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Subject: 18C2C: Continental Empires at Origins 2014 rss

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Mark Frazier
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I had a very fruitful playtest on Saturday at Origins this year. Consider this post a lens into the design changes that the new 18C2C is undergoing as playtesting progresses. This is definitely a "go-get-a-cup-of-coffee" post, so be warned

We started the game at approximately 9:30 am, after an hour and a half of rules and design discussion. All 4 players were familiar with the original C2C rules (a requirement to play).

While we didn't finish (we had 3 ORs left to go at 11:30 pm when we stopped for an analysis discussion), the game turned up some interesting situations that I would never have seen with a game full of veteran 18XXers. Note that the extended time frame was the result of multiple factors - players that hadn't seen the new rules yet, a couple of breaks for food, and a few stoppages while discussing potential loopholes and making copious notes.

Over the course of the ten years since C2C's release, I've taught the game many times. Each time, I like to explain the significance of heavy cross-investing as it relates to 18XX in general, and 18C2C in particular.

The result of doing this over time as more and more players become familiar with the rules has had the opposite effect than I was shooting for. It took me this long to finally realize it, but the session at Origins finally made me do some soul searching. I'm going to place this firmly in the category of a bull-headed designer (me) suffering from the typical condition of "you're not PLAYING it right!".

When I lose a game (any game, not just 18C2C), I always take time afterward to analyze what happened. I can usually figure out what I did wrong and become a better player for it. I find the exercize invigorating, as it makes one a better player.

So, after Saturday's session, I was left wondering how I could change my own tactics within the existing rules to combat the cross-investing "problem" that I have seen become more and more prevalent in C2C. After a very exhaustive look at whether it really IS an issue or not, as well as examining the possible ways of combating the issue within the rules as they stand, I've finally been able to articulate the problem, the ways of combating it, and a solution.

These rules changes and the reasoning behind them follow - read on if your curiosity is piqued.

----

Share Privatization/Redemption/Reissue

1) RRs may now redeem a share in the same SR that they are formed. RRs may also redeem a share directly from the portfolio of any player, with or without their permission. The limit of one share per stock round is still in effect.

2) The full range of values that treasury shares may be reissued at is printed on the stock market board in the share reissue section. Note that this maximum amount is $375 - once a stock moves to the stock split row, this reissue value will no longer increase.

3) The premium cost on Privatization has been removed. A player who is the President of a RR may purchase shares of that RR from other players directly at market value with no additional cost.

4) Finally, if (during a SR) there are no shares available for purchase in the IPO or Open Market, a player may purchase a share directly from any RR's treasury at the price that the share would be reissued at. This SR action may NOT include the sale of any stock (this means that only players who are not "stock tight" may benefit from the rule).

Designer's notes:

The purpose behind the 60% limit of ownership in most 18XX games is to allow the players that aren't the president of a "good" RR to own a share - the intent of the mechanic being to level the playing field in games which have "good" and "bad" RRs. As the design philosophy behind 18C2C was to place the game's focus squarely on the Operations game, the early iterations of the design used the 1870 "share price protection" rules.

This didn't last long - the first 3-hour long SR compelled me to eliminate price protection. To allow players to "protect" their shares, I removed the 60% ownership limit and implemented the Privatization mechanic to avoid the "good/bad" RR ownership issues that lifting the limit could present by making it expensive to remove your shares from other player's hands.

In the new version of 18C2C, there aren't many "bad" RRs. At the beginning of the game, there are more than enough high-quality locations to start a RR to not leave any players "in the dust" coming out of the ISR. Considering that there isn't much of a range between the "best" and "worst" run for a 2, 3, or 4 train, any two RRs that have the same number and types of trains should run for a very similar amount - in effect, providing equal opportunity for all players to start and run competitive RRs from the very beginning of the game.

18C2C also uses the 1870-style treasury-paying shares mechanics: IPO shares pay to the treasury, while Open Market shares do not. It can be very much to a player's advantage to allow their shares to sit in the IPO - in effect, having your cake and eating it too. A player who is permitted to do this for an extended period will almost certainly beat a player who focuses on 100% ownership. Worse, the player who leaves his own shares in the IPO, opting instead to purchase an opponent's shares can create a severe imbalance - receiving 100% of his own RR's revenues to his treasury and hand while depriving his opponent of some percentage of revenues.

