Recommend
5 
 Thumb up
 Hide
13 Posts

18xx» Forums » General

Subject: Toward an 18XX strategic taxonomy rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Rick Scholes
United States
Montpelier
Vermont
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've been thinking about creating an "18XX taxonomy." Problem I've encountered is that there are so many different potential classification schemes within the genre that I couldn't decide on one that would be widely accepted. And, I can’t create the one I really want.

1829 versus 1830 seems to be an accepted first branching. http://fwtwr.com/18xx/rules_difference_list/single_list.htm provides many details that could be used in different ways, depending on what is salient to the specific player. Consider: capitalization %, availability of mergers, laying more than one tile per OR. All are possible points of departure.

More important to many, and so far as I know not listed anywhere: which strategies are available/successful in each particular game. THIS is what I would consider the most useful and interesting classification scheme but I personally don't have the experience and skill to compile the data.

Is there a comprehensive list of those strategies? Perhaps JC Lawrence, Bruce Beard, and a few others could write a treatise. Not too many potential purchasers but boy would they pay dearly for it. Is skill in 18XX achievable only by watching how more experienced players destroy you? [Been there; done that. We all have.]

My current thinking is that the rules difference list provides almost all the readily available information. The format isn't the best for my purposes but I’ll live with that, and my cuts and bruises, until the gurus write that treatise.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The rules differences are certainly one big aspect, but I think the map plays a part as well. Not only are some maps more full of more expensive hexes and bigger/smaller, but I suspect choke points, city distribution, and tile mixes can have a large impact on strategies as well.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rick Scholes
United States
Montpelier
Vermont
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Agreed. I was working with 1860 last night. [I'm slowly devising an 18SOLO variant. mostly in the winter months and not at all the past two months while proof reading and editing the 18OE rules.] Over 75% of the map hexes have cities or towns.

How does one factor that "cleanly" into a classification scheme?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Blorb Plorbst
United States
Bloomington
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
I think we're all bozos on this bus.
Avatar
mbmbmb
An interesting idea. I think a good first place to start is selecting some broad common elements and assign them to games and then start to look for patterns. Some I'd suggest:

Full Cap/Part Cap
Permissive/Semi-Restrictive/Restrictive Tile lays
Private Company Cash-in percentage
Liberal tile set vs Constraining tile set
Sell-Buy-Sell vs Sell-Buy or Buy-Sell
Stock Chart colors available (yellow, orange, brown)
2d vs 1d Stock market
Loans

Probably a lot more.

Unfortunately, the strategies and pace of the game are often measured in non-discrete differences:
Starting cash
Cost of Privates
Available par values
(those first 3 will define how a player behaves during the auction and first stock round. There may be some ratios that could apply here)
Bank Size
number, spread and cost of trains
Train obsolescence schedule
Progression of stock chart values
Arrangement of ledges

These measures require some subjective judgments if you wish to include them in a taxonomy
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Benjamin
United States
Los Alamos
New Mexico
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've only played a few 18xx but I think the list of what NOT to do might be shorter than all the good possibilities. (Some thoughts are bouncing around in my head but I'd leave the advice to the experts.)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
I've written this and about this many times before -- simple web searches will lead you to the other discussions. There are four basic types of 18xx:

1) Run Good Companies

2) Where's the Free Money?

3) Put Things Together (typically mergers or company pairs or synergies)

4) Timing Games

Clearly some, most, all(?) 18xx games are mixtures of the four camps in various degrees and at various times during a given game. The private sales to companies in many games is a free-money element, but so are destination runs with multi-jump stock increases and the extra 40%-50% in free capital given when floating companies in full-capitalisation games. The mergers in 1817, 1824, 18EU, 18C2C etc are clear plug-things-together moments etc, but so are the synergies between privates and majors in 1846, 18C2C etc. The portfolio management of the 1825s, 1853 and the like fall out cleanly as timing games, but 1826's focus on getting the right trains into the right companies arguably does too.

