I’m after two plays of different prototypes. The first one was from Lonny and it is his game 1888. I described it already here and it was a nice play for me. It was nice because this game contains most of the rules from 1830. The gameplay was very even. We all know the 1830 rules and we know what to expect. On the one hand, there is nothing very revealing, but thanks to the map, you can re-appreciate the mechanics that we already know quite well. With that title in mind, I recently played 18EUS designed by Greg Holton and I had the feeling that I was re-discovering 18xx. The author incorporated so many different ideas into this game that not only was my brain parrying, but we all felt like we didn’t know what was going to happen and we didn’t know how we should play to win. Aside from the fact that the game shows some elements taken from 1822 and 1817, there are a lot of completely new, fresh, and really interesting ideas.
I don’t know where to start telling you what fascinated me, so let’s try from the very beginning because the layout of the game already shows that we are dealing with something special.
The author has prepared a deck of cards with the names of all cities on the map. The cards have several colors and from them, we draw the first yellow city, which becomes an exceptionally profitable metropolis. Additionally, we assign randomly selected red tracks to the first three red cities. They are unique because there are six of them (three of them are randomly selected) and they cannot be upgraded during the game. Half of them have only one station, the other half have cities where you cannot build a station, but you can drive through them and collect the income. Then, for all red locations, we draw squares showing the income we will collect from them in particular phases of the game.
The other five cities receive special (also randomly selected) subsidies. They give, for example, an additional income of $ 50 to the company’s treasury, if we start a company in a given place.
As you can see, the map prepared in this way will change every game. You will never repeat the same pattern, you will rediscover the strengths and weaknesses of this puzzle each time. For me, it is a big plus for the game and the author’s ingenuity.
Do you think it’s standard here? Of course not. This is another point for a big plus. The author has prepared three decks of private companies! From each of them, we randomly select three companies (out of 8) + one that is always constant. We will bid for the drawn companies at the beginning of the game and in the second and third stock rounds, for cards from the second and third decks, respectively. The author used the mechanics from 1822 for the auction and, just like in 1822, the capabilities of private companies are unique and unseen in other titles. In our game, it was, for example,
- a company that provides permanent 1-train,
- ‘Rust Insurance’ company, i.e. insolvency insurance,
- a company that allowed to raise the share price once!
- a company that gave a $ 20 bonus for each station.
Each subsequent deck is stronger and the amounts we bid were higher and higher. It seems to me that the strongest card that came out in our game is this permanent 1-train that traveled within one city. It did not count towards the train limit and it did not save from bankruptcy, but the income from it was returned several times.
All private companies give very little or no income. Usually, if we want to use their abilities, we transfer the selected company to a public one free of charge. A simple and cool solution.
This is the most difficult mechanism to explain. It is a bit similar to 1848, but the players take the loans (not companies). Their cost (as well as the amount we receive) is variable and gradually grows throughout the game. In the beginning, we can only take 4 loans, and at the end, it is 10. There is also a counterweight to them, which are the shares of the Bank of New York. They can be purchased just like any other share. The more players who take out loans, the more income the Bank of New York shares generate and the faster its share price rises. At the end of the game, loans count towards our negative result. In our game, only Andrzej (one of the three players) wanted to be the counterweight to the borrowers, but at one point he found that the income we generate thanks to the loans is so high that he could not look at it indifferently and he joined our team. I do not know to what extent this counterweight is well balanced because we were not able to test this element.
Are you reading further? I hope so because there are still some interesting solutions left.
Capitalization is incremental and we have two options from the start of the game. We can run the company as a 5-share company or as a 10-share one. The former one can be converted into a 10-share company in subsequent rounds. The company flows out of the first sold share and the remaining unsold shares go to its treasury. They give the company income when paying dividends. The later we start the company, the higher the issue price we can choose (as in 1849). The mechanism is very traditional, but it works fine. There is, however, one exception to it.