In most 18XX games with this IPO-to-treasury mechanic, it is (at worst) a marginal issue. However, in 18C2C, the most expedient method of purchasing trains in the late game is to pay for them out of hand. Additionally, splitting prevents a RR from moving forward on the stock market, leaving the player that owns less than 100% at a disadvantage relative to the player that does own 100%. Couple this with the premium cost of Privatizing shares, and a player can wreck an opponent's position merely by investing heavily in their stock - the victim being presented with the poison pill to swallow of either allowing the imbalance to continue or give his opponent some bonus cash to go spend elsewhere in the SR.

The overall effect can be difficult to see while it is happening - the funds that would have been paid to the RR's treasury are unlikely to be "missed" until the game reaches the late stages and the president needs to supplement train purchases from hand cash. A commonly used tactic in the "D" Train stages of the game is to leave a merger RR with only one train, but enough cash to purchase one without supplemental hand cash from the president (allowing two "D" trains to be bought in the same action). This tactic is powerful, allowing a RR to fill both of its train shells with four trains in far less time than would otherwise be necessary. It is here that the "missing" treasury funds exert their full impact on the player's position.

Without any rules changes, the most effective way to combat this problem is to float all of your own RRs at $100 - essentially making them as expensive as possible for your opponent to purchase. An unwitting opponent who floats one or more RRs at a lower price becomes an immediate target. Said simply, if your shares are cheaper than mine, it's easier for me to buy your shares than it is for you to buy mine.

The end result of not addressing this issue will be a much slower game with all players choosing only one par price for all 40 Railroads: $100. This falls squarely into the abhorred "non-decision" category for design.

If train routes had a wide range of values around the map, a premium charge on privatization makes sense - the less valuable shares are less likely to be bought or held, while the more valuable shares will be spread across the player portfolios. However, in a game where most early to mid game routes are going to be pretty similar, the solution is to allow players to claim their own shares from aggressive opponents without penalty: thus the adjustments to both Privatization and Share Redemption rules.

With this rule change, the endgame balance demon raises its ugly head once again: a skillful player who tucks some of his shares away by redeeming them, drives just enough RRs into the yellow section of the market, and forces his own RRs' shares out of other players' hands can leave his opponents with no shares to purchase even while they have cash and available space in their portfolios. Here, the new rule of allowing such a player to simply buy a treasury share if no other Open Market or IPO shares are available takes care of such a problem.

In the early stages of the game, it's a non-issue. The effect of the rule will cause players to more carefully consider their own par prices and focus on opening more RRs at the beginning of the game. This is intentional - too few open RRs at game start slows the game to a crawl. A player that has shares removed from their hand will eventually run out of things to buy, forcing them to turn to the IPO to start a fresh railroad.

Regarding the late game, the limits on reissue price and the inability to sell stock when purchasing a share directly from a RR's treasury is the necessary "balancing factor" to avoid overly lop-sided scores. These two rules should prevent the lead players from abusing the new Privatization and Redemption rules.

There can be some extremely lucrative buys available for the victims of Privatization - the certificate limit will eventually catch up to players that hoard their own shares, giving the other players an opportunity to cash in. A player that is below the certificate limit once all RRs are floated and all shares are owned can have a field day - not only do they get to purchase a highly valuable share of stock for a fraction of its market value, but the president will have to pay full price to reclaim it - presenting what amounts to a potentially hefty "premium" price for a president to reclaim shares in the mid to late game.

The design goal is to allow a player in the early game to "defend" their RR shares without resorting to the threat of either dumping the railroad or having to pay a penalty to stop the "bleeding treasury" effect. At the same time, these changes are targeted at avoiding the end-game balance issues that are addressed in most other 18XX games by the usage of a 60% ownership limit.

