OK - Oklahoma
Tonight myself and 2 friends played the "short" scenario in Russia+Austria.
The game opened slowly with all of us feeling our way through the rules but quickly picked up steam. We all are 1830 players, but quickly fell in love with the many choices and options for quickly building routes, upgrading companies, having lots of revenue early on, and a sense that you had time to get your train economy going before going truly public.
We achieved Orient Express routes fairly early in the games with long track routes that avoided cities, and combining the non-permanent trains to get to Constantinople.
By the time the permanent trains came out one of our players was ready to go National status and did so with two Russian Railroads. Both had a lot of train capacity and we were quickly amazed at how much revenue the National generated in such a large country.
We were a little confused at how the National works with no cash, but we figured it out with a little digging.
When the level 8 train was finally purchased the bank was about to break and we all went National with our railroads, not realizing that Austria didn't have nearly as many good paying cities. My Austrian railroad actually lost money because it was making the Berlin-Constantinople run for lots of money.
In the end the winner had over $13,000 in value, second place just a few hundred dollars behind. Third place was about $1l,000.
Here's a photo of the board part-way through the game.
The game made a great impression on the three of us.
Quality - Very good! Components, board, graphics, well written rules, even the rule book is nice quality paper.
Rules/Mechanics - Wonderful 18xx rules system. Between train phases and Railroad phases, the nice system for upgrading corporations, the way the revenue/treasury/Stock system worked, and the point system for track laying -- it was all very enjoyable.
Downside - like all of our 18xx games, we took too long. We started at 6PM and finished 8 hours later. This included an hour to review the rules and of course next time we play it would probably be 2-3 hours shorter. It is definitely very important to know what you're going to do when your turn comes up.
Overall - all three of us felt we'd take our 18xx game playing to a different level with this edition.