[ENG] 18Africa – Short summary & first impressions

Foreword:

Generally I wrote first impressions after first play, but with 18Africa we made so many fails (with rules) at first time, so this first impressions are after second play. 18Africa is not a typical 18xx title, and you knew it right after reading rules. You get some shares and half of them you keep, and the rest from all players are auctioned between players. Moreover, all that shares that you are holding in your hand, you still have to buy. They are yours only in that way, that nobody but you can buy them.
And the rest of the shares are stacked, and you can buy them later in the game, but you never know, which company shares will be next. That’s a huge, huge source of randomness. Between that shares you can find also private companies. But, your companies can’t buy them from you! You can only sell them to bank pool, and then your company can buy it. Of course, if it’s still there…
Another strange thing is that trains are never obsolete. You can have max two trains at the same time, and you can sell them (receiving less money, except train 2) and buy better one. And what is so important, most of that trains, are running between two cities, counting all towns inside that connection. And since there are not so many cities on map, it’s not easy to make a good route. And many times you need 3 or 4 rounds to build, even if you can place 4 yellow tiles in one turn.
Next idea is that there are 6 types of goods which can be delivered between place where are they produced to the specific ports. But, you can’t just take that resources and deliver them. No, no. First, you should buy concession to do that. And that concessions are auctioned after first 2 OR’s.
Is it not enough? So, we have two more things, which give more options for you to be embarrassed. Some cities have variable value so sometimes it’s hard to tell how much will your company earn. And the last but not least – economy. There are 4 stages in which economy can be. Boom, recovery, recession and depression. When economy is at boom, all things are great and routes pay much more than anybody expect. But, when economy will drop to depression, it means hard times for investors. And if you forget, that in this situation best move is to buy goverment bonds, you will lost. And I’m sure about that in 100%. So, how it works? Let’s see…

Who was playing?

3 players: Me (Michał), Marcin (Magole) and Jarek.
All three of us was playing 18Africa a week ago, so that was our second try. Jarek played 18xx for the 3rd time, and he’s not a big fan of that type of games.

How do we started?

None of us have president’s certificate on hand, and that meant if we want to run company we should buy from our hand at least 3 normal shares. So we did: Jarek opened 2 companies – Nigerian Railway and Timbuktu-Oran Railway. Marcin opened Morrocan National Railway, and I opened Algiers-Oran Railway. Moreover I bought from my hand 3 private companies, because I remembered that after first 2OR’s we will auction for concessions. And that 3 private companies gave me 47$ in each OR. Even there are no certificates in bank pool, in first 2 OR’s economy is in recovery, and that means, that variable cities didn’t pay too much, and normal cities are paying only what is written on them. After more than 2 hours of playing, there were only 4 companies on map, because nobody wanted to risk his money. And we behaved like that because economy felt into depression, and income from the companies was negligible (typicaly 10$ income, best companies made 40$…). That depression was started when I and Marcin sold to bank pool many of our shares, and then we bought many goverment bonds. Jarek couldn’t do that, because he was first at the stock round and he didn’t sell any shares. And what you should also know – in 18Africa you can sell shares only in your first turn of the whole stock round! That means, if you didn’t do that at first, then you cant do anything to react what others do. It’s a huge, huge fault of this game. And that was major crucial moment of this game…

Some crucial moments:

  • Of course first crucial moment was with shuffling the shares, and deal them to players. If you are lucky enought you can get some good companies, and because of that, nobody can hurt you, or take control of your company
  • Moment when somebody decided to put economy into depression – in our game Jarek was first in the stock round and he didn’t sell any shares. Then was I, and I sold all my private companies which gave me opportunity to buy 3-4 goverment bonds. Marcin sold some of his shares, and also bought some bonds. As you can see, Jarek couldn’t do anything to react! He could do something not until next SR. So we (Me and Marcin) got ca. 240-280$ in every OR, and at the begging of the next SR we had ca 500$ more than Jarek… Should I say more, that this mechnism is totally broken?
  • And third crucial moment was driven by randomness (again) – most of companies opened by Marcin was started without presidents certificate. That means, in first OR when that company operated it’s stock price fall 3 spots down. Without presidents certificate you are called not a president of that company, but manager. And in rules is that company with manager, and without train fall down 3 spots on stock…

Conclusion:

When we played 18Africa for the first time, I was discouraged, because Michał (from Olkusz) was so lucky and while he could bought more than 70% of his shares (because he get them at the start of the game), me and others were not so lucky (for example I can bought only 30% shares in my company). Next day I read rules by my own and realised, that we were playing with bad rules. So I hoped, that second time there will be less randomness… And it was, but only a little 🙁

Pros:

  • Beautiful map and components (I know, that you mostly didn’t care about that, but we still trying to get more people into 18xx and we have to care about that)
  • Replayabilty because of huge number of companies
  • Some interesting mechnisms – goods, goverment bonds, few kinds of trains
  • Economy with 4 stages
  • Interesting mechanism that at the end you will add 5% value of your company trains to it’s share price, and 10% of shares/privates that company have
  • You can have 100% shares in one company
    But these pros are implemented in way, that they become cons…

Cons:

  • Huge map, but not sufficient number of tracks (and ridiculous rule, that you have to finish building tracks if you put tile #7 or #3 or city)
  • Not intuitive rules, with many lacks (eg. could you sell all normal shares (as a manager into bank pool? Who then control that company?)
  • Shares selling only on your first turn in SR – you can’t react what others do, and you lost 2 OR’s to buy bonds (and even if you sold them you might not get as much as u could earlier)
  • Shares can move on stock 4 times, even if they are rubbish (there is way better mechnism in 1846, where companies can move 3 times, but only if they are good enought). Why inwestors are so happy when almost-dead-company paid them so much? I didn’t get it.
  • Economy can change in SR (because of players) and in OR (because companies could buy/sell shares and privates) and there is so much chaos. Sometimes in every pair of OR’s and even in one OR you have to count revenue once again, and that is frustrating
  • Most of auctions are worthless because nobody wants what you want, so many times we bought what we want for 2 or 5$
  • In depression is worthless to possess shares/companies, because you make only 10 or 20 income per OR
  • In many situations there is better to possess train “2” than any of the more expensive
  • Time of play, because after 2-3 hours you probably knew who will win, and who for sure can’t win (like in our situation, when Jarek couldn’t do anything to get us)
  • You can’t set par price for new company, so when you start new company later in the game, you don’t have enough money to buy some better train
  • If you are manager your company will drop 3 spots on stock, because of no train and you can’t do anything with that (nah, of course you can wait forever when presidents share will show up, and then start new company…)
  • Auction for concessions are after very first 2 OR’s so if you fail in that moment it will be hard for your companies in depression (because you didn’t get so much money by trains)
    and I don’t think thats all… 🙁

Time of play:

ca. 4,5 hours

Results (without adding 5% of train value):

Me (Michał) Marcin (Magole) Jarek
Cash 2005 1712 248
Cash in shares 2876 2007 1166
SUM 4881 3719 1414

My BGG rating: 3.5

Leave a Reply