The new rules should provide the player with the intentionally difficult choice between:

1) Selling stock out of their own portfolio to avoid presenting their opponents with a shopping spree of juicy treasury shares to buy at discount prices, or

2) Choosing which shares to reissue and when - a quality decision point that should create a game in which the share redemption and reissue mechanics are more extensively exercised.

It's worth noting that games that use partial capitalization and also have tight timeframes for acquiring trains (18OE and 1856 come to mind) actually benefit players whose opponents purchase their shares - funding your opponents trains is a death wish in "partial-cap" games. While this solution could certainly be implemented in 18C2C, it's my goal to solve the problem in a new and innovative way while preserving (and even increasing) the speed of the game - in other words, partial capitalization will slow down 18C2C to an unbearable pace, adding several hours to the length of the game.

My hope is that these changes will address the core of the problem, add some interesting decisions at all stages of the game, and increase the usage of the redemption and reissue mechanics.

-Mark
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Eric Flood
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Why do players simply not Privitize for $0 overhead then have the company redeem the privitized share from their own hands for immediate profit, negating much of the benefit of players buying other companies' shares?

Edit

Ignore, I got some important rules incorrect. Thanks Mark, for the clarification.
 
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Hi Mark, and thanks for the detailed information. As I'm getting to be perhaps an intermediate 18xxer, I am more interested in hearing the perspectives of the designers of the games and specific reasons for meaningful rule changes, etc.

One of the things that attracted me immediately to 18xx games was that it specifically isn't just "my company" vs. "your company" but that we as players act outside the spacial game and we use our fractional interests in the companies to determine what we do with those companies we are able to leverage control with. I like the idea of a game where it could sometimes be strategically sound to play a pure investor role, at least for some portion of the game, because that seems to me to be part of the point of playing around with public share companies.

So I am curious why you as the designer see cross investment as something that needs to be addressed. And I will note I haven't played 18C2C yet (ready to help fund the new version when you are!), but unless I read wrong, it seems like you think it's something of a Bad Thing to allow players to invest as heavily as they are able to in other players companies to slipstream the success and I'm not saying you're wrong, I am just trying to understand the reasoning to discourage it from your POV.
 
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blueatheart wrote:
Why do players simply not Privitize for $0 overhead then have the company redeem the privitized share from their own hands for immediate profit, negating much of the benefit of players buying other companies' shares?


Not sure I follow your question. The current version of 18C2C imposes a premium cost on Privatization: 125% of market value in the 2-train phase, 150% in the 3 and 4 train phases, 200% in the 5 train phase, and 300% thereafter.

Without a premium price, it doesn't matter if a RR is redeeming from the president's hand or directly from another player - the price is the same either way.

I'm simply speeding up the stock round by allowing players to have their RRs skip an extra stock action by redeeming directly. The stock rounds in the new version are slightly longer as it is, with the placement of development markers as stock actions - so much the better if two actions (privatization THEN redemption) can be compressed into one.

-Mark
 
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jrebelo wrote:
Hi Mark, and thanks for the detailed information. As I'm getting to be perhaps an intermediate 18xxer, I am more interested in hearing the perspectives of the designers of the games and specific reasons for meaningful rule changes, etc.

One of the things that attracted me immediately to 18xx games was that it specifically isn't just "my company" vs. "your company" but that we as players act outside the spacial game and we use our fractional interests in the companies to determine what we do with those companies we are able to leverage control with. I like the idea of a game where it could sometimes be strategically sound to play a pure investor role, at least for some portion of the game, because that seems to me to be part of the point of playing around with public share companies.

So I am curious why you as the designer see cross investment as something that needs to be addressed. And I will note I haven't played 18C2C yet (ready to help fund the new version when you are!), but unless I read wrong, it seems like you think it's something of a Bad Thing to allow players to invest as heavily as they are able to in other players companies to slipstream the success and I'm not saying you're wrong, I am just trying to understand the reasoning to discourage it from your POV.


Justin, that's a very sound question, and one that I struggled with myself for a very long time in relation to 'C2C.

I would make no claim that cross-investing has no place in 18XX games - in fact, I agree whole-heartedly with the design decisions made in all the other games to allow cross-investing to be a viable strategy. I certainly don't disagree that in the right context that a purely investor role should keep its rightful place in the system in general.

