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Subject: Early Experience: Baltimore & Ohio rss

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J C Lawrence
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This article was originally written for and posted on my blog, and is better formatted and more readable there: Early Experience: Baltimore & Ohio



Eddie Robbin's Baltimore & Ohio is the latest member of the Historic Railroads System and is part of the Winsome Games’ 2009 Essen Collection. It is a particularly trenchant perfect and certain information game all about timing, timing, and well, timing. In broader character, Baltimore & Ohio is Rimsky Korsakov's Flight of the Bumble Bee: full of little surges and races, layers upon layers of them, never relenting, always rushing, all of the races critical and requiring full attention and an endless delicate dedication to the dance.



Baltimore & Ohio has been described as the Historic Railroads System meets the 18xx, and there's some truth to the claim. Functionally it is clearly a member of the Historic railroads System with a hex-map, track abstracted to putting a cube in a hex on the map, companies with shares, company dividends a function of company cubes in cities, etc. Architecturally Baltimore & Ohio is a child of 1825 Unit 1 (and 1825 Unit 2 and 1825 Unit 3) with a glaring focus on (1825-style) portfolio management and timing (owning the right shares at the right times) rather than 1830-style market manipulation. Spiritually, and yes the parentage is this complex, Baltimore & Ohio is the direct descendant of Lokomotive Werks[1] with all of that game's extra-ordinary attention to exacting cashflow, turn order, and timing -- just carried forward into a larger and less relenting game[2]. Of the three, Lokomotive Werks has the dominant genes, shortly followed by 1825.

The game itself consists of stock rounds alternating with a pair of operating rounds. Initially 6 companies are available (B&O, B&M, C&O, NYC, NYNH&H & PRR). Later in the game 4 more companies become available (Erie, IC, Nickel Plate & Wabash). During stock rounds players acquire shares and manipulate the stock market. During operating rounds companies operate and may generate dividends for their shareholders. The game ends at the end of a set of operating rounds in which the highest level train is purchased (common), or when a share price reaches $375 (unlikely). The winner is the player with the largest net worth (portfolio value plus cash). There are few surprises here.

The rest of the model model is mostly familiar but does have surprises:

1. As has been long-suggested for many 18xx (perhaps most frequently by Robert Jasiek) player turn order is ordered by ascending player cash at the start of stock rounds
2. The stock market is linear with par value ranges an increasing function of the largest train purchased by any company
- Sold shares reduce share-value by one slot, no matter how many were sold
- Share values increase only if the company pays a dividend that is larger than its dividend from the last operating round
- Share values go down if the company has shares in the open market, or its dividend (paid or withheld) is less than it was in the last operating round
- In all other cases, whether dividends paid or withheld, share values remain unchanged
3. On their turn a player may sell any number of shares from any number of companies, and then buy any number of shares (of one company)
- Companies are incrementally capitalised as shares are bought
- Each company has a different number of track cubes, limiting its potential reach and growth with some like the B&M and NYNH&H being very small (but adjacent to great cities) and others like the C&O having a great many track cubes
4. When determining a company's _dividend run_, all the trains the company owns are summed (eg two 2-trains, a 3-train[3], and two 4-trains gives a total of 15) and then that many cities connected by the company's track are selected to generate the dividend (without regard for sequencing or locality). Thus there is no route tracing, just a simple connectivity check
- The actual dividend a company pays is equal to the sum of values of the cities hit by the company trains, minus a maintenance fee for each train the company owns, divided across the 10 shares in the company. The fee per train is equal to $10 multiplied by the size of the largest train purchased by any company, making smaller trains increasingly uneconomic over time

The board is rife with layers of short and long (timing) races. The number of companies allowed to connect to a given city is equal to the size of the largest train purchased by any company, thus there are races to get to more desirable cities first, locking other companies out. As city-capacity increases immediately when a new level of train is bought (and track is built after train purchasing), there are also races to be in position to buy the next size train and then immediately fill the newly accessible more-valuable cities. There are also races for special locations on the board with dividend-increasing coal tokens. As companies operate in descending order of stock value, stock rounds easily become positional dances attempting to force advantageous relative operating orders for specific companies so as to get them the good cities, good trains, good coal tokens etc[4] before some other company does[5].

