Using the deck generator form
The "Standard Usage" section on the left side of the form should be
straightforward. You select the map for which you want a deck, and
then (usually) fill in the next item (number of players) and click
on "Generate a new deck". If you have an Empire Builder map that
includes cities in Mexico, specify "Empire Builder with Mexico";
if in addition your map says Culiacan produces sugar, it's actually
North American Rails, not Empire Builder.
There are several reasons you're asked how many players the deck is for.
First off, it could affect how many cards are in the deck (see below).
It also affects how many of the initial demands are guaranteed to be
deliverable (or nearly so) using only a player's starting money. (For more
information on that, see the discussion about
how the decks are generated. Note also
that you are not supposed to shuffle the deck yourself.
See the instructions for cutting up the cards.)
Finally, it affects how many copies of the payoff chart are printed.
(If there are more than two players, you get three copies of the chart.)
In general, you can use a deck with a number of players different
from what the deck was printed for (e.g., a two-player deck with three
players); if there are too many extra players, though, you run a greater
risk of running out of cards before the game is over.
Though the intent is that you use a deck only once, you can of course print
as many copies as you wish once you've downloaded the file. If you delete
the file but later decide, for whatever reason, that you'd like another copy
of the same deck, you can get it by selecting the same map and number of
players, then filling in the deck's identification code where the form
asks for "Old deck ID" and clicking "Reproduce old deck". The deck ID
is a 5-letter sequence that appears in various places, including the upper
left corner of the payoff chart and the bottom left of the first card in
the deck. (Strip off the trailing digit that tells the number of players.)
Another reason you might use this feature is if you ask for a "plain text"
deck (see options, below) and then decide you'd like to print the actual
cards; conversely, you might print a deck of cards and play with it, and
then decide you'd like a plain text copy so you can study the deck afterward.
Again, just enter the deck's ID, adjust the other form items appropriately,
and click "Reproduce old deck".
The bottommost button on the left side of the form does not generate a deck,
but instead generates a special payoff chart showing the payoffs for all
possible demands on the specified map.
(Certain demands are not permitted because the runs
would be too short.) This payoff chart is laid out just like the ones
that come with each deck, with the exception that some payoffs are marked
with "*" to indicate that they cannot appear on the first few cards of
any deck because they require more track than can be built with the
starting money for that map.
On the other side of the form are several options that you can set to
suit your needs. If you set the last item, "Remember options", to "Yes",
the form will send a "cookie" to your browser that causes it to remember
all the settings in the form, so they will be set up the
same way automatically the next time you bring up the form.
It'll even fill in the "Old deck ID" field with the ID from the last
deck you generated. (The "Remember options" feature will not work
if you have disabled cookies in your browser.)
The other options are as follows:
- Output format
- If you choose the default of PDF, the deck (or complete payoff chart)
is opened in PDF format.
- Choose PostScript to download the source file used to produce the PDF, if
for some reason that is easier for you to print, or if you want to examine
or modify the details of the file.
- Choose Plain Text to have the cards displayed in the form itself,
the three demands on each line corresponding to one card in the deck.
(At the far right there may be a notation indicating that the card
would have been preceded by taxes, and if so whether the chances of
subsequent taxes would have been reset to the odds for a full deck.)
This is intended as a way to look at the sorts of decks we generate
without going to the trouble of actually printing and slicing up a real deck.
(If you then change your mind and want to print a copy of the deck for
which you've just gotten a plain text listing, see "Reproduce old
You might also use it to review a deck played earlier.
For regular use, you should stick to the PDF or PostScript setting.
- Note: Plain Text is not supported for the "Show all demands"
button as there are no individual cards to show. Choosing Plain Text
will be treated the same as PostScript.
- Pictures for goods
- If you choose "Yes" (the default), the decks will include pictures
of the goods as well as their names. This can be useful since the pictures
used for some goods (such as Coal and Bauxite) vary from one map to another.
- If you find the pictures distracting, set this option to "No". You might
also do so if you're on a very slow Internet connection,
since the pictures
roughly double the size of the file (but it's still only about 50K).
- Grey level
- The payoff charts use bands of grey to delineate cities in different
regions of the map. What level of grey looks best varies from one printer
to another. On some, 95% grey (100% is white) is too dark, while on others
98% is indistinguishable from white. The default setting of 95% seems to
be a good level in most cases; you can try other settings if you want.
- Wider margins
- Most printers aren't able to print all the way to the edge of the paper.
Our decks don't try to print there, but they do come to within about 1/4 inch of the edge, and that's too close for some printers. (Including the pictures on the cards brings it to within about 1/6 inch.) If your printer is leaving off parts of the cards, select "Yes" for this option. That will cause the cards (and payoff charts) to leave an extra 1/2 inch margin on all sides. This does mean you'll need to do some extra cutting to remove the extra paper, so don't select this option unless you need to.
- Print reverse order
- Some printers print pages so they come out face down; i.e., when a
set of pages is printed, and you pick them up and look at them face up,
the first page printed is on top. Other printers print pages face up,
so when they're done printing the last page printed is sitting face-up
on top. Since the decks we're generating have been pre-shuffled, it's
important that the pages be stacked in the right order. If your printer
prints pages face up, i.e. if the pages end up with the last page on
top, you should select "Yes" for this option. Otherwise select "No".
- Include card backs
- Setting this to "Yes" causes every other page to be a dense pattern.
You should use two-sided printing to get the pattern to appear on the
backs of the cards, making it less likely someone will accidentally see
details through the face-down cards. The backs of the payoff charts will
display text reminding you to remove those pages before slicing the deck.
- If you choose "No", you should use one-sided printing (and conversely,
if you use one-sided printing you should choose "No").
- Larger game adds cards
- By choosing "Yes" (the default), you get decks where the number of cards
varies depending on how many players you specified in the other half of
the form. Games with 2-3 players get 120-card decks; larger games get 30
additional cards for each player beyond 3. This makes it far less likely
that you will run out of cards before the end of the game.
- Set this option to "No" to
get 120-card decks regardless of the number of players.