|18xx GAME SUMMARIES|
1826 | 1830 | 1835 | 1841 | 1849 | 1856 | 1870
1826 is set in France and Belgium and reflects the full period of Franco-Belgian railroading, from the origins to the present day. Both countries developed their railroad systems under close Government supervision and this is reflected in the game. The two major French nationalizations are covered, as are the post-war electrification and the introduction of high-speed rail (the TGV).
1826 is a moderately complex game, designed for experienced players who are looking for something different than the usual round of 1830, 1856 and 1870. Due to the nature of the French political environment, this is not a game for extensive stock market manipulations, nor is it primarily a game of financial management. 1826 is an operationally-centered game in which technology management-getting the right trains on the right companies-is key.
Companies are incrementally funded, and can buy and sell their own stock. Companies start out as five-share companies and can convert to ten-share companies upon reaching their destination. The first four train classes, including the first-generation permanent trains, have a range in hexes (2, 4, 6 or 10) rather than cities: the last two train classes, which are permanent, have a range in cities. There are two merger corporations, one of which may form relatively early (when the green tiles become available) and the other somewhat later (its first opportunity to form is when brown tiles become available).
1830, set in the northeastern United States, is probably the best-known game of the series, though not the earliest. 1830 covers the period from the beginnings of railroading in the United States to the post-WWII introduction of Diesels, which was the high water mark of American railroading. Of all the series, 1830 has had the most staying power. Published in 1986, it is still possible to discover new strategies (or at least tactics) after many years of play. 1830 should be considered a game for the moderately experienced player, as the ruthless stock manipulations are liable to be a turnoff for the novice.
1830 is the premier game of stock manipulation. Although it is very balanced in the sense that railroad management (laying track and establishing good runs) and technology management (getting the right trains on the right companies) are as significant as stock management, a significant element of strategy consists of driving down other people's stock values during the stock round, while trying to ensure that you do not suffer the same. 1830 was the first published game in the series to have a dynamic stock market and to some degree the dominant nature of stock manipulation is a product of this pioneering aspect.
Companies are fully funded when floated, and can start at any of six initial values, as well as in any order. This was also a great innovation from the predecessor games, where companies started in a fixed order at predetermined initial values. 1830 also pioneered the concept of special powers for private companies, and allowed them to be purchased by major companies in order to simulate the "looting" aspect of the rather chaotic American stock market.
1835 is set in Germany and covers the period from the beginnings of German railroading to approximately the beginning of World War Two. 1835 was the first game in the series to be published in other than an Anglophone country, and the fifth to be published overall. 1835 does an excellent job of simulating the rise of railroading as a state institution in the pre-unification German states, and of the eventual rise to dominance of Prussia (and its state railroad).
1835 introduced both minor companies and merger companies. The initial offering, in addition to the normal private companies, included six companies that were something of a hybrid: they laid track and operated trains in a similar manner to major companies, but were wholly owned by a single player like private companies. Eventually these minor companies, as well as several of the private companies, were exchanged for shares in the merger company, the Prussian State Railway.
1835 suffers to some degree from the minuet-like quality of the initial auction, in which players are often forced by circumstances to make suboptimal purchases. It has even been suggested that, in a four-player game, the fourth player should always lose with optimal play on the part of all players. Also contributing to the sense of inevitability is the fixed order in which the major companies opened, and something of a lack of meaningful choices in track laying.
Nevertheless, 1835 was, for its time, a breakthrough product, introducing several concepts that have by now become staples of series design. Since it also has a rather low-key stock market, and a relatively mild train gradient (the least expensive train costs 80, the first permanent train costs 360 and the most expensive permanent train costs 660), it remains useful as a teaching tool when introducing a moderately experienced player to some of the more advanced concepts.
1841 is set in Northern Italy during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although containing many historical elements, it is really two games in one: an early phase, which lasts from the starting auction to the purchase of the first 4 train, which is deeply historical, and the balance of the game, which appears to be somewhat less so, as it relies heavily on starting up companies which appear to have no historical basis.
1841 is not a game for the inexperienced player or the faint of heart. Due to the very steep train gradient (the least expensive train costs 100, the first permanent train costs 800 and the most expensive permanent train costs 1450) coupled with speedy train obsolescence (3 trains are rusted by 5 trains, 4 trains by 7 trains and 5 trains by 8 trains), 1841 rapidly becomes a game of pure financial management: play is dominated by the need to raise the funds to start a new company to gain access to the capital to buy the trains to replace the trains that have just been bought. Added to this is an extreme asymmetry of the map that forces a "Milanocentric" approach to track development: those companies that start in the southern half of the map must struggle to establish a position north of the Apennines in order to remain competitive.
