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1846: The Race for the Midwest» Forums » General

Subject: 1846 at Strategicon rss

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Steve Carey
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We played two games of 1846 at the just completed Strategicon convention in Los Angeles. There were more desirous players than we could accommodate, so both sessions were with 5P plus some occasional observers (one graciously serving as a banker).

First Game: We struggled initially because of all the rules differences with 1830 (I was the only one who had read the rules beforehand).

Mid-way through play the brilliance of the game started to come through and though it was nearing 2am we wrapped up what turned out to be a close and memorable session.

The winning player balanced some big runs with diversified share holdings.



Second Game: A few forgetful rules fumbles, and then we were off and running. What an absolutely fantastic session this was from start to finish!

The winning player expertly managed his stock portfolio with all 11 of his shares being in the Top 3 valued RR's.



Privates: The most popular Privates were the two Independent RR's and the Mail Contract. Meat Packing and Steamboat both generated a lot of cash in St. Louis.

Railroads: The NYC and PRR were the corporations held by the two winning players (and the NYC finished next to last in the other game). In the second game, the PRR raced (with private help) out to an early lead and never looked back.

The Grand Funk Trunk RR performed very well (especially early on) but had to work around being blocked multiple times by opponents' stations.

The Illinois Central was one of the more a profitable railroads. Lots of advantages for this corporation.

The C&O constantly struggled and finished as the bottom RR in both games.

The B&O made a ton of money and was the most lucrative RR overall. In the second game, it opened with an expensive teleport to Cincinnati.

The Erie did not float in either game.

Commentary: The game was a hit with all the players. Our play was less than optimal no doubt, yet we had so much fun.

East-West bonuses were popular in both sessions.

Passerby comments were pretty consistent, i.e., they were interested in 18xx but were intimidated by it.

Another group was planning to play the game (for their first time) today, I hope to hear how that turned out.

Personally, I am enthralled with this game and am already eager for another play... it's just great.
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J C Lawrence
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Steve Carey wrote:
...big runs...a lot of cash...a ton of money...lucrative...


Now we have to get you playing an 18xx in which running a good company is a sure death knell for your position.

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The Illinois Central was one of the more a profitable railroads. Lots of advantages for this corporation.


The local consensus for the IC was that it was the dog of the game for a long time. My analysis is that it is only 3 track points (one and a half builds) behind the other companies, and that if it can only get those points (possible in many ways) then is a top-tier company.

The extra money can be useful however, such as the game in which the IC had a 2T+3/5T+4T in OR2.1 and then bought a 3/5T and a 4/6T in OR2.2 despite the fact that it would only have the routes to run three notably weak 2Ts. With the first gray train bought by a later company in OR2.2 (insta-kills the 2Ts), those three trains ran as three 2Ts as expected in OR3.1 before the greens all rusted and it was left with just the 4/6T. The IC player won by a ~20% margin.

FWLIW the NYC is broadly figured to be the strongest of all the companies.
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Ben Foy
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clearclaw wrote:
The local consensus for the IC was that it was the dog of the game for a long time. My analysis is that it is only 3 track points (one and a half builds) behind the other companies, and that if it can only get those points (possible in many ways) then is a top-tier company.


I loved the IC when I first started playing the game. I'd start IC @ 112 or 124 then invest in other companies until I could afford to buy up all of the shares. Unfortunately my opponents push the trains too fast for me to do that anymore.
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jim b
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clearclaw wrote:
Steve Carey wrote:
...big runs...a lot of cash...a ton of money...lucrative...

Now we have to get you playing an 18xx in which running a good company is a sure death knell for your position.

To complicate things, here's another point-of-view:

clearclaw wrote:
this is not a game about running good companies. It is a timing game about accurately predicting which will be the best shares, and buying them before-hand ...
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Buy low, sell high. Got it. That's all he's really saying there, and if it were that easy, either in game or in reality, we'd all be doing it.
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Eric Brosius
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"If they don't go up, don't buy them."

