18SJ – questions and story from the game designer

We decided to do a small promo of all AAG games before the Kickstarter starts. We allowed all designers to prepare some stories about their games and publish them with new graphic designs. We hope this way you will know the games a little better and you will know what to buy for sure.

Today: 18SJ by Örjan Wennman.

Our questions list:

What is the length of the gameplay?

6-8 stock rounds, medium length.

What is the best number of players?

5 players are good. My favorite is 3-4 players. The E trains are a bit easier to get at lower player counts. E trains are very powerful and very hard to get. It can be achieved in maybe one session out of five.

Is it working with 2 players?

The rules for 2 player game emulate the 3-player experience.

Are there other titles similar to the game?

1830 with elements of 1846

The train rush – how fast is the train race? Is it always the trains we buy are running at least once, have there been games in which they did not manage to run even once!

Again similar to 1830 although early corporation treasury is sometimes more limited in the base game.

Private companies – how much this part of the game is interesting for the players?

The privates are strong and varies from session to session.

Stock exchange – how extensive is the stock exchange, how often do we sell/buy shares, and how much does the sale of shares affect their price?

Stock manipulation is the most important aspect of the game. Not only because of devalueing the opponent’s share but also to manipulate operating order and timing the nationalization. The game is sell/buy/sell which also is important in this regard.

Operational game type – is the game the opposite of the stock exchange one?

I would say the focus is more on stock manipulation and managing nationalization than the operational aspect. That being said it is possible to earn good revenue in the early game with the right private and in the late game with the right train and map presence. It is possible to run a corporation well throughout the entire game.

The risk of bankruptcy – how often the game ends with the bankruptcy?

The risk of bankruptcy is significant. I would say similar to 1830.

The complexity of the rules – how big part of the rules are taken from 1830? Will it be possible to play the game after a short one-two page summary by advanced 18xx players?

Yes, that’s possible. I think the map and tiles are easier than 1830 for new players.

The complexity of the tracks – are they more like 18GB or 1860, or simple ones like 1817/1822?

Curvy track similar to 1830 but without the doinks.

Story from Örjan :

Design notes

18SJ is inspired by history and uses real-world events as a backdrop. From the start, I decided that the gaming experience is the most important and for this reason, chronology and geography sometimes do not quite match reality.

With the extra privates in the game, the purpose is to provide variable starting positions from one session to another. For players that are interested in a more conventional game, I would suggest using NOHAB (P7) and von Rosen (P10). Motala Verkstad (P6) and Ericson (P9) have abilities that I think are interesting, but some players may find that they result in patterns of play outside of many 18xx games.

Most 18xx games have economies that are highly abstracted and this is also the case in 18SJ. Historically, several economic policies were introduced in Sweden in the mid-1800s as a consequence of the transformation from a mercantile to an industrial economy. The Act of Limited Companies of 1848, the abolition of guild privileges, free trade, and other reforms in industrial capitalism, promoted the growing economy based on refining and exporting the natural resources of the nation.

Industrialization was completed during the reign of King Oskar II in the so-called Oscarian Era. This period is associated with conservative and national ideals as well as a strict moral code and is sometimes compared to the Victorian era in England. Sweden was shaken by the dissolution of the union with Norway. In both countries, it was believed that war was imminent, but fortunately, independence was achieved in 1905 without violence.

The pioneer of railways in Sweden was Count von Rosen. In 1845 the king granted von Rosen a concession to build privately-owned railways in Sweden on a grand scale. The funding turned out to be difficult though and the projects could not be realized. Instead, in 1852 a new concession was given to build the limited railway Köping-Hults järnväg, KHJ (P8) under the leadership of von Rosen.

In 1854 parliament decided to build the mainlines of rail in Sweden. The state railways, funded by the government, would connect major cities. These mainlines were complemented with privately-funded branch lines between regional centers and rural towns. During the following years, the railways were constructed throughout the country in rapid succession.

With the Finnish war of 1808-1809 in somewhat recent memory, military strategy was important when planning the railroads. The so-called anti coastal principle was adopted and most railways were built many miles away from the coast. The idea was that the country would be more easily defended with railways inland instead of along the coast.

