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Subject: Quick notes on understanding Wabash Cannonball rss

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J C Lawrence
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The most valuable thing about a share is not how much money it will make, but how it will change the incentive pattern among the remaining players.

The second most valuable thing about a share is the degree to which it makes a company viable (early game).

The third most valuable thing about a share is the revenue it may/will generate.

If you own shares in the company that the player to your right holds, you want that company to reach Chicago more than the player who holds shares in a company that the player to their left also holds shares of.

The mine and forest fields are excellent ways to devalue companies you are not invested in: just cut them off and make it impossible for them to reach Chicago.

Don't forget Detroit.

No company has to reach Chicago. Sometimes none of them will.

Choosing actions and then doing nothing can be a useful way of controlling the game length.

Time the Wabash and control incentives carefully. It can be a very profitable company. Or not.

It is up to you to ensure that the incentive structures of each other player aligns with your personal pursuit of victory. Partnerships are a wonderful thing. A 2/2 split of the B&O is a beautiful thing. Or not. A 2/2 split of the NYC can be even better. Or not. A 1/1 split of the Pennsylvania is highly unstable.

Use stock dilution to find and break partnerships.

Wabash games are won not through accurate bidding or careful ROI control but by establishing positions such that the other players, through their own greedy self-interest help you win using their actions on their turn.

Track individual earning rates versus cash holdings. Typically one player will have a much higher income than the others, but lower cash holdings. Whether the game ends with this general dividend or the next will dictate who wins.

A typical game length is between 3 and 5 general dividends (inclusive).
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Mark Tyler
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clearclaw wrote:
If you own shares in the company that the player to your right holds, you want that company to reach Chicago more than the player who holds shares in a company that the player to their left also holds shares of.

Okay, I'll take the bait. Why is this true?
 
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Benjamin Keightley
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The Wabash is generally not a great rail, but it can be under the right conditions. The single best thing the Wabash can do is run directly to Chicago with undiluted stock, making its investor back $8 immediately. This is very unlikely to happen if you are not the player to the left of the player who runs to Chicago.

Generally, when the Wabash forms it is more of a hassle than anything else. Players can somewhat easily calculate its potential value down to the dollar and make it close to a zero-sum investment. This is not a very big game, so even considerations like the opportunity cost of running yet another railroad can factor into this calculation. When the player to your right runs to Chicago, if there is at least one expansion action left, the Wabash becomes worth more money to you than anyone else. Calculate what it's worth to everyone else and bid slightly more than that. Congratulations, you have either just won a cheap railroad, or you've stuck someone else with a dog of a company that's about to get diluted 50%.

Everyone else can do this too, so if you're a minority shareholder in a company your left-hand opponent is running to Chicago, it's probably time for that rail to explore the forests around Albany.
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Mark Tyler
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Coca Lite wrote:
When the player to your right runs to Chicago, if there is at least one expansion action left, the Wabash becomes worth more money to you than anyone else.


Thanks. That makes perfect sense. I was thinking the right-hand rule was more general and not tied specifically to launching the Wabash.
 
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BusinessIsGood
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Coca Lite wrote:
it's probably time for that rail to explore the forests around Albany.


The Catskill Mountains are always worth a visit.

I don't think you can understand Wabash Cannonball as much as you can experience it.
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Kevin Beckey
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Do these notes apply regardless of the number of players?
 
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Benjamin Keightley
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beckeykevin wrote:
Do these notes apply regardless of the number of players?


As far as I'm concerned, Wabash Cannonball is a 3-4 player game. The 2-player configuration has certain value to new players, but this doesn't last long. With that said…

The primary differences between the three and four player game involve control and stock value. With just three, each player has appreciably more control over the shape of the game. He can buy a lot of stock, can afford to be invested in many companies, and can end or prolong the game without too much trouble, if his opponents don't cooperate. Meanwhile, collusion between players is not as strong with only three, mostly because players don't need to cooperate that much. Each is so strong on his own that having a partner is often a waste of time.