Similarly, as there is such an advantage to being marginally lower in cash at the start of a stock round (to get first dibs on the best shares), there is often a muscular struggle in the operating rounds to run companies to pay as much as possible while having the controlling player end up with $1 less than the other players so as to secure the better turn order in the upcoming stock round.

This latter turn-order positioning is made more complex by the difficulty of increasing company stock values. There is a strong incentive to run companies for less than their maximum dividends so as to ensure stock-price increases by reserving future dividend increases by counting not-as-good cities for a dividend and then swapping in better cities in future dividends[6]. Getting the dividend sub-reporting for continued stock-value increases combined with maximising personal cash while also securing good turn order positioning can be difficult.

Those are not the only timing layers. There are yet more at different layers and levels, all open to inspection and manipulation. One trick is to hide cash in increased share value which would otherwise affect the player's turn order. As companies are incrementally capitalised as their shares are bought, and all shares sell for the current stock value, there is not only a race for good operating order, but for various combinations of good turn order positions, operating order positions, good board positions/access, etc. For instance, the right new company floated at the right time, with the right par and thus the right capitalisation, and thus the right operating order (even after player-market assault), can pay great dividends while preserving the player's turn order position, and be ripe to be dumped immediately in the next stock round, capitalising either buying all the best shares or floating a new company with the right par and the...etc.

As another example, there are also timing games that can be played with trains. In one of our games the NYNH&H, a very small company that can only reach 5 cities, already owned two 3-trains and had enough money in its treasury to buy an additional 5-train. Of course that gave it a total train capacity of 11 when it only connected 5 cities, but no matter. It then withheld its dividends and in the next operating round sold its 5-train to the bank[7] and used that money along with its remaining treasury to buy the last 5-train, thus selling a 5-train to buy a 5-train and accelerating the end of the game while also leaving an opponent's company unable to afford the larger train it needed and thus forcing it to withhold dividends yet again. Similar little timing games around the trains exist through-out the game.

All the little races and plethora of timing games, with every detail counting, sum to a larger fight to control the pace of the game and thus the length of the game. However rather than game-length being the defining centre of the game as it is in Wabash Cannonball, it is more an emergent and less directly-controlled property formed by the amalgam of all the little races. Due to capital concentration, ability to control the game's development speed and thus length with lower player counts is greatly reduced. For the same reasons, the importance of game-length control, and the ability to affect it, also tends to increase as player-count increases.

Baltimore & Ohio scales across player counts similarly to the 18xx. As player-count decreases, control increases and the timing games may be played with ever-increasing finesse. As player count increases, capital is diluted across players, and control not only decreases but shared-incentives becomes more important and a whole new layer of emergently collusive timing games become possible. At the higher player counts the patterns start to stylistically resemble 6-player 1830's, and at the lower player-counts, to likewise resemble 3-player 1830, complete with not only the different pacings, but the different values of different companies at the different player counts. The result is that 3 players plays very differently from 4 players, which in turn plays very differently from 5 players (I've not tried 6 players yet).

Expect your first session of Baltimore & Ohio to take between 4 and 5 hours, possibly a little more. With experience that play-time can be shortened down to around 150 minutes, but it will require both skill _and_ discipline as with that increased skill comes greater ability to predict, control and thus play with the many many layers of timing in the game, pushing the game back up toward 4-5 hours. Perhaps surprisingly it is easier to push play-time down with increased player-counts, as with more players timing-control also decreases, making a great many of the more subtle and time-consuming timing games unviable.

Footnotes:

1. Early experience: Lokomotive Werks
2. I'd never expected to describe Lokomotive Werks as more relenting!
3. As in most of the 18xx, 3-trains are the best trains in the game.
4. Most of our games have spent more time in stock rounds than operating rounds.
5. Destroying stock values all the while!
6. This is considerably easier with some companies than others.
7. Companies may sell their trains to the bank (and out of the game) for a marginal value.
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Bruce Murphy
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Nice overview, but on note 2 you haven't described LW as less relenting, you've said this was a less relenting relative. Did I misread one of those?

B>
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J C Lawrence
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thepackrat wrote:
Nice overview, but on note 2 you haven't described LW as less relenting, you've said this was a less relenting relative. Did I misread one of those?


Thanks. Fixed.
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clearclaw wrote:
1. As has been long-suggested for many 18xx (perhaps most frequently by Robert Jasiek) player turn order is ordered by ascending player cash at the start of stock rounds

I find the turn order in Baltimore and Ohio a marked improvement over both 18xx and Wabash Cannonball/Chicago Express.

