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Subject: 1844: Engineers welcome! Stock manipulation lovers, stay away! rss

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Joel Gabelman
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Note: the following is based on ONE play of 1844. I didn't get a chance to play 1854, and don't really feel the desire too either.

I'll just got to the chase:

Summary: Based on my personal preference of 18xx games (See below), I don't see myself playing this game in the future. It plays much more on the engineering path than stock manipulation path and it DRAGS and feels LONG. The game is also possible broken with a "winning strategy" (read review for spoiler) and for me, it wasn't fun. I appreciated the nuances, so my final rating is 5/10.

Details:

My favorite 18xx games are 1830, 1846: The Race for the Midwest, 1849: The Game of Sicilian Railways, 1889: History of Shikoku Railways and 18CLE.

From my preferences above, I prefer 18xx games that focus more on stock manipulation, volatility and fluidity. While recent 18xx games have blurred the lines between engineering oriented games and stock manipulation games, 1844 felt very much like an engineering oriented game, and while I appreciated the game, I didn't really enjoy the experience.

Note: I played this game only once, and I fully acknowledge that I don't have a anywhere near a firm grasp of the game, although one of the players in the group Richard McGuire had played a 1/2 dozen times and mentioned the same "cons".

Pros:

1) Bridges, Mountains, Home Cities and E-W / N-S bonuses oh my!
2) A fair amount of chrome (which is also a little bit of a con due to downtime).
2) Nice production (although I'm still partial to wood tokens)
3) I haven't played 1854, but I appreciate the "2 in 1" game with the double sided board.

Cons:

1) The game drags. In my game, most of us had multiple companies and while some people went fairly quickly on their turn, others (understandably mind you) had to take time figured out the best moves. This included the following thought:
"Hmmmmm.... If I can go through the tunnel, I can lay a token down here which will help my other company possible connect E-W. But wait, I have a mountain... no... that won't help my 3rd company unless I upgrade THIS tile to a chicken foot, and then I can cut through to the double OO and then my regional... oh wait... my regional can't hit the outer board cities because it can only have a hex train... Okay, I THINK I got it! Ohhhh... where was I???" Fast forward 18-minutes, it's the next person's turn. Rinse and repeat.

2) The game might be broken. Rich mentioned in the last 4-5 games played, he quickly grabs as much government shares he can to control the SBB (government company), and this strategy won him the game every - single - time. While it could be that the players (they were the same players) just didn't know how to stop him, it could also be that the game is a bit broken.

3) The game was more of a "Buy & Hold" experience than an active stock market. This might be the players I played with (as is the case with most games), but I think NO ONE dumped a company, NO ONE dumped shares to start a new company, and no one actively converted one type of share for another.

This felt more like a portfolio game. Buy and hold. This is fine, but not if you enjoy the dynamics of a stock oriented game - which I do, and I missed in this 18xx variant.

4) Lots of fiddle chrome which (in my opinion) is a function of con 1, the game drags.

* Government companies with 4 shares at 50% / 25%. They are capitalized differently too.

* Regional companies that have their own subset of rules, with 40% / 20% shares. I believe these are capitalized differently as well.

* Public companies that are 50% capitalized until they hit their home city. Standard 20% / 10% shares. Float at 50%.

* Privates, tunnels, mountains, off board city connection bonuses, government minor companies merge to large government single company, different capitalization based on the type of company, different train requirements based on company and I'm sure I'm missing another 18-37 rules.

Some people might really enjoy the engineering nuances, and god bless them. I would consider playing this again if I'm missing anything, but there are LOTS of 18xx games I LOVE, and other 18xx games I'm itching to play (18NY and 1822 to name a couple), that I don't see myself running back to '44 to "find" a great game there.
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Adam Brocker
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Re: Engineers welcome! Stock manipulation lovers, stay away!
Thanks for posting your review. I've heard similar things about '44 in regards to game length and things dragging. Haven't tried it myself though and am less inclined to do so.

I would recommend checking out '54. Played it a couple times and it seems to hold up. It isn't a heavy stock manipulation game, but I think there are things you can do especially with the stock splits. It probably is more in the vein of running good companies though.

P.S. Would you mind adding [1844] in the header of your thread?
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Re: Engineers welcome! Stock manipulation lovers, stay away!
I agree, this is an engineering game... some what.

The SBB is usually really strong, ie good long routes and plenty of stations.

So, you really need to start some of the pre-SBB companies to be sure one player doesn't own the lions share of that railroad and run away with a huge dividend delta.

I like engineering games, this one and 1853 are two of my favs on that branch.

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J C Lawrence
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Re: Engineers welcome! Stock manipulation lovers, stay away!
elmsley4 wrote:
1) The game drags.


This seems a generic complaint about any game with more than a couple companies per player. Heaven forfend you you play something with 4-6 companies or more per player.

Quote:
2) The game might be broken. Rich mentioned in the last 4-5 games played, he quickly grabs as much government shares he can to control the SBS? (government company), and this strategy won him the game every - single - time. While it could be that the players (they were the same players) just didn't know how to stop him, it could also be that the game is a bit broken.


