Broke out American Rails and started going through the rules. You can certainly see the Chicago Express influence on the design. The game features six train companies each with different numbers of stock certificates and track (cubes) available and players vie for investing in the companies that earn them the most money by game end.
Through a series of stock auctions and several “years” players extend the lines of the companies by placing track (cubes) across the eastern United States. Money used to win the auctioned shares goes into the company coffers and is used to build track. The cost of track is determined by how many cubes are in a hex and what type of terrain the hex represents (plain, forest, and mountain). Some hexes can be “developed” increasing their value to the company when dividends are paid to shareholders at the end of each round. Each city you connect to increases your dividend. If you hold the city individually you get more than sharing the city with another company.
The turn structure within a round reminded me vaguely of Tinners’ Trail. There is no time component of your move affecting turn order but the the action phases within a round feature three columns of actions. As you take an action you place your disc on the action followed by everyone else. Turn order for the next action phase follows top down from the column. Choose a more powerful action this phase and you’ll go later in the turn order in the next phase.
I haven’t played a full game solo nor played “for real” but it seems money is very tight and you’ve got to be smart at knowing how much to bid and how best to use the money that the company amasses by auctioning shares. It appears that making a mistake can be costly.
I suspect I’m no good at the game since I play more by my gut than “by the math” but it does feel intriguing. Looking forward to learning more.