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Subject: Electric railroading in Japan - an 1886 session rss

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Ron K
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Having teamed up with sbzine to convert this Japanese 18xx game into English and generate a set of DIY components, I've been eagerly trying to get this to the table. This weekend schedules finally sorted themselves out and three of us (Rob, Jack and myself) sat down for a game of 1886.

This session is only partially done as we broke for dinner and plan to finish on Sunday. I'll update this with the rest of the play sometime after that.


1886 is an 18xx game set in Nagoya, Japan with the electric tramways playing center stage. 1886 is most similar to 1830 with a few additional tiles and a number of McGuffins added in:

- 1856 style small city (towns) to big city upgrades
- The Government RR
- Mergers & Acquisitions
- The Showa Depression
- The Pacific War

I'll run through these as they set the stage for the session.

1856 style small city (towns) to big city upgrades
In phase 5, yellow small town tiles (3, 4, 58) can upgrade to yellow city tiles (5, 57, 6 respectively).

The Government RR
The government railroad floats at 20% (that single director share is sufficient). But, as 1886 using partial capitalization, you'll need to ensure you pump enough cash in to get that first train or you'll be in emergency money raising!

Mergers & Acquisitions.
At anytime during an OR, any company can acquire or merge in any other company (except the Gov RR) that hasn't operated yet. Merging involves a stock swap and acquisition involves a straight cash for shares buyout. The resulting absorbing company gets all the assets and tokens of the absorbed company. Further, the train limit is cumulative, the new stock price is additive and the two companies do not need to be connected.

The Showa Depression
The Showa depression increases stock volatility as sales cause double the drop in prices and the IPO is not available as a source for share purchases. The Showa depression is triggered with phase 6.

The Pacific War
In addition to the usual end-game rules involving bankruptcy or exceeding the bank, 1886 also ends after the set of operating rounds following the 2nd stock round once phase D is triggered.

Initial Stock Round

Jack gained the Priority Deal for the initial stock round. He quickly bid on the 6 (Aichi Horsecar) for the Director's share of the NER. Rob and Ron followed suit. The NER starts just north of Nagoya and greatly benefits from the 6 and 2 (Bisai RR) privates - you can run up a very fast dividend in the first few rounds.

Jack then placed a bid on the Sangu (#5) with Rob and Ron putting bids on the Nishisan (#4).

Eventually, Jack took the #1, Rob the #2, and after Rob bidding up the #3, Ron got it. Ron also bid with Rob for the #4 and won that. Jack had the only bid on the #5 and then there was quite a bidding war for the #6 - it went for 315.

At the end of the ISR, the holdings were:

Jack: Privates 1 & 5; Cash: 620
Ron: Privates 3 & 4, Cash 590
Rob: Privates 2 & 6; Cash: 385

Early Rounds (Phases 1, 2 & 3)

Note that these privates pay hefty revenues and should be taken into account when calculating IPO starting values.

Jack floated the KRR and went for the easy money to the southwest and purchased 2 2-trains. Later he connected to Rob's NER trackage (late phase 3).

During the early rounds, Rob floated the NER and built up a very nice set of routes running north/south. He purchased 3 2-trains initially. He was quickly getting payouts in the 250 range but was sharing the wealth with Ron who bought in early.

Ron brought the MRR online and, due to the 1886 train rush, started with a 2-train and a 3-train (thanks Rob for taking 3 2-trains). However, Ron floated the Goverment RR (GRR) in the second stock round. The plan was to have the GRR do the expensive track building (GRR pays half price for tile lays). Unfortunately, the yellow city tile in hex M12 (Hekinan - MRR Home Station) can't be upgraded due to the sea and impassable hex sides. This caused the MRR home token to block the GRR from getting around to the east.

Most of the privates were purchased by the respective companies to enable extra tile lays.

Mid Rounds (Phase 4 & 5)

Phase 4 wasn't 2 minutes old before Jack floated the SER and quickly merged it into the KRR. This served to extend his route to the south west, added cash, added tokens, and added train slots. Rob was caught holding a few shares of the KRR but none of the SER. This caused him to drop a share during the merger procedure (The value of each share increased but his share count decreased which hurt his dividend revenues). This being the first time we really paid attention to what a merger meant, we all started salivating and looking for other opportunities (and not letting people float target companies without buying in).