Few if any interesting 18xx seem to be purely any one of the above meta-types, rather they move and shift focus across a balance of those points over the course of the game.

Amusingly, 18xx players can also be classified across the above four criteria, and like the games, the RunGoodCompany players are considered the least interesting and the FreeMoney players get all the despairing head shakes.

Other structural divides centre around elements like:

- Fast trains: Some games tend to focus on train rushes, and coming out on top after the dust has settled. The key metric is how large a fraction of the purchase cost is the typical run value and how many times they'll run. 1843's trains generally need to run three times in order to cover their purchase cost, but will often only run once or twice before rusting. Another key metric in this space is whether trains sometimes rust before they ever run. This usually means that the key decisions in the game are made leading up to the early cheap permanent trains. 1830, 1841, 1843, 1849, 18Mex etc all tend to feature blistering train rushes (though 1843 skips the cheap permanents bit). David G. D. Hecht designs (as a broad for-instance) tend to have rather sedate/processional train progressions.

- Low or high income: A basic measure of how rich the game is, especially as a function of train purchase and company floatation prices, but it can also be as a function of more basic operational costs (eg tack-laying costs). 1830 is the most notorious example of a low income game, but 1849 gets in there too. 1843 tries to be a low income game and often is. 18C2C and most of the Double-O Games designs are high income games.

- Tile manifest: Are the tile limits a significant function of Good Play? 1830, 1843, 1849, many of the Wolfram Janich and some Double-O Games designs fall into this camp. In other games, the tile manifest is explicitly generous, or at least rarely if ever a consideration in Good Play (1817, 18C2C, most-but-not-all David G. D. Hecht designs, etc).

- Stock appreciation vs dividends: Which is more important: dividends and cash in-hand or stock appreciation? 1830 is the grand-daddy of stock-centric games with 70+% of player scores descending from stock appreciation. Most Mark Derrick designs are heavily cash/dividend focused.

- Certificate limits: Are key strategies in the game focused on managing certificate limits (yellow fever, forbidden forest, variations in share density, number of presidencies, etc). Most any game with a classically coloured stock market falls into this camp with 1830 and 1870 being the two most notorious examples. 1817 plays in this space with share densities and thus the balance between stock appreciation and dividends.

- Liabilities: Are investments possibly significant liabilities? The classic form of this is the potential requirement to buy a train out of pocket. Not all 18xx have that property (eg the 1825s, 1860 etc), and several of the Double-O Games titles feature not-very-onerous loans which smooth the edge there. The 1825s, 1853 and to some extent 1860 conversely impose no requirement for companies to own trains, just financial hiccoughs if they don't.

- Balance of share values: Which is more important, owning the best shares or owning more shares? Does that change over the course of the game? 1846 for example is notable in being readily won while still not at paper limit -- it is a game in which owning better shares is commonly more important than owning more shares. Conversely 1830 is the poster child of owning more shares typically defaulting to being better than owning fewer better shares.

It is worth nothing that the shape of the stock market does not feature anywhere in this list. 2D and 1D stock markets are effectively identical, just with rather more complex price movement rules for the 2D markets.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Berry
Scotland
Edinburgh
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
bankrupt wrote:
1829 versus 1830 seems to be an accepted first branching.


This distinction is suggested frequently but it doesn't really hold water, IMO. 1829 was the grand-daddy of all the 18xx, ground-breaking in its time but long since superseded. Several of the rules in 1829 don't appear in any other game AFAIK. Even 1825, the logical successor of 1829, is significantly different.

As I argued here here, while there are a number of games that are clearly closely related to 1830, such as 1889, 18AL, 18GA and a few 1830-on-another-map games, there are also many games that some people place in the "1830 branch" which have utterly placid stock-markets, or incremental capitalisation, hardly any bankrupties, etc.