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The actual dividend a company pays is equal to the sum of values of the cities hit by the company trains, minus a maintenance fee for each train the company owns, divided across the 10 shares in the company. The fee per train is equal to $10 multiplied by the size of the largest train purchased by any company, making smaller trains increasingly uneconomic over time.

Working the train rush, pushing it to your advantage one minute, fighting it the next, is such an interesting part of this game.

Great review JC!

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rockusultimus wrote:
I find the turn order in Baltimore and Ohio a marked improvement over both 18xx and Wabash Cannonball/Chicago Express.


I find it an interesting difference but not necessarily an improvement. Control, or at least determination of where Priority ends up on key rounds is central to a lot of good 18xx play. I've exited many a stock round in the 18xx owning one less share than I wanted to, purely to ensure that Priority ended up to my right rather than my left. I've also delayed and waited and waited until everyone else was done before finishing my stock trades, purely to ensure that Priority ends up to my left at times when I've needed that more. There's a reasonable skill required in both cases.

In Wabash Cannonball, so much of the game relies on the specific ordering of players, the fact that XXX with YYY shares is to your right or left, and all the calculations and conniving that depend on that, that changing turn order in the game severely change the game, and I think, not for the better.

I used cash-based turn order in Muck And Brass. Suffice to say that it does very strange things to alliance formation and management: some good, some not so good, some simply strange.

B&O's cash-based turn order in stock rounds forces a dollar accounting that I both find fascinating and questionable. It is so tempting (and possible) to cash-manage down to the dollar for turn order in 3-player games that it is hard to resist adding an hour or more to the playtime doing just that, and then adding another hour or more just fiddling the company operating orders. I'm not convinced those additional two hours contain two hours worth of game-value. While I've mostly played 3 player games, I've come to prefer the larger scale games simply because attempting those precise manipulations is largely unviable, thus leaving most of the game focused on the more important and interesting questions of grosser predictions and incentive and the like.

Quote:
Working the train rush, pushing it to your advantage one minute, fighting it the next, is such an interesting part of this game.


Agreed, though I've never really seen the trains rush as a rush per se. The rate of train sales does lurch a bit, but it has never hugely slowed down or sped up here. That said, timing the trains and the related capital requirements is a delightful aspect of the game. Getting three 3-trains into the NYC or PRR is a wonderful thing. It is also hard but ever so rewarding to keep a 2-train running profitably all the way through the 5-trains, but it can be done!

Then of course there are the games where the B&O or C&O sits with no trains and 4-5 coal tokens and just runs for money...and isn't worth owning. Or there are the games in which the B&M or NYNH&H (those are the usual two for us) are run into receivership, refloated and then run back into the receivership, both for great profits! (By that time they can't refloat as the lowest train costs more than $500).
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clearclaw wrote:
I find it an interesting difference but not necessarily an improvement.

You make good points.
I suppose I was speaking in more general terms of clockwise in seating arrangement. I've never been able to work Priority to my advantage in 18xx, though I'm fairly inexperienced in the genre.

I've often thought about ways to change player turn order in Wabash and what that would do to the game, but I've never actually tried any in practice.

 
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A lot of buzz for this game. Perhaps Borher and Robbins have achieved the holy grail of train gaming: a successful eurogame re-development of 18xx.
It could be wonderful.
 
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photocurio wrote:
A lot of buzz for this game.


It is an interesting game. It also sets an attractive baseline for derivative games. The core of the system is about as spare and expandable/extensible as Age of Steam's. I'll be surprised if we don't see designs next year that borrow from B&O's base model. While pulling the average play-time down will be interesting, it is quite accomplishable.

Quote:
Perhaps Borher and Robbins have achieved the holy grail of train gaming: a successful eurogame re-development of 18xx.


This is not that game. For 1829-style portfolio management games, the 1825 Units cover the eurogame-ish space extremely well with reasonable playtimes (120-180 minutes), excellent replayability, and a host of built-in expansions via the kits and regionals.

B&O's relationship to the 1830-branch 18xx is weak at best and entirely absent at worst. The similarities are that it is train-themed, has shares and a stock-market, and player net-worth is a product of both cash and shares. That's really not much. For Pete's sake: Pampas Railways even satisfies that description except that it uses an auction to simulate a stock market! B&O (and Pampas Railroads) is not in the same territory as 1830-style 18xx.

