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1848: Australia» Forums » Sessions

Subject: 1848: 18XX in Australia rss

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David Buckland
Singapore
Choa Chu Kang
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This was the first time with this 18XX set in Australia for three of the four players: only Bill had tried it previously, and that appears to have been a somewhat different game.

We started at c. 2.00 pm and finished at 6.15 pm, which is remarkably short for a full-fledged 18XX.

Player 1 Bill Rosgen
Player 2 Ericko Kurnaidi
Player 3 David Buckland
Player 4 Roderick Swee


Australian railway tycoons: from left to right Players 1, 2, 3, & 4.

1848 is set on a relatively small map, for all the vastness of the area that it covers: to put it in context, the distance from the off-map Perth area to Brisbane is ten hexes, which is the same as the breadth of the Isle of Wight in “1860”, and much of the 1848 map is desert which will not see a great deal activity for much of the game. This allied to the fact that the eight railways in the game have plenty of tokens (from three to five) means that staking your claim to desirable stations is crucial.

Every 18XX is different – it is part of the attraction of the system – and here two other features stand out as unique. One is that the gauge changes at the state borders, and this is represented by a white token which functions as an additional zero-value stop. Companies can buy slightly more expensive versions of each train to allow them to skip one such gauge marker, eg. a ‘5’ train costs £500, a ‘5+’ £550. This makes the small board even smaller, and with the token congestion, can make long runs problematic (except for Diesels, but they cost £1100).

The second, and probably more important feature is the Bank of England, which is perhaps standing in for those perennially abused British investors whose money financed the railways of innumerable countries in the 19th Century, but who were normally at some point royally fleeced. In this game, the Bank of England (BoE) provides public companies with “loans” of £100 each. Each company may take up to five, though only one per Operating Round (OR), unless needing to buy a train. To call these amounts “loans” is a bit of a misnomer, since they do not have to be repaid, but they do shift the share price two to the left.

A company without sufficient cash to buy a train must take out loans until it can buy one, or fall into the receivership of the BoE – though this might well happen through taking out multiple loans, as those taken at the same time beyond the first shift the share price three spaces to the left (and the leftmost position of each line on the Share Price Chart is marked “Receivership”). Unlike many 18XX games, the company president is not responsible for stumping up the cash from personal funds to buy the train, but their personal share limit is reduced by two for each company they head which goes into receivership (on top of the reductions applied to all players), and this is a serious penalty, especially in the end-game (the restriction on using personal cash also makes it more likely that companies will go into receivership, given the rising cost of trains, and the limited number of loans that can be taken out).

Players can buy shares in the BoE (of which there are 10) for a share price which rises £10 with each loan taken out. BoE shares also receive income, which starts at £10 per share in Phase 3 (Green) and reaches £30 in Phase 8 (Grey). In addition to this basic income, the city value of any station tokens for companies in receivership is added to the BoE’s income. Therefore, owners of the BoE ideally want a lot of loans to be taken out, and a good number lines to go into receivership (if five do so, this ends the game, however).

How to play the BoE successfully is not easy to work out, as its value may fluctuate considerably based on the circumstances of each individual game. In Player 1’s earlier experience with 1848, three lines went into receivership (perhaps because the players had not been forewarned about the train rush), and the BoE ended paying out over £80, higher than any public company. In this outing, on the other hand, no company went into receivership – though some came very close – and so the BoE was that much less valuable: by the final OR, the BoE’s basic payout of £30 per share was the second lowest, and its overall payout was only fourth (somewhat better if share value appreciation is factored in). On the other hand, the BoE represents a reliable payout, which is not subject to the whims and foibles of the players.

In any event, 1848 starts as usual with a private company auction, which although conducted differently to those in most 18XX games, seems to end up with fairly similar results. There are the usual range of special “powers”, and perhaps the most useful are the Tasmania Railway, which controls the placement of the valuable Tasmania tile, and the Trans Australia Railway, which gives a reasonable income (£25) plus a free share in the QGR (Queensland Government Railway). The North Australian Railway, the most expensive private (which cost Player 4 £220 in our game) is perhaps less useful, since although it comes with the President’s share of the Central Australian Railway (CAR, worth £200), the private closes once the CAR purchases a train, so further income is lost.

The players doing best from the auction and the first share round (SR) were Player 2, who had the Tasmanian private company and Victorian Railways (VR, starting in Melbourne), which seemed a very powerful combination, and Player 3, whose QGR seemed best-placed to earn high dividends in the early going.