While the reasons for what likely appears to be a draconian (and rather restrictive) rule change are articulated in my first post, here's a more specific explanation:

There are two commonly used mechanics in 18XX games that relate to how railroads generate funds via stock purchases:

1) Partial capitalization: railroads start with treasury money equal to the share value of the shares that are purchased. 18OE is one such game - railroads can (and most often do) only begin with $120 to $180 in treasury funds - the cost of two shares at a $60 or $90 par value. The remaining shares, including those added when a Regional floats to a Major, go directly to the RR's treasury and provide revenue until they are purchased. The most significant aspect of the partial-cap mechanic is that as the shares are purchased, the money goes directly to the railroad's treasury.

This has the effect of making cross-investing a poison pill for the investor - the investor is in effect funding his opponent's train purchases, giving that opponent a leg up in purchasing the next train. With the highly constricted train allotment that 18OE has, if you're not investing in yourself to fund your own trains, you're likely slitting your own throat.

In partial-cap games, shares can only exist in three places: in a railroad's treasury, in a player's hand, or in the open market.

2) Full Capitalization is the other most commonly used mechanic. In most of these games, shares can exist in four places: the same three as above, plus the "IPO" (Initial Public Offering). Full-Cap games either follow the rule that Open Market shares pay to the treasury while IPO shares do not (1830 is the best known game of this type). In other Full-Cap games, IPO shares pay to the treasury while Open Market shares do not. 18C2C and the game that inspired it (1870) use the IPO-to-treasury mechanic.

To my knowledge, in all other games that follow 1870's lead with IPO-to-treasury paying shares, the issue is marginalized in that "splitting" (paying half dividends to the treasury and half to stockholders) is not a losing strategy.

18C2C, however, is a very different beast - and why it took me so long to be able to really understand the problem to the depth that was necessary to realize that it was a problem. Here's why.

18C2C allows two railroads to merge into one "giant" railroad. This merger mechanic is central to the game - each merger that occurs drops the share limit for all players. Mergers are extremely powerful - they get twice the track lays, can lay two tokens instead of one, get to combine their tokens for running trains, and can hold twice as many trains as a non-merger (in two "train shells", each of which must have a train when a merger finishes operating).

Most importantly, and directly relevant to the issue I'm seeking to resolve, is that merger railroads allow a player to shovel all their trains onto one shell (assuming it doesn't exceed the train limit) and force buy a train. This tactic is used most frequently in the late stages of the game when the mad dash for permanent trains is underway.

Now, with your increasing experience in 18XX, you may have seen the pain on a player's face (or experienced it yourself) when they have to force-buy a train out of their hand cash. Why is it such a bad thing to have to do that? Because they are 100% accountable for the cost of that train, while only being able to hold 60% of the stock. The other four shares, assuming they aren't already owned, will quickly be snapped up by the other players once the danger has passed (that's a bit of a simplification, but it's not worth going into other situations that are not nearly as relevant in 18C2C - dumping a railroad is most often a losing strategy in 18C2C).

In 18C2C, where the forced purchase is integral to snapping up permanent trains as quickly as possible, losing the early game IPO dividends can be a real nail in your coffin. It's why there's no 60% share limit to begin with (reference my first post for this). If you're having to force-buy a lot of trains, the less of the stock you own, the more painful it is.

Here's an overly-simplified example to illustrate my point:

Player A owns 70% of his own two railroads and 10% of Player B's two railroads. The other 30% of Player A's two railroads is in the IPO.

Player B owns 80% of his own two railroads and none of Player A's, with only 10% of his shares in the IPO.

Each operating round, Player A is outstripping Player B in overall profits - he's collecting 100% of his own railroad's dividends, even though 30% are going to the treasuries. In addition, he's also collecting 10% of Player B's profits.

