During the ‘osiemnastkon’ convention I had the opportunity to play for the first time in 18DO (Dortmund). This is the first game released in huge volume by Marflow Games. Its authors are Wolfram Janich and Michael Scharf.
I will share my impressions after the game and warn you immediately that I am writing this text only after one game. Only one of the players knew the rules, so it is possible that we may have made a mistake. However, I will focus on the overall perception and not go into much detail about the game itself.
The authors of the game decided to add something completely new to the 18xx. That something is the beer market. So we have separate companies that operate in the same way as small railway ones, except that they operate on a separate game board on which the demand for beer and its quality is indicated. We control this demand a bit by standard railway companies, and by building mines, which make the beer market grow and have an increasing demand. At the beginning of the game, only small brewing companies are available. At later stages, we can convert their shares into single shares of large brewing companies. All breweries require appropriate equipment, which we buy in the same way as trains (train cards are double-sided, on the one hand, we have, for example, a 2-train, on the other, there is a distillery that produces beer of appropriate quality and quantity). The subsequent phases of the game trigger the growing needs of the beer market. In this way, railroads and beer interlock and form a coherent whole that works very well. If I add that in the last stages of the game our trains can transport beer produced by our own brewery to external markets and therefore receive very lucrative income, you can see that the game is really interesting.
However, not everything works perfectly. What I like the most about 18xx games are crazy games, changes of CEOs, shares juggling, and constant race to stay afloat and anticipate the opponent’s moves. All of this is missing in 18DO.
I got the impression that for the beer market to work and this part of the game to be predictable, the elements from 18xx had been ‘flattened’. I’m already used to Marflow games’ share price falling only one place on sale. In 18DO, this only happens when the president sells the shares. This made me feel as if the stock prices were standing still throughout the game. Anyway, for the full version of the beer game, the stock market is much smaller and one-dimensional (right-left).
In our game, the train rush was quite slow, and at no point did I feel any risk of default.
The game starts with the auction of small breweries. I decided to buy one of the cheaper companies, so my company was the last one to sell beer and the poorest customers were left for it. So I still had less income than other players and I couldn’t do anything about it. They got twice as much income, so they could afford more investments. There was a snowball working here and I had no chance to catch up with them. It wasn’t until much later that I found out that as a player I could pay extra to buy better equipment. Perhaps such a ‘subsidy’ would have some impact on the game of my company and my feelings.
The last thing I complain about is the graphics.
There are many elements in the game, the graphics of which make the gameplay difficult. They could be clearer and slightly differently designed:
- company names on cards are written in an illegible font that is difficult to read. Additionally, one of them has 4 characters and on the tokens, it is divided into two lines, when the eyesight looks for a long word, it turns out that it is divided into two parts.
- the colors of the company charters are similar to each other, also the cards of the railway and beer companies are similar and do not clearly indicate which company is a railway and which is beer.
- some numbers on the board are written in microscopic font, in low light it will be unreadable.
- the whole game takes up 4 x A3 game boards. Probably only the last game of 1947 has such a large gameboard! We had a problem getting the game on the tables we had at the convention (and they weren’t small). There are elements on the gameboard that are used only at the beginning of the game, so the designer may have tried to optimize a few things.
- some of the add-on markers that companies or their CEOs can buy during the game are too small to be detached from the other side of the table.
The authors came up with the idea to arrange a space for storing beer a little bit concave. For this purpose, there are two overlays in the game that we can stick to the gameboard. Don’t do this if you have barrels. They are too large in relation to the cut fields and will not fit in the places intended for them.
Finally, I would like to add that there is one more interesting idea in the game. Some large breweries have several shares of 20% each, while others have, for example, a 30% share of the president. This is a rare exception in 18xx.
It doesn’t make sense to play the brewery variant but to try the strategy without it. It gives too much income at the end of the game, and at some point, starting a large brewery is probably mandatory.
Initial summary: if you like operational titles, if you are into euro games, this title is for you. You get two games in one box, or maybe even three: because there is a traditional 18xx without beer, and there is a game with beer and 18xx simultaneously (euro and 18xx together). You can try a game with a unique theme: beer and trains. Mechanically, the game also has its advantages, because it is a successful combination of the euro and 18xx.
Number of players: 4
Game time: 6 hours 32 minutes
Results: Igor 8578 / Bruno 8331 / Lolas 6510/ magole 6406
BGG rating: 7
Game type (stock/engineering): 30% / 70%.