B&O's market, while ferociously active, is also not dynamic (which is an interesting contrast: ferociously undynamic?). The train rush...isn't. Capital-centrism (mostly) isn't. The 1830-branch games are all about control of capital. It is blatantly clear in the 1830-branch 18xx that the only reason the board and tiles and stations and trains and so forth exist in the games is to input semi-predictable numbers into the stock market, and in turn, the only reason the stock market exists is to give the players a place to play with capital, and capital is the only thing that actually matters in the game. B&O has almost none of that. While there are (relatively small) capital sub-games in B&O, eg riding a company up the stock market and then dumping the shares in order to reap the stock-appreciation profits (a pattern shared with the 18xx), they are not a strong focus of the game and aren't a dominant tactic. B&O's focus is unrelentingly on timing and prediction of timing. Capital and all the rest just comes along for the ride.

Quote:
It could be wonderful.


Nod.

I've come to mostly agree with Chris Farrell: The 1830-branch 18xx are naturally ~4 hour games (played without accelerants or moderator) and reducing them from there throws the baby out with the bathwater. This is not to say that the smaller/shorter 18xx games are bad games -- I play quite a lot of them and they're quite good games -- but they are almost excruciatingly more narrow, less expressive, less flexible , less dynamic etc than the games in the ~4 hour space. In short they are stunted dwarfs. Nice stunted dwarfs, enjoyable stunted dwarfs to be sure, but semi-crippled caricatures of the games they ape.
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Thanks for the thoughts. After four plays (twice three, twice four), I'm reaching similar approaches to the game.

I'm finding that, in a three-player, we're finding opening the large companies only in the first round, and developing those to be both safe and more profitable even in the short-term. If one of the smaller companies available from the start opens, it seems it doesn't do so until after the level 3 companies have opened.

With 4 players, the situation is different, and the smaller companies have opened both times in the first round. There has been subsequent difficulties for any player who does not receive support in his/her endeavor, so this may lapse into the 3-player state of not opening companies that can't be financed enough to survive beyond the current round.

I've used those smaller companies to dump upon my fellow-investors after a set of business rounds or two; and subsequently we've begun avoiding them. Are you finding similar patterns?

The train level question is interesting, but we have not been terribly successful at manipulating turn order (I have once or twice when it was necessary and easily attainable, to the chagrin of my fellow players) - I've only considered it as an option in the last two plays, in fact. At least one person, in each of the last three games, is getting inevitably screwed by train purchases and their lack of carefulness (it happened to me exactly once).

We have also not yet micro-managed the game to come within $1 of another player. The game takes long enough as it is! I have withheld on key market rounds where this will give me the first opportunity to buy what has become a company full of potential, but it's often a swing of anywhere between $5 and $500, depending on the stage of the game.

We are all 18xx-novices (and I've played with two players who have 18xx'ed once), where two players have ever played 1829 or it's descendants, who also have barely played LW sufficiently enough to claim a good understanding. Time has often been the factor here; the best players I get to play against in Tucson only meet in a 4-hour timespan (and it usually winds up being closer to 2.5-3, with people settling in, deciding upon a game, and getting antsy about leaving). I'm hoping this can change in the near future.

It took us the better part of two plays to understand the 1829-style (mostly realized by me, and followed by my fellow-players) approach necessary, rather than our attempt at 1830-style. The last two plays have been further development and realization of how one is not simply building up their companies, but using the companies to manipulate the other companies and the other players.

I'm enjoying the game more and more with each play. The opening game still feels a little odd. I wonder if we'll play with the "big-4" strategy for a little while, or if we'll find a way "out" of that groupthink.

Even though I think this game is much more than just 1829 with track turned into cubes, I still feel that this system will be 10X better for my personal tastes if adapted to an 1830-style stock market game. I hope this is in development, and will be seen in the next few years.

Oh, and I've not yet seen a company go unprofitable! I would love to hear about how it happened for your group. I imagine train-screwage.
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While JC show a fine understanding of B&O after just 3 plays, I have to point out two boo-boos.

clearclaw wrote:
Then of course there are the games where the B&O or C&O sits with no trains and 4-5 coal tokens and just runs for money


Not quite right. Note that the rules say "Each Coal counter brings $40 income if the railroad has any Capital Equipment at all." If it has "no trains" (Capital Equipment) it gets no money.

clearclaw wrote:
(By that time they can't refloat as the lowest train costs more than $500).


