This is the last title designed by Mark Derrick (you probably know his name from the very popular 18MEX game). It is also the most expensive game in the Golden Spike Games offer, but we get three games in one box! Each of them uses a different map, instructions, and some other elements. There are two separate maps for 18GA and 18MS on one side of the large board. These are smaller, shorter games, and one of them was recently released by All-Abroad Games (18MS). On the other side of the board is a large map of the southern US states where the action of 18Dixie takes place. And it was for this map (and of course the game) that I was tempted and spent over $200.
The rules in the game are unique and make us rediscover 18xx again and again, here are more details:
Let’s start with private companies and their auctions. There are 10 of them in total, but only 7 of them are available at the start of the game. In the first round, starting with the player with the priority, we bid on one of the companies selected by him. The winning player pays the indicated amount and must pass to buy the remaining companies. Thus, each player ends the first round with exactly one private company! The player who buys the cheapest one has priority. The most expensive company is eliminated from the game, and the remaining ones become available for purchase at the nominal price in the first stock round.
As you can see, this solution is unique and you have to approach the bidding very tactically. We had a few moments of hesitation and we laughed several times because if I pass, I know that the priority will be on the opponent who probably thinks about starting the same company as me, etc … These were not easy decisions, because the companies were very interesting e.g. one of them offered a 50% discount on a non-permanent train.
We additionally have several new actions in the stock rounds:
– in the first two rounds, it is possible to bid on other private companies (e.g. with a permanent 1D + 1 train);
– also in the first rounds it is possible to start one of the 13 small companies (the last 13th is available in the second SR);
– and traditionally launching large companies, there are eight of them! (they flow out from 50% at full capitalization);
You can see that the choice is huge and again we had a problem with what to choose, what companies to start to take advantage of their synergy, etc …
All small companies are closed in specific consecutive rounds and give us a 10% share in large ones. Each of them seems quite expensive (at least $ 100), but we can start them in the first OR because they use their own 2-train. In our game, all companies found buyers quickly and turned out to be good investments. They operate in places where large companies start, so thanks to them, those large companies had already built good routes.
As for the stock exchange tidbits, I will tell you about one more interesting exception: the game has a traditional 60% share limit in the company, which can be broken if we get shares from the exchange of small companies having already 60% of shares. In this way, we can legally have up to 80% of certificates. It is not easy, because the cheaper a small company is, the shorter it is to operate. Some of them are closed after 4 operational rounds. So we have little time to buy 60% of shares and such an operation can be successful with a maximum of one large company.
Some of the small companies can be exchanged for one of two different 10% certificates, and the last most expensive one gives the opportunity to exchange its share for one of those 10% shares that have not been chosen by other players. It gives a lot of interesting possibilities and no one should be disappointed.
What is interesting in the operational round. There are always two ORs. First, small companies operate, then large ones. Each company can build one additional yellow track in its first OR, and large companies can build two tracks, small ones one track. This gives a total of 3 tracks in the first OR for a new big company! In this way, a large board fills up very quickly, you can always improve something, or extend a route. There are many towns on the board that does not count towards the range of non-permanent trains and vice versa for permanent trains. Therefore, up to a certain point in the game, we build the routes in such a way that they have as many such towns as possible, which turns out to be a bad solution when permanent trains appear in the company (permanent 2D, 4D and 5D trains double the income from the stops they have traveled, but they do not ignore any stations). Fortunately, we can build more than one tile. This is the opposite of some of the titles that I sometimes complain about. I will only mention such gameplay that almost until the end of it, each player built himself in a different corner of the board. Later in an interview with the publisher, it turned out that he did not have the opportunity to test this title!
Let’s back to the 18Dixie. There is one more historical event that the author planned in the game, but it is not obligatory and I have the impression that Michał was a bit of a loss in our game. The shares are listed in the proportion of 2: 1 and it is necessary to plan this move carefully.
- three games in one box;
- interesting auction of private companies with a variable start of the first SR;
- interesting private companies;
- a lot of small companies and interaction between them;
- possibility to exceed the limit of 60% of shares in one company;
- fast track building;
- interesting new permanent trains;
- the last historical event could be described a little better;
- long waiting time for the game after ordering;
- high game price (but you will get three games!);
Summary: It’s hard to make a verdict after one game, but the game made a good impression on me. We played the game with three people and it lasted 4 hours and 30 minutes. The train rush wasn’t deadly and we all had the capital to buy a permanent train at the right moment, but that may change as we get to know the game better. It is also not a condition for having fun, although in our group we like even more the titles in which the road to bankruptcy is easier. There was a lot going on on the stock exchange, but if someone holds an 80% stake in a company, he will not let it go and by the end of the game such a company will be more valuable than the rest. This will reward the operational gameplay more than the stock market swindles, but we will find out in the next games.
My rating for now: is a strong 8.
PS. The game is available only at Golden Spike Games and if you want to order it, be patient. This release makes custom-only games and currently, it has over a year of slippage. But you don’t have to spend your money straight away, so it’s a much better purchase than Kickstarter, where you have to pay immediately and you get the game after the same amount of time 😉
Link to GSG: https://goldenspikegames.com