|1830 STRATEGY GUIDE|
This guide is meant for those of you who already have some experience with the game. It does not focus extensively on track building because the only way to learn this skill is by playing the game often. For beginners, other opinions and for information about the computer game, I would recommend reading the FAQ file written by Michael Carlton http://www.mcs.net/~mcarlton/.
A few assumptions have been made. This guide initially focuses on a four player game. The five player game is then dealt with in chapter 6 and that for 3 or 6 players in chapter 7. Also, only the better strategies have been mentioned. For example, there is only a brief description of how to start up the Canadian Pacific Railroad because this is judged as a bad opening. Also, I assume that everybody will buy private companies with their corporations for as much as possible so I have skipped the other options. But keep in mind that under certain circumstances it might be wiser to buy for less, for example when you need some extra money in order to build a bridge, place a token or buy a train.
As I stated above, this guide only reflects my own personal views. However, I am very interested in the views and comments of other players, so please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions. From time to time, I will revise this guide so that a more complete guide will be created. You can contact me by e-mail: Crist-Jan Mannien.
Bearing this in mind, money can be earned by:
In the beginning of the game, I usually prefer a strategy leaning towards the first one so that I will be able to start up a second corporation at highest par. In a later stage of the game, I sometimes switch to a long-term strategy, for example when I have great track for a D-train or so. As Steve Thomas wrote in one of his letters, the key of success is in switching from (mainly) the fast strategy to (mainly) the long-term strategy better than the others.
Another important aspect to remember is that the priority deal is determined in this round. If you get the priority deal, you have the biggest choice in starting up a company. If you are the player who bought the last private company and you have $402 left, you will probably get the opportunity to sell your private companies to the corporation you started up (see below).
The most important benefit of owning a private company is the possibility of buying it with a corporation. The idea is that corporation treasury money is shifted to your own treasury. This is very profitable because you only possess 50 or 60% of that company. Statistically speaking, you become richer by an amount of 10/6 of the selling price. As you can see, profit grows if you sell the private company for as much as possible. This factor makes the M&H and the C&A very attractive to bid for. Especially the C&A is very nicely priced, being only $50 more expensive than the M&H and giving a free share of the PRR. In my opinion, these two private companies are priced too low. This means that you must prevent any of the other players buying one of these two too cheaply. In other words, do not buy the cheapest private company too early because that increases the chance that this will happen. Therefore it is better to wait until at least two players bid for the C&A and the M&H.
The lower values refer to a cut-throat competition in which all players chose a fast pay-off strategy. If your gaming group usually starts more slowly - or if you play against computer opponents - the higher values are appropriate.
These numbers must be judged in perspective. For example, if the M&H
has been sold for $120, it would be unwise to pay $230 for the C&A.
Also, in a five player game the intrinsic values will be lower since
you will need more time to sell the private companies to a
corporation. Consequently in a 3-player game the intrinsic values are
a bit higher.
To determine the best par price, bear in mind the following tactics:
Starting up the B&O
The president of the B&O usually does not have any other private companies. So he can't earn money by selling private companies. For this reason, many players buy three 2-trains with the idea of placing a token in the city south of Baltimore and making money as fast as possible. My group I play with has named this strategy the "Fast Buck Opening". However, it not only costs a lot of money but also leaves the B&O with only one token. Also, buying three 2-trains usually means that the first 3-train will be sold in the first operating round, so some players get the opportunity to sell their private companies. Guess what they will buy ......B&O! After the second operating round, these extra shares will be sold to float new corporations. And if they don't buy B&O shares, they might even float a second corporation immediately. In any case, the 2-trains will become obsolete after a few rounds. Therefore, I do not like this strategy.
To prevent these drawbacks, the B&O can start with only one 2-train and a sharp bend on the board, east of Baltimore. In the second operating round, the B&O can build a city tile north east of Baltimore. This strategy slows down the game. And if the first 3- train is bought in the first operating round, you can buy one or two 3-trains and run those for several rounds.