Player B on the other hand is getting 90% of his own railroad's dividends and none of Player A's. Unless his dividends are more than ~20% higher than Player A's, he's losing ground. It's not obvious at first, because the "hidden" money doesn't show up when players are asking each other how much hand cash they have in the stock round. The problem doesn't show up until Player B has to start force-buying trains in the late game - the lesser dividends that his railroads have earned is now coming back to haunt him in the form of more cash out of his hand for the forced train purchase.

---

The question that I'm sure comes to mind when reading the above example is, "why didn't player B just buy one less share of his own stock and buy one of player A's instead?". The answer is because that's not usually how it plays out - there are more than two players involved. If more than one player invests in a single player's stock, that single player is at a huge disadvantage - another example here is in order:

Player A buys 1 share of Player C's stock.
Player B buys 1 share of Player C's stock.

What's player C to do? It's unlikely that he'll have enough spare cash to buy 1 share of both player A's and player B's stock to even the playing field.

Going back to the original two-player example above, if Player B has decided to par his railroads at a lower value than Player A, he's only making the situation worse - it's cheaper for Player A to invest in Player B.

Eventually, players will catch up to this analysis and realize that the best hope to keep the target off your own back is to par all of your own railroads at $100 - making your opponents look elsewhere to invest. Ultimately that boils down to a non-decision: pure and simple, bad game design.

---

Be aware that this analysis would be entirely indefensible in a game where dividends for different railroads have a wide range. In 1870 for example, there are clearly only a few railroads in position to really cash in during the early stages of the game. If no restrictions were in place to make 100% ownership difficult, an 1870 player could smash his opponents before the 4 train is even purchased.

In 18C2C, where there are gobs and gobs of high-quality railroads to choose from at the beginning of the game, a game full of equally skilled players will see almost all railroads with dividend payouts of similar value. Couple this with the insidious effects of losing IPO dividends to your opponents, and the most effective tactic is to par your starting railroads at $100 (choosing to float fewer railroads than your opponents) and use the remaining cash to deprive your buddies of that precious IPO cash flow.

It is this reason that I finally came to my conclusion. If you go back and read my first post, you'll see that one of the rules changes actually offsets the Privatization rule - that's the one that allows a player who isn't "stock tight" to go on a shopping spree straight out of the treasuries of his opponents in the late game.

That rule is pretty brutal if you think about it... the ability for the RR to reclaim the share by redeeming it again is actually a horrible choice on the part of the president. The player that bought the share out of the treasury pays the reissue price (at best, only 75% of the share value), while the RR has to pay full market price to reclaim it - only for the player to just buy it again at 75% cost! Ouch....

The net effect of the direct treasury purchase rule is to allow a player that's left below the certificate limit to regain lost ground - at a time of the game where most of the forced purchases have already occurred or are in progress (and which puts a cash infusion into the railroad's treasury to compensate for the loss). The direct purchase is the exact opposite of the Privatization rule change, bringing the system as a whole (I hope) back into balance in a new and different way.

-Mark
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I realize that I didn't address one of your points directly - that of seeing cross-investment being a viable option during at least some portion of the game.

Both 18OE and 18C2C (even with the rule changes) don't lose this.

18OE's partial-cap system still imposes a soft 60% limit on ownership. Eventually, each player will reach a saturation point where they simply can't further capitalize their own railroads. At this stage of the game, cross-investing becomes integral to a player's strategy.

In 18C2C with the new rules changes, cross-investing will also naturally happen when it is no longer harmful to the president. The rule allowing a player that's below the certificate limit with nothing left to buy addresses this.

So, both games will still see cross-investing: but at a later stage of the game than in most 18XX.

One pleasant side effect to this in both games is to expedite play - I've lost count of the number of times one player or another (myself included) has to ask someone else what their railroad paid in dividends because they forgot to collect (or weren't given the money by the president when the railroad was operated).

In a game with 8-10 railroads, this doesn't happen very often and is easier to keep track of. In a monster game like 18OE or 18C2C, it can really slow down the game.

Once routes settle in and train purchases are nearly complete, it's not nearly as much of an issue. At this stage, seeing cross-investing occur is a net positive for both designs.