Companies are incrementally funded, and can sell their own stock and buy and sell other companies' stock (they can even open another company during their operating round!). Companies can be started with as few as two shares, and have a very limited range of starting values. Additional, higher starting values become available as the game progresses. Companies can also merge with other companies, which is the core mechanism of the game (and probably its least well understood): the key to victory is to arbitrage the minimum number of high-value shares with the maximum number of low-value shares. This not only minimizes the player's own capital losses but maximizes access to capital. This means that there are rarely more than the usual eight or so active companies among the 24 that are available to be started.
1849 is set in Sicily and is based on a historical "what-if:" what if King Ferdinand had accepted one of the several proposals by British consortia to develop the island's railroads? In reality he rejected all these offers and Sicily only began building railroads after the Italian Unification. 1849 covers the period from the mid-1800s to the early twentieth century. The game reflects its mountainous terrain by using a second track type, narrow gauge, which is cheaper to build but harder to run on.
1849 is a smaller game, but with many unique features. It has only 57 playable hexes, and of those, only 25 do not have some sort of terrain cost: the remaining 32 hexes cost anywhere from 40 to 160 to build. This is made worse by the need to pay the terrain cost each time a hex is upgraded. Coupled with the relatively steep train gradient (the least expensive train costs 100, the first permanent train costs 550, and the most expensive permanent train costs 1100), this means that 1849 is primarily a game of financial management, somewhat like Federico Vellani's other published design, 1841, but on a smaller scale.
Companies are incrementally funded, and can buy and sell their own stock. Companies can be started with as few as two shares, and have a very limited range of starting values. Additional, higher starting values become available as the game progresses. Trains have a range in hexes (4, 6, 8, 10, 12 or 16) rather than cities, although an optional rule introduces electric trains that have a range in cities. An additional twist that adds to replayability is that the companies (up to six) open in a fixed order that is randomly determined at the start of each game.
1856 is a game set in a little-known area of railroad development, Upper Canada (also known as Ontario to those of us who were born after passage of the British North America Act). 1856 is a game that attempts to leverage the merger company concept in combination with an innovative capital-generating mechanism: the Government Loan. The game simulates both the (apparently rather chaotic) initial period of privately sponsored railroad development and the subsequent period of consolidation under stricter Government supervision.
There are several innovative mechanisms in this design. Companies are incrementally funded, and float based on a number of shares equal to the current train number, though in practice companies are rarely opened with fewer than three shares and most often four. Companies have destinations which, when reached, allow the company to receive additional capital (before it reaches its destination a company can get no more than fifty percent of its capital regardless of the number of shares sold). As stated earlier, the major source of extra capital is Government Loans. A company can take out one $100 loan per operating round, up to the number of its shares that are held by players.
The game proceeds along these lines until the first 6 train is bought. At this point, all companies that cannot (or choose not to, in certain cases) fully repay their outstanding loans are merged into the Canadian Government Railroad. The CGR operates under a variety of special rules similar to the Prussian in 1835 (from which it is to some degree derived), but with some changes that clearly reflect the issues that have been identified with the Prussian since 1835 was published.
The game is a fine intermediate game, but suffers to some degree from a lack of replay value, since only about half the major companies are really suitable as starting companies, and there is really no alternative to the tactic of taking as many loans as possible each turn and then dumping the company into the CGR after suitably stripping it. The end game then becomes a matter of losing as little capital value as possible when the CGR merger comes, coupled with acquiring as many shares of CGR as possible after the dust has settled.
1870 is a game set in the American Southwest, and reflects an altogether different sensibility than most of its predecessors. Here, the attempt has been made to combine the historic need for development of long east-west routes to establish transcontinental links, with a very sophisticated stock market game.
The most innovative mechanism in 1870 is the set of rules affecting stock play. Companies can buy back (redeem) their stock from the Pool or from a player, in the latter case providing a mechanism for transferring capital from the company to its owner. Later, companies can reissue this stock to raise additional capital. But the most significant mechanism is the "price protection" mechanism. This allows a player to save his stock from dropping in price when sold by buying it at market value himself. Since any stock acquired in this manner may be held in excess of the normal sixty percent limit, it is commonplace for players to hold eighty percent or more of the shares of a company in hand, with the remainder redeemed by and held in the company treasury.
1870 was also the first widely available game in which dividends were paid to the company treasury from unissued stock rather than stock held in the Pool, and the only the second in which 5 trains or their equivalent could be rendered obsolete (the first was 1841): in 1870, 12 trains rust 5 trains. This creates some interesting dynamics, as there is no pressure for the 12 trains to enter play: normally they will only come out if a player believes that one of his competitors is benefiting too much from his 5 trains.
1870 is widely acclaimed as one of the most balanced games in the series, and it was at one time suggested that it would replace 1830 as the favorite among experienced players. It still remains an excellent learning game. Unfortunately, partially because it is so balanced, it is a bit bland: also, there is relatively little variation in the routes built since the destination rules pretty much dictate the path each company will follow initially. For these reasons as well as the highly innovative and dynamic stock market rules, the game will be preferred by players whose emphasis is on stock play: it is somewhat less compelling to aficionados of railroad management and technology management.
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