Because in the first stock round, companies are launched similar to those in 1817. So the person who wants to start a company points to a place of their choice on the map and all players bid for who will start a company there. The winner pays the entire bidding to the bank and buys the CEO’s certificate from the remaining cash. There is one brilliant solution here. You can own up to 100% of the company shares, but all that is above 60% can be bought back by other players! Brilliant! It’s probably the first time someone came up with such a thing. We do not need the consent of the owner of the company for such redemption. It is enough that its shares are sold out and the president has more than 60%. We pay a slightly higher price then, but such a mechanism opens the way for players to co-finance their own companies up to 100%.
I must hail the author for the idea of trains. Route counting is simple and fun. We have trains like this: 2, 2+, 3, 3+, 4, 4+, 5, 6, 7 / 3D, 4D. At the same time, trains with a plus are a separate tranche and they can be purchased only when all equivalents without a plus are sold out. There are a lot of trains 2, 2+ and 3, but the game exports them unsold trains. In such a way that after two series of operational rounds (there are always two operational rounds after stock round), all 3-trains are exported! At the end of each subsequent OR, one train is exported, even permanent!
On the one hand, this way the game runs very smoothly. You can exactly predict how many times our 2-train will operate and we can plan all future activities better. On the other hand, I wonder if the next games will look similar to each other. From experience, I can say that while the first trains are operating, many unexpected situations can happen. Sometimes the train rush is fast and someone goes bankrupt, and sometimes the game plays a trick on us and the 2-trains do a good job for a long time. The game changes from game to game and even after 20-30 games, you can say: “I haven’t seen anything like this before”.
In 18EUS, this aging mechanism of trains will always function very similarly. I only played once and maybe my fears are premature, maybe in this title, there is a point elsewhere that makes 18xx so attractive and fun for me every time I play?
Sale/purchase of shares during the SR
The author decided on a solution that clearly indicates that 18EUS is a title that is more operational. The rule is that we cannot sell any share that we bought in the same stock round. This greatly reduces any speculation, price knocking, and stock price manipulation, only to get ahead of someone buying trains, or to be able to run your own 2-trains again.
In our entire game, we probably sold only 4 shares, and I was thinking intensely about what to do to change the order of companies on the stock exchange somehow. Of course, you can plan such an operation in advance by buying opponents’ shares in earlier rounds, only to lower their price if necessary, and perhaps I will start to think so in later games. At 18EUS, shares also did not rise at the end of the stock round (if the company is sold out).
Here it is fairly standard, so I will only describe the method of paying the dividend. The president has 3 options to choose from: pay, withhold, or payout half. The change in the share price depends on the amount of dividend paid. The higher the dividend, the greater the increase in the share price (even by two places horizontally, if the dividend is twice as high as the share price). We all decided that the dependence of the share price on the amount of dividend paid is very good and beneficial for a better reflection of the company’s value.
At the end of the operating round, the company can buy or issue its own shares, but the amount it receives is the share price after it has been reduced, so none of us decided to do this so we used the loans to invest in our own companies.
End of the game:
The bank is unlimited and the game ends when: all players except one go bankrupt (unlikely), a company goes to the end of the stock market (end in the same OR), or when the first 4D-train is sold or exported. In the latter, the most likely case, there is also one special stock round and 3 special operating rounds. The most interesting thing about the ORs is that companies can no longer build routes and build stations. In this way, the often boring end of the game is cut off and this end can be counted very efficiently on the calculator. Another big plus for the game!
This is a unique title and is the most interesting game I have recently known. Some of the ideas are taken from other titles, but many are new so you can see that they have been well tested and work well. Our game lasted nearly 5 hours, plus an hour of translating the new rules, but you can definitely play faster. Several times we were hit by decision paralysis when we didn’t know what to do. We played very conservatively and next time we will understand the various relationships in the game better. I described my impressions after just one game, so I did not dare to write what is positive and negative, because I do not understand everything and the next games may be different. It is definitely a very good operational title, and I dare say that I might be prone to play it more than most other operational titles on my shelf.