Please note that the most expensive Capital Equipment card costs $500, and a railroad can always successfully "refloat" (restart from receivership), folks.

Insightful review, JC!
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Must have this.
 
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blueatheart wrote:
I'm finding that, in a three-player, we're finding opening the large companies only in the first round, and developing those to be both safe and more profitable even in the short-term.


If the B&O and C&O both head towards Pittsburgh, which is pretty typical, one of them is about to get screwed -- most especially if the NYC gets to Pittsburgh second.

Quote:
If one of the smaller companies available from the start opens, it seems it doesn't do so until after the level 3 companies have opened.


It really depends on who buys the last 2-train and why. I've seen the NYNH&H opened twice now to suck up the last 2-rain thus making the 3s available to a specific company (usually the B&O).

Quote:
With 4 players, the situation is different, and the smaller companies have opened both times in the first round.


I see no reason to open both the B&M and the NYNH&H in the first round. There's good reason to open one of them, but I don't think both. With 5 players things are a lot different again. With 5 players there's also good reason to look at a more combo-coastal/southerly route for the C&O. That C&O pattern can work in 4-player, but it is even more tempting with 5 players.

Quote:
There has been subsequent difficulties for any player who does not receive support in his/her endeavor, so this may lapse into the 3-player state of not opening companies that can't be financed enough to survive beyond the current round.


If I open the NYNH&H in the first or second SR, I'm almost certainly aiming to throw it away into receivership in a few turns. Buy it up, build track, get good dividends and some stock appreciation for two ORs, dump all but one share in the next SR (profit-taking), withhold on the 3rd OR, in the 4th OR buy every train you can (spend everything) and let the last share be re-possessed with your negative dividend (the loss is negligible), refloat it for $500, buy all 10 shares and get a spiffy train.

I've also seen semi-similar done with the C&O, though less cleanly.

Quote:
I've used those smaller companies to dump upon my fellow-investors after a set of business rounds or two; and subsequently we've begun avoiding them. Are you finding similar patterns?


Not at all. They're fine little short-term profit-earners. The NYNH&H is a little more attractive than the B&M as it can get to NY faster than the B&M.

Quote:
The train level question is interesting, but we have not been terribly successful at manipulating turn order (I have once or twice when it was necessary and easily attainable, to the chagrin of my fellow players) - I've only considered it as an option in the last two plays, in fact.


We started to have 45+ minute stock rounds, all due to attempting to manipulate operating order, before we finally called it quits. The NYC and the PRR are the most open to having their runs sub-counted for share appreciation and turn-order control. I've see a lot of time spent there too. This is where I'm not clear that the time is delivering enough game value and thus noted the call for discipline.

The other pattern we have, carried over from the ritual market trashing in the 18xx, is that once all the clearly good shares have gone we then simply rotate across all the companies and throw their share values down. With a 4 player game and 3 players all buying a share and then selling it, it doesn't take long before there's not a whole lot of stock-market left.

Quote:
At least one person, in each of the last three games, is getting inevitably screwed by train purchases and their lack of carefulness (it happened to me exactly once).


Yep. There tends to be a wave of withholding that goes on right as Phase-3 approaches and hits. They're the best trains in the game and they go fast.

Quote:
We have also not yet micro-managed the game to come within $1 of another player.


We have hit the $1 point, more than once, but not by planned intent, not with that precision. We've had a lot of withholds, sub-pays and the like attempting to jostle for turn order position, but so far nobody has calculated the whole thing out (though it is possible).

Quote:
I'm enjoying the game more and more with each play. The opening game still feels a little odd. I wonder if we'll play with the "big-4" strategy for a little while, or if we'll find a way "out" of that groupthink.


The NYC, PRR, B&O and C&O are all clearly great companies with potentially massive futures. The B&M and NYNH&H not so much. However it is also clear that one of those four are going to die on the vine, just not which. I suspect we'll be seeing that pattern for a long time.

Quote:
Oh, and I've not yet seen a company go unprofitable! I would love to hear about how it happened for your group. I imagine train-screwage.


See above. I've done that twice-ish. (The second time another player had a share, thus allowing me a clean exit but not the receivership).

