Last weekend I went to Belgium for an 18xx convention in Mechelen (charming city near Brussels). It lasted for 3 days, starting on Friday evening. The event was perfectly organised: any necessary practical informations were provided, game sessions were planned in advance (but the planning was flexible), we could buy food and snacks on place. Luk, David and the rest of organisers were outstanding.
Typical Belgian buffet
In case they don’t want their faces to be posted online
For me the best thing about the convention was just the fact of being in a room with 25 other like-minded people that were all playing 18xx games (and everyone was super nice).
I would say that the most popular game of the convention (in terms of number of plays) were 1849 (4 or 5 plays), 18Lilliput and 18Zoo (prototype).
1822, 1889, 1830, 1840 (prototype) and North American Railways were played twice.
18OE, 1895 Namibia, 1880: China, 18Mex, Steam over Holland, 18Ireland, 18CZ, 1846 (and maybe I forgot something) were played once.
What I’ve played
We played using a computer moderator – nothing but track tiles and private companies was used on the table (later on we added markers to the stock market). At the beginning it was hard to visualise what were the player/company possessions and possibilities, but once we grasped it, everything became clear. And it really does speed up the game – we finished 5-player game, without bankruptcy and with fairly novice players, in little 3 hours and 20 minutes (2 hours less than it would take normally).
On the side note: we played with the newest edition of the game.
This is what you have before you when playing with moderator
Game length: 3h 20min
One of my favourite games in the genre. We were five, all but me new to the game, so I thought I had a fair chance of winning. I was wrong and ended having less money at the end than the winning player had cash. I bought too many concessions (every time I saw a “London”, I put a cube there) and I didn’t acquire my only minor when I had a chance to, which resulted in train rush kicking me in the teeth.
Game length: 7h
3-player-only game. Supposed to be a quick one, which is true (only 5 or so brown tiles, only 5 companies). The problem is the game isn’t particularly interesting as an engineering one The choices seem to be simplistic (you either go right and get less money quicker or go left and get more money later), without additional layers. And there are obligations that basically force you to build in a certain direction… On the other hand this title is very easy to explain and I see a potential of a brutal train rush. We called it a game once the winner was known (normally it would take 30-60 minutes more). By the way, I made my copy of the game 4 years ago and it was the first time I managed to play it.
As a note: the second edition of the game is currently developed by Marflow Games. The current version is available as a free print and play on www.ohley.de
I made custom trains with information about what makes them obsolete
Game length: 1h 40min (incomplete)
I’m not a big fan of this one, feeling that the game is too limiting. But with 3 players that keep buying trains it is much better (and it goes really smooth). When I opened a Palermo company, I had a big chance of winning if I only issued some shares to buy a second train on the next operating round. I didn’t and this lack of aggressivity costed me victory.
Game length: 2h 20min
This is supposed to be an entry point to the 18xx world or a game that gives some of its feelings. Personally I didn’t enjoy it. Stock is inexistent, many of the actions are just “take 5/10 money”, route building is boring. And while the game is easy to explain and short, I’m not sure if someone who isn’t into economic games would enjoy it because of involved math (what is 6 times 7.5?).
Game length: 1h 10min
The game is all about the mergers. Honestly I can’t say much after one (unfinished) play. I’d like to play it with 3 to get to know the mechanics well, even if the game is best at higher number of players. We played with 5 and what was going on was quite confusing to me. But I see a potential in this one.
Tramways are a nice gimmick, however the board doesn’t feel particularly important. Unfortunately we didn’t complete the game because some of use had to leave early. Or maybe fortunately since my performance was utterly pathetic…
Game length: 4h 15min (incomplete)
We finished the convention with two plays of North American Railways which is a fine filler.
Some other games
18OE – 8 hours in the game, when they just realised that they were playing wrong. They finished 6 hours later.
1840 – the prototype of a new game by Lonny Orgler about tramways in Vienna
18Zoo – the prototype presented by Paolo and Carlo. This is an easy and short 18xx game with companies like Tigers or Penguins
Next edition is supposed to take place 7-9 of June 2019 and I’m already looking forward to it.
By the way, Craig and Dave from The Train Rush podcast were there as well, and they recorded a short episode on place: link
(posted on my miniblog as well)