-Mark
 
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Ganraeln wrote:
blueatheart wrote:
Why do players simply not Privitize for $0 overhead then have the company redeem the privitized share from their own hands for immediate profit, negating much of the benefit of players buying other companies' shares?


Not sure I follow your question. The current version of 18C2C imposes a premium cost on Privatization: 125% of market value in the 2-train phase, 150% in the 3 and 4 train phases, 200% in the 5 train phase, and 300% thereafter.

Without a premium price, it doesn't matter if a RR is redeeming from the president's hand or directly from another player - the price is the same either way.

I'm simply speeding up the stock round by allowing players to have their RRs skip an extra stock action by redeeming directly. The stock rounds in the new version are slightly longer as it is, with the placement of development markers as stock actions - so much the better if two actions (privatization THEN redemption) can be compressed into one.

-Mark


I guess I'm mixing up my terminology (having played several times but never reading the rules) - I remember there being a certain premium for buying shares from other players (what I took to be Privatization) and a separate premium which a company pays to redeem shares (what I took to be Redemption). Are they both a flat 100% now?
 
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Cross-investing is very uncommon in 1830-style games, especially early on. Aliza is known to exclaim, when someone buys a share or two of her company in SR1 or SR2 - "ooh, pool shares!" The assumption is that the cross-investment is purely temporary due to lack of sufficient funds to float a new company. 99.9% of the time, all of either her shares or the other player's shares are in the pool within the next SR or two. Late game, there is always the threat of a trainless and penniless company being dumped on you, leading to an out-of-pocket Diesel and perhaps bankruptcy; the net result is that buying n>1 shares of any other company is a risky proposition which rarely occurs.

Ironically, I tend to see significantly higher cross-investing in games which allow for 100% holding.
 
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Those 100% holding games are usually not coincidentally also ones which allow throwing 100% into the pool or similar non-liability. I would guess that's the reason for the high cross-investing.

Mark: After reading your message the first time I skimmed back through it to see if I was missing something before I replied to you. I very much did miss something, which is that C2C is a full cap game where pool shares do not pay and IPO shares do. If I had correctly noted this feature I wouldn't be so confused, as I know in that type of setup (which I think is an odd one personally), it makes all the sense in the world to grab all of the opponents shares so they don't continue capitalizing.


This of course leads me to ask about a much more basic level decision which is why the choice to use the IPO-pays full cap style rather than pool pays?
 
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blueatheart wrote:
Ganraeln wrote:
blueatheart wrote:
Why do players simply not Privitize for $0 overhead then have the company redeem the privitized share from their own hands for immediate profit, negating much of the benefit of players buying other companies' shares?


Not sure I follow your question. The current version of 18C2C imposes a premium cost on Privatization: 125% of market value in the 2-train phase, 150% in the 3 and 4 train phases, 200% in the 5 train phase, and 300% thereafter.

Without a premium price, it doesn't matter if a RR is redeeming from the president's hand or directly from another player - the price is the same either way.

I'm simply speeding up the stock round by allowing players to have their RRs skip an extra stock action by redeeming directly. The stock rounds in the new version are slightly longer as it is, with the placement of development markers as stock actions - so much the better if two actions (privatization THEN redemption) can be compressed into one.

-Mark


I guess I'm mixing up my terminology (having played several times but never reading the rules) - I remember there being a certain premium for buying shares from other players (what I took to be Privatization) and a separate premium which a company pays to redeem shares (what I took to be Redemption). Are they both a flat 100% now?


There has never been a premium on share redemption (a RR buying a share from the president or the open market). Privatization, on the other hand, was on a sliding scale that frankly is prohibitive at all stages of the game.

They will both now be a flat 100%.
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blueatheart wrote:
Cross-investing is very uncommon in 1830-style games, especially early on. Aliza is known to exclaim, when someone buys a share or two of her company in SR1 or SR2 - "ooh, pool shares!" The assumption is that the cross-investment is purely temporary due to lack of sufficient funds to float a new company. 99.9% of the time, all of either her shares or the other player's shares are in the pool within the next SR or two. Late game, there is always the threat of a trainless and penniless company being dumped on you, leading to an out-of-pocket Diesel and perhaps bankruptcy; the net result is that buying n>1 shares of any other company is a risky proposition which rarely occurs.

