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1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties» Forums » Reviews

Subject: 1862: Railway Mania Indeed, Old Boy! rss

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JR
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I've had 1862 for quite a while and had read the rules a number of times leading into finally playing it and while I was excited about it, it surpassed my expectations. I don't write many reviews, and some might question the validity of reviews without many plays of a game, but after playing over 100 plays, with 5 hours invested in any 18xx I can make a good assessment of what type of game it is and if it will appeal to me and 1862 does this very much indeed. Since there are no reviews on the geek for it yet, I figured I'd volunteer some notes about the interesting aspects of this game. I will assume familiarity with 18xx games in general. If you don't have any prior knowledge of these game types, then this all won't mean too much. I'm going to discuss what's unique or special about 1862 as compared to common 18xx fare.


As this is a review, not a session report, a quick run-down of the package. The game box is a tad crumpled from crossing the Atlantic, but apart from that the box art is great. The materials are all of good but not great quality. This is not a DTG hand-made style print so don't expect that kind of build here. The single real complaint I have with the physical product is that the token labels were horribly misprinted. A replacement sheet was included with each set, but the token labels on the replacement were about as poorly aligned with my copy. Still, while annoying, this doesn't really impact play in any way. The game board is an all-in-one style similar to the 1860 reprint. IPO, market, trains, income track and map are all located very close together and I found this remarkably usable. At a glance I thought it seemed busy but once actually playing a game I found everything was conveniently located close at hand and play was smoother for it.


Variability

Replay value with 1862 is vastly higher than previous 18xx. There is a total of 20 companies packed into a phone booth map corner of eastern England. In any given game, only a random subset of 16 of these companies will be available. Furthermore, the companies are offered in randomly assigned packets of 8, 4 and 4 at the start and then at intervals throughout the game. Additionally, every company receives a random train type permit from three possibilities. Some companies are better geographically suited to specific types of trains and so the relative value of a starting company is affected by the train permit it begins the game with. As the game goes on companies may merge to combine multiple types of permits. For all of this, 1862 should have nearly limitless life to 18xx lovers, as there won't always be the same obvious starts like the LPS in 1856 or the NYNH in 1830.

Opening

For a nice change of scenery, 1862 doesn't open with an awkward private company auction which, while first nature to you or I, can be confusing to new players and can cause problematic very early game swings when someone does something that has consequences they don't foresee. In 1862, you start out with some cash and an opportunity to approach parliament and slip some paper into some elected official's mitts to start your new career as a railroad baron.

Parliament Rounds

Along with removing corporate financial liability from players, the introduction of Parliament Rounds is one of two ways that 1862 reduces the importance of being on Priority Deal. To me, this is a Really Good Thing because, in my opinion, Priority Deal is too often far too critical in the momentum of a game and is seldom truly under your control. 18NEB does this well by assigning priority deal and the rest of stock dealing positions by the order in which players pass in a stock round. This is a fine solution, but in 1862, (with few exceptions) every stock round is preceded by a Parliament Round. In this round, players have the option of choosing an available corporation and then bidding on the rights to charter that corporation with the underfunding of parliament. The player who wins this auction pays this bid to the bank (the bribe) and then chooses a starting price and purchases the 30% directorship. A player who has already won a charter may not elect another in that PR, but may bid, provided sufficient funds. For this reason, the game starts with two PRs so that a player may potentially charter two companies. Unlike a non-chartered company (started in a stock round), chartered companies receive 100% capital when they float, thanks to government support. There are some other small differences as well.

Train Types

As mentioned, there are three types of trains in the game which all have very different running rules. Each is viable at making big money, but they will hinge greatly on the company location. Generally, freight trains seem to be the good fast early runners while local trains were able to run very well with a nicely built network to take advantage of small towns in succession. If anything, the Express trains seemed the least impactful in our game, but there's a lot yet to explore.

Mergers & Acquisitions

As companies only start the game with one train type, the only way to run multiple train types with a single company is to merge (or acquire), combining the assets of two companies into one and exchanging all of the shares 2:1. Merging and acquiring are fundamentally identical save for the time at which they occur. Trains can only be bought between companies at full (if current) or half price (if an older model train). Because of this, it's difficult to do the 'shuffles' you'd typically do in traditional games. Using mergers, you can soak up a weak company to strengthen your other. Permits and assets are combined and then the removed corporation becomes available to be started again.