Starting up the PRR
The PRR is a marvellous company in the long run: it possesses four tokens and it will almost always connect New York and Chicago. In the first few rounds, it is difficult to make money fast because the home town is only a $10 revenue city (however, it makes a decent income once it has built into the hex north of Baltimore). So opening the PRR is only interesting if you own the C&A or the M&H. For example, if I get the opportunity to buy the C&A in a four player game, I try to open the PPR, announcing a $67 par value. As soon as the first 3-train is bought (sometimes by myself), I will sell the C&A for $320. In the following stock round, I will sell one to four PPR shares and open a second railroad. I don't care much about keeping the presidency of the PPR because it has almost no treasury money. If nobody takes over the PRR presidency , I use the second company to buy a useful train for the PRR. This is a very risky opening if the other companies buy a lot of trains, as you lack the money to do the same. I have a positive score with this opening but on one occasion I could not prevent myself going bankrupt.
Starting up the NYNH
The NYNH can be opened by anybody who has $402 left after the sale of all the private companies. Its base city NY is valued at $40, making it a very interesting company to start with. Like the B&O, the NYNH can choose between a long-term strategy or a short-term strategy. This decision must be made in the first operating round:
If you own private companies, other strategies are also possible. The C&O frequently is the last corporation to be started up in the first round, making it possible to make the C&O last in play in the Operating Round. If this is the case, you can follow the strategy described in paragraph 1.1.3. If you own the D&H, you could also consider selling it to the C&O and establish a railhead on the D&H's hexagon. This usually results in an exclusive connection between New York and Chicago, which is ideal for operating a large train later on.
Starting up the B&M
The B&M has many similarities with the NYNH. It has only two city tokens and often uses the same track for operating trains as its neighbour. A major disadvantage is its base city, which is not as central on the board as the home city of the NYNH. To prevent being trapped later on, building expensive mountain track is inevitable in most games. This makes it less attractive to start up the B&M in the first round.
Starting up the NYC
If the NYNH is not cooperative the NYC will generate no revenues in its second turn. This can be avoided by persuading the NYNH that it is in its interests to cooperate or by launching the NYC after everyone else is committed to companies other than NYNH. But even if this tactic fails some people find it interesting to start up the NYC since it often becomes a very good corporation in the long run. They build track in south west direction in order to connect South New York. This results in a very nice network later on in the game. Also, it is almost certain that the PRR and the B&O will not be able to connect South New York since the NYC almost always gets an opportunity to place a station marker on the C&A tile.
In principle there is no doubt that this is a very good strategy in the long run. But if the other operational corporations go for a fast buck, I am afraid that this strategy is often outweighed by the lack of earnings in comparison with the earnings of others. Maybe purchasing a private company with the NYC can counterbalance this side-effect. I never played this strategy so I will not rush to a conclusion.
Starting up the Canadian Pacific
As the C&O, the base city of the CPR is at great distance of New York. Furthermore, the CPR has two $10 cities nearby, making it almost impossible to operate trains with high proceeds. Also, the CPR needs to build a lot of track unaided. Therefore, I would only recommend starting up the CPR in combination with the D&H to escape from isolation by building a railhead on the D&H's hexagon. Nevertheless, I am still waiting for the player who will beat me by this way.
Starting without a president's share
This strategy can be more fun than people might think. Buying shares in a company owned by someone else makes the opening more complex for others. You can usually choose the right moment to sell shares and start up a company. This is the case if that company has enough treasury money so that it is not interesting for the president to dump the president share. For example, if you own the C&A and do not have enough money to start up a company, you can buy B&O shares - usually four. After a few operating rounds the shares can be sold with great profit. Together with the dividends received, there is enough money to start up a company, sell the C&A in the next operating round for $320 and start up a second company. By the way, against computer players this is a deadly effective strategy.
