Railroad Barons belongs to the family of 18xx games, but raised to the meta-level. Individual companies are no longer the focus, but large holding companies which add more and more new railways to their portfolios. At this abstract level there is no need for the game board and route tiles used in traditional 18xx games.
The two players buy and sell stock in holding companies, and the holding companies they control buy railways to generate revenue. Corner the market in the best companies, and exploit the weaker companies, to edge out your opponent and gain any possible relative advantage.
Like other 18xx games, there are no random elements, merely a battle of wits between two ambitious financiers. Assets that are profitable in the early game rapidly become obsolete, so you must always plan ahead for future growth and investment. Growth or Bust!
This game is purely about the money, as there is no map or track tiles!
Cards and tokens are used to represent:
5 Holdings (with a Director's share of 40% plus one share each of 30%, 20%, and 10%)
Railroad companies (with a fixed income) which become obsolete as more modern Railroads come into play.
5 private Investor cards (similar to the 18xx Private companies)