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18xx» Forums » General

Subject: Tips for faster play (besides poker chips and moderator)? rss

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John Wellman
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I've had a chance to introduce 18XX to a number of new game groups over the past couple months.

We use chips exclusively and have recently gotten into a moderator spreadsheet to help with some of the calculations in games like 1846. This has been a help.

That said, the one place we bog down more than anywhere else is phase III/IV run calculations, especially in games with N/M trains (like '46) or games with multiple companies holding multiple trains.

I thought it might be worth soliciting advice from those with lots of XX experience if you've found a way to break past the late-game bog-down from maximizing run revenue.

Any thoughts?

Any other low hanging fruit on speeding gameplay?
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Jason Adultman
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When the routes stabilize you should be relying on the "past run" chart and making adjustments based on tile upgrades, instead of constantly counting out the runs.

When player's aren't acting they should be counting out runs so that when their turn to operate comes around they already know the total.
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Shawn Fox
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blu_in_green wrote:
I thought it might be worth soliciting advice from those with lots of XX experience if you've found a way to break past the late-game bog-down from maximizing run revenue.

Sounds like you just need more practice. I'd suggest playing a few games a week for the next couple of years.
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Chris Talbot
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Two tips come to mind.

1. When building your routes, Use train tokens to mark the track each train has used. A problem I have is that I'll forget what routes I made for the trains when I go to calculate the earnings due to my lack of brainpower. Token markers help me with this.

2. If you don't care about people being responsible for their own route calculations, I'd look at using the Survey Party iOS app to do late game route calculations. With one of my groups, we'll bring out this app once we reach the brown phase of a game. One person will then build out the map on the app while others are playing, and usually in 5-10min. they will be done and you will have something that can do all the route calculations for you. Using the app to play the whole game is something I wouldn't recommend though, as I feel like route calculations are easy enough early on, and a spreadsheet does financial management better than this app does.
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J C Lawrence
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blu_in_green wrote:
That said, the one place we bog down more than anywhere else is phase III/IV run calculations, especially in games with N/M trains (like '46) or games with multiple companies holding multiple trains.


Route-finding/counting is a skill and thankfully one that can be readily developed and trained through exercise. So drill it. Really. In your games, figure the best combinations of routes for every company before that director reports their choices (this is in addition to also your running your own affairs). Do so faster (and if possible, better) than that director does. Work at being consistently faster and more accurate. Get pictures of game maps with variously developed track and go through the various companies and ask yourself questions like: Okay, if the C&O had a 4T and two 3Ts, what would its run be? What about the same in the B&O? In the NYNH&H? In the PRR? Okay, how about a 4T and a 5T in the NYC? 6T in the CanPac? Just two 3Ts in... Drill. Drill. Drill. Focus on speed and accuracy.

Get your other players into the groove as well. Play a game or five in which everyone determines all the runs for every company in each OR in parallel secrecy, then reveal and compare to see who did best and why and thus what was missed and why. In later games use a chess clock to see who can get the best runs fastest.

You should find your abilities and speed rapidly improving.

Similar can also be done for track development skills -- another great source of player slowness. If you ever sit there wondering if there's a tile that does...or holding a tile above the board and spinning it about to try and see if it does what you want -- then you're far from there yet. Learn the tile roster, its limits and constraints and structure. Learn how how the tile system works as a system. Figure out how the tile roster shapes and forms the game, how changes to the tile roster produce different games and how, how key tile choices in the early game can shape the rest of the game. Start looking to predict future track patterns and thus tile needs and thinking about how to adjust your own choices to allow or deny those opportunities before they come up. And then drill, drill, drill.

Again, focused disciplined practice is the key.

Now play some timed games. 4-player 1830? You've got 150 minutes start to finish. Players that use more than their time lose $10 per second from their final score if they go over their allotment. Start!
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John Wellman
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Thanks for the input; all of this is helpful.
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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At one point I recorded a game of 1846: The Race for the Midwest (played by 4 other people) in complete detail. Later I sat down to verify that my records were accurate. They were, and the game was completely legal, but there were many cases in which the President under-counted the routes of the corporation's trains. All of the players in this game had played many, many times.

I was surprised at the amount of under-counting.
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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clearclaw wrote:
Now play some timed games. 4-player 1830? You've got 150 minutes start to finish. Players that use more than their time lose $10 per second from their final score if they go over their allotment. Start!

I can't resist linking this:

How fast can 1846 be played?

