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Each player is the owner of a railway company. His first task is to construct a network of railway lines for his company. He tries to build the best connections between as many cities as possible. He must cross rivers and mountains to do this -- and keep an eye on the construction activities of his competitors at the same time.
This network has to prove its worth in the second phase of the game. Running transports between cities, the player must try to get there first, ahead of the competition. Income generated can be used to extend the network to increase profit on later transports. In the end, the company with the best management will come out first and win the game.
This comes in several versions. I think the original has England on one side of the board and the US on the other (2 games on one!). It's a rail drawing game divided into two phases: The first phase is drawing track to connect cities (with various terrain costs). Each player starts at a different city around the perimeter in England or in 'the East' on the US map. The first player into each city earns a bonus, which helps fund additional building. The building rounds are short, and how much track you can build each round depends on a die roll, so you sometimes plan for a great move and end up one short. First to build each round rotates, so you can sometimes make longer range plans based on who builds in what order. Second, doing runs to make money. You continue to do some track drawing between runs, but eventually nobody bothers any more. There is a deck of cards with a city on each card (major cities may be in the deck more than once). Two cards are flipped over and, if they're more than some minimum distance apart, they are the run. Anyone who has track connecting the two cities may participate in the race (die rolling and moving your train). If your track only goes part way, you may team with another player and share the route (and payoff, should you win) or, if you are only a little short of connecting, you can make the run and pay another player to use some of his track. Each city is marked off a list as its card is used, so at some point you stop building because there just aren't that many places worth building to. The game probably plays best with at least 4 people, or there isn't much competition (or teaming up). There's another edition (I forget the exact name) which has several maps for Germany & nearby countries. Like Empire Builder type games, once you've played one in the system it's easy to play the others. Just for fun, I made my own board for South America.