You do not need a private company to play this strategy. In some cases it can be very effective when the player with no private companies does not start up a company. The other players will not have much money to start up companies. After they sell their private companies to start up a second company, they will not have much treasury money which makes it very attractive to accelerate the speed at which trains enter (and leave) the game so that the first companies will get into trouble. The biggest disadvantage is the possibility that one of the opponents will succeed in getting a very strong combination of companies (e.g. the NYNH and the NYC). Another disadvantage is the small influence on the development of the game. This usually is compensated by the possibility to buy the most interesting shares.
When I use this tactic, I prefer to buy B&O shares. The B&O president seldom owns other private companies (see B&O start up) so he will try to keep at least 50% of the shares. Also, he will pay dividends because it is his only income. This means that you also get revenue and that the stock value will rise quickly. This does not mean that it is impossible to start with other shares but you must be more careful to prevent this company being dumped, leaving you with a company without treasury money and a low stock value.
In this game phase, players have to make lots of decisions. In this chapter I will focus on every aspect of the game, but keep in mind that all my advice is only true in certain situations. Always start evaluating your position in relation to the other players, as standard situations hardly ever exist in 1830.
2-trains will be removed after the first 4-train is bought. This usually happens when the fifth corporation becomes operational (rule of thumb).
3-trains are removed from the board when the first 6-train is sold. In most games this means that you can use them for a long time, making them relatively cheap. For some corporations it can be very attractive to buy two of them. I only do that when I am sure that I will get a second corporation operational so that I will be able to sell one 3-train and buy a better train with my first corporation.
4-trains are removed after the first D-train is bought. This usually happens earlier than you hoped and expected. For this reason I hate them. They cost $300, which is high - especially when the first D- train becomes available very quickly. See also "starting up a second corporation".
5-trains are my favourites! As they stay in the game, $450 is very cheap. Sometimes it is even possible to buy two of them. In more than 50% of all the games that this happens, the lucky owner becomes the winner! So focus on these great trains.
6-trains usually do not come in packages of two, as they are more expensive. Nevertheless they are very attractive as they are much cheaper than a D-train if you have to buy one for the full $1100.
D-trains are often overrated by players. In theory revenues of more than $600 per round are possible but this does not happen very often. On the other hand, being the player who can exchange his 4-train for a D-train is almost as satisfying as buying two 5-trains. When you can exchange your 4-train, always take into account the possibility of another player going bankrupt. Sometimes it is better to wait a turn if you are behind in cash and stock value and no one else can exchange a 4-train for a D-train before you.
Starting up a second corporation
A common strategy everybody must know is the following: start up a second corporation, buy a small train from your first corporation, leave enough money for a 5 or 6-train plus $41,- ($40,- for a home city, $1,- for a second train) and pay dividends the rest of the game. I have seen a lot of games in which this corporation ended up with the highest stock value. It is clear that a high par value implies a higher stock value and a bigger transfer of treasury money to your first corporation, so try to put the par value as high as possible.
If you are the first player starting up a second corporation, this strategy is usually not possible because the 5-trains will probably not be available at that time. In those cases you will be forced to buy a 3 or 4-train. In comparison with your opponents, you probably will have less treasury money when the first 5-train comes into play so do not get too carried away buying smaller trains. It is often a difficult task to determine when to buy a second corporation. Waiting too long often means that only the CPR is left or nothing at all. In making this decision keep in mind the following aspects:
A common strategy is to retain revenues with your first corporation and pay dividends with your second corporation. As other players usually do not own shares in your second corporation when it starts up, they will suffer the most.
Another example of the advantages of operating two corporation is the following. Suppose you control two corporations, A and B. A has one train, and is about to buy the first 5-train. B has a 3-train and another train. You know that the other 5-trains will be sold rapidly. Corporation A has some spare money. It is often good for corporation A to buy the 3-train from B, just before buying the 5-train. This will cause the 3-train to be transferred to the bank, but it will also transfer some cash to corporation B while this is still possible. Corporation B may thereby acquire enough to buy a 5- or 6- train when it is its turn, and this is ample compensation for one turn's loss of revenue from a 3-train.
