If you liked 1846 or are looking for a relatively short 18XX game that can be interesting for experienced players and suitable for rookies, 18 Los Angeles should be right up your alley. As well, you can print and play it or play it online at 18xx.Games.
Let’s examine 18 Los Angeles, one of the five 18XX PnP games released in April 2020 by 18TraXX Games. Three of these are 1830-based games, while 18 Los Angeles and 18 Grand Junction are based on 1846. What does that mean? Basically, they use the same rules, train cards, money, and nearly all the tiles, but change the map and the companies (cards and tokens) and add some small variations to the rules (which are just three and a half pages long, mostly describing companies). So, if you’re familiar with 1846, you’ll learn how to play 18 Los Angeles in 10 minutes.
Its designer, Tony Fryer, explained in a Rails on Boards post the story of how this game came about. It should have been presented in 2020 edition of TraXX, a 18XX gathering in Denver, USA, that was cancelled because of covid-19, and now is available as a PnP game.
In case you do not know 1846, it’s an 18XX designed by Thomas Lehmann, published by Deep Though Games since 2005, and later published by GMT in 2016. That meant a better price and distribution. Adding to this that it’s a good 18XX, it became very popular, and GMT is now planning a second printing.
1846, and consequently 18 Los Angeles, have a non-aggressive stock market, so the focus is more operational, based on lying tracks and rightly managing 7 public companies and 10 interesting private companies. When less than the maximum of 5 players play, one or two public companies and two or four private companies are removed. This helps to create different scenarios and allow for surprising results while providing great replay value. Playing these two games typically takes around 6 or 7 sets of one stock round plus two operating rounds, so expect to play for around 3-6 hours.
18 Los Angeles
Leveraging on the successful 1846, 18 Los Angeles introduces some changes, the most significant being the following ones:
- The map: as the name of the game suggest, it’s the Los Angeles area (up to San Bernardino, 60 miles away). The map has 42 hexes, and 27 of them have cities, so there are plenty of cities. Furthermore, the companies have between 3 and 5 tokens, so tokenizing -and saving money to pay the tokens- is very important here.
- Sale of private companies: 18 Los Angeles uses a simple, randomless mechanism. Players buy any of the available private companies using a “snake order”: 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, 3… The distribution procedure of 1846 has been one of the most criticized aspects of that game, so I think this change is a great idea.
- Stock round order: the priority deal is determined at the beginning of each SR, with the player with the least money going first.
- Trains: here comes another big and exciting change. The N trains are considered passenger trains while the N/M trains are freight trains. A track can be used by one train of each type every operating round (similarly to what happens in 1862, for example). This is a change in the rules that, combined with the map having so many cities, make the development of the game very different from what you can see in 1846. Therefore, for example, having a 6-train and a 7/8 train sharing a long route can be a better strategy than having two 6 or to 7/8 trains and trying to find different routes for both of them.
- Private companies: besides the equivalent private companies (very similar to what you can find in 1846, including two minor companies, Mail Contract, hexs reserved, bonus tokens…, but adapted to what happened there -citrus production instead of coal mining, for example-), there are two extra, optional private companies. One allows you to put an “open token” in a city, implying all the companies could run through it. The other one allows a company to put a token in an already filled tile. Both are aimed to make the game a bit easier, so using them is a good idea when playing with beginners.
Besides this, everything is very similar to 1846. There are bonuses for crossing the map E-W (quite difficult), but also for running N-S (more affordable and rewarding), and the rules include a 2-player mode, as Thomas Lehmann did with 1846.
How to get 18 Los Angeles
You have 3 options for playing 1846:
- Buying the PnP files and printing the game. You can find the files at TraXX Games. The price is $20, but if you cannot afford to pay that amount, they are open to freely share them. Files are complete and well-designed, including images for a box in case you buy one (Spielematerial sells them, for example) and big cards for the two independent, private companies that can have one train and some money. If you have a copy of 1846, you won’t need to print the tiles except for the three equivalent ones for Chicago, so it would be quite easy to finish everything using a domestic printer and scissors besides the tokens. Printing them on adhesive paper, cutting the paper, and creating tokens is not so easy, but you can buy generic tokens somewhere (even at Rails on Boards), or ready-to-use token and sticker sets designed for 18 Los Angeles or for all the TraXX games at Rails on Boards.
- Buying an authorized, complete PnP copy at the Canadian Sea Horse Laser & Design. The cost is high (around $130 plus shipping and perhaps custom taxes). Tile colors are different and have been chosen for people that have trouble seeing different colors.
- Games. Yes, this game is available on this online platform, making it very easy to test the game. In case you have not tried 18xx.Games, please, do it. Everything is automated (so, much better than Board18), it is very fast (forget the typical waiting of rr18xx.com), and the list of implemented games is growing very fast.
As is the case with 1846, 18 Los Angeles is an enjoyable 18XX for a single session or playing online. It is fun for experienced players but nevertheless suitable for rookies. The initial removal of some companies makes every game a new, different challenge. In my opinion, 18 Los Angeles has introduced some small changes and additions that make a lot of sense and improve the original 1846 system. I guess you could even use these rules and the two optional private companies of 18 Los Angeles with 1846.
If you like 1846, you will definitely enjoy 18 Los Angeles. If you dislike some aspects of 1846, give 18 Los Angeles a chance of running trains on those 1846 tiles again. And if you are a new to 18XX games, 18 Los Angeles is a good track for entering this field.