Aside, if you haven't done it, I strongly recommend spending half an hour and determining the best possible cube patterns, plus the obvious backups in case of blockage due to tech-level, for each of the 10 companies, and thusly what they need in terms of trains. Knowing that base does a lot to open the game up.
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John Bohrer wrote:
While JC show a fine understanding of B&O after just 3 plays, I have to point out two boo-boos.


Wahh!

Quote:
clearclaw wrote:
Then of course there are the games where the B&O or C&O sits with no trains and 4-5 coal tokens and just runs for money


Not quite right. Note that the rules say "Each Coal counter brings $40 income if the railroad has any Capital Equipment at all." If it has "no trains" (Capital Equipment) it gets no money.


Yeah, oops.

What I'm most upset about though is that you just nixed my re-use of a Steve Thomas quote, ...utterly unsullied by any form of rolling stock. I'm not sure that's forgivable.

Quote:
clearclaw wrote:
(By that time they can't refloat as the lowest train costs more than $500).


Please note that the most expensive Capital Equipment card costs $500, and a railroad can always successfully "refloat" (restart from receivership), folks.


Bugger! You've driven me out to the car to pull out my copy and check now. Blast! Somehow we all saw the cost of the first 6-train as $600 and nodded at each other that the company was dead. Then we went on to buy various 6-trains for well under that and thought no more of it. I claim prestidigitation from Pittsburgh! Tarnation!

For those interested the formula for a train's price is: ((L^2 + L + 8) * 10) - (L * N * 5) Where L is the technology/train level and N is the zero-based index of that train at that level

Quote:
Insightful review, JC!


Thanks.
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clearclaw wrote:
((L^2 + L + 8) * 10) - (L * N * 5)


BtB the The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences is wonderful for messing about with this sort of thing. I just lost a couple hours fiddling with number sequences there.
 
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clearclaw wrote:
We started to have 45+ minute stock rounds, all due to attempting to manipulate operating order, before we finally called it quits.


Good Lord! I have seen 5 minute Market rounds, 10 minute Market rounds and even a 15 minute Market round once.
 
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John Bohrer wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
We started to have 45+ minute stock rounds, all due to attempting to manipulate operating order, before we finally called it quits.


Good Lord! I have seen 5 minute Market rounds, 10 minute Market rounds and even a 15 minute Market round once.


That's what happens when two, or worse three, players get into a fight over operating order, buying groups of shares and selling them one at a time (taking a loss as they go of course) in order to push down stock values and get the operating order they want. Keep it up for a little while and the whole market goes through the floor.

Ever seen three new companies float at $100 and end the stock round at $55 or lower? The guy to my right floats a new company and buys six shares. I buy a few shares, and sell them one at a time for a small loss, pushing the stock value down down two or three times. The next player buys the shares I sold and sells them one at a time for a smaller loss, pushing the stock value and operating order down even further. Then the third player gets in on the picture and does the same, and now the company is at $50 or lower. It isn't pretty. What's best about this (for some definition of best) is that if the original floater hangs back on his share purchases in hope of picking up the cheap shares after we trash them, that we'll just do bigger trashes, and shove the stock value down so far that it can't even raise enough money to buy a train by selling 100% of its shares. Yep, been there, done that, err had that done to me. Ouch.
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I am sure that you understand that the railroad can then buy the Orphan shares at a profit then, right? Pete sells a share he bought for $66, the railroad buys it back at $60. A $6 gift to the railroad. Dave buys a share at $60, sells it, the railroad buys it back for $55. Another $5 gift. Free money for the railroad's treasury.
 
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J C Lawrence
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John Bohrer wrote:
I am sure that you understand that the railroad can then buy the Orphan shares at a profit then, right? Pete sells a share he bought for $66, the railroad buys it back at $60. A $6 gift to the railroad. Dave buys a share at $60, sells it, the railroad buys it back for $55. Another $5 gift. Free money for the railroad's treasury.


Yep, we noticed that. In practice it just doesn't matter. The money is rarely to never enough to form the margin between significant track lays or train purchases. As a result is just doesn't matter if there's a little extra money in the company or not. What is it going to do with it? Not much. The big deal is that I spent ~$10 to reduce your stock value by ~$110 and that by the end of the round you've lost 300+ in stock value without a damned thing you could do about it. Sure, by the first time you see those few shares we've been buying and dumping the company can buy them back at half price, but you've personally lost ~$300 in stock value and the company now has a hard time raising capital for trains. Compared to that nice package, especially given the difficulty of increasing stock prices for a company more than a couple times in the late game, the few extra dollars in the company are pretty irrelevant. And if we can force the company to not even be able to buy a train? Even better. It sometimes makes it a losing proposition just to float a company -- unless you can buy 100%.
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Well, the railroad has all that money in its treasury from the initial sales and still gets to refill its held stock. We will just have to play a game together someday!