The network of ports was another reason that the new railways were not needed on the coast. In the industrial era steamships gave the means to transport people and goods on an entirely new scale. Sveabolaget (P4) was one of the first major shipping enterprises in Scandinavia with traffic to ports throughout the Baltic Sea. For international trade, Stockholm’s role as an export port diminished during the second half of the century. The construction of Bergslagernas Järnvägar (BJ) meant that exports were shipped from Göteborg and other regional ports. Exports also increased directly from the northern ports, goods that had previously been reloaded in Stockholm.

Parliament appointed Nils Ericson as the head of the construction of the mainlines. For this purpose, he was made director of a royal board overseeing the construction of the main railways. This would later become the State Railways (Statens Järnvägar, SJ) from which the name of the game is derived. Another design of Ericson was the interconnecting track of Stockholm completed in 1871 that joined the previously separate stations of the city and created a unified national system of railways for the first time. When Ericson resigned much of the main railway lines were already completed and work continued according to plans he had drawn up.

Due to problems with capital and delays in the construction of the railways, von Rosen’s KHJ was made obsolete by the western main railway line, which was completed in 1862. In order to reconstruct KHJ a new company, Örebro-Köpings Järnvägsaktiebolag (ÖKJ), took over the railway and the rolling stock in 1890.

The railways meant that the deposits of minerals in Bergslagen could be connected to the major ports on the coast. In Malmfälten in the north, it was suspected that the deposits were very large but the monumental logistical difficulties were seemingly impossible to overcome. One venture was the Gellivare Company Limited (P5) which tried to connect the mines of Malmfälten to the coast. In 1882 a concession was granted to an English company called The Swedish-Norwegian Railroad Company ltd (Sverige & Norges Järnväg, SNJ), which finally managed to complete the railway from the mines to the newly built ore port in Luleå.

In 1890 SNJ was one of the first major railroads to be nationalized as the corporation had struggled to be profitable and failed to meet the conditions of the concession. Also, the railroad was of vital strategic interest to the country. In the game, I would suggest that players should plan for the nationalization at all times and try to time it in the most beneficial way. It can be a way to avoid liability but players might also lose a corporation with a lot of cash in treasury or fall back in a number of shares at a critical time.

The Law of Jante is sometimes said to be quintessential for the egalitarian nature of Nordic people. Individuals that are non-conforming, do things out of the ordinary, or are personally ambitious are frowned upon according to this infamous ”law”, based on the work of the Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose. This attitude has thematically and very loosely inspired the mechanism in the game that the highest valued corporation is to be nationalized. “You’re not to think you are anything special,” as the saying goes.

A winged wheel is a symbol used since ancient times, often associated with the Greek god Hermes. The wheel came to be a symbol for the railroads in many European countries during the industrial revolution. In Sweden, the state railways adopted the wheel and added the crown of Sweden, as can be seen on the game box. This choice of symbol is not surprising as railroads are suggestive cultural metaphors. Often a train ride signifies our journey through life and the transition between the worlds of the mortal and the divine. Like Hermes, aided by his winged sandals, the winged wheel of the railroads represents transport, speed, and progress from an old world to a new one.

Short description

18SJ is a game in the 18xx family set in Sweden and pits two to six players into the competition as investors in railway corporations in the formative years of the Nordic railways. 
Each player starts as an investor in private companies and later public railway corporations. Personal wealth is accumulated during the game as players invest cash in the stock market and by running profitable railways. Railway corporations are just a means to an end and the corporate treasury might very well be looted by one player and the empty company dumped on an unsuspecting opponent. The player who has accumulated the highest net worth by the end of the game is the winner. 
18SJ features a simple mechanism for the nationalization of public corporations and simulates the construction of the mainlines (stambana) of Swedish rail. Nationalization means that each game will ultimately end with a varying number of corporations in play. Shareholders need to be careful in their stock investment and the timing of train purchases to maximize personal profit.

Rules Highlights

18SJ is a game based on 1830 but influenced by other 18xx games.

The title takes place in Sweden and parts of Norway. From 1814 to 1905 Sweden and Norway were in a union, sharing the King.