If corporation B has no second train, this tactic is not always possible. Suppose corporation B has $451 after the sale of the 3- train. If the two remaining 5-trains were bought by other corporation, corporation B will not be allowed to buy a 6-train, as there is still a 3-train available.
Paying dividends or retaining revenues
In almost every game, one or two corporations will be forced to buy a train after the first 6 or D-train which will not have enough money to do so. Consequently, the owner has to pay the rest out of his own pocket. It is clear that this is not a very attractive option as you can only own 60% of that corporation and have to foot the bill for 100%. So it is wise to retain revenues when such a situation threatens. On the other hand, retaining revenues means no income and lower stock prices, which can also be very unattractive. Choosing the lesser of two evils is not my favourite job. The fact that other players struggle with the same problem is only a small comfort. If I knew what was the best move in every situation, I would win more often. To help you in making your decision keep in mind the following rule of thumb: never withhold dividends. There are a few exceptions.
This is also true if you want to hold up, block or frustrate your opponents in their track construction plans. Pay special attention to tile no. 18, as in many cases this is a useful tile to prevent other companies making a connection between their track and yours.
Placing your tokens on the board has big implications for the rest of the game. Comparable with laying track, you have to find a balance between placing tokens to maximise revenues for the trains you possess and securing access for a bigger train in the end game. This is demonstrated very clearly by the NYNH as this corporation can decide to place its token in the city between Boston and New York (short-term strategy) or in the home base city of the NYC (long-term strategy). In making this decision, try to imagine the consequences of every option in the future. Also, do not place tokens when revenues are not raised by this action, or when nobody is threatening to place his token first. Based on many games, I recommend you to pay special attention to the home city of the NYC and the city north east of Baltimore as these cities are essential for achieving high revenues later on in the game, especially if you are planning to exploit a D-train.
Buying extra shares
To determine which shares are the most attractive to buy, try to assess:
If there are shares available in both the bank pool and the initial offering, and prices are (almost) equal, always buy from the bank pool, because this will prevent the corporation from receiving dividends. Only one exception; buy a share from the initial offering if you expect the president to only pay dividends if there are some shares left in the bank pool.
Also, don't forget the priority deal - it might be important to get it. Being the last player that bought a certificate in the Stock Round can be very unfavourable if it diminishes your chances of starting up a second or third corporation in the next round.
The most important motive for selling is of course to make money. If you need a lot of money, dump more than one share at once. But making money does not have to be the only motive. Dumping shares can also be attractive to diminish the value on the market or to change the order of play in the next operating round. If the latter is the case, it sometimes happens that players keep dumping shares over and over again. Consequently, this has a big impact on the stock value. So be sure that you do not become a victim of your own actions before you start such a share war.
Selling shares to dump your corporation on another player is a different matter. I find it one of the most remarkable and challenging aspects of the game. Always be aware of this possibility; try to maximise the advantages in the operating round if you are the dumping player. Likewise, if you are a potential victim, always be aware that you can become the new president. If you have enough trains in your other corporations(e.g. two 5-trains in one corporation), this might not be a problem, except when your new acquisition has no money at all and is forced to buy a train from the bank!
The importance of the priority deal
When a player gets the priority deal, he will be able to dump shares for maximum prices, have first choice in starting a new company and have the biggest chance to buy the most interesting shares in the bank pool or the initial offering. But also the player next to the first player can often benefit from his position. So always be aware of this during a Stock Round and never give away the priority deal by selling a share in order to buy a slightly better one. The priority deal is no longer very important during the last few Stock Rounds of the game.