Ironically, I tend to see significantly higher cross-investing in games which allow for 100% holding.


That's very true - I always welcome my Railroad's shares hitting the open market in games where the open market pays to the treasury. 1830 is one such game.

In games where you have far too much invested in running a railroad (especially one of the "flagship" lines you open at game start), there's reason to believe your cross investments will be less risky. Even if you're dealing with an opponent that isn't afraid to dump a railroad, if they own 70%, it's perfectly safe for you to own 20% - reinforcing your point regarding games with 100% holdings.
 
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jrebelo wrote:
Those 100% holding games are usually not coincidentally also ones which allow throwing 100% into the pool or similar non-liability. I would guess that's the reason for the high cross-investing.

Mark: After reading your message the first time I skimmed back through it to see if I was missing something before I replied to you. I very much did miss something, which is that C2C is a full cap game where pool shares do not pay and IPO shares do. If I had correctly noted this feature I wouldn't be so confused, as I know in that type of setup (which I think is an odd one personally), it makes all the sense in the world to grab all of the opponents shares so they don't continue capitalizing.


This of course leads me to ask about a much more basic level decision which is why the choice to use the IPO-pays full cap style rather than pool pays?


Primarily due to its inheritance from 1870. Changing that now would be damaging to all players, significantly reducing the overall cashflow through railroad treasuries and slowing the game down as a result.

Rather than "punt" and go with something tried-and-true, I want 18C2C to stand on its own merit - so I'm trying something that I'm unaware of being used in any other 18XX games.

This "new" approach maintains the cashflow through player hands and treasuries, while placing an emphasis on clearing out your own shares from the IPO before looking towards floating new railroads. If a player is unwilling to do it, others can certainly be welcome to force the issue by removing those shares - something you can do even in the current rules, but that will become more clear to players when they see more experienced opponents consolidating their own holdings and turning around to go after others'.

Said differently, open-market-to-treasury has been done. Partial-cap has been done. What hasn't been done is IPO-to-treasury in a game where its not supposed to be a bad thing to pay for trains out of your pocket.

Fixing the problem with this approach preserves the IPO-to-treasury mechanic while presenting a very interesting endgame where share rounds will be full of interesting decisions.

The "players who aren't stock tight get to buy treasury shares" is very partial-cap-ish, but doesn't come into play until the permanent trains are either being bought, or already have been bought. At that point, buying a treasury share has the distinct difference of actually putting money in your opponent's treasury, just like a partial cap game, while preserving the early game cash flow.
 
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Dave Berry
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jrebelo wrote:
Those 100% holding games are usually not coincidentally also ones which allow throwing 100% into the pool or similar non-liability. I would guess that's the reason for the high cross-investing.


FWIW, they also tend to be games in which the only shares which receive dividends are those in players' hands - shares in the IPO or open market receive nothing.
 
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Mark Frazier
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daveberry wrote:
jrebelo wrote:
Those 100% holding games are usually not coincidentally also ones which allow throwing 100% into the pool or similar non-liability. I would guess that's the reason for the high cross-investing.


FWIW, they also tend to be games in which the only shares which receive dividends are those in players' hands - shares in the IPO or open market receive nothing.


That's an excellent point, Dave. There is a lot of game "rhythm" tied up in the current IPO-to-treasury system in 18C2C that is encouraging me to look for a surgical-strike option to address the issue I'm seeing.

I'm also discussing this extensively with my initial online playtest group, and it's helping me to see where the weak points are as well as the more positive effects of the changes. I'll post more about that later, but suffice it to say that I'm (initially) confident these changes will actually increase quality decision points rather than decreasing them.

Sometimes a completely non-intuitive approach is needed - one of several reasons it took me so long to muster the courage to change it.
 
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J C Lawrence
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What are the limits for companies buying their own shares back from the market? In specific I'm interested in the (for me standard in '70) dumping of all treasury shares into the market in ~SR3/4 (typically by whatever player was clearly last in priority), thus depressing stock values and grossly reducing total cash flow through the game.