In the three-player game, you will very often see the minority shareholder in the PA make one destructive track build to ensure it can't run to Chicago--this is because a bonus payout of $0/$8/$16 is simply unacceptable if you're anyone but the $16 recipient. In the four player game, the PA is more likely to make it only because $0/$0/$8/$16 is, in fact, appealing to two of the four players. Those players will probably cooperate to run the PA to Chicago for their mutual benefit.

Moving from three to four players has similar effects for each of the companies in the game. Collusion is stronger both because the payout structures change, and also because each individual has greatly reduced control over the game. He will have fewer opportunities to buy stock, and fewer opportunities to develop railroads, so buying the right stock is in many ways about picking the right partner. They're both strong games, and J C's notes apply to both, but one emphasizes individual decision-making and the other emphasizes collusion.

It's probably worth pointing out that when speaking of collusion, partnerships, or alliances, I'm not using them in the "Survivor" sense of "You and me to the end!" Instead I'm talking about two or more players understanding, negotiated or not, that by working together for a limited period of time, they can achieve substantially more together than they would be able to individually. This generally takes the shape of using their greater decision-making power to burst forward to Chicago, or to stop another rail dead in its tracks around the mines.
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J C Lawrence
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beckeykevin wrote:
Do these notes apply regardless of the number of players?


Yes.
 
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Mark Tyler
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Coca Lite wrote:
As far as I'm concerned, Wabash Cannonball is a 3-4 player game.


Is there a complete lack of control with a 5-6 player game?
 
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J C Lawrence
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Coca Lite wrote:
...Wabash Cannonball is a 3-4 player game.


Agreed.

Quote:
The primary differences between the three and four player game involve control and stock value. With just three, each player has appreciably more control over the shape of the game. He can buy a lot of stock, can afford to be invested in many companies, and can end or prolong the game without too much trouble, if his opponents don't cooperate.


While I agree, it is more than a bit funky simply due to share distributions. With 3 players the fact of 3 vs 4 vs 5 etc shares in a company becomes a lot more important. Then Pennsylvania dies with a 1/1/1 distribution, the B&O becomes deadly with a 2/2 etc.

Quote:
Meanwhile, collusion between players is not as strong with only three, mostly because players don't need to cooperate that much. Each is so strong on his own that having a partner is often a waste of time.


Here I mildly disagree. I see most 3 player games won by minor partnerships and advantage taking. The alliances and partnerships simply become more subtle and yet more far reaching. Which mine is grabbed and thus leaves which path open, which share is issued when to encourage a partnership with the left hand neighbour, which of two equal choices for an expansion is taken etc.

To give a quick example from our last 3 player game: The player to my right didn't capitalise a cash-strapped B&O when I had the cash to take it (he had 2 shares, I had 1). If he had done that I would have run the B&O to Chicago instead of gabbing my second Pennsylvania and running that through instead. I was already making more cash than he was, and he was already cash poor. That single action would have allowed me to run the B&O through to Chicago mostly safely while he spent his actions elsewhere in order to recover his base income/cash. Ultimately that failure dictated that he came in last by a large margin as his earning rate never recovered.

Quote:
In the three-player game, you will very often see the minority shareholder in the PA make one destructive track build to ensure it can't run to Chicago--this is because a bonus payout of $0/$8/$16 is simply unacceptable if you're anyone but the $16 recipient.


Yep.

Quote:
In the four player game, the PA is more likely to make it only because $0/$0/$8/$16 is, in fact, appealing to two of the four players.


I find destructive builds more common in 4 player games as while 0/0/8/16 is attractive, if the 16 player already has an income or cash lead (which is common), then it merely vaults them more ahead. In that case the 8 player will sabotage the 16 player merely to keep himself in contention. The local result has been a series of 4 player games in which no company ever makes it to Chicago (and thus the Wabash never starts) as every one is sabotaged by someone.

Quote:
...so buying the right stock is in many ways about picking the right partner.


Yes. And selling the right stock is in many ways about re-inforcing or breaking the right partnership.

Quote:
They're both strong games, and J C's notes apply to both...


Yes.

Quote:
...but one emphasizes individual decision-making and the other emphasizes collusion.


Here I equivocate.

