Tor Iver Wilhelmsen
I have joined a group of players who play on Sundays, and for the first meeting I brought Ur 1830 BC. The others were interested (four were 18xx players), and since we were six (one too many for Leonardo, which was the option) the decision was made to try it.
This was the first time any of us had played it, but I had read the rules two or three times. (I still missed out a couple, which were cleared up as we played - those were caught by the 1830 vets.)
Minor nations were sold off
The first round's settlement phase started with the negotiations that would dominate the game. Two players decided to try and fire up cheap (lots of desert) Babylon because of all the city hexes, while two others started up in the more expensive mountains and forests of Urartu. Babylon ended up buying the first waterworks and got the first income.
However, once Urartu was activated, that nation had access to bigger reservoirs and in the rounds that followed, the river that had fed Babylon started drying up as the 4-reservoirs of sucked up much of it. Babylon solved this by building a 4-reservoir in the hex where the three rivers merge, and built canals from there.
Once all land in the two initial kingdoms had been sold, the next nation to start was Sumer, where I had patiently been digging canals with Eridu's built-in crew. We were now entering the 3rd age, so we bought the first 6-capacity reservoir and could irrigate with all six, still leaving enough for our southern brethren. But a few turns later someone started up Elam, irrigating the two plots necessary to make us consume all the water and thus ending the game with a invasion from the off-board southern peoples.
The winners were those who had the (now high-priced) lands in Urartu, i.e. mountains and forests.
(Me? I lost heavily, of course, which I usually do when I play. I bought Eridu expensively for 200 (of 300) and the desert city in Sumer, then waited half the game before that nation "started". So the only income I had was the 35 per turn from my minor nation, as I used the card's power to dig my dry canals while the others created nations. I probably should have used Eridu to help Babylon and bought land there instead.)
Some points we noted:
- When the game was over, everyone agreed Elam would have been a better starting nation than Babylon; its land is as cheap, but it can draw water from the beginning of a river instead of the end of one as in the case of Babylon. Thus it would be irrigated the whole game.
- Babylon and Sumer suffer from being downstream. This is somewhat balanced by the cheaper land, but if the game lasts a while and people build large reservoirs further upstream, those nations are going to mostly "die out" in the late game.
- We all agreed it was a short, playable 1830 variant. We finished after exactly four hours (box says 3-4 hours), but that included rules explanations and a LOT of negotiation.
- The land prices of mountains and forests were driven up by all the irrigation that took place in Urartu. This also meant that the major land owners there won the game since people generally didn't have too much cash otherwise. With very little land-selling, land prices rarely went down to compensate.
- The game ships with too few 10-notes. We spent a lot of time exchanging 10s for other denominations (read: 50s). Conversely, there were too many 5s compared to the need.
- The game ends rather quickly if nations start building reservoirs after where the rivers merge. To make the game last long enough to reach the higher ages (8- and M-reservoirs), you probably need to let one river run at least some of its water south (by e.g. tearing down a reservoir ie. make a nation keep income).
- There was very little land sale going on: Mostly one of the Urartu settlers sold his free "First Akkadians" forests to dump the price so he could buy more land in Urartu, but that was about it.
- As 1830 players usually do, we had a lot of open strategy discussions. Usually between the land owners in a nation during the development phase when deciding what to buy and where to dig.
- We had a really good time playing it.