More Train Games

We played 1846 the other day.  This was my fourth play of it.  We had four players, one of whom, Scott, had never played an 18xx game before.  I attempted to teach the game, and I guess I did okay.  But I felt a bit rusty myself on the rules, and we definitely had a few “oh, by the way” moments with some key rules.  Scott was a good sport about the emerging rules, and really enjoyed himself.  So I am hopeful we may have a new regular to add to our 18xx player roster.

1846 still impresses me.  I really like that this game rewards careful stewardship of a company.  I won the game, and I did so as a one-company man.  I was fortunate to get the Steamship private company and the northern Michigan company that gives you 2 free yellow tiles.  I was able to float the Grand Trunk Railroad which worked perfectly with this set up.  I quickly connected to Holland and began some very profitable early runs.  Steady growth, coupled with my high share value ensured my company had plenty of capital the entire game.  By no means was my victory a slam dunk, but I felt confident most of the game that I was pursuing an effective strategy.

But our session did remind me that teaching these games is demanding.  Oh, to be sure, learning them is even more demanding.  Even if I were a flawless teacher, the onus is on the new player to absorb a LOT of rules.  In our game, since Scott had never played 18xx before, I tried to first teach the basic concepts of Stock Rounds, Operating Rounds, separate funds, trains, routes and stock values.  And I think I did okay with most of that.  But after teaching all that what I failed to do was to carefully review the roster of differences for 1846 from 1830.  I assumed between Alex, Chester and myself that we were on top of all of these differences.  Not perfectly.  Throughout the game we kept finding mistakes we were making.  So my lesson learned was to slow down and review even known games as a group before we begin.

Afterwards, I was inspired to write a teaching guide for 18xx games.  I modeled it after 1830, but attempted to make it generic.  I’ll try using it the next time we have a newbie and see if it is any better than just using the game manual.

In other train game news, my copy of 1880: China arrived this past week.  I’ve read the rules, and it looks fun.  But it also looks long.  I found a few features of the game quite interesting:

Each player gets to select a foreign investor.  These investors start at pre-designated sites on the board.  They lease a train, lay track and build up cash.  They also get 1 share of whatever public corporation you initially found.  When your corporation merges with the foreign investors track, they give you the share, and you can raid their cash on hand.

1880 also breaks the structured Share Round/Operating Round paradigm.  Instead of using a set number of OR’s in between SR’s, the purchasing of trains is tracked.  If an entire round goes by with no corporation buying a train, the game is interrupted for a Share Round!  When this happens all the remaining trains of the type currently offered are removed from the game.  This is very different, and I can’t quite visualize how this will play out.

Another startling departure from normal 1830-type rules is the concept of “Work Permits”.  When founded the President decides whether to buy a 20%, 30% or 40% certificate.  A 20% certificate allows that corporation to build during 3 of the 4 usual game phases (yellow tiles, green, brown, and grey).  A 30% only allows activities in 2 phases, while a 40% certificate only allows track building in 1 game phase.  This adds a complication to the viability of corporations.

There’s more, but these three changes struck me as very creative and new.  At least I’ve not encountered these ideas in other 18xx games before.  18xx continues to draw me in.  These games have a powerful pull.  I feel really lucky to have local players who seem to share this fascination.

I wonder when we can play again…

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