“On 15th May 1865 a Smith-Knight engine departed from Cagliari marking the official starting date of railway operations on the Sardinia Island. In the same years, Welsh engineer Benjamin Piercy arrived on the island with the mission of building the entire railway network of the newly born Royal Sardinian Railway Company."
These words extracted from history books set the scene of 1865 Sardinia, the first board game released by the ambitious Gotha Games publishing company.
In 1865 Sardinia, you play the role of Benjamin Piercy, or in other words, of a typical 19th century engineer and entrepreneur, specialized in the construction and operational management of railways. Selling and buying shares on the stock market, laying track, building stations, running trains and paying dividends are the main elements of the game. To achieve victory, you must be the wealthiest player at the end of game. There are no dices in this game, so, except for the initial seating order, there is no luck in this game.
1865 Sardinia is the last addition to the 18xx game series whose bestselling game 1830 will be reprinted according to a pompous announcement made by American Mayfair Games in February 2010. However at today no release date has been confirmed so far.
The new Sardinia game shares with his older cousin most of the elements that made the original 1830 a worldwide success, but, as happened with 1841 designed by the Italian Federico Vellani, the designer introduced some distinctive and innovative elements that makes it shine of its own light.
While Federico Vellani allowed companies to act as independent shareholders and investors in order to add a strong financial element to the game, Alessandro Lala, the designer of 1865 Sardinia, has focused on streamlining the operational management of companies and providing more control to players on their own strategy.
Calculating company revenues is much simpler in 1865 Sardinia. Rather than calculating the optimal route for your trains, revenues are instantaneously given by the amount of traffic chips collected by your company. The time saving is just incredible. Experienced 18xx players will tell you many stories of operating rounds that have taken hours to resolve because of the old complex revenue counting.
The second main addition in 1865 Sardinia are the Dragons; Dragons represent foreign investors who act in the game according to a simple but well defined algorithm. Smart players can anticipate their moves and manipulate them at their own advantage.
Finally, there is a set of rules allowing companies to merge together and get access to Government loans. Merging gives one more degree of flexibility to players who can rescue trainless companies and avoid bankruptcy or consolidate their assets to operate more efficiently.
A few words must be spent on the artwork. Williamson's graphic is really neat and cool and also the printing quality is definitely one level above all the other 18xx titles available in the market.
In conclusion, I found 1865 Sardinia an excellent addition to the 18XX family, particularly because of the new game mechanics and the fact that it works very well with 2 or 3 players.