Reading the rules is recommended but here are some rule highlights:

  • The currency in the game is KR (kronor)
  • During the setup of the game, there is randomization that removes 4 privates (1 each of 4 pairs) and 1 major corporation.
  • SJ (Statens Järnvägar) – is the name of the National train company in Sweden. In 18SJ the SJ only appears as tokens after nationalization (see below) and has no other effect on the game.
  • Nationalization – any major corporation, that has operated, may be nationalized if they are train less after train rust. If there are more than one candidate the one with the highest market price is selected. When nationalization occurs the corporation’s tokens are either replaced with SJ tokens or removed (if there is already an SJ token in the same hex) and all the assets of the corporation are sent to the bank (treasury) or removed from the game. Shareholder gets paid some compensation (reduced market price) for their shares. The certificate limit is decreased when corporations are nationalized. Note that KHJ is not nationalized as it is not a major corporation.
  • E train – Electric train. Acts like a Diesel (unlimited range) but is also not blocked by SJ tokens. Any city with a corporation’s token has its revenue doubled.
  • Main line (stambanan) – marked with icons on the map. There are three main lines:
    • Stockholm – Malmö (S-M)
    • Stockholm – Göteborg (S-G)
    • Stockholm – Luleå (S-L)
  • A corporation can normally just place one yellow tile or upgrade one tile, but in case this one improves the main lines, or a 2nd lay/upgrade would, they get 2 lays/upgrades instead of 1. You “improve the main line” by building the defined route for one of the main lines. These lines are shown with icons on the map from Stockholm to the endpoint. The additional tile is only granted if the new track builds the defined line. Once a hex has been improved, it will no longer give any further track laying bonus.
  • Route bonuses – there are a set of route bonuses. A route gets this bonus if it contains both, or in some cases all three, letters of the bonus. A route may contain several bonuses, but only one bonus of each type.
    Here are the available bonuses:

    • Öst-Väst (Ö – V), english East-West:
      • Stockholm – Göteborg/Malmö: 120 kr
    • Lapplandspilen (N – S), english Lappland Arrow:
      • 100 kr
    • Malmfälten (m-M or m-M-m), english ore fields:
      • m-M 50 kr
      • m-M-m 100 kr
    • Bergslagen (b-B or b-B-b), english the same as it is an area:
      • b-B 50 kr
      • b-B-b 100 kr
  • From the beginning, all corporations use incremental capitalization. Corporations completely unsold before phase 5 that are parred in phase 5 or later use full capitalization. Corporations, not floated at the start of phase 5, that has sold some shares before phase 5, continue to use incremental capitalization.
  • All corporations (even full cap) use the current market price when buying/selling shares. Shares in the bank pool do not pay any dividend to the corporation.
  • Incremental capitalization corporations may redeem one share at the start of their operation (pay one price to the right–or up if at the rightmost space). In case the share price is in yellow/orange/brown the redeem price and number are modified – see Stock Market tab.
  • All corporations float at 60%, even incremental capitalization ones. Shares might not be sold during SR 1, or if the corporation has not floated.
  • The stock round turn is sell-buy-sell.
  • When paying out a dividend the corporation moves zero, one or two steps step to the right (or up when at rightmost in a row):
    • If the dividend is twice or more the current stock price, and the stock price is higher than 82 – move 2 steps
    • Otherwise, if the dividend is equal or higher to the current stock price, move 1 step
    • Otherwise, do not move to the right
  • KHJ (Köping-Hults Järnväg) is a minor. It starts with a 2 train and acts first in any OR. It always pays 50%-50%. KHJ cannot buy any trains so if it becomes train-less it will just skip running trains. KHJ will not be nationalized but if it still exists when phase 5 starts KHJ is removed from the game, its token is removed and its treasury is given to the bank.
    KHJ may be merged into another corporation if KHJ’s owner is the president of the other corporation. This is done at any time when the other corporation is operating. When merging the KHJ token is replaced by an extra, replacement, token from the other corporation. If the other corporation already has a token in the same hex the KHJ token is just removed. Any funds in the treasury and the 2-train (if still exists) are transferred to the other corporation, and the 2 train may be used by the other corporation. Note! If the other corporation is train locked it may not merge in case KHJ still has its 2-train.
  • The game can end in 3 different ways
    • Bank runs out of money – complete the OR set
    • Stock market price exceeds 350 kr – complete the current OR
    • Bankruptcy – game end immediately


Second prototype session
Sample session on 18xx.games
The bearded men of SJ

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