In this line the argument against funding other's companies by buying their shares seems weak. Buying other's shares, while it provides a short-term capital boost to the other player is fundamentally a long-term and potent attack for the treasury reasons you describe. Even more especially with share dividends being such a large percentage of stock value. As a result I generally look to buying my own shares only as a last resort, guided by the general principle that it is usually easier to win by making all other players lose than it is to directly out-perform all other players.

MD successfully fought this minimal share pattern through the limits on companies redeeming (? possibly the wrong term) only one share per SR into their treasury and thus taking that share out of circulation as a permanent train-funding source (unless re-issued). The machinations around that forced buying up your own companies just to maintain the critical rate and number of shares being "protected" in advance of merging into a system (with a prohibitive stock price). I'm not currently seeing an equivalent in CE -- which results in me again looking to only ever invest in my own companies as a last resort. Again, it seems easier to dampen and hinder other player's companies than to bother forcing my own to be so good.

(Yeah, I'm not much of an operational player and I generally look at actually running the companies I control as something of an unpleasant but necessary chore in order to get to the actually interesting bits around portfolio management, train rush, deep reads etc)
 
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Mark Frazier
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I'm struggling to follow your reasoning, JC. Are you specifically referring to the full capitalization model with IPO->Treasury, or the partial capitalization model? You appear to be mixing the two. In full capitalization games where the IPO pays to the treasury (and open market does not), you aren't funding someone else's company by buying their shares - in fact, you're depriving them of revenue. My third post in this thread goes into detail on this. This phenomenon is unchanged in 18C2C:CE. The difference is you can defend yourself now, whereas in MD, you had to pay a hostage fee of 125%-300% depending on the game phase to prevent your stock from taking a hit (or more importantly, own it altogether so you don't end up funding your opponent's trains-out-of-hand in the late game).

The limits for RRs regarding redemption are unchanged - ultimately, no RR can hold more than 40% of its own stock. The difference is you may now redeem during the ISR, accelerating the pace at which you can absorb a RR's stock - at the price of tightening the RR's cash flow in the short term.

I'm actually a bit surprised you don't remember my trip out there, JC. Daniel Barnes made me look downright silly when I was attempting the same "dump the other guy's shares into the market" maneuver that you outline above - he patiently waited for me to purchase a 2nd share, then unloaded a RR on me that was in pretty bad shape. Shame on me for forgetting my own rule of examining the RR before being willing to hold 2 shares. I would have been better served to toss the 2 shares in that SR, and wait for the SR after that to take care of the remaining 2. That was a reminder worth its weight in gold

That maneuver is again unchanged in CE. If a player wishes to have their cake and eat it too (by owning 6 shares and leaving the other 4 in the IPO to pay into their treasury), there's nothing stopping you from taking corrective action. If you buy a share and they buy it from you, you're still forcing them to consume personal or RR capital to absorb the share - slowing their progress toward opening another RR.

Are these stock round mechanics "out in left field"? Yes, on purpose. These mechanics empower the player to defend their RRs in ways unavailable in most other 18XX games (all? is there another 18XX that lets you buy your shares without paying a premium?), yet allow plenty of room for end-game balance and stock shenanigans should you so choose.

Wanna dump a RR? I've seen it twice, once from each end, and both times it was a success. Care to force someone's stock out of the IPO? You can still do that, and the "victim" now has a decision to make - buy them from you before you toss them in the market, or let it happen. Either way, you've forced them to either do without the cash or do without the revenue.

City Growth occurring in stock rounds is a non-trivial effect as well. Even if all of your RRs have the worst share value, you'll have equal opportunity to place development markers and tokens..... increasing interesting Stock Round decisions and offsetting some of the emphasis on operations.

-Mark
 
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Incidentally, there really is still a premium on privatization. It relates to the redemption/reissue mechanics. That premium has always been there, but fails to attract notice.....
 
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J C Lawrence
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Not trying to ignore you -- been working silly hours (14+/day) ever since that post. Will get back later -- I think we're mostly violently agreeing with some quibbles about phrasing.
 
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