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John Bohrer wrote:
Well, the railroad has all that money in its treasury from the initial sales and still gets to refill its held stock.


Right, but the money in the company is pretty irrelevant. You've invested ~$600 in a set of shares that are now worth only ~$300. They'll price-increase twice maybe thrice, four times if you're really lucky, recovering $80-$100 of your lost stock value. Meanwhile the company pays what in dividends before the game ends? Quite possibly not enough to make up for that missing $200+.

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We will just have to play a game together someday!


Absolutely.
 
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clearclaw wrote:
Meanwhile the company pays what in dividends before the game ends? Quite possibly not enough to make up for that missing $200+.


Ah, that is where we differ!
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clearclaw wrote:
Ever seen three new companies float at $100 and end the stock round at $55 or lower? The guy to my right floats a new company and buys six shares. I buy a few shares, and sell them one at a time for a small loss, pushing the stock value down down two or three times. The next player buys the shares I sold and sells them one at a time for a smaller loss, pushing the stock value and operating order down even further. Then the third player gets in on the picture and does the same, and now the company is at $50 or lower. It isn't pretty. What's best about this (for some definition of best) is that if the original floater hangs back on his share purchases in hope of picking up the cheap shares after we trash them, that we'll just do bigger trashes, and shove the stock value down so far that it can't even raise enough money to buy a train by selling 100% of its shares. Yep, been there, done that, err had that done to me. Ouch.


We have instead had a focus on developing *good* companies, after these results. What winds up happening for us is that I float a company with 6 shares @ $66, player to my right buys 2 shares. I look into their eyes and see treachery, so I sell all my shares. They are stuck with at least one of the shares, have a whole bunch of the company orphaned, and by the end of the market round, with no further action will have lost $22, while I've lost nothing and can re-invest elsewhere. This is big in early-game. We have a lot of big-dumping, not particularly for turn-order (esp. early, it can actually be beneficial to go late due to #2 trains availability often by the end of the first business round, but you're not going to make much on the first two business rounds as far as dividends go).

What this has created locally is incentive to not rely on others for capitalization without further treachery. We'll either buy 1-3 shares of a company, where the president has perhaps 4, or we'll buy 80%, understanding the importance of dividends over stock value. Our second game had a lot of fanangling over turn-order in a few stock rounds.

Generally, it's in anticipation and avoidance of the death-spiral that we are acting in this manner (or, at least, me). If one player manages to avoid this death-spiral, either by 100% or other reasons, they are doing very well.

Selling one-at-a-time just doesn't seem to be a good enough method, unless you are keeping perhaps one share, and the president is the "leading" player who has 4+ shares. They should look at your one share and understand what further nonsense is about to occur, and dump it on you instead. If you subsequently throw the company into receivership, you're the one losing out on $55 or whatever, plus dividend potentials elsewhere, plus stock growth elsewhere. Your liquidity is tied up in a useless stock that will simply dissolve. If I can force you into such a situation with no cost to my person, I will.

Perhaps I'm just not seeing a better reason behind it; I am perfectly willing to admit that. But the avoidance of the death-spiral should be both easy and beneficial.

In fact, if all other players are currently doing such noise, I would probably sell as many shares as I can, wait for them to be nearly finished, then buy some shares on the cheap (only works if you weren't previously incredibly diversified). Big profit.
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clearclaw wrote:
John Bohrer wrote:
Well, the railroad has all that money in its treasury from the initial sales and still gets to refill its held stock.


Right, but the money in the company is pretty irrelevant. You've invested ~$600 in a set of shares that are now worth only ~$300. They'll price-increase twice maybe thrice, four times if you're really lucky, recovering $80-$100 of your lost stock value. Meanwhile the company pays what in dividends before the game ends? Quite possibly not enough to make up for that missing $200+.


We're locally seeing $500+ dividends by end-game (more if the last market round occurs when the first 6 train is available but not yet bought).
 
