Reading the comments for this game here on the geek (ie. the user ratings and comments section), I noticed several people from Poland who think the initial auction is unbalanced or even broken, on the grounds that the cheap privates are too powerful. The claim is that this imbalance makes the initial seating order a key factor in who wins.
I'm wondering whether other people agree or whether this is just one group's opinion.
They mention this effect being noticeable in a five-player game; possibly it only arises with high player counts?
How does the auction work? It would seem to me that powerful privates would attract higher bids in return; using up more scarce starting capital. That's what I've seen in other 18xx games except when my shorts rode up.
J C Lawrence
The privates are sold in an 1830-esque reservation bid auction.
The privates in order are:
1) Prinze-Wilhelm-Bahn, Cost: $20, Revenue: $5, blocks interesting but not significant hex E14.
2) Konzession Essen-Osterath, Cost: $30, Revenue: $0 -- comes with a special brown tile for Osterath
3) Seilzuganlage, Cost: $50, Revenue $15, free mountain lay once per game in addition to normal lay ($30 - $60).
4) Trajektanstalt, Cost: $80, Revenue $20, free upgrade of one of the river city hexes (normally $30).
5) Neiderrheinische Licht-und-Kraftwerke, Cost: $120, Revenue $25, Comes with a 10% share of the GVE (not a great company, but certainly not bad either).
6) Presidency of the RHE (which instantly floats with special rules for capital held in escrow). The RHE is an extremely strong company...given just a wee bit of time (about 1.5 track lays).
That's the same number of privates as in 1830, but with a slightly lower average cost and with not-brilliant but actually slightly useful powers (unlike 1830). Unlike 1830, privates cannot be sold to majors. Instead their powers may be exercised on behalf of any company controlled by their owner. All of the powers are single-use-only, but their use does not close the private. Instead they close on an early permanent train (again like 1830).
So, they're paper, they pay 20%-25% of their cost (considerably more than the majors do for a few ORs), they come with powers that are nice-not-great-or-compelling. Or in short: the first two are tolerable crap, the second two are really rather nice but are not brilliant, and the last two are somewhere between good and really interesting.
Now in a 5-player game capital is rather tight, but even so I'm not seeing justification for the complaints.