-- Will Rogers
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Steve Carey
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One thing I like about having big runs in this particular game is that you can rapidly accelerate stock value x2 then x3 boxes at a time, whereas in 1830 for example a $100 run and a $500 run have the same result (i.e., move 1 box right on the stock chart). This makes things more realistic and interesting.

Having shares remaining in a RR's treasury while it makes big runs helps it accumulate cash for future builds, tokens, and trains. Often those shares are purchased by other players beforehand, but sometimes (for whatever reason) some shares remain with the RR.

The personal wealth a player can gather before reaching their share limit helps them expand their portfolio with the best remaining shares. Early big runs can be one factor in that regard becasue stock is still relatively cheap.

The PRR player noted above who got that railroad off to a very fast start subsequently built the top portfolio and so managed to combine big runs (E-W) with the best shares (I think his breakdown was 30%/20%/60% spread out across the top three most valuable RR's for his 11 shares) for the win - we all learned a lesson on that one.
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J C Lawrence
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jimb wrote:
To complicate things, here's another point-of-view:

clearclaw wrote:
this is not a game about running good companies. It is a timing game about accurately predicting which will be the best shares, and buying them before-hand ...


The full quote says rather more than your trimmed version suggests:

More simply, this is not a game about running good companies. It is a timing game about accurately predicting which will be the best shares and buying them before-hand-- just with the kicker that buying shares makes them worse. Unlike almost all 1830-derivatives, better-shares are more important than more shares.
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Eric Brosius
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Steve Carey wrote:
we all learned a lesson on that one.

Yes, if your opponents all engage in trickery and starting new companies while you just buy the best shares in the game, you'll usually win. I see some experienced 18xx players rush to start second companies. In the 3- and 4-player games, you can win about equally well with 1 company and with 2 companies.
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Steve Carey
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Eric Brosius wrote:
I see some experienced 18xx players rush to start second companies.


What we saw (again, these were both 5P games) was each player grabbing two privates and then start (and focus on) their own RR. Only when one player realized that they were falling behind did they float a second company, hoping to turn the tide (it didn't).

In this game I don't see the obvious beneficial symmetry between having multiple RR's like in 1830, but that might just be inexperience.


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J C Lawrence
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Steve Carey wrote:
One thing I like about having big runs in this particular game is that you can rapidly accelerate stock value x2 then x3 boxes at a time, whereas in 1830 for example a $100 run and a $500 run have the same result (i.e., move 1 box right on the stock chart). This makes things more realistic and interesting.


The problem with stock market multi-jumps is that they make the game increasingly/all about dividends. ie all about having good routes and good dividends and other such uninteresting factors. In 1830 the only reason a stock gets far to the right where the higher stock appreciation jumps are, is (in general) because the president sweat bullets and sacrificed extensively to make damned sure his stock got far to the right. Failing to get your stock right just once can readily mean a $40+/share difference in stock value in 1830. Whereas in games with multi-jumps, a few rounds with high dividends will achieve much the same result.

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Having shares remaining in a RR's treasury while it makes big runs helps it accumulate cash for future builds, tokens, and trains. Often those shares are purchased by other players beforehand, but sometimes (for whatever reason) some shares remain with the RR.


Yes, there's a large positive feedback loop there (and one I rather dislike as it tends to make the game be solely about the resulting geometric growth curve).

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The personal wealth a player can gather before reaching their share limit helps them expand their portfolio with the best remaining shares. Early big runs can be one factor in that regard becasue stock is still relatively cheap.


1846 introduced a significantly new concept: ending and winning a game without being at paper limit. That's a neat and impressive innovation. It does this by making owning better shares be more important than owning more shares, and it does that mostly through multi-jumps and time-compression. Its a cool trick. In most games not being at paper limit is a death knell, and with rare exception, getting to paper limit first is strongly correlated with winning. In the 1830-esque world owning more shares is almost always better than owning better shares (and thus the dominant strength of yellow fever games as well as the standard practice of selling one share in order to buy two).

