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1830: Railways & Robber Barons» Forums » General

Subject: Opening Strategy - Initial Railroads rss

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Roger Dubbs
United States
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Once the private companies have been bought, there will still be enough money in the game to float 2-4 companies, depending on the par prices set for the companies, and the premiums paid for the private companies. There will be at most $1780 in cash spread around the players. There will be some uneven distribution of the cash however, and probably some companies will be set at higher initial offering prices, so starting 2-3 companies is more likely.

The exact selection of which company you should start or invest in will depend on the situation once it becomes your turn, your cash remaining and the private companies you ended up with. Remember that you cannot expect help with floating a railroad. A little gentle diplomacy is worthwhile here. Few players will renege on a deal to help float a railroad for fear of what happens in the next game. If you have $402-$600 in hand, you can float a company on your own. If you have the B&O, C&A or M&H you require even less, since you only have to come up with 4-5 shares. You will generally set the par price at the most you can afford, given the subscriptions from other players and your own cash available. In a few instances you will want to make sure you move later in the initial turn though, so keep that in mind. The third railroad may never have to buy a “2” train, which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the railroad.

Generally select your starting railroad so that the private companies you own complement it. After that, prefer higher initial profitability. Never try to start a fourth railroad on the opening round – settle for being an investor for a while. You’ll probably want to buy B&O stock, since it is likely to be profitable early. Never help float a company that the owner of the Camden & Amboy (or several smaller private companies) is running. If you ignore this advice, you’ll likely be running a worthless railroad soon. Buy at most one share in this sort of company.

Following is a discussion of the profit potential of the various railroads at the beginning of the game, assuming there are no other railroads interfering or helping with development. Keep this in mind for both the selection of initial railroads to run and in deciding between investments.

As has been mentioned, the B&O railroad has a lot of potential to make some short term cash. A fairly normal opening move is to place the straight city tile (#57) to the south (Washington D.C.), purchase a token there and 3 "2" trains. On the next turn, assuming someone bought the first "3" train, you can upgrade to the green "X" city tile(#14), run for $17 a share, then buy a 3 train for yourself. Next turn, place the straight section (#9) at I17 over to the small city and you are running for $20/share. Upgrade Baltimore (#53) next turn and you’re running for $24/share, and looking for another city to hook up for your “3” train.

The main problem with this opening strategy is that it takes a lot of resources. It will cost the company $620 to execute this strategy. It also ties up a token that will be useless later in the game.

The Pennsylvania has the worst starting base in the game. This is compensated for by having four tokens, and the best position in the south for getting into New York. The Pennsylvania will either drive east then west or the other way around. If the Penn’s director has the Camden & Amboy, it will be best to drive east, placing the straight (#9) then the straight city (#57). Only one train is needed on the first turn, and the first run will be for a measly $3/share. Don’t worry, it gets better! Buy another locomotive -- you’ll be able to use it next turn. When you place the OO tile (#59), immediately place a token to protect access to New York – plus you’ll be running from it. Note that you will need to place the other city facing south towards the whistle stop if you want to get to New York. You are now running for $9/share. You can either drive back west, finally playing the city to the west (#57) or (preferably) connecting up with Baltimore – the exact tiles to do this will depend on the B&O player. There are also some profitable green city upgrades available. Clearly there is a lot of room for improvement, and the Penn will have a fair amount of cash left over, since it has probably only spent $260 for a “2” train and a “3” train.

Special mention should be made of the Camden & Amboy move. It may be necessary for the Penn to buy extra “2” trains to be able to buy a “3” train. Even if the Penn should buy these trains, it is probably wise to wait for the next operating round, unless another player were foolish enough to buy 2 shares of the Penn and the priority deal will allow you to dump the Penn on that player. If this opportunity arises, you should absolutely use it! Buy the maximum number of trains, so as to train lock the Penn and dump it without compunction. You’ll have more than enough money to start a new railroad. Even if you can’t dump the railroad, it might be wise to dump all the shares you can. This will actually help the Penn recover as the income now goes to the railroad. A few turns of this, coupled with the $25 a round from the C&A should help replenish the Penn and eventually it will become an extremely profitable railroad.

Keep the above advice in mind if you should become the inadvertent president of a railroad that just got robbed. You’ll have a low investment in the company for a while, and it will turn around with time as money flows in from the shares in the stock pool and the monthly income of the shares.

New York Central
The New York Central has to place its own starting tile. Clearly, the whole point of the NYC is to run into New York, and the initial tile placement should reflect that. The second tile placement will be a double small city tile, and it will be one with a gentle curve, to connect you into New York. The two choices are #56 and #69, which are similar in that they both have the other piece headed towards Boston, but #69 heads along the coast while #56 heads to the mountains west of Boston. Unless you are trying to mess with the Boston & Maine, it is probably best to head along the coast. At this point, the NYC is running for $3/turn if its longest train is a 2 and $7/turn if it has a three train.

