one large city and an adjacent serviceable city, make sure your 
elevation remains flat, and try to build a track no longer than twelve 
squares. You'll depend on this section of track for speed throughout 
the game. Named trains are extremely valuable: use this short, fast 
section to make speed records and to quickly build revenue.

 

Profit vs. Service:

Since the game so cruelly imposes a 32 train and station limit, a 
player must maximize his or her resources: some players prefer a 
line which services every available cargo and others go for cash, 
ignoring the less profitable cargoes. Either method is exciting and 
challenging, though money is the most quantifiable measure of success 
in the game.

 

Profit:

Building revenue depends on passengers and mail. Find large cities 
and always build terminals - which help to promote growth - and make 
sure to pick up each and every passenger. Almost every station's 
restaurant will pay for itself in four to six years, after which 
you'll be pulling in direct profits for a negligible increase in 
maintenance. Post offices are even more lucrative, and hotels, while 
slow to appreciate, do also bring in profits. A profitable train line 
will undoubtedly focus on passenger and mail revenues.

 

Company Stock:

Another way to increase net worth and stock profits, while leaving 
cash flow unaffected, is to buy your own stock. In all conditions it 
serves a player to do so: buying one's own stock defends against 
hostile takeovers and almost always pays off with profits. It also 
serves as a bit of a war chest if a player can afford to sell his or 
her own stock in times of need.

 

Net Worth:

Profits and net worth will increase for each industry a player 
builds. When a railroad becomes prosperous and is no longer struggling 
to stake out territory, players can promote growth in cities by 
building industries. Each industry becomes a static bonus to your net 
worth and also (for those players concentrating on service) affords 
more cargo opportunities.

 

Priority Shipments:

The annual cost of maintaining an engine runs from $8,000 to $18,000: 
the bonus from one timely delivery of a priority shipment can run as 
high as $500,000. Do the math - making priority shipments a priority 
will more than justify the cost of a train devoted entirely to such 
tasks. In fact, depending on the bonus, building a new, direct track 
may be justified as well.

 

Speed and Signal Towers:

Learn the designations of trains. Use the limited, express, through, 
and local classifications to build a fast line. Signal towers will 
substantially increase speeds as well. Focusing on passengers and mail 
will decrease overall loading times and will allow trains to run 
faster. Bulk freight will slow an entire line down: depending on the 
profits from such cargo, a player may wish to build parallel lines to 
accommodate slower cargoes. Double tracking is also vital, despite 
the harsh maintenance costs. Ultimately speed will determine how 
profitable a railroad is, how well it delivers priority shipments, 
and how effectively a player makes use out of the 32 stations and 
trains the game imposes on your railroad.

 

Service and Complex Cargoes:

Making sure a city receives the cargo it will buy significantly 
promotes growth. It is not enough to build an exclusive passenger 
line. Build short adjunctive lines from industrial centers into 
cities, and build industries to support the development of such 
resources: e.g., steel mills, factories, etc. It is wise to check 
whether or not such industries can be built in any given area before 
building a station. Such checks may determine the exact placements 
of stations. Food and wine cargoes, while barely profitable, will 
markedly encourage a city's growth. If one industrial center can 
service two or more cities it will allow a player to devote the least 
amount of resources to it.

 

The Competition:

Building a profitable railroad is challenge enough, but the game 
achieves a new level of excitement with J.P. Morgan trying to conquer 
the same territories. A number of tactics will help defend and attack 
against the competition but all of them require cash. A large portion 
of your profits will be consumed in the battles of board rooms and in 
the war to conquer the world.

If an opponent begins to buy your railroad's stock, either buy your 
own stock to achieve a majority share or reset the game to friendly 
competition for a few years. Owning your own stock is always 
recommended. Switching to friendly competition though, while 
unsportsmanlike, will prevent a hostile takeover - which is the most 
frustrating way to lose the game by far. (Experience is speaking here.)

 

Rate War Threats & Victories:

 

The fool-proof way to avoid a rate war is to build a track around a 
threatened station like so:

Since competitors can't cross your rails, rate wars are no longer an 
issue.

Occasionally (or often depending on a player's aggressive tendencies) 
a rate war may be initiated to take over a particular city. The key to 
winning a rate war is trains. Many trains. Build a station as close as 
possible to the rate war city (seven squares) and build an engine shop 
there. Then build as many trains as it takes to absolutely flood the 
city with your engines - but don't forget to make deliveries from your 
other cities and also consider building a secondary station nearby to 
bring in freight cargoes. Also do not forget to double track to the 
city in conflict.

Once the city has been taken and an opponent moves out, these 
superfluous stations may be destroyed and their trains either scrapped 
or rerouted.

 

The Stock Market:

Making a profit in Railroad Tycoon's stock market is nearly impossible. 
Competitors tend to buy their own stock when it is low and the broker's 
10% prevents any easy, short-term cashing in of stock. To truly make a 
profit, one must be patient, buy when a railroad is in its infancy and 
sell when the stock grows. This helps occasionally with cash flow, but 
doesn't provide much revenue compared to other methods and requires a 
great deal of time.

The real value of the stock market lies in the opportunity to take 
over other railroads. In the early stages of the game, allow a 
competitor (you won't have any choice) to prosper. Buy your own stock 
to prevent any surprises and keep an eye on cash heavy railroads. 
Then, when you've cash enough to support yourself, make a run on an 
opponent's stock. Don't mess around: either commit to taking over 
another railroad or don't bother even calling the broker. Take out 
as many bonds as it will require to conquer the target railroad - 
don't worry about interest or debt: they will be taken care of as soon 
as control is achieved. Buy the competitor's stock as fast as possible, 
ignore the price, and without fail take it over.

When you've achieved ownership, don't bother with trying to make the 
line profitable: suck it dry for cash. The game will allow a player 
to take $100,000 from a controlled railroad for as long as it exists, 
regardless of its actual cash and debt load. A railroad which cost 
$2,000,000 to takeover can provide $8,000,000 to $12,000,000 dollars 
from cash raids which more than pays for itself and the bonds 
necessary to win control. Here lies the way to win the game: seize 
control of a railroad as soon as possible in the game, bleed it dry 
for four years, and unload its stock before it goes bankrupt. Your 
once formidable competitor will drown in debt once you release 
control and will within two or four years be dissolved - freeing up 
virgin territories for your line. The windfall cash from the takeover 
will allow you to buy other railroads or to build so quickly that you'll 
soon outstrip the competition.

 

Record Keeping:

Those bi-annual reports pop up for a reason: learn to use their data. 
Graph the various revenues your railroad generates and, if a certain 
type of cargo can't justify itself, discontinue carrying it. Ending 
each year with more cash than the previous will help your stock to 
increase and replacing trains will keep maintenance costs down. Watch 
these balance sheets. Also learn to interpret the efficiency charts. 
Since the Earth cannot maintain more than 32 trains, try to build the 
most efficient line possible. Minimize empty travel.

 

Cheating:

In a game where cash is everything it seems almost pointless to cheat; 
nonetheless, to receive $500,000 gratis click in the world view window 
(so that it becomes active) and type a $ [shift 4]). Now the game 
becomes an exercise in building the most efficient railroad possible.

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