Liabilities

1862 shares reduced liability characteristics seen in the 1825 branch of games. 100% of a company can be held by a player and 100% of a company can be sold into the open market, though if the company has no train then the stock value is halved! In addition to this, director may not contribute to a forced purchase. When a company is trainless at the end of its OR turn, it must either sell treasury shares to pay for a new train (if possible) or refinance. If the refinancing doesn't raise enough capital for a new train, then the company is bankrupt and closes and becomes available to re-open!

Refinancing

Refinancing is an interesting mechanism to deal with forced purchases when a company has neither the funds nor the treasury stock on hand to raise them to buy a train. Refinancing exchanges the shares in the affected company at 2:1 and as a result gains the company 10 times its par value as if it were just floated with full capitalisation again. This can sound on the surface like the equivalent of bankruptcy in this game but on the contrary it can be an effectively used mechanic to inject a large amount of capital into your company.

Closing

There are many other notable differences from standard 18xx, such as the train running rules, etc, but you can discover the details yourself. 1862 is a very distinctly unique variant of 18xx rich with useful subsystems and potential strategy. Even if it wasn't an outstanding game on its own right (I think it will prove to be), the variability gives is ridiculously high relative value in an 18xx player's collection. I can easily see this becoming my most played table game and if I can find a way to play it by email I will spend many months trying to explore how to play effectively.
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Eugene van der Pijll
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jrebelo wrote:
A player who has already won a charter may not elect or bid on another in that PR.

Actually, you can bid in an auction started by someone else. You just can't start one.

Good review for a good game!
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Mark G.
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Nice write-up. Your points about the replay value of this one seem spot on. 1862 has been a recent favorite with my local group. After 7 or 8 plays I still want more (and I still don't feel like I've mastered it)!
 
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JR
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pijll wrote:
jrebelo wrote:
A player who has already won a charter may not elect or bid on another in that PR.

Actually, you can bid in an auction started by someone else. You just can't start one.

Good review for a good game!


Good catch, Eugene. Fixed. And thanks.
 
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Jim Knight
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Good write up Justin.

Our group had played my prototype copy, but some of us found the rules so messy they refused to play again. At the weekend we finally played a new production copy of 1862 EA, but decided that we would only play the freight trains as a part of one of the shorter "learning scenarios". This was due to long time between plays, rule changes/clarifications and of course memory fallibility.

I'm not sure if this is the way to go, despite it being touted as the thing to pursue if one is already familiar with 18xx. We found it awkward as we kept wanting to upgrade cities in between ends of routes to increase revenue, which for freight trains was totally irrelevant. (You only count the ends of each route and the hexes between each end to calculate revenue).

It was enjoyable and we felt the same as you, Justin, that the game will have replay value. We also thought during the prototype stage as long as the rules were cleaned up it would be a good, or even a very good, game. Of course the rules have now been cleaned up. Saying that there are clearly some small issues, but Mike Hutton's FAQ when published will clear them up I'm certain. The game just needs a different way of thinking.

As for quality of the game components, I found them to be better than that supplied by DTG. They were clearly produced professionally. However, I don't know if that is because we played with a copy supplied through the Kickstarter program and that subsequent orders are of a lesser quality. I can't imagine there would be such a discrepancy, but of course, I'm not privy to that.

We will playing it again at the end of the month or beginning of June, but whether we play another scenario or the full game is still to be decided.

Again thanks for the write up Justin, and if you can find a way to play be e-mail please count me in.

Jim
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JR
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jimnite wrote:

As for quality of the game components, I found them to be better than that supplied by DTG. They were clearly produced professionally.


They are professionally made in the sense that they were made by a company who gets paid to make paper products. While a home-based setup akin to DTG may not be considered professional by some, I find the quality of the DTG product (at least as I configure it) to be superior. That is of course laminated charters, shares, trains, tiles, etc. It has a trade-off of cost, but I can't see any way that non-laminated (matte) components could be preferable.

I think you'd find the full game quite approachable, especially having already played before. I know Mike is a proponent of the intro games for new groups because he has an interest in his customers having an enjoyable (not bewildering) experience learning his game. I think for anyone who "understands" 18xx in general can jump into the full game without any real problem. You might miss out on some opportunities (I sure as hell did!), but you won't be wandering around aimlessly and you will surely learn the game fast with the experience. I missed out on taking advantage of refinancing and preparing adequately for the LNER phase. I still loved the game.

