A few years ago, I was an avid Euro game player. My favorites included titles like Arkwright, Puerto Rico, Caylus, Food Chain, and many more. Then, I discovered 18xx games, and my entire board gaming world underwent a transformation. However, recently, while playing 18 India, I felt like a Euro board gamer once again.
While 18 India is undoubtedly an 18xx game, numerous changes to the core rules provide a unique gaming experience, and some of the most intriguing 18xx features are notably absent. The stock market, train rush, tile upgrades, initial bidding, and a touch of randomness—everything is different here. Some aspects I enjoy immensely, while others are more to my wife’s liking, as she who love Euro games.
Let’s delve into the details.
The Map and Track Tiles
Let’s start with the map presentation. It’s a really big one, featuring numerous small towns. Constructing the map might seem daunting, but the remarkable feature is that every company can lay four yellow tracks in a single operational round! This is an amazing concept, and I appreciate the innovation. So you have 4 yellow tile lays or one upgrade. However, that’s not the end of the story, as all track colors are accessible from the beginning of the game. You only need to follow the correct upgrade sequence. You can also upgrade individual towns to green small cities, which is a nice touch. Overall, this idea is very intriguing.
In theory, there might be areas on the map where three or more companies can operate from the start, and routes will be constructed much more rapidly, rendering them far more profitable. It’s reminiscent of real life!
In our game, the South was one such region where three different players’ companies were in operation. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the primary factor determining the winner of the game.
There is a significant change: trains never rust! All of them are permanent, and companies can only sell the old ones (at face value) and buy new ones. This was the biggest shock for me. Rusting trains in all 18xx games are a core mechanic for me. The faster trains rust, the more interesting the gameplay is for me. I find my gameplay much more engaging when I need to worry about trains, the future of my companies, and my portfolio.
In 18 India, companies can sell trains to the bank at face value. So, you don’t need to worry about trains at all! If you don’t calculate your investments well, you can simply sell the train back to the market and buy a new one. I wish it were the same in real life. It would be beautiful if I could sell my old Toyota at face value and upgrade it to a better one! But when I mentioned it to my wife, she replied, ‘Fantastic! It’s finally a game for me!’
Each company can only own two trains at once, and just one train from the group of the most powerful trains. These include trains like 4E, 4Ex2, or 4Ex3. They count only the four best cities on the route and double or triple the income. Pros: It’s very easy to calculate the revenue. Cons: It’s hard to block anyone on the map.
A final note about trains: A company is never required to own a train.
Price Changes on the Stock Market
This is one of the things I like in a few titles (e.g., 1860). The price marker can increase by up to four spaces if the dividend is high enough. No certificates provide money to the company, so if you need to upgrade the train, you must withhold the dividend or buy more shares (capitalization is incremental, and you can have up to 100% of the company shares). And one note: companies can purchase shares of other companies as an investment, with a limit of 3 shares per company.
Here’s a significant change: every stock round starts with one round where every player has the opportunity to sell shares (all at once). During the sale, the price does not drop. After this sale round, there will be buying rounds until everyone passes. This mechanic minimizes the possibility of manipulating stock prices or hurting other components. For my taste, it’s one more thing that will be appreciated by Eurogamers.
Now, let’s delve into the randomness, which is worth a closer look. At the beginning of each game, you’ll need to create a shuffled deck containing 10% certificates and private companies. One part of this deck will be distributed among all players, while the second part will form the Initial Public Offering (IPO). The IPO will have three rows, each containing an identical number of certificates. Throughout the game, you can only purchase certificates from the top of each row (or from certificates on your hand / stock market).
From the certificates distributed among players, each player must select roughly half of them, keeping them in their hand. All other certificates, along with CEO certificates, will be drafted by players one by one. This way, you will be able to identify who holds the CEO certificate for each company and allows you to create a deck of certificates. Acquiring these certificates is crucial to starting and operating companies effectively. To buy quality trains and generate substantial income, you must aim to purchase as many certificates of the company as possible. If you only buy 30%, and you have no opportunity to buy more (as the remaining 70% may be in other players’ hands or at the bottom of the IPO decks), you risk losing 70% of potential income. The more shares you acquire in a company, the more capital the company accumulates, leading to higher revenue for you.
However, it’s worth noting that the randomness can pose challenges at times. In some games, you might not be able to acquire the majority of shares in a company right away, and your opponents may beat you to it.
Additionally, there are a few smaller details that, while not critically important to the game’s value, are worth mentioning: commodity concessions, private companies that can be sold to the bank (you receive the money back after using them too), guaranteed companies with British government financial backing and dividend guarantees, directed companies that lack a CEO and the possibility to close a company.
I must emphasize that my victory was largely due to the GIPR, the most powerful company in the game. With 200% of shares and the ability to collect 200% of funds, it has the resources to purchase any train. The GIPR can commence operations in any unoccupied city on the map, and I managed to acquire 90% of its shares. This is reminiscent of The Bank Of England in 1848 but with even greater revenue potential.
I played this game with a group of new people at the Polish 18xx convention, so in our old team, it might be a bit more of a ‘friendly’ game (if you catch my drift). However, I believe that this could be an excellent choice for Eurogamers who have reservations about certain aspects of 18xx games and prefer to concentrate on their individual strategies. There’s notably less interaction compared to other 18xx games, making it primarily an operational game where you focus on managing your own companies effectively. I look forward to playing it once again with my regular group and hearing their opinions.
Scores: Magole 14990, Adam 11519, Kuba32 11272, Abadura 10494
Play time: 3 hours 30 minutes (I was pleasantly surprised by the short game duration.)