For many groups, finishing in 100 minutes will be a real challenge.
 
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Samuel Hinz
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Jasonbartfast wrote:
When the routes stabilize you should be relying on the "past run" chart and making adjustments based on tile upgrades, instead of constantly counting out the runs.

When player's aren't acting they should be counting out runs so that when their turn to operate comes around they already know the total.


Agreed, in the last game of '46 I was using the following.

Pen
70,10,60,40,70=250 + 60,70,30 = 160 = 410

Previous that first 5 train wa actually a 3/5 train and looked like

Pen
70,-,60,-,70=200 + 60,70,30 = 160 = 360

Sped up my turns considerably, value explainable on the map easily. Easily modifiable if someone upgrades a piece of the track unexpectatedly.
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Glenn Martin
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Unless you'd consider some form of physical threat (playing on a collapsible grate over a tank filled with sharks with frikkin' laser beams strapped to their heads, say) some form of record keeping is the only way.
A list of cities in a plastic sleeve where you can mark the cities value and the train serving them with an erasable marker might do. You can easily update the total for the run when someone upgrades a city. You can use an appropriately coloured marker to note the train stops.
I recently picked up some small lettered cubes from a dollar store with the idea that they would be handy for working out routes on a players' turn. You can just use cubes of another letter to mark an alternate route and compare the two. I'll mark half the faces so it's easy to show a city visited but not delivered to for N/M trains.
 
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mfl134
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Try out the Survey Party app. It will calculate best routes for you. I haven't used it in a game yet, but I'd imagine it will speed things up a lot.
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Christian Moura
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mfl134 wrote:
Try out the Survey Party app. It will calculate best routes for you. I haven't used it in a game yet, but I'd imagine it will speed things up a lot.


It speeds it up a lot. I use it frequently.
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Dave Berry
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CubanD wrote:
If you don't care about people being responsible for their own route calculations, I'd look at using the Survey Party iOS app to do late game route calculations. With one of my groups, we'll bring out this app once we reach the brown phase of a game. One person will then build out the map on the app while others are playing, and usually in 5-10min. they will be done and you will have something that can do all the route calculations for you. Using the app to play the whole game is something I wouldn't recommend though, as I feel like route calculations are easy enough early on, and a spreadsheet does financial management better than this app does.

That's interesting. I haven't used Survey Party because I don't have an iPad (and I doubt that using it on an iPhone would be practical). I wonder whether Rails could be used the same way? I've used Rails for PBeM games, and it has an option for use as a moderator (without the map), but I haven't seen it used just to calculate routes.
 
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Alex Mauer
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Survey Party works very well on iPhone in my experience.
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J C Lawrence
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Eric Brosius wrote:
For many groups, finishing in 100 minutes will be a real challenge.


For a while I was playing 1830, 1870, etc in about 150 minutes. It was...rough. Blitz games are remarkably educational in honing prioritisation.
 
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Nikolas Co
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Epee wrote:
mfl134 wrote:
Try out the Survey Party app. It will calculate best routes for you. I haven't used it in a game yet, but I'd imagine it will speed things up a lot.


It speeds it up a lot. I use it frequently.
Just FYI, approach Survey Party with caution. It worked fine for 1830 as far as I could tell, but I've found bugs in every single title I've tried since (1817, 1889, 18Mex). The bugs were resolved promptly, but I lost interest in the software since I don't want to spend my time doing manual quality checks.


Separate from the technical issues, I've noticed that Survey Party tends to be leaned on heavily by new players when I used it in teaching games; rather than calculate their routes, they start asking for the number and don't even know how the trains run. That, in turn, hampers their ability to play effectively. This is, of course, avoidable. For example, you could require them to announce their route and only check that it matches what the software produced.
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J C Lawrence
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Its unclear how players that don't understand how and why their trains run in detail, expect to learn how to develop track and use the track-tile roster effectively. Some sort of aura effect?
 
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Nikolas Co
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Re: route calculation: the obvious heuristic is knowing what's the most common revenue amount per stop, and then identifying all the places on the board that have above-average amounts. With those in mind, you can focus your attention on routes that contain those high-revenue locations; often you can even count them repeatedly by having multiple trains intersect there. The color of the tiles is also handy (e.g. running towards green is usually better than running towards yellow).

N/M trains and N+M trains do complicate matters since they're usually related to some kind of bonus. In the case of 1846, there's East-West bonus, while in, say, 1880 there's 'extra' revenue from dits/villages. Again, if you know how those bonuses compare to each other (and the common revenue amounts) you'll know which to focus on.