There's also liabilities. The liabilities in 1846 are present but are rarely dominant. It is rarely if ever dangerous to own a second share in 1846. The liabilities in 1830 are dominant, such that it is frequently dangerous and even deadly to own a second share. Players can and do get stuck with money they feel they can't safely invest because everything they could buy is potentially deadly. And player positions die in 1830 because they bought the wrong share at the wrong time. The risks of investment mismanagement are large. The liabilities in other games (eg 1817) are an even larger and more dominant factor (though in 1817 they are expressed in terms of both shares and loans).

In this 1846 emphasises growth and the game is won by and through sustained growth. You win by growth. If you don't grow you simply can't win. Growth of wealth, growth of runs, growth of stock prices, etc. The only way to win is to grow. (Which obsessive fascination with growth is probably the single thing I find most distasteful about 1846 and economic snowballs in general) There's no winning 1846 with a net worth of $1. Now you can win 1830 et al with growth, but you don't have to. In 1830 and friends, winning with a net worth of $1 (or some similarly trivial amount) is an attractive and realistic possibility supported by a large range of viable strategies. Just drive the game into the ground and come out on top. It can be done, and fairly readily. Or, you could win with a larger score instead -- they both work, and they both work well, and usually some version of the middle path (positive and negative both) works best.

In small amplification of this latter, 1846 largely doesn't support capital destruction strategies (admittedly, it is only largely -- there are some aspects around corners of the train rush). There is no viable strategy in 1846 that's an equivalent to the 1830 pattern of selling everything and just floating 3-4-5 new companies, floating each one, selling it down to the presidency and then floating the next one simply to explode the capital market with unconstrained inflation and then winning by picking up the right pieces in the resulting implosion. The result is that 1846 is much more of a capital deployment and (somewhat) a capital management game than a game of managing the global capital economy. Other games allow a lot more flexibility in that arena.

Now a lot of this is because 1846 isn't 1830-esque. And it shouldn't be. It is its own game, But what it is, is rather remarkably unattractive.
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J C Lawrence
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jimb wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Steve Carey wrote:
...big runs...a lot of cash...a ton of money...lucrative...


Now we have to get you playing an 18xx in which running a good company is a sure death knell for your position.


To complicate things...


On Saturday we played a non-1846 18xx which crushes any player that simply tries to Run A Good Company.

In Saturday's game I floated a company at $67. I floated a second company at $89 in SR3. In SR4 most all of the companies were hovering around a stock value of $56-$65/share -- and this in a game with multi-jumps, and all the companies had been multi-jumping in every single OR. So in SR4 I declined to float a third company at $115, though I could have easily (I had $900+ in cash and another ~$800 in liquid assets), and could have trivially used the free money from full capitalisation to "rescue" my other companies (this is a game in which early companies will generally buy 2-3 ranks of trains out of their president's pocket). At the time I also had a small but modest share lead and a few $hundred cash lead, but was weak on trains...and then I sold down everything to a single presidency, dumping my lead company and my entire portfolio but the one presidency I couldn't sell (I would have sold it too if I could have), and in so doing, so accelerated the train rush that every single company on the table (including mine) had to ~immediately buy a $700 or $1,250 train out of pocket (details specific to the game and available OOB). In 1830 terms, the $450 4Ts ran once before they rusted, the $700 5Ts ran twice before they rusted, and the $1,250 6Ts looked like they'd run only 2.5 times before they too rusted (a train in this game needs to run at least 3 times before it covers its purchase cost, and the next trains after the $1,250 6T-equivalents cost $2,000 each and would run only once before the game ended -- but they would at least be permanent!).

Now while my strategy above was extreme even for this game, it was viable (albeit only marginally and only ever in 3-player games). There would be no Good Companies. There wouldn't even be any Mediocre Companies. There would only be Bad Companies that the players seriously regretted owning. But the kicker is that they would have had no chance of winning without running those Bad Companies.

