Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
Last night was our group's first try at 1848, and it was a great experience - a four player game with myself, Stephen, Anupam, and photocurio. I'm not going to go into a blow by blow, but just want to emphasize a few noteworthy aspects of our first play down under....
The initial auction was a bit vexing, since none of us could properly understand how to value the various small companies. The dutch auction style was original for an XX, and I liked it - but it was tough. I ended up with just the Prez share of CAR, for about $15 under the initial set value. This meant that I couldn't end up buying another small company if I wanted to actually start the CAR (b/c it can only be started at $100). So I ended up with no small moneys for the whole game (after the very first OR).
Part of my gravitating towards the CAR is that its position made it ideal to maximize early game cash - and since I didn't know 1848, it seemed like a relatively safe way to learn the game. As we'll see, it worked out tolerably.
I played a conservative but relatively competent game with one huge exception - I was in perfect position to get priority when the last two companies could be started, and lazily pulled a stunt to get one extra share in the prior stock round, and ended up in 4th position, with no chance to ever start a second company after the CAR. It was particularly dumb because I passed twice before selling, then buying twice. So I could have even done what I wanted and still gotten priority. As it turns out I almost won anyway, but ended up in a respectable 3rd, about $300-$400 off the lead.
Anupam, who won by about $50, started the WA right next to the CAR, for $80, and really cleaned up on early income without having to make the huge capitol investment that I had. Stephen, who came in 2nd, started way the heck on the NE section of the map, and had lots of little moneys for most of the game. Peter, who came in 4th, started in the middle.
A couple of things stood out about this game. First, I really love the mechanic for changing track gauges. I wish other XX games would use this. It adds a really interesting decision point - do I buy the basic 3 train for $200 or the spiffy 3+ for $220? (The + lets you traverse one gauge change without taking up a city spot on your train.)
Second, the Bank of England wasn't a big factor in the game - only 1 company went into receivership, and I'm not sure any other companies even took any loans. I really like the idea of this bank, and the different sort of pain that the train rush brings here - reminiscent almost of 1860. But the consequences of taking even one loan are so severe (even when it's not a forced train purchase) that I'm not yet convinced that a BoE/tank your company shenanigan is viable. Maybe, but I'm not yet convinced. Having to go back two stock spaces for just $100 seems really really harsh. For example, the CAR ended up at about $160 - and 2 spaces back would have been $120. That's $40 per share times my 6 shares, or $240 in the end game for just $100 into the company. I can see how it might work - and indeed Anupam (the winner) was the guy who tanked the company on purpose.
Third, I like the mechanic of the Ghan trains ($200 for a train that doesn't count against your train limit and never rusts, but only runs between your home town and the Outback of Alice Springs, and doesn't count for having a train either - comes out after the first five). It is similar to the Pullman car in .... is it 18GA? Not a huge game changer, but a nice little addition to the genre.
I really like the small map and all the plentiful tokens. Nice and vicious, like an XX ought to be!
Oh, incidentally, my very conservative strategy almost won because I ended up with 2 "KK" bonus runs and huge stock value. I withheld twice to save for an 8 train, which was acceptable - but then the company right before me ended up buying the 8, which rusted my 4, which meant I lost a 3rd operating round in a row. Because I was near my stock limit, it didn't hurt my ability to buy stock, but it ended up costing me $240 in stock plus about $240 in revenue for that OR. So if I had been able to upgrade my 4, I think I probably squeak out a win - but who knows.
There was also one kind of weird consequence to my not being able to buy a second company - the two players who had the most to gain by the first 6 coming out (Stephen and I) were both at our train limits and could not buy a 6 even though we had cash. The other two players had less incentive, and Anupam ended up buying a 3 from one of his other companies for the new Colonial railway. In a later OR he ended up buying the first 6 himself, but this slowdown seemed pretty major to his win. Made me feel even dumber for my priority mistake!
I look forward to playing 1848, perhaps this weekend. I am especially curious to see if there's a way to really take advantage of the receivership & BOE rules to pull some shenanigans!