[Update - This design has been licensed by FRED Distribution. See the July 9, 2009 comment below for details.]
In Rails Across America, players compete to build the most valuable railroad network. A network's value is comprised of the number of towns and cities it connects, the number of railroad stations built in cities, and the amount of money the player has earned.
The board shows a diagrammatic map of America: a network of lines ("links") meeting at junctions. (See the attached image.) Six of the junctions are major cities, the rest are towns. There are four grades of links, varying from short/easy to long/difficult. The more difficult a link is, the more it costs to build, but the more money a player makes when delivering goods over that link.
There are four kinds of goods, represented by cubes in four colors. During setup, one random cube is placed on each junction. Each junction is also marked with one of the four goods colors, which indicates that that city or town is a potential destination for that kind of good.
Players build links by paying money, according to the link's grade. A built link is marked by placing a token on the link in the player's color (like a Catan road, or a Railroad Tycoon choo-choo). The first player to build a given link pays the bank. A second player may later build the same link by paying the cost to the first player instead of the bank, and then placing his link marker alongside the first player's. No more than two players may build any given link. All of a player's links must be connected; discontiguous building is not allowed.
Deliveries are made by moving a goods cube from its starting junction to a destination junction whose color matches the cube. The active player may choose any route, with these restrictions: All links must belong to the active player, the route may not loop or return upon itself, and the cube may travel over at most seven links. You may move a cube past a junction of matching color in order to reach a further destination. The player receives money from the bank for each link in the route, according to the link's grade.
When a cube is delivered, it is removed from play and its starting junction is left empty. A player can "replenish" (place one new random cube on each empty junction in his own network) by paying a cost to the bank.
Each of the six major cities has a stack of Delivery tokens, marked with a monetary value and with the city's name. When a player makes a delivery to a city, he may take the most valuable remaining Delivery token for that city and keep it.
Each of the six cities has three Railroad Station tokens, each worth a different amount of VPs. When a player builds a Railroad Station at a particular city, he takes the highest-value remaining Railroad Station token for that city. Building a Railroad Station costs a lot of money, but Delivery tokens for that City may be turned in as part of the payment. (A Delivery token is essentially a discount on building a Railroad Station at that City.) Spent Delivery tokens are removed from the game.
At the end of the game, VPs are awarded for the number of cities and towns in each player's network, and for the amount of money the player has left. For cities, the VP rewards are triangular: 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21. This is to encourage vigorous competition to build a wide and comprehensive network.
Turn order goes clockwise. On each turn, the active player takes two actions. He may take the same action twice, if desired. The actions are:
* Build one link
* Build one Railroad Station
* Deliver one Goods Cube
* Take a Bank Loan (get money, but lose VPs at end of game)
End of game is triggered by running out of cubes during a Replenish action. Play continues to the end of the round, so that all players get the same number of turns. Final VPs are calculated, and most VPs wins.
For a discussion of why I'm designing this game, see my blog.