For optimizing routes with multiple trains, you should try to remember where the bottlenecks are, and ideally the likely points of connection or bypass. Studying the map and tile-roster is particularly important to doing it well. Photos from other games can act as examples, although they may be of dubious quality. (This aspect will also improve your ability to control routes via token placement and tile management.)

Some games have denser track networks. For those, I've found it helpful (at least the first couple plays) to write down the current route of each train as a list of values. Sometimes I'll even include the small forks/branches if they're fluctuating.
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Nikolas Co
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clearclaw wrote:
Its unclear how players that don't understand how and why their trains run in detail, expect to learn how to develop track and use the track-tile roster effectively. Some sort of aura effect?
I've discussed this a couple times when it happened… They have a guess of where the trains are running; they assume that they're just skipping arithmetic. Of course, they play poorly when their guessed-routes diverge from reality.

I suspect that they're correct in the very early game, when the routes are short and there isn't much track to consider. As more runs become more complicated, they lose track (heh) of what's going on. Requiring them to identify their runs makes it much more likely that the misunderstanding/oversight will be detected and corrected.
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Michael Theiss
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Survey Party works well. I check it before I upgrade to find better ways to upgrade. Sometimes what I was going to upgrade was not going to be added in the total.
 
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I've never seen Survey Party used at Chattanooga or Portland 18xx tournaments. I'm grateful that I don't use it or have to rely on it. My route calculating improves every time I play.
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paperemail wrote:
Survey Party works well. I check it before I upgrade to find better ways to upgrade. Sometimes what I was going to upgrade was not going to be added in the total.
There's merit in using something to check your understanding, and using that feedback to improve.

I'm skeptical that planning tile ops primarily using Survey Party is efficient. If nothing else, (last I looked) it only saves state on a single device; so you'd need to pass it around for different players to try things. Do you have a way to work around that?

I'm also curious whether you check multi-op changes and/or predict opponent responses (e.g. obstructive upgrades, placing needed tiles elsewhere, tokens).
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NikolasCo wrote:
paperemail wrote:
Survey Party works well. I check it before I upgrade to find better ways to upgrade. Sometimes what I was going to upgrade was not going to be added in the total.
There's merit in using something to check your understanding, and using that feedback to improve.

I'm skeptical that planning tile ops primarily using Survey Party is efficient. If nothing else, (last I looked) it only saves state on a single device; so you'd need to pass it around for different players to try things. Do you have a way to work around that?

I'm also curious whether you check multi-op changes and/or predict opponent responses (e.g. obstructive upgrades, placing needed tiles elsewhere, tokens).


Technically everyone could have it and build the board as the game plays out. You can use it just to determine route payouts.
 
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Nikolas Co
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mfl134 wrote:
NikolasCo wrote:
paperemail wrote:
Survey Party works well. I check it before I upgrade to find better ways to upgrade. Sometimes what I was going to upgrade was not going to be added in the total.
…I'm skeptical that planning tile ops primarily using Survey Party is efficient. If nothing else, (last I looked) it only saves state on a single device; so you'd need to pass it around for different players to try things. Do you have a way to work around that?…
…Technically everyone could have it and build the board as the game plays out. You can use it just to determine route payouts,
In practice, I found that keeping Survey Party up to date was a substantial amount of effort while playing. It seemed vaguely comparable to being banker, when we had one person responsible for passing out chips.

(I've since gotten used to having 2-3 piles of chips, with each player taking their own and placing all/some on the certs that paid the revenue. Combined with the track for last revenue, everyone can usually take care of their own chips.)
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Chris Shaffer
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My experience has been that having someone use Survey Party during a face to face game slowed down the game, rather than speeding it up. A lot of time was spent saying "oh, you put a token there, I didn't get that, let me update it" and similar things.

However, I did play one game on an oversized iPad where we put the tablet on the table and used that for the map, instead of maintaining the separate physical map and tiles. That actually worked pretty well.

We played a game of 1849 yesterday, and one of the tiles (the S city) didn't have the correct number of token slots. I'm sure it will be fixed, but it caused problems - the player who was relying on Survey Party planned his builds around the fact that the tile only had one token slot, when the real tile actually had two... I laud the makers of Survey Party for what is actually a pretty complicated design with lots of details, but in just a handful of playings, I've also experienced a high number of minor errors that had actual game impacts.
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