On the other hand, for anyone who finds they often have their turn come to them and are going "uhhhh" and then shooting from the hip still like 18xx is a riddle, then maybe starting out small is a good idea.
 
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Dave Berry
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jrebelo wrote:
I think for anyone who "understands" 18xx in general can jump into the full game without any real problem.


I think our decision (well, my decision) to start with the freight-only version was justified. It took us a little while until we were all au fait with how those pesky freight trains work:

- Of our group, I think I was the only person who had played with hex-based trains before, apart from the commuter trains in 18US, which are a very small part of that game. A couple of the others instinctively started to count the range including the initial hex, because when you count ordinary 18xx trains you do include the first station. That was a habit they had to unlearn.

- One of us hadn't realised from the rules that the nose-to-tail rule for freight trains meant that they could only run a single route (so in a freight-only game there is no immediate reason to build branching track).

- If I hadn't read the forums, I'd have treated the nose-to-tail rule as double-heading, rather than each train needing its own route. Even so, we didn't immediately notice that one player couldn't run Great Yarmouth to Norwich with two 1F trains, because the intervening hex is a small station and routes can't end at small stations.

- At the end game, two of us (myself included) hadn't twigged that two permanent freight trains running independently can share the same track. (They can't score the same end-points, obviously). We had assumed that the rule about sharing track only applied to different types of train but there is no such restriction.

Freight trains really are quite unusual compared to 18xx norms. With all these differences, plus all the other unique rules of 1862 (choice of company types, merging, refinancing, warranties etc), I think we would have struggled with the extra complexity of multiple train types for our first game.

 
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JR
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All fair points, Dave. In my group, we had played with "H" trains in previous games and, more importantly, each player took the time to read the rules before our first game, so the teaching phase was more of a refresher and clarifications phase. I do feel like freight-only is an extremely limiting game, however, and would at least consider a freight+express or freight+local game so that there's a bit more reason for map development beyond just making the longest lines possible with only end-points worth adding value to.
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We had a follow-up play today. The same three players two weeks later. This game was wildly different. Local trains dominated the early game and even late ran very strongly. Freight didn't become a factor until the later game. Only about half the companies started up. The train rush was pretty fast. One player bought two extra warranties on a "D" train and rode that to great success. He got two extra runs out of the train because of it and set himself up very well with that company for the end game. I had a slow start low on shares which I probably parred too high. I sold down some shares and started up two more corporations in the mid game to be running four companies while my opponents only started their third companies and we were all able to hit our share cap. So I got a bit more share density out of this and folded two companies together after and the late game was quite interesting to the final tile lays.

This game is brilliant. Easily on par with my favourite title, 1860, but I have a feeling that in the long run this will be my #1 18xx desert island game. The legs on this game will nary run out.
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Dave Berry
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jrebelo wrote:
I do feel like freight-only is an extremely limiting game, however, and would at least consider a freight+express or freight+local game so that there's a bit more reason for map development beyond just making the longest lines possible with only end-points worth adding value to.


Now that we've played the full game, I agree with Justin's evaluation of the freight-only version. A key part of the full game is how to rate the different companies with their randomly selected train permits and how to merge disparate companies into something better. This is lost with a single-train version. For the freight-only game, the map development is restricted as well, as Justin says. If I'm honest with myself, we weren't terribly happy with the freight-only game even immediately afterwards. So I retract my comment above.

The rules offer two mid-level versions: Express+Local or Freight+Local. I haven't tried either but I'd guess that the Express+Local is a better choice for a first game than the freight-only or express-only games. It removes the most complex type of train from the game so might be a useful first start if people aren't feeling confident enough to try the full game. I don't see the point of the freight+local variant; express trains are easier to manage than either of the other types, so there seems little to be gained by omitting them, as far as I can see.

If I were looking to simplify the game for a first try, in retrospect I'd also look at less central aspects of the game. I'd ignore the rule about buying optional warranties ('A' and 'D' trains would still be guaranteed to run once, but the ability to buy extra warranties would be ignored). I might even suggest starting all companies as chartered, even if launched during a stock round, just to keep things a bit simpler for the first game. You'd lose some of the options but you could quickly add them back in later games.

Actually, I'm coming to the conclusion that if someone is intimidated by the full rules, this probably isn't the game for you. (As one member of our group has decided). 1862 is one of the more complicated 18xx games. Some people will love it; some may decide it's not for them.
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