I've got the file; now what?

The first thing you have to do is print the file, by sending it to a PostScript-capable printer. Many printers are quite happy to receive raw PostScript files. If you're unlucky enough to have some other kind of printer, you could try retrieving the free program GSView, a PostScript previewer for Windows, OS/2 and Linux. It should be able to ship the file to your printer in a format it knows how to handle.

So okay, now it's printed out. What next?

The printout should contain a few sheets with 30 cards per sheet (three demands per card). On top of those should be a sheet with a grid showing the numbers 1 to 30. (If that sheet is beneath the demand cards, when viewing the pages face-up, then you should change the setting of the "Print reverse order" option on the form.) On top of the whole thing will be two or more copies of a chart showing all the demands included in the deck. (See below for more about the payoff chart.)

Set the charts aside, and take the other pages (the demands and the 1-30 grid) and find a paper cutter or scissors. (A paper cutter is best.) If you selected the "Wider margins" option on the form, you'll need to slice off the extra 1/2 inch or so of paper around all four edges, as indicated by the lines there. Do that before proceeding to the next step.

Slice the stack along the long direction to get six strips. Set aside the 6/12/.../30 strip, face up, then put the 5/11/.../29 strip on top of it, and so on, finally putting the 1/7/.../25 strip on top. Now pick up the whole pile and cut it into five chunks. Start by cutting off the part with #25 on top, and set it down, face up. Cut off the #19 part and put it on top of the #25 pile, etc. Finally the #1 and #7 get separated, and #7 goes onto the pile, and #1 goes on top. Once you get used to it, you should be able to do all the cutting and stacking in about a minute using a paper cutter, or a few minutes with scissors. (You may find that it helps to have someone else help hold the paper so the stacks don't slip apart while you cut.)

If you've done this right, you now have a deck in which the 1-30 grid numbers appear in numerical order through the deck, with the demand cards interspersed. Note that the #1 has a serial number on it that you can match against the payoff chart in case you've printed more than one deck and want to know which chart goes with which deck. The serial number is also accompanied by an abbreviation indicating which map the deck goes with.

Now, here's a very important step, or actually a lack of a step. Do not shuffle! There's no need to randomise the ordering of the deck, since you'll only be using it once. The program that generates the deck has already shuffled it for you! And in fact, the arrangement is deliberately not completely random, so you don't want to mess it up by shuffling. In particular, the first few cards in the deck are guaranteed to contain only demands that are doable, or nearly so, using only your starting money. (It struck us as something of a waste to have a huge payoff on an early card, when people can't possibly build enough track to do it. It was especially galling if the other two demands on the card were too small to be worth doing.)

If you're going to use the deck immediately, just turn it upside-down (so the cards are all face-down and the big "1" is at the bottom) and start turning up cards. (When one of the big grid numbers comes up, just discard it and draw again.) Or you can save the deck for later by wrapping it up with a rubber band and putting it away with the payoff charts. Note that the first card turned up should again have the deck's serial number, in the lower left corner.

Taxes

The other reason not to shuffle is because of how we handle the Taxes event. Our decks do not contain any other random events (derailments, floods, strikes, bad weather, etc.), since those seemed to go counter to the sort of game we were trying for. The Public Locking variant rules make for a game where it is often important to plan your timing relative to another player. E.g., if you take the time to make a side trip for a certain delivery or pickup, will someone else be able to beat you to a more important delivery? We found it detracted from the game when a random event threw off our timing even when we'd done everything else right. In particular, most of the random events have as much chance of hurting the trailing players as they do of hurting the leader; if anything, the trailing players might have less money and thus be less able to recover from floods and such. So, even before we started generating our own decks, we had stopped using the random events in the decks that came with the game.

The one exception is taxes. Taxes can never throw off your timing, and the event is designed to hit the leader for more. Taxes might throw off a plan for victory, but we feel that's okay. So in fact, we feel that it's better if taxes is always in the deck. The way we handled the taxes event, before we generated our own decks, was that when it came up, we paid the required money, then shuffled the taxes event back into the remaining deck before drawing again for a new demand card. If taxes came up again immediately (i.e., we got it twice with no intervening demand card), we did not pay for the second event, but instead set it aside, reshuffled the entire deck (including previously delivered demands, but leaving out any demands currently in play), drew a new demand card, and then shuffled taxes back into the deck. We also reshuffled the entire deck if taxes came up as one of the last ten cards. (Otherwise you could get hit by taxes several times while going through the last few cards, before having it come up twice in succession to trigger the reshuffle.)

