Last news: This project is waiting for approval by Kickstarter which will take place at least on May 28th.
The campaign to fund the game will start on Monday and in the meantime we have an article for you about how the game was developed.
Read the story:
In 2013 I published 18Ruhr together with my coauthor. In this game not only railway corporations but also steel mill and coal mines play an active role in the game. The development of the steel mills and coal mines depends on the fact that their locations have been connected with the railway net. Once such a link has been established steel mills and coal mines could grow and their locations provide a higher income for the railway corporations.
After the success of 18Ruhr I considered how to implement other industries into an 18xx game. The suitable area was Dortmund one of the big cities in the Ruhr area.
Dortmund has been famous for its brewery industry and I only had to find a story which fits railways, steel mills, coal mines and beer breweries into an 18xx scenario. After some research in the Dortmund Brewery museum and in the internet I found the link: When the railway came to Dortmund it enables the local coal mines and steel mills to extend their business which created to a higher number of workforce. This led to an increase of Dortmund’s population which increased the demand for beer. So the brewery industry indirectly benefitted from the railway development in this area.
However to create a game which reflects these developments is another challenge. At first we realized that there was only one city, the center of Dortmund which reflects the area of the medieval town and some whistle stops in the suburbs and in the incorporated small towns. Both are not enough for an 18xx game. Beside the hex “Dortmund City” we choose the five steel mills as “city” hexes plus the three large freight yards. For the “towns” we selected some of the plenty of coal mines which had been operated in the Dortmund area during 1847 to 1956.
We had also in mind to treat the locations of the breweries as towns, but it turned out that all breweries are situated in the center of Dortmund. So despite the fact that the breweries are part of the game they are not represented by a location marker on the map as there are considered to be in the Dortmund City hex. The initial plan to make the growth of the breweries dependent on the link to the railway net was given up as a track link to Dortmund City would trigger a growth development for all breweries. Instead a new game element was developed, the Beer Market. The Beer Market shows a varying demand for beer which is influenced by the growth of the steel mills and coal mines. The breweries produce beer according to the market’s demand with their unique equipment, the brewery kettles. These kettles are on the back of the Capex Cards (train cards) already used for 18Ruhr. The Capex Cards are now used by Railway Corporations, steel mills and coal mines as well as the breweries, but for different purposes. As the prices for the Capex Cards are the same for railways and breweries some fine tuning was necessary in order to achieve a similar revenue effect for both types of industries.
Then the first test games were played in 2017. 18DO-Dortmund turned out to be a monster! Playing time was ways to long. So something had to be reduced. The first choice was the steel mills and coal mines. They were limited to a passive role only (no longer represented by companies) and consequently the possible number of companies in the game was cut down by about 40%. Tests now ended after a much shorter playing time. So we started to offer game copies for testing to several test groups abroad (Austria, Canada, Belgium and USA).
Response from the test teams was quite positive. While some players did not like the handling of the Beer Market (moving beer cubes were too fiddling) most of the other players enjoyed the new features. Critic concentrated on three issues:
- There was only an indirect interfering between breweries and either due to the competition for the Capex Cards or the building of net links for steel mills/coal mines which influenced the demand on the Beer Market.
- Building tracks to Dortmund City was often neglected due to better routes avoiding that hex.
- There was also not much to do for the breweries other than when to invest in new brewery kettles.
In order create more direct interactions between railways and breweries the “physical” transport of the export beer from Dortmund to the read off-board fields has been created. From the brown phase onwards breweries now load their shipments for export beer (in form of beer cubes) onto the train cards of the railway corporations. When transporting beer the railway corporations receive a higher income for routes containing Dortmund City and a red off-board destination. . While the breweries still received their income for export beer when it has been loaded, the railway corporation received the additional income for these transport.
This also solved issue no. 2 as Dortmund City now became a hotspot for routes.
To tackle e issue no.3 so-called “Special Function” cards were implemented. These cards allow a brewery an additional activity during its turn.
The new rules for the Export beer transport were well received while the new “Special Function” cards found split opinion. They gave the directors of the breweries one more decision to consider but when a “Special Function” card once acquired it was often kept until the end of the game. The issue was left for later solution as development was then concentrated on simplifying the rules and game flow.
At first the rules regarding the operating rounds of railway corporations and breweries were harmonized. Forced train purchase could no longer trigger a player’s bankruptcy and consequently the whole rule section about bankruptcy was deleted. Preparation of the Brewery Market for the next Operating round was revised which resulted in an much easier handling of the beer cubes.
We also realized from the feedback that depending on the test group playing time differed considerable due to the strategy preferred in each group. After analyzing the reasons some rule changes have been made and the number of capex cards has been reviewed. Also there is now a fix number of operating rounds.
The rule update had to do with the starting round. Here the every player must buy a minor brewery. Being first player was regarded as an advantage as this player would always pick what she/he wanted. The picking of the minor breweries during the starting round had been replaced by a bidding round. In order to create a slightly different start each time the number of minor breweries were increased and randomly one minor brewery more than players were chosen.
Finally the “Special Function” cards were replaced by two types of markers, the Minor Capital Expenditure Markers (MCM) and the Special Event Markers (SEM). The MCM represents investments made by breweries. These markers either provide either fix revenue or an improvement of the owning brewery’s abilities. In addition the breweries may deal with their MCMs with other breweries a function which has been missed by some players (brewery equipment cannot be sold to other breweries). The SEM represents a function which can only be used once. These new markers extend the option for decisions for the breweries enormously.
Was this the end of development? Yes as far as it applies to 18DO-Dortmund – Heat, Sweat & Beer. But there had been those players which did not like the features of the Beer Market and the breweries acting in their special ways. For those 18xx players a game without these features had to be designed. As title for this variant 18DO-Dortmund – The Railway Game had been chosen from the very beginning in order to show the emphasis. The challenge was, to maintain the background story of Dortmund as a city of breweries, coal mines and steel mills but using railway corporations only.
The first step had been quite easy by implementing breweries as private companies. Beside the fix revenue each of the private breweries has a special ability which can only be used by a railway corporation to which this ability had been transferred. In a second step the relation of the coal mines and steel mills with the development of the Export Beer transport had to be modelled. The final solution turned out quite simple. Each time a coal mine or steel mill location has been upgraded (more production = more revenue = more manpower = more beer) beer cubes will be place on the certificates of the private breweries. Once the private breweries have been closed their collected beer cubes can be transported to the red off-board locations. As in 18DO-Dortmund – Heat, Sweat & Beer the beer transport capacity depends on the train type and there is additional revenue for each beer cube transported.
In 18DO-Dortmund – Heat, Sweat & Beer the stock market has been designed as a straight row and stock manipulation is quite limited. This was done deliberately in order to compensate for the additional complexity caused by the beer market and the brewery functions. The latter gone, 18DO-Dortmund – The Railway Game was given a standard two-dimensional stock market as well as the standard stock manipulation rules.