Upgrading New York (#54) is a priority, and will make you $9/turn. Next job is upgrading your home base. It doesn’t matter if you use the X (#14) tile or the K (#15) tile – just make sure you have a second outlet towards New York City. This will make you $10/turn. When you play the gentle curve (#8) to New York, you’ll finally be running for some real money -- $19/turn.

An alternative starting strategy is to play the NYC like the Boston & Maine or the New York New Haven. Play your starting base as before, but instead of running into New York, run into Connecticut. Buy a 2 train for now. Now place the #69 tile, with the straight heading from New York straight into the mountains. You run for $3 this turn. Buy two trains, preferably including at least one "3" train. Next turn, you play the straight city (#57) and drop a token there. You now run for $12/share. This is a faster start and makes some interesting track, but it subsequently takes longer to get into New York while taking more resources from the railroad.

Canadian Pacific
The Can Pac has the advantage of running all its own track for much of the game. It may attempt to get to New York, but unless it plays the Delaware & Hudson option, it is unlikely to succeed as the NYNH, NYC and B&M are all competing for the northern access.

The CanPac can be a fairly fast starter. Play a tight curve (#7) and hook into the grey tight curve as your first tile lay. Buy 2 trains, three if you have the Champlain & St. Lawrence. Next turn play the straight city (#57) and place your token there. Play the Champlain & St. Lawrence tile (for free) if you have the option. Most people play #58, and head south towards New York, but for short term cash, heading to the Maritime Provinces may be more profitable. You will now be running for $9/share or $14/share respectively on your first turn. $14 isn’t too bad! You can add $2/share by connecting to the Maritime Provinces or upgrading the yellow city with the X (#14). Note that the K (#15) tile is illegal here. From here, it becomes slower development as you drive west. Look to the Erie area as it can be extremely profitable.

Chesapeake and Ohio
The C&O has ready access to Chicago and a few options for opening strategy. Play a gentle curve (#8) and buy your "2" train. Play a second gentle curve and you’re in Chicago for $7/share. Buy another train and play the whistle stop to the east and you’re at $11/share. Drive east from here, trying to get into New York.

Alternatively, play a straight tile (#9) to the southwest, then play the straight city (#57) and run for $5/share. Drop a token here and buy another train. Play a straight (#9) and head for the Gulf, running for ($10). Upgrade the city to #14 or #15, laying the new track towards Chicago for $12/share and buy a third train. Play the straight (#9) into Chicago and you’re making $19/share. Now drive east as before. A fourth train would be usable here, but it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll be able to hold four trains after this many turns – you may have lost your "2" trains by now. You’ll simply add the extra stops to your existing trains – for instance run a "3" train from the Gulf to Chicago and your other train from the city east. This should be worth $17/share or more.

Finally, you can play a tight curve, heading northwest towards the city there. Buy one train as before, and you’ll make $5 per turn when you play the city (which costs $80 to build). Buy another train. You can either play a tight curve (#7) going into Chicago from the northeast, or you can just upgrade to a K city (#15), making an additional $2 per turn. The former option preserves your ability to go into Detroit while delaying development one turn. The latter option makes more money right now. The difference is $11/share vs. $13/share and a delay of one turn in development, in return for easier access to Detroit and Toronto. In practice, the Camden & Amboy and the Erie will be competing for the OO tiles, and it’s unlikely the C&O will have them available. Note that this last option is also the most expensive option, since you have a bridge to build you wouldn’t otherwise have to.

All of these strategies slowly add trains, which has the advantage of not being stuck with the cheap trains. You may not want to add trains as quickly as indicated here – this will cost you some short-term money, but it preserves capital for the trains.

There is no point at all to starting the Erie until the 3 trains come out, so starting the Erie is not a good idea. In fact, you prefer that browns are out or about to come out so that the OO tiles are quickly upgradeable. If you try it, you should own the D&H private company and start the Erie for less money than any other railroad, hoping that another player will buy the first 3. Expect that the other players won’t cooperate, so you’ll have to buy it yourself just to get started. You’ll end up withholding dividends twice and then you’ll have a paltry $6 or a maximum of an $8 payout if you simply connect to the other OO city to the north. Note that you couldn’t even use the D&H special power until that 3 train is bought.