This was indeed the case, as the QGR earned the highest dividends for ORs 2 through 5, but the VR was blocked from westwards progress by the swift tokening out (by Player 4’s CAR and Player 1’s South Australian Railway, or SAR) of Geelong, just to the west of Melbourne. This stymied the VR, and through it Player 2 generally, and although eventually the VR managed to build a route to the west, as well as being able to run to Sydney (and earning a record £570 on the final OR), it was all too late. Player 2’s second public company, launched in SR4, was the Canberra-based Federal Territory Railway, and despite its excellent position between Sydney and Melbourne, it was something of a disappointment, producing the second-lowest revenue of the public companies in the last OR (£340). In fact, Australian history developed differently in our version: Sydney was something of a backwater for a long time, and the centre of the Australian economy was the Melbourne-Adelaide axis.

The fact that there are eight public companies, but only three ‘5’ trains (the first permanent train) and two ‘6’s should alert players to the fact that there is likely to be a steep train rush, and such proved indeed to be the case here. At the start of OR4, we were in Phase 3, which had started in OR2, but by the end of OR7, we had made it to Phase 8 (the final phase) – and there were only 12 ORs in total.

In the midst of the desperate jockeying that resulted, Player 4 dumped the QGR onto Player 4 at the start of SR5 (between ORs 6 & 7), who was already committed to starting the West Australian Railway (WAR). Player 3 concentrated on the launch of the new Commonwealth Railway (COM), and on buying BoE stock, on the assumption that some lines were likely to end in receivership.

This was especially so for Player 4, who ended up with three under-funded railways with ageing (or non-existent) trains: the CAR, QGR, & WAR. Players 1 & 3 had assumed that one or two of these would go into receivership, but instead, by some very adept juggling, Player 4 managed to keep all three afloat, and as a result, was able to earn the most in the last OR – but this was again too late, and the lost or withheld revenues from the earlier train crisis could not be regained within the time remaining.

With Player 2 stymied in Victoria, and Player 4 coping with the pressing need for trains, this left Players 1 & 3 as the main contenders. At first, Player 3 seemed to have the upper hand, and was ahead for much of the game.

The turning point came in the last SR of the game, SR6, between ORs 9 & 10. All the others, apart from Player 3, had multiple companies, and this meant ample room for manipulating trains and income. Player 3 therefore decided to invest in at most one share per company, to avoid having a looted company dumped on him in the following SR. The only exception was a two-share holding in the SAR of Player 1, which seemed worth the risk, as it was much the better-placed of Player 1’s two companies (the other was New South Wales Railways, or NSW). This meant retaining a 50% share of the BoE, although it was by now obvious that no company would go into receivership, and few new loans would be required.

Player 1, by contrast, could afford to invest heavily in the COM (as Player 3, who controlled it, had only this one railway, and therefore could not manipulate like the other players), taking a 30% stake, and did the same, despite the risks, in the CAR. These proved to be golden investments, as the CAR paid out £147 per share in the last three ORs following this SR, and the COM £154. The stake in the CAR could have been used by the owning Player 4 to dump a train-less line onto Player 1 if there had been another SR (the Priority marker rested with Player 4 at this point) – but of course, there was no further SR, so the risk was entirely moot.

The final positions were (in £):

Player 1
CAR x 3 390
QGR x 1 130
SAR x 6 600
NSW x 6 720
COM x 3 390
Cash 3824
Total 5994

Player 2
CAR x 1 130
VR x 6 780
QGR x 1 70
SAR x 1 100
FTR x 6 110
WAR x 1 130
BoE x 3 480
Cash 2416
Total 4766

Player 3
CAR x 1 130
VR x 1 130
QGR x 1 70
SAR x 2 200
FTR x 1 110
COM x 6 780
WAR x 1 130
BoE x 5 800
Cash 2350
Total 5918

Player 4
CAR x 5 650
VR x 1 130
QGR x 4 280
SAR x 1 100
NSW x 1 120
FTR x 1 110
COM x 1 130
WAR x 6 780
Cash 2827
Total 5127

A worthy victory for Player 1 by the skin of his teeth from Player 3.

Overall, this is a very interesting addition to the 18XX family. It is by no means a stripped-down version of the system – there is plenty of meat here, and plenty of clever variation from the standard – but it plays in what is, for an 18XX, a very short time. It does perhaps reward a more aggressive style of play than most 18XXs, as the players argue over the relatively limited supply of valuable real estate (see the fate of the VR in this game, mentioned above), and can have a steep train rush, but these are no bad things, generally. It should not perhaps be used as an introductory 18XX, but it is certainly well worth exploring.

The only caveat is the length of the end-game. This is often the weakest part of 18XX games, and such was the case in this instance. It goes on for too long after the final Phase starts (over 40% of the ORs, in our case), during which time the changes which add flavour and interest to the earlier stages of the game are absent. Changing the rules on one playing is hardly warranted, but it is tempting to reduce the size of the (game) bank’s starting cash, or perhaps not finishing the sequence of ORs when the bank’s money is exhausted, but only the OR under way. This kind of change of course affects game-play more or less throughout the game, but I am not clear that the impact on the enjoyment of the game would be adverse, or that it damages play – merely changes the strategies, perhaps.