Pay dividends or retain revenue in order to build track or place a
Sometimes revenues are not optimal and there is not enough money to build a bridge or to blast through mountains. It also happens that you would like to place a station marker to block trains of your opponents. Then it is very appealing to retain revenues in order to fulfil these plans. But retaining revenues means no dividends and the stock value is back two columns! This sometimes results in a loss of $400 or more. So the advantages must be very big to make such an action profitable, which is usually not the case. Only when the stock value token is in a coloured section and you want it to stay there might it be advantageous to retain revenues.
Pay dividends or retain revenue in order to purchase an extra
Although it might be very attractive to purchase an extra train, remember what I mentioned above. It always takes a few turns to recoup the loss of retaining one turn, even if the stock value is situated in the coloured section. Nevertheless, it can be very attractive if you have more than 16 certificates and your opponents have fewer. By retaining revenues the stock value token stays in the coloured section and you can maintain, or even expand, your number of certificates in the next Stock Round. Another advantage of purchasing an extra train might be the extension of the game with one extra operating round, as the bank receives an extra $1100.
Transfer a train from one corporation to another
If you have one corporation with two trains, and another with only one train, it might be interesting to move a train from one corporation to another. If the receiving company is situated lower on the stock market, there is no loss of income because the train already did its work that turn. This is not the case when the receiving company has a higher market value.
If you have two corporations, each with only one train, it is very difficult to make an exchange of trains profitable, so don't if you are not certain that it is advantageous.
The opening game
The opening strategies are basically the same as in a 4-player game. Nevertheless there are also some very important differences. First of all, the players start with $120 less. Only one or two players will be able to start a corporation without the help of others. The owners of the M&H and the C&A are usually not amongst them. Consequently, it will take some turns before they are able to sell these private companies. There is only one exception: if a player can buy the M&H for $145 or less and if he gets the chance to start the PRR, he has scored his first hit. So don't let this happen (unless you are the lucky one). Apart from this exception, it is often very dangerous to sell the M&H and the C&A at maximum prices later on in the game. Therefore, I guess the intrinsic value of these private companies is a little lower than in the 4-player game.
Another major difference is that there are often only three operational corporations in the first round. In four out of five cases the B&O and the PRR are among them. Especially the B&O shares seem to be very popular at this stage. Once again, the player who has the first chance to sell a few B&O shares for a price of $112 or more scores a hit. I once even saw a player buy every B&O share that was dumped by others, sell five of them when they were valued $160, start up two corporations in the same turn and win the game hands down.
6 player game
What I wrote about the differences between the 4 and 5-player game applies even more for the 6-player game. The priority deal becomes even more important and the chances to score a hit are even fewer in number, if they come at all. The influence on the board is limited and sometimes players will not get the opportunity to start a corporation at all. This is not the ideal setting, unless you don't consider it a problem that luck plays such an important role. If you want to play 18xx with more than 5 players, you should choose one of the games with more than 8 public companies.
As I described in the first chapter, the ultimate goal is to win the game. In many games, there will be a moment that a player may recognise that he has no chance of winning. Nevertheless, he continues to interact with the others. He may victimise one opponent, or he may play at random. Either way, it spoils the game for those who have a chance of winning. You can prevent this by introducing a sideline objective: maximise the difference between your own final score and the average final score. In this way the final result will be indisputable.
In my opinion, everything is allowed which is not forbidden in the rules. For example, dumping a company on somebody after you have emptied the treasury and placed the station markers in the wrong cities should be allowed. Another sensitive subject is making deals. I think it should be possible to enter into a gentleman's agreement about not placing a station marker in a certain city, for example, but it should also be possible to break such an agreement.
There is only one aspect that I do not like: prompting! There is nothing more frustrating in the game than listening to your opponents about how they can work together against you. In the group I play with, we have the tacit agreement to only advise novice players. When it comes to working together against others, a player has to tell his plans by making his move on the board and the only thing he can do is pray that the others will understand it.
I hope you enjoyed reading my guide. Should you not agree with me (which I can hardly imagine :)) please let me know.
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