And that pattern of generic badness should hold true for almost all game sessions, though the details of how they are made Bad will change from game to game, session to session, sometimes faster and more brutal than the above, a little more often not quite as fast or aggressive but still rarely if ever featuring a Good Company.
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Dave Berry
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clearclaw wrote:
The problem with stock market multi-jumps is that they make the game increasingly/all about dividends. ie all about having good routes and good dividends and other such uninteresting factors. In 1830 the only reason a stock gets far to the right where the higher stock appreciation jumps are, is (in general) because the president sweat bullets and sacrificed extensively to make damned sure his stock got far to the right.

A limitation of the 1830 model is that there is rarely a reason to withhold income and so this choice is removed from the range of options that players need to consider. In some games, such as 1825 and 1860, stock market multi-jumps make the choice of when to withhold can be of interest.

I'm not sure that this is true of 1846, partly because it is a short game and partly because the incremental capitalisation mechanic limits the effectiveness of withholding in other ways. So my observation is generic rather than specific.



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Dave Berry
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clearclaw wrote:
On Saturday we played a non-1846 18xx which crushes any player that simply tries to Run A Good Company.

Is this your latest design or a game that's more widely available?
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J C Lawrence
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daveberry wrote:
A limitation of the 1830 model is that there is rarely a reason to withhold income...


The general reason for not withholding in 1830-esque games has nothing to do with multi-jumps or the vast difficulty of getting a stock price right, but is because withholding is numerically stupid. Consider the following fairly simple example:

- A president holds 60% of a company.
- The company is running for $200 ($20/share).
- Stock appreciation to the right is $12.
- Stock depreciation to the left is $10.

If the president pays a dividend, the total capital under his control increases by 6shares*(20dividend+12appreciation)=$192, plus any dividends for shares in the pool paying into the treasury as an extra sweetener.

If the president withholds, the total capital under his control increases by 200run-(6shares*10depreciation)=$140, and he doesn't get anything for shares in the pool.

In this case and in most 1830-esque cases, withholding costs the president money (in this case the president loses $52 of capital under control). BTW: the numbers above are real. That stock appreciation/depreciation above matches that on either side of the $100 par position in the 1830 stock market.

Where the decision to withhold in 1830 is in fact a real decision is due to other factors like:

- Will this withhold allow me to buy a train immediately out of treasury, and is that train worth more to me than the loss I'll take withholding?

- Will this withhold push this company into the yellow/keep it in the yellow and is that worthwhile at this time despite the losses?

- Will this withhold alter company operating order in a way that is worth more than the losses?

And those are real decisions. And there are more than just those three listed. But they are also cases in which the loss is balanced against a gain in another dimension. Withholding for its own sake is simply stupid.

Now the interesting bit that 1846 adds to the mix is half-pays. Half pays are interesting. They still (generally) get the same stock appreciation (and 1846's multi-jumps adds some factors to consider there), but they mostly just move money between the president's hand and the company treasury. Again taking the same run and stock position:

- A president holds 60% of a company.
- The company is running for $200 ($20/share).
- Stock appreciation to the right is $12.
- Stock depreciation to the left is $10.

A half-pay nets the president 6shares*(10share+12appreciation)=$132 (instead of $192) in cash while also putting $100 plus $10 for every share still in the treasury to the company, for a net total capital under control of $232+. From a capital maximisation perspective, half pays are clearly better. They provide the company with operating expenses (track, stations, trains), but they starve the president of cash ($60 in this case) to use for buying shares for his portfolio.

Which is better: $60 worth of shares in your hand Right Now working towards your score, or $100+ in your company treasury to be used some time in the future when money is worth less? That's a real decision with fairly subtle trade-offs in recognising and offsetting the loss.

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...and so this choice is removed from the range of options that players need to consider.


Which alas, doesn't stop novice players who haven't done the arithmetic from considering it (and doing it) as if it were reasonable.

Quote:
In some games, such as 1825 and 1860, stock market multi-jumps make the choice of when to withhold can be of interest.


Yeah, but that is more a function of there not being train liabilities/emergency train buying rules than anything else. The reason that the arithmetic is so simple above is that capital in 1830 is also so simple: there is no difference between treasury and cash in your hand when emergency buying a train. And that's just not true in 1825 and 1860 et al. In those games presidents can't buy trains out of pocket even if they wanted to...and that's all the difference in the world.

