Designer: Tom Lehmann
Publisher: Deep Thought Games, Golden Spike Games, GMT Games
Eric Brosius said it best as to why folks should get a copy of this if you're interested in 18xx games, so I'll just quote him here (1846 --- a fine introductory game in the 18XX series):
I've played quite a few other 18XX games in the past year, and I enjoy some of them quite a bit, but 1846 is my first choice for teaching 18XX to new players. Here are some reasons I like it, and some reasons why it's particularly good for new players:
1. 1846 starts with a private company draft in which your drafting options vary randomly from one game to another. After the draft, you pay the list price for each company you drafted. As a rule, you can't ruin your chances through poor choices at the very start of the game, because almost any set of private companies will offer you some reasonable options (the privates with weaker powers generate good income, at least.) This is easier on new players than the typical 18XX game that starts with an auction---in many of them you can lose the game before the "regular" part of the game starts.
2. Companies begin operation in the Stock Round immediately after the President's certificate is bought. (1846 is what is known as an "incremental capitalization" game.) You can run a company in which only two shares have been bought (this may or may not be a good idea, depending on the situation.) This gets everyone started right away. It also makes each share purchase important.
3. Each company has a single unitary stock price, and that's the price at which a player can buy or sell shares. In many 18XX games there's a "par" price for shares that have never been bought and a "market" price for shares that have already been bought and sold at least once. The latter approach is less natural for most people, and though I don't insist on complete realism in games, this issue affects how hard it is to learn a game's rules. In addition, it's a benefit for a teaching game that the stock market is 1-dimensional (which means there is only one box for each price.) I understand why 2-dimensional stock markets are used, but if you're teaching beginners, it's hard to explain why there are six different spaces on the stock market chart that all correspond to a price of $100.
4. The map contains only full-size cities, not the "dot" towns that are common in many 18XX games. The "dots" are treated differently in the various games that use them, but leaving them out makes life simpler for first-timers. You also avoid the phenomenon, common in some 18XX games, of people deliberately avoiding towns (something that would have made little sense to the historical railroad surveyors!)
5. The private companies include three that allow any company to "teleport" to a different location on the board (potentially ignoring their original starting city completely.) In addition, two of the companies may "teleport" without the help of a private by paying a price. These abilities, together with the private company draft, allow track patterns to differ from game to game in a natural way.
6. The game does not typically lead to bankruptcies (though they are possible---I managed to go bankrupt in one of my first games of 1846 by taking too much risk.) In addition, the game does not end as a result of a bankruptcy (though it does end if all but one player go bankrupt---a highly unlikely occurrence.) Many games in the 18XX series feature bankruptcies as a standard outcome. This is disorienting to beginners, and, if they are victims, discouraging as well.
7. 1846 is a game in which there is no easy rule about how to win. Sometimes it's best to pay dividends, but at other times your company should retain all or part of its earnings. You can win by starting a company at a high share value and buying a few shares, or by starting one at a low share value and buying a lot of shares. (In the first case you need to worry about outside investors earning almost as much off your highly profitable company as you do, while in the second you need to worry about being a rich player saddled with a weak company.) You can win while being the President of only one company, or by running two (or, in rare cases, more than two.) You can win running one or even two 7/8 trains in a company, and you can win running a single 5 train from Windsor to Chicago.
Many 18XX games see regular company dumping. It's possible to dump a trainless company on another player in 1846, but it's typically a losing move if the situation isn't exactly right for the trick, so you don't see a lot of company dumps, at least not among players who are all trying to win---in my experience, dumping is most often the way to come in next-to-last.
Perhaps you are asking why a game with no easy rule about how to win is good for beginners. In games with easy rules about how to win and little or no luck, people find it almost impossible to avoid telling the beginners exactly what they should do every turn (or if they don't tell them, they often roll their eyes when the beginners don't follow the "correct" strategy.) In 1846, it's often not obvious what the beginner should do, so the experienced players are not faced with as much temptation.
8. Decisions about which companies to invest in (whether your own or those of other players) are usually non-obvious and important. If an opponent has started a company with great long-term prospects, it often makes sense to buy shares as a balancing technique. This reduces the amount of money going into that company's treasury and makes it difficult for the President to negotiate the mid-game train rush without withholding dividends---and withholding dividends makes that company less lucrative for a period of time. I prefer 18XX games in which the stock market matters, and 1846 is such a game.
9. 1846 scales very well as you change the number of players. In most 18XX games you get significantly more cash at the start of the game when there are fewer players, so you feel much richer than when there are a lot of players. In 1830: Railways & Robber Barons, for example, it's almost an entirely different game with 3 players than with 6 players. In 1846 you always start with $400, but certain railroads and private companies are removed from play with 3 or 4 players. This allows a player who has played the game with one player count to play with another player count without finding that everything he or she has learned is useless.
10. 1846 plays quickly, giving you a better chance to finish before the new players lose the ability to pay attention. In my group we can play a 3-player game in less than 2 hours and a 5-player game in less than 3 hours. Your group's playing time will probably be longer, because we play unusually quickly, but even so it is still shorter than most of the other 18XX games while retaining plenty of variety and interesting decisions.
It is currently up for preorder thru GMT's P500 pre-order system. If you're even mildly curious to try out the 18xx system, go get a copy. It's a steal at $47: Click here to preorder
edit: I'm hearing late October, hopefully....