In translating these rules to our new decks, we do not actually print a taxes card. Instead, the program that generates the deck decides where the taxes card would be, and indicates it on the demand card that comes after the taxes. It shows this by printing the payoff numbers in an outline font. (You'll know it when you see it.) So, when a card is drawn that has outlined numbers on it, everyone should pay taxes (according to the tax schedule on the taxes event card that came with the game), and the card is then put into play in the usual manner.

In the lower right corner of each card is a sequence number (starting at #1) and a parenthesised fraction. The fraction shows the chances that the next card drawn will be the taxes event. It starts out at 1/120 for the first card in a 120-card deck (121 cards, if you count the taxes event itself, so the odds are 1/120 after the first card is drawn), and goes down as the deck shrinks. The cards that are dealt out as part of game setup never include taxes, and they show a dash instead of a fraction. When taxes does arise, the fraction will have a "T" instead of a "1" in the top of the fraction, as an additional reminder. The program also checks to see if taxes comes up twice in a row, and if so it changes the chance of taxes back to 1 in 120 (or whatever the original deck size was) for the next draw. Important: Note that we do not actually reshuffle; i.e., when the odds of taxes goes back to 1/120 it does not mean that cards previously drawn may reappear. It affects only the chance of the Taxes event.

Again, you should never actually reshuffle the deck. If you do manage to run out of cards, you should switch to a new, second deck. In general, though, as long as you set "Larger game adds cards" to "Yes", you should be able to finish most games without running through the deck.

Our own games are mostly two-player these days, and we rarely make it through even half the deck. We heard some folks, with larger games and/or different playing styles, were frequently getting close enough to the end of the deck that the Taxes event would sometimes arise several times before a simulated reshuffle finally restored the odds to those of a full deck. In release 2.3, we changed the calculation so that if Taxes comes up in the second half of the deck, we reset the odds to be those for a half-sized deck (plus the Taxes card, so 1/61 for a 120-card deck). Again, if a second Taxes event arises immediately, the odds are further reset to be those for a full deck; otherwise the demand card that indicates it is preceded by Taxes will show "T/60" (i.e. the odds after that demand card has been drawn).

Other Events

Some players do like the random element introduced by the Event cards, and have asked if we could somehow add them to our generated decks. Alas, it would be quite difficult. For starters, the pages are already filled with the demand cards; we had to sort of shoehorn in the Taxes event as it is. We could put events in place of demand cards, but that would reduce the number of demand cards in the deck, which would be bad. In short, it would be a lot of extra work for a feature we don't ourselves find interesting, so we're not likely to put in the effort. However, all is not lost!

If you really want to include events, we suggest you try this approach: Take the original deck that came with the game, and shuffle it. Print a deck using the web site, too. Whenever it's time to draw a new demand card, draw a card from the original deck. If it's an event, deal with the event and then draw another card from the original deck. When you get a normal demand card, discard it and use the next card in the web-site deck in its place.

You can decide whether to use the Taxes event in the original deck or whether to leave it out and use the Taxes indicators that are part of the printed deck.

The payoff chart

A word or two about the payoff charts that get printed with each deck. The charts have the cities running down the left, and commodities along the top. For each demand that occurs within the deck, the payoff is shown on the chart. The chart also shows how many demands there are for each commodity and their average payoff, and how many demands go to each city, again with the average payoff. (The per-commodity information is shown in two rows beneath the commodity names; the per-city info is shown in parentheses to the right of the city names.) The overall mean and median payoffs are shown in the upper left.

The cities are not listed in alphabetical order. They are more or less in geographical order. That is, cities are grouped near other cities in the same general area. The alternating grey and white bands further try to group the cities into regions, where again each region tends to be adjacent on the map to the regions that are adjacent on the chart. We've found this is helpful when trying to decide on "spec" loads; you can look at the cities in the area you're heading for and quickly see which commodities tend to pay off in that part of the map.

Some maps have too many "dead end" areas, which forced us to have some regions adjacent on the chart that are not adjacent on the map (e.g., Beograd/Sarajevo and Porto/Lisboa/etc. in Eurorails), but it mostly works out okay. If you're having trouble finding a particular city, it may help to notice that major cities are printed in bold.

We also offer payoff charts for the decks that came with each game, including a few for maps for which we don't yet offer randomly generated decks.