Northern Pacific is a luck-free railroad-building game for 3-5 players that lasts about twenty minutes. This game is in the same genre as TransAmerica.
Players start the game with one large investment cube and three small investment cubes in hand. The game board shows the United States from Minnesota to Washington; game play starts in Minneapolis/St. Paul. On a turn, a player either places one of their cubes in a city (other than Seattle) that hasn’t yet been reached by the train or builds track. If they build track, they choose one of the railroad lines exiting the city where the train is currently located and place a locomotive on it to show the current endpoint of the railroad line. Track has directional arrows on it, and a new train line can never move against the arrows or back to a city that the railroad has already visited.
When the railroad visits a city where players have placed investment cubes, they retrieve those cubes and take additional cubes from the supply: one new cube if they had a small cube in the city and two new cubes if they had a large cube.
When the railroad reaches Seattle, the round ends. Players tally the number of cubes in hand and records this number on the “good investments” track; they record the number of their cubes still on the game board on the “bad investments” track. They then reset the board as at the start of the game, then begin a new round. After three rounds, whoever has made the most good investments wins; if players are tied, then the tied player who has made the fewest bad investments wins.
You can play a single round of the game to determine a winner, if desired, or you can play new rounds with no recorded score, with a player winning the game if they win two rounds.