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blueatheart wrote:
We have instead had a focus on developing *good* companies...


We don't have much of that interest. On the 18xx side, all of us have a strong dislike for games simply focused on running good companies, much preferring, variously, the free money games, the put-things-together games (not always mergers), and the timing games.

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What winds up happening for us is that I float a company with 6 shares @ $66, player to my right buys 2 shares. I look into their eyes and see treachery, so I sell all my shares.


And they get control of a company with $528 in capital for only $132. That's more than enough to buy any train, and you've only hurt their stock value by $12 -- entirely recovered the first time it runs a train. Admittedly, none of the standard 18xx techniques to move capital from treasuries to hand or between two companies exist, but that's still quite a handsome gift.

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They are stuck with at least one of the shares, have a whole bunch of the company orphaned, and by the end of the market round, with no further action will have lost $22, while I've lost nothing and can re-invest elsewhere.


Nope. They have very little exposure in that case and you've just given them a gift of $396 of capital. All they've really lost is temporary liquidity of ~$80, but that $80 controls $528 in capital -- whichs eems a fair trade. The stock will minimally stock-appreciate twice and will pay dividends. This is no big deal, most especially if that happens in the early game -- in which case it is even better for the dumpee as they'll redeem most of the shares, lowering their controlled capital but also increasing the treasury income. Worst case the stock appreciates ~3-4 times, paying dividends all the while, and then they toss the share as it goes unprofitable. In sum they'll profit modestly to well at the cost of a small liquidity short-term hit. Meanwhile the train rush (saunter?) is kicked forward by 1-2 trains.

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This is big in early-game.


I think if you work it through you'll find it isn't so big.

Quote:
We have a lot of big-dumping, not particularly for turn-order (esp. early, it can actually be beneficial to go late due to #2 trains availability often by the end of the first business round, but you're not going to make much on the first two business rounds as far as dividends go).


Most of our early market activity centres around profit-taking. Suck up shares of something that will stock-appreciate well, let it run a bit, then dump it all to reap the profits and turn that into more shares.

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What this has created locally is incentive to not rely on others for capitalization without further treachery.


Oh, we never rely on others for capitalisation. This is not 6-player 1830!

Quote:
Selling one-at-a-time just doesn't seem to be a good enough method, unless you are keeping perhaps one share, and the president is the "leading" player who has 4+ shares. They should look at your one share and understand what further nonsense is about to occur, and dump it on you instead. If you subsequently throw the company into receivership, you're the one losing out on $55 or whatever, plus dividend potentials elsewhere, plus stock growth elsewhere. Your liquidity is tied up in a useless stock that will simply dissolve. If I can force you into such a situation with no cost to my person, I will.


If the company is under-capitalised, the second buyer should never have bought their shares. If it is marginally capitalised, then it is just risk-assessment.

Assuming sufficient capitalisation, there is only one inflection point: the point at which the company moves from able to buy a train to unable, and there's only one way to cross that divide: have the new company late enough in operating order that all the affordable trains will have been bought by the time it operates. That can happen only two ways: more shares being dumped, or new companies being floated. The first case is easily trapped as B&O is a sell-buy game. As share-buying to market-trash only happens after the players have fully invested in actually desirable shares, the risks of large capital movements are low (and expensive) -- except for the newly floated companies. They're the only real targets as that's where the margins are to be made, and the trasher's risks are low as they're stuffed with cash.

Quote:
In fact, if all other players are currently doing such noise, I would probably sell as many shares as I can, wait for them to be nearly finished, then buy some shares on the cheap (only works if you weren't previously incredibly diversified). Big profit.


Think of it like the ritual market trashing that happens somewhere around the 4-trains in most 18xx. A player has priority to their left and is fat on cash. They let all the other players start floating their companies and commit their capital, and then they simply move across every company in the game, buying all the shares they can, dumping them, and then finally floating their own company. None of the other players can afford to dump the company on this last player: the control of capital and the company itself are just worth too much! Of course the company the trashing player finally floats is normally not much, but they were late in priority and thus had no chance at anything better anyway. They may even sell it down to 2-3 shares in that same stock round and use the recycled capital to grab a few shares they didn't bother to hit.
 
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clearclaw wrote:
Nope. They have very little exposure in that case


You remember that any railroad with shares in the Orphan Stocks pool at the end of the Market round immediately loses value, right?
 
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