New York, New Haven and Hartford
The NYNH starts on the best base in the game, but only has one extra token. Initially, it will need a route, so it will need to play on the double small city tile. You have the initial option of playing towards Albany, playing straight into the mountain (useless) or driving along the coastline. If you play towards Albany, your opening game is much like the NYC. If you play towards Boston, you can make some decent short term money. Play the #1 tile and buy three trains. If you have to buy a fourth train in order to get a "3" train, this is going to be worth it, since a "3" lets you run into Boston. Play the city (#57) southwest of Boston and drop your one and only token there. You can now run three trains for $14/share. You will want to upgrade all three of the cities. Any single upgrade will yield an additional $2/share. However, the most profitable route in the longer run is to connect to the south of New York. Upgrade New York (#54), and make $16/share. Play a tight curve (#7) for no improvement. Play the #2 tile to connect into the South of New York, and you can run your "3" train around the loop. With 2 "2" trains and a "3" train, you’ll be running for $23/share.

Boston & Maine
The Boston & Maine plays similarly to the NYNH, except that it doesn’t have the option to profitably go around to the south of New York – the NYNH blocks that option. Play the #57 straight city tile southwest of Boston and drop your token. Buy three trains, including a "3" if possible. Next turn, play the #1 tile and connect to New York. Your first run is for $14/share, and you can now upgrade by $2/turn as per the NYNH.

The B&M does have some options not available to the NYNH, in that it can place a different tile such as #55 or #69 and connect into New York from the other side. It can even permanently block the northeast entrance to New York with certain tile placements at the double whistle. This is quite rare, however, since normally the player running the B&M at the beginning of the game will have an eye on running either the NYC or the B&M as a complementary railroad later in the game. The B&M also has the option to build tunnels. This will probably yield better long term token placement, but will also be a much slower and more expensive start.

Next: Midgame Strategy
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Chris Farrell
United States
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Re:Opening Strategy - Initial Railroads
I've less to add on this one, as again Roger has covered everything very nicely. Just a few things:

The PRR can be started by *anyone* for a total of $335. Unlike the M&H, the C&A share is just "out there" and the presidency of the PRR is not linked to the C&A, although it feels like it should be The PRR should always start on turn one. Since the C&A will likely be dumped on a company ASAP, that hex (which is rather important to the PRR) will likely open up pretty quickly.

I think the Erie (obviously), NYC, and B&M can be written off entirely as opening railroads. The NYC starts much too slowly, and the B&M is just not as good as the NYNH&H. The PRR, B&O, and C&O are no-brainers. NYNH&H is quite good too. CP is a tough call. For the owner of the right privates, it's tempting, but it is isolated and just doesn't generate the same returns.

It makes a lot of sense to invest in other player's companies early, since often (especially when playing with 6) you may not be able to start a railroad immediately. Just remember, the first turn a railroad runs, it's a loser (no train, no revenue, a stock hit). You don't want to pay this price twice if you don't have to. The B&O and C&O are good railroads to become minority shareholder in, since their early revenues are extremely high. BUT, liquidate these positions before the president acquires a second railroad. If you get a company dumped on you, the dumper may not win - but you certainly won't.
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Eric Parker
United States
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Personally, if playing a 6-player game, I prefer bidding $45 on Champlain & St. Lawrence and then buying 5 shares of Pennsylvania RR at $71 each. Of course, this only works if you are first or second to bid.

The advantage is that you use up all your money and you get PRR floated without anyone else's help. 400-45=355/5=71

With NYNH, B&M and NYC competing for the northern entry into New York City, PRR and B&O have a decided advantage on the board compared to in the computer game.

I like how the computer adds the option of Reading RR with two tokens and a starting space just east of PRR. It means that three RRs are competing to get into New York City from the south.

Of course, on the computer, I have figured out how to float Reading at $67 per share after two turns to work with PRR, which I also own. After forcing the issue with B&O on where it places its tokens (usually one in Washington, DC to get all the routes south of Baltimore, which with 3 2-trains and a 3 train adds up to $300, and then one in the double-token city just northeast of Baltimore so it can assure its entry into NYC), I just work PRR and Reading together to allow B&O to get a lot of money running from NYC to Baltimore and out west if it wants, and PRR and Reading go hog wild running two trains each, a Diesel and a 6 for PRR (if not two Diesels) and a Diesel and a 5 for Reading. That, and holding 3 or more shares of B&O ensures me a resounding victory every time, especially when PRR and Reading can run a loop into Chicago and Detroit that net each of them nearly $1,000 per turn.

CP is way too isolated up north to really be worth anything unless there are not other railroads available to you. C&O is good, but unless PRR and B&O fall asleep at the wheel, they will double-token both access points for the southern entry into New York City. Better to use C&O to go directly southwest and then either the X or K to Chicago, and for Erie to do the looping around to maximize the Upper Midwest.
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