Quote:
It's probably worth pointing out that when speaking of collusion, partnerships, or alliances, I'm not using them in the "Survivor" sense of "You and me to the end!" Instead I'm talking about two or more players understanding, negotiated or not, that by working together for a limited period of time, they can achieve substantially more together than they would be able to individually. This generally takes the shape of using their greater decision-making power to burst forward to Chicago, or to stop another rail dead in its tracks around the mines.


Likewise.
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J C Lawrence
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m_r_tyler wrote:
Coca Lite wrote:
As far as I'm concerned, Wabash Cannonball is a 3-4 player game.


Is there a complete lack of control with a 5-6 player game?


Not complete, but several aspects become a lot less interesting. Lack-of-control/multi-player chaos is a problem, but also the divisions of 3/4/5/6 shares in each company become a lot less interesting. With 3 or 4 players those divisions and related fractions form the centre of the game but with 5 much less so.
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J C Lawrence
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vvrood wrote:
The Catskill Mountains are always worth a visit.


They are a great way to not only discourage dilution of that company, but also to threaten/kill other companies. I've seen the NYC successfully DOA all three other companies this way. It was beautiful.

Quote:
I don't think you can understand Wabash Cannonball as much as you can experience it.


I demur.
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John Bohrer
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m_r_tyler wrote:
Coca Lite wrote:
As far as I'm concerned, Wabash Cannonball is a 3-4 player game.


Is there a complete lack of control with a 5-6 player game?


I personally enjoy 5 and 6 player games, but they greatly increase the difficulty to effectively control your own destiny. While a game with no luck doesn't have a heavy chaos aspect, the interpersonal aspects of the game become more demanding with 5 players and much more with 6.

For example, 4 railroads start the game, so in a 5 person game one person will have their full money and immediately start to dilute railroads, even before any dividends are paid. Some gamers find this effect unsettling, even disturbing. Will Pete choose my railroad to dilute? He should dilute Dave's! It isn't fair!!! Of course, if Pete does dilute my railroad, he will probably assist me in driving it west. It is a mixed blessing and most assuredly adds uncertainty to my future.

The optimum number of players is 4, IMHO, because it offers the greatest ease in defining and handling the shifting, ad hoc, unvoiced interpersonal relationships between the players that is a defining characteristic in Wabash Cannonball, 2 player games aside. Playing with 5 or 6 is beginning to enter the realm of Diplomacy, with unspoken pacts broken and sometimes hard feelings among the less thick skinned. It is a matter of taste, as are all games. Over here, if we get whacked in a 5 or 6 player game, it doesn't mean too much to us, as the game is so short and we just get ready for the next one. If we had published the original submission, a 4 hour game, it would have been too brutal. When we got it down to 45-60 minutes during development, we thought the 5 and 6 player game would just offer more of a challenge to some of the gamers. Again, it is just a matter of taste.

Over here at Winsome, we are all just delighted that so many people enjoy Harry's game so much. If some gamers like it the most with X players, great! We are just happy that they enjoy the game, no matter what their personal preference for the number of players. If anyone would like to visit us here in Pittsburgh during one of our Saturday gaming sessions and play WC with 5 or 6 players, I can promise you a very interesting gaming experience! WBC is also a possibility.

All the Best, Gentlemen,

John





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J C Lawrence
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John Bohrer wrote:
For example, 4 railroads start the game, so in a 5 person game one person will have their full money and immediately start to dilute railroads, even before any dividends are paid.


That's also my normal first move in 3 and 4 player games. It is rare here for more than three expansions to be done before all three capitalisations are exhausted in the first turn of the game.

Quote:
Again, it is just a matter of taste.


Sooth.
 
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Fel Barros
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Coca Lite wrote:
The single best thing the Wabash can do is run directly to Chicago with undiluted stock, making its investor back $8 immediately.


Am I missing something here? From the rules, You adjust the +7 AFTER paying Chicago Dividens and therefore the first Wabash payout is really low. Am I wrong?
 
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JR
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I don't know which specific rules you are reading, but the $7 of Chicago income is most definitely awarded before the Chicago dividend is paid out.
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