I had the idea of creating a "tube map" linking 18xx games with lines denoting significant features. E.g. there would be one line for incremental capitalisation, one for whether you can sell the directors share to the bank pool, another for games with significant elements of mergers, etc. The idea was that it would also act as a history of which games influenced which others. Sadly, I haven't had the time to pursue this.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
flag msg tools
Just imagine the red offboard up here. I'll create it Real Soon Now...
badge
Yes, I know a proper 18XX tile should have a tile number.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Imagine a game that was played with identical rules and map shape as 1830, except that there was, across the map, twice as much terrain costs. $120 mountains are now $180, many free hexes are now $20, most cities cost money to lay, etc.

This game would play out very differently, because players would be that much poorer as their companies were unable to develop routes effectively, or only at the expense of buying trains.

Any taxonomy needs to take that into effect.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Morganza wrote:
Any taxonomy needs to take that into effect.


While I agree that cash rich games are fundamentally different from cash-poor games (and so mentioned that as an axis above), in what way is this fundamentally more than a ratio of income to expenses (and liabilities) as mentioned?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rick Scholes
United States
Montpelier
Vermont
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I thought this might create some discussion.

My making the 1829-30 distinction is apparently jumping to conclusions. I'll try to be less flighty.

JC, thanks for your comments. I will take them to heart. I am aware of some of your writings. I'll look for more.

This comments I hoped my post would elicit are part of my attempt to create 18SOLO, an AI that will provide a way of playing many, though probably not all, 18XX games by yourself. Or, more accurately, by myself. I've been asked to share what I accomplish but it really is, and probably can never be, more than an entertainment for myself and the rest of the less skilled 50% of the 18XX universe.

By way of a report:

18SOLO has been on hold while I spend innumerable hours proof reading and editing the 18OE rules. Been through 46 pages five times. Mark Frazier reviewed and accepted or rejected my proposals after each pass. They are now essentially complete.

18SOLO now has the opening packet auction working well, good tile laying mechanics [took a lot of trials], and an aggressive train rush. It isn't at all fiddly, yet. There is almost no luck involved. It is all within the range of what a human opponent would throw at you and is adjustable. So far I'm achieving my goals: the human player plays completely normally and NEVER makes a decision for the AI. The luck, very occasional use of a d6, is necessary to avoid tile laying becoming a puzzle solvable at the start of the game and to provide a realistic opening packet auction.

Variations to adopt the quirks of different 18XX titles is going well but is far from complete. Haven't focused on 1817 yet. It may be the ultimate test, though I expect half the titles won't work well. The noted outlier 1860 is o.k. so far, so I harbor some hope that perhaps half the games will work reasonably well, at least for my purposes.

My major as yet unaddressed problem is identifying strategies that the AI will use to attack the solo player. Identifying when to trigger their use is where it will be difficult to avoid fiddly bits. And, I'm not that good an 18XX player to fully identify or understand a significant number of the winning strategies. I have a long way to go.

When the snow flies I'll put more time into it.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
(Added a bit above -- one I'm not entirely convinced of as a structural divide -- on the balance of share values)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Berry
Scotland
Edinburgh
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I wonder whether there is some mileage in classifying 18xx games by the roles they ask players to take:

1) Investor: You invest in a portfolio of shares. You influence the performance of companies to suit your portfolio and vice versa, without especial liability. Examples: 1825, 1860.

2) Entrepeneur: Your fate is intrinsically linked to that of your companies. Companies may run out of cash and this may send you into bankruptcy. Examples: 1830 and close friends.

3) Operations manager: You are rewarded for building the best network and getting the best trains to run on them, possibly building companies from smaller ones. Examples: 18EU, 1846.

4) Finance manager: You take short-term loans, merge or acquire companies, and manage company accounts. Examples: 1861, 1817 .

This is not a detailed taxonomy, more a characterisation of high-level styles. It doesn't say anything about full vs incremental capitalisation, or the balance of shares vs dividends, for examples.

Obviously, many 18xx games may have aspects of more than one of these styles but I think one is often dominant.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Without disagreeing, I note the 1846 has liabilities that can drive players bankrupt. But yes, there is clearly a variation in degrees of abstraction and of level of focus on financial vs operation affairs.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.