Standard Usage

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, and 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.

Options

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 PostScript (the default), the form will generate a file suitable for sending to a PostScript-capable printer. The PostScript file will print a deck of cards, a cover sheet, and a payoff chart. You can then cut these up (except the payoff chart) to generate a deck as described elsewhere. If you instead select "Plain Text", you'll get a page showing all the demands that would've been in the deck; the listing shows three demands per line, 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 deck", above.) For regular use, you should stick to the "PostScript" setting.

Where to put results
If you use "Download file" (the default), and have selected PostScript output format, the buttons on the left side will cause your browser to download a PostScript file. (Your browser will either offer to store it on your local machine, or will process it in whatever way you've configured your browser to deal with PostScript files.) If you use "Download file" with plain-text format, you'll get a page displayed directly in your browser listing the demands, as described above under "Output format". Meanwhile, if you choose "Show in form", then the buttons on the left side will show the PostScript or plain text on the same page as the form. This is probably not very useful, especially for the PostScript format, but it does provide an easy way for you to look at the PostScript text if you find it interesting.

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. If, for some reason, you don't like this feature, you can set this option to "No" to get 120-card decks regardless of the number of players.