That apart, an excellent 18XX, and another attractive game from Double-O, of 1824 and 1844 fame.


The board at game-end, after 12 ORs. The blank white tokens are the gauge-change markers.
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Richard Hecker
Australia
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Nice report and all, but there is a locomotive-sized but coming up.

The first railway in Australia wasn't built to the 1850s, and interstate lines first met in the 1880s. Connction to Perth took until the First World War. [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_Australia]

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History: 0

Call the game '1878' and I'll shut up.
 
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Mikko Saari
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From that Wikipedia article: "In 1848, the Sydney Railway Company was established to connect Goulburn and Bathurst to Sydney, mainly to convey wool for export to the United Kingdom."

Hence the name, I suppose.
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David Buckland
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Hamster007 wrote:
The first railway in Australia wasn't built to the 1850s, and interstate lines first met in the 1880s. Connction to Perth took until the First World War. [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_Australia]

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The rules to "1848" have an introductory section which gives a very brief overview of the history of railways in Australia, which includes the following:

"Australia's first railway company, the Sydney Railway Company, was founded in 1848. It proved ruinous for its founders and shortly before the opening of the first line (the 14 miles from Sydney to Parramatta) it was taken over by the New South Wales Government Railways. This also took over the second line, the one from Newcastle to Maitland.

The very first Australian railway was a horse-drawn railway which in 1831 connected coal mines to the quays on the Hunter River. By 1855 there were three coal railways in Newcastle. These railways were industrial railways, which during the next 150 years came into being over the whole country, supporting such industries as mining, sugar plantations, logging, metal works and cement factories. For the most part they were owned by the industrial companies themselves and were
therefore called "Private Railways" in order to distinguish them from the main railways owned by the States.

In 1852 eight privately financed railways were planned in Victoria. Three of them were established but only one of them was a success -- The Melbourne and Hobson's Railway Company, which was founded in 1852 and opened on the 12th of September 1854.

In May 1854 the first horse-drawn railway with iron rails was opened in Victoria, a 7 mile long stretch between Goolwa on Lake Alexandria and Port Eliot on the southern ocean.

So between 1854 and 1855 railways were set up in the three colonies of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. Tasmania and Western Australia would have to wait until the 1870s."

It would seem if this is correct that 1848 is a reasonable choice of title for an Australian 18XX concentrating on NSW, Victoria, & South Australia, though other dates could have been chosen.
 
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Greg Payne
United Kingdom
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Hamster007 wrote:
Call the game '1878' and I'll shut up.

As would Steve Thomas...
 
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Richard Hecker
Australia
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davidbuck wrote:
By 1855 there were three coal railways in Newcastle....


Not convinced that 1848 is a good title.

Newcastle was one of the main coal mining regions, ergo the spectacularly imagingative name. The coal mines are about 20 km distant. The other example you have, near Goolwa, is 7 miles / ca 10 km.

The game spans Adelaide - Melbourne - Sydney, each on the order of 1000 km separate. That's nearly two order of magnitude different to the ca 10 km pissy lines of the 1850s.

It may be a good game. It might even be a fun game. But it is a poorly titled game.

I shall return to my puddin' paddock and swear at the passerbys.
 
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Breno K.
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Brasília
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Hamster007 wrote:

It may be a good game. It might even be a fun game. But it is a poorly titled game.
.

http://www.myfacewhen.com/120/
 
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JR
Canada
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BrenoK wrote:
Hamster007 wrote:

It may be a good game. It might even be a fun game. But it is a poorly titled game.
.

http://www.myfacewhen.com/120/


Yeah, or this one.

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Chester
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Hamster007 wrote:
davidbuck wrote:
By 1855 there were three coal railways in Newcastle....


Not convinced that 1848 is a good title.

Newcastle was one of the main coal mining regions, ergo the spectacularly imagingative name. The coal mines are about 20 km distant. The other example you have, near Goolwa, is 7 miles / ca 10 km.

The game spans Adelaide - Melbourne - Sydney, each on the order of 1000 km separate. That's nearly two order of magnitude different to the ca 10 km pissy lines of the 1850s.

It may be a good game. It might even be a fun game. But it is a poorly titled game.

I shall return to my puddin' paddock and swear at the passerbys.

The fact that the first RR in Australia was founded in 1848, and was a financial failure before it even opened....only makes the name "1848" more apt.

Nice write-up. I'm looking forward to our first local playing tonight. I believe this may be the most attractive 18xx title I've seen, in terms of asthetics.
 
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