I've generally seen the SBB end up in the middle and tending to the lower side. It has never been a top performer and has sometimes been at the bottom. The minors that pre-form it tend to lay bad long-term track and to be cut up by tokens as their presidents are more focused on quick-money-now and building for their other investments (eg SBB precursor builds track, other investment comes in and drops blocking tokens). Getting the SBB the trains it wants is a particular trial as it is perpetually capital starved.

Quote:
3) The game was more of a "Buy & Hold" experience than an active stock market. This might be the players I played with (as is the case with most games), but I think NO ONE dumped a company, NO ONE dumped shares to start a new company, and no one actively converted one type of share for another.


Not selling shares to start companies? That's just poor play given that companies are perpetually under-capitalised. In particular, a few of the companies are early money mountains and so tend to get bought out quickly and then sold as they wane or players move off into their own pastures. The single-fall per share reduces much of the dynamism there, but also doesn't give a windfall to the president given the ability to buy past 60% from the pool. (That also forms one of ways the game annoys me in the utterly rote sale & exchange of shares as the end-game approaches until every player holds ~100% of their companies).

More broadly, yes, '44 tends towards processional, but I find it charming and there's considerable play in the use of varying share densities, capital availability, mountains, tunnels etc and while I've rarely ever seen dumps, the bank pool is generally busy throughout the game. In sum: not a great game, but a perfectly fine middle-of-the-pack game that works as advertised.
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Jason B
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elmsley4 wrote:
Note: the following is based on ONE play of 1844. I didn't get a chance to play 1854, and don't really feel the desire too either.


1854 is quite different and the stock market is rather more interesting as well.

If you prefer stock games you owe it to yourself to at least read the rules to 1854 before dismissing it outright.
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Joel Gabelman
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There was a debate with the SBB buying trains across. As I understand it, most games with a national company must buy trains across from other companies at a minimum of face value; however, in 1844, there are no explicit rules stating this, so whoever has the SBB can buy trains across for $1.00. Thoughts?

It's worth reading over 1854, and it's also worth trying 1844 again (at some point) with perhaps a different group of people to see how others play. That said, I'm itching to get 1846 from GMT after selling my DTG one away, and 18NY, 18MEX, 1822 and 1817 are games I'm more looking forward to learning / playing over 1844 again.

Thanks for the thoughts!
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elmsley4 wrote:
There was a debate with the SBB buying trains across. As I understand it, most games with a national company must buy trains across from other companies at a minimum of face value; however, in 1844, there are no explicit rules stating this, so whoever has the SBB can buy trains across for $1.00. Thoughts?

It's worth reading over 1854, and it's also worth trying 1844 again (at some point) with perhaps a different group of people to see how others play. That said, I'm itching to get 1846 from GMT after selling my DTG one away, and 18NY, 18MEX, 1822 and 1817 are games I'm more looking forward to learning / playing over 1844 again.

Thanks for the thoughts!


From the rules I have:

The SBB can only trade locomotives at the value printed value on the locomotive.


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pilotbob wrote:
From the rules I have:

The SBB can only trade locomotives at the value printed value on the locomotive.


Agreed. Played this on Saturday with some hardcore 18xx gamers that have a lot of experience with 1844, and this point was explicitly made.
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pilotbob wrote:
elmsley4 wrote:
There was a debate with the SBB buying trains across. As I understand it, most games with a national company must buy trains across from other companies at a minimum of face value; however, in 1844, there are no explicit rules stating this, so whoever has the SBB can buy trains across for $1.00. Thoughts?

It's worth reading over 1854, and it's also worth trying 1844 again (at some point) with perhaps a different group of people to see how others play. That said, I'm itching to get 1846 from GMT after selling my DTG one away, and 18NY, 18MEX, 1822 and 1817 are games I'm more looking forward to learning / playing over 1844 again.

Thanks for the thoughts!


From the rules I have:

The SBB can only trade locomotives at the value printed value on the locomotive.




BTW: That's not my typo, that's a copy and paste from the rules.
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TonyKR
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pilotbob wrote:
pilotbob wrote:
elmsley4 wrote:
There was a debate with the SBB buying trains across. As I understand it, most games with a national company must buy trains across from other companies at a minimum of face value; however, in 1844, there are no explicit rules stating this, so whoever has the SBB can buy trains across for $1.00. Thoughts?


From the rules I have:

The SBB can only trade locomotives at the value printed value on the locomotive.




BTW: That's not my typo, that's a copy and paste from the rules.


Yeah, this sentence doesn't appear anywhere in the Lookout 1844 rules posted on their site. It only mentions that the face value applies when buying trains from other players' companies. Thanks for the clarification.
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Owain B
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Pugnax555 wrote:
pilotbob wrote:
pilotbob wrote:
elmsley4 wrote:
There was a debate with the SBB buying trains across. As I understand it, most games with a national company must buy trains across from other companies at a minimum of face value; however, in 1844, there are no explicit rules stating this, so whoever has the SBB can buy trains across for $1.00. Thoughts?


From the rules I have:

The SBB can only trade locomotives at the value printed value on the locomotive.




BTW: That's not my typo, that's a copy and paste from the rules.


Yeah, this sentence doesn't appear anywhere in the Lookout 1844 rules posted on their site. It only mentions that the face value applies when buying trains from other players' companies. Thanks for the clarification.

As noted in this thread, the Lookout edition seems to only have this rule printed on the SBB charter, rather than somewhere useful like, oh I dunno... the rulebook?
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