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18xx: What's the Essence?

Jim Cote
United States
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I played my first 18xx game this week: 18AL. Having played Acquire and Imperial before, I was already predisposed to dislike it. I just don't get the essence of stock games.

If you own a company, you may buy and sell trains and privates, build track where you like, and decide if dividends are paid out or not. The only things that other players can do to interact/interfere with this seem to be:

Buy/sell shares: If the owner has 60%, then no one can take over the company. Selling shares drives the stock price down, but then you get less/no dividends. Buying shares only nets you money if the owner pays dividends, but he always gets more than you.

Blocking track: At one build per operating round, there are no big blocks like in the Steam line of games. This option seems almost non-existent.

Blocking stations: This seems pretty minor as well, but a little more effective than blocking track.

Buying trains: Keeping a company from getting the trains it wants, or causing rust seem like an over-the-top points of chaos.

So not only does the system feel like multi-player solitaire, but every decision feels uninteresting. You control two companies. I control one. What can I possibly do to have any effect on my income relative to yours? We can both see each company's cash/trains, each player's cash, and the best places to build track and stations. What are the non-auto-pilot decisions, and why are they interesting?

I understand that the game is not as I have described it. I am using the Socratic method, as always. Enlighten me.
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Subscribe sub options Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:24 pm
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