Quote:
I'm not sure that this is true of 1846, partly because it is a short game and partly because the incremental capitalisation mechanic limits the effectiveness of withholding in other ways. So my observation is generic rather than specific.


Nod. For all the same reasons and more, withholding makes sense in 1846 about as often as it does in 1830. Half-paying however...that's a rich and delicate field in 1846 that offers all sorts of interesting trade-offs that simply don't exist in many 1830-esque games. Of course some 1830-esque games support half-pays (1832, 1870, etc) along with the stock implication that a half-pay maintains the current stock price (no rise or fall), which presents its own large raft of viable trade-offs and choices, and one game (18India) takes this to an extreme and allows any dividend between $0 and the sum of income plus treasury to be declared (along with any appropriate stock-price change).

daveberry wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
On Saturday we played a non-1846 18xx which crushes any player that simply tries to Run A Good Company.


Is this your latest design or a game that's more widely available?


Indeed, it was 1839. Though I don't expect development to be complete by then, I hope to start making the files available by the end of the year with a possible design wrap-up in the next 2-3 years. All the public discussion is currently happening on the SFBay-18xx mailing list. If you are particularly interested, I can send you the currently in-flight files. ATM the following changes are being considered (in descending order of impact on the game):

- Slightly thinning the trains near the end of the roster.
- Putting back an extra stock-appreciation for sold-out public companies.
- Slightly simplify and enrichen the map in the end-game.
- Simplify the stock price movement rules by removing cases that are rarely used.
- Abandoning the concept of there being a paper limit.

Long term I suspect that I may have to adjust the stock appreciation curve (though I really really don't want to), and may also have to slightly tamp down the volatility possible with the foreigners (which I'll grumble about and accept).

For those interested, the current stock-market:



The game ends when a stock price reaches $1,000 (it will always/only be a foreigner). That is the only end-condition. The bank and trains are infinite. Most public companies will end the game with stock prices below or at least close to their initial pars.

(I'm a little overly chuffed with that market, mostly on account of the many weeks of analysis and number-crunching that went into finally producing that from an 1843-esque 2D market)

 
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Tom Lehmann
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clearclaw wrote:
1846 isn't 1830-esque. And it shouldn't be. It is its own game, But what it is, is rather remarkably unattractive.

For *your* tastes. For many people, growth in RR routes, dividends, and stock value is enjoyable.

For example, while there are certainly some people who enjoy destructive, curse-heavy Dominion games where the winning score is around 0, there are other players who will veto the cards that lead to such games.

Tastes differ, JC. I have no problem with you promoting your preferred style of 18xx games in general 18xx forums. However, I'm getting a bit tired of you constantly coming into the 1846 forums and crapping all over 1846 simply because it isn't to your tastes and then promoting your vision of 18xx and your own prototype game instead.

If you must do this, then could you please be a bit more careful -- as you sometimes are -- about not making sweeping statements such as "remarkably unattractive" without qualifying them as per your own personal tastes?

Thank you.
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Alex P
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I would hope most people know enough about JC to ignore him or otherwise. But maybe your kind of message, every now and then, is useful to let BGG newbies know that some people are old fashioned and stuck in their ways and can't enjoy anything created in the last fifteen years unless it replicates something that was created in the fifteen years previous. :D
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Steve Carey
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
I'm getting a bit tired of you constantly coming into the 1846 forums and crapping all over 1846 simply because it isn't to your tastes and then promoting your vision of 18xx and your own prototype game instead.


When mixed with his usual avalanche of pontificating, such hijackings are probably best left ignored (though as the game's designer Tom, you are the best person to speak out).
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Steve Carey
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Jesse Custer wrote:
I would hope most people know enough about JC to ignore him or otherwise.


After initially falling into the trap, I quickly learned my lesson and do ignore him now.

But it takes only one respondent to keep the ubiquitous blah-blah-blah machine running full steam.
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