The ARR was floated by Ron to help with the southeast (MRR was quickly out of tokens). In a later round, the MET was floated by Ron, but to do so required dropping a couple of ARR shares and trading in the #3 private. Rob scooped up the ARR shares in the open market (at 10 below IPO prices) and a couple more. Jack grabbed a couple too having seen what happens if you don't buy in to a merger/acquisition target company.

Ron merged the MET into the MRR before it operated. The rules don't require the company to have operated in a prior OR, just floated. The rules also don't require a route between the companies which makes for some very interesting possibilities.

The first 5-trains were purchased at this point (lots of cash flows in with these new companies being formed and merged).

Standings at the Midgame:


Yen IPO SPI Tokens Trains *Jack Rob Ron
Yen: 207 365 293
ARR 420 75 75 1 4 20% 40% *40%
MRR 178 90 300 3 3345 40% *60%
NER 51 90 200 2 34 10% *60% 30%
GRR 180 100 90 2/3 3 *20%
KRR 117 100 200 4 345 *60% 10% (30% in Open Market)
MET 90 merged into the MRR
SER 70 merged into the KRR
IER not floated
TRR not floated
SRR not floated
AER not floated
Net Worth: 1757Y 3265Y 3173Y



The map at mid-game. Despite the large map size and quick train rush, the board fills at a good pace. The high dividends along with the float/merge pairings allow the pace of the game to be much faster than expected. A pleasant surprise for an 18xx with 11 companies and such a large map.


The stock market at mid-game. The mergers sure drive prices right up the stock market. Closed companies have their shares face down to minimize confusion. The Government RR is stuck on the SPI as it must limit its dividends to Half until it can trace a route to one of the special red off-board cities. At mid-game, we're almost there.


Rob's portfolio: Only 1 company but a great one so far. He has really made the most of the #6 private so far.


Jack's portfolio: Off to a slow start but his M&A fiddlings will keep him in the game.


Ron's portfolio: Having been burned by the GRR, I'm trying to expand my options. I had intended to merge the ARR in to the MRR but ended up not having 60% of the ARR to force the merger (and Rob & Jack voted against it).

18xx Rules Issues
Like any 18xx game and especially so since this is based on a translation (an excellent effort but not everything is crystal clear), some questions have come up (or some rules interpretations that seem very off the beaten path of 18xx thinking). I'll list the issues and how we addressed each here.

1. L hexes get regular yellow and green tiles. It was confusing that there aren't any yellow nor green L tiles - only brown/russet ones. We've found ourselves frequently peeking under the regular yellow and green city tiles to see if they are in L hexes or not.

2. M&A doesn't require a contiguous route between companies. This just didn't seem right (having played 1861 and 18EU). We accept it but this opens the M&A shenanigans quite a bit. That's not necessarily a bad thing mind you.

3. It seems quite limiting for the GRR to not be able to lay track on the other side of another companies token. We don't see how the GRR is of any use given this restriction combined with 1 tile per purchased share. The requirement to place tokens every share round until one of the red station tokens can be placed is fairly constraining (drains cash) but adding the half dividend limit until all three routes are established makes the GRR very questionable (even though the 3 routes ignore tokens and distance).

More when the session resumes
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Chris Shaffer
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Seems the GRR owner should have placed the green upgrade in L13 to bypass M12.
 
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Wow, what a great project. I'm wondering if the designer is involved in any way? Does he discuss rules issues?
 
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photocurio wrote:
Wow, what a great project. I'm wondering if the designer is involved in any way? Does he discuss rules issues?

I'm sure the designer discusses rules issues but unfortunately the designer and development community only speak Japanese. We English speakers are left to sift out the right answer based on perceived intent and interpretation.
 
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TheCat wrote:
Seems the GRR owner should have placed the green upgrade in L13 to bypass M12.


M12 is the Home Station for the MRR and had already upgraded L13 to green. My first mistake was not realizing M12 couldn't be upgraded to green. My second mistake was not realizing the OO hex at L15 has to get to Brown before it allows passing through. My third mistake (detecting a trend here ) was not realizing that it's still a single city per line until gray so it still blocked the GRR. All this to try and avoid the double dot small city hex at M14. M17 (Toyobashi) needed to be entered from the west so connecting via the west seemed logical.

I'll do better next time now that I see the series of constraints the designer built into this seemingly simple spot.

Worse yet, Rob managed to float the Seto and merge it into his NER so he could token Obu at K12 cutting my longer runs in half for both the GRR and MRR angry
 
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Here's my two cents on the rules questions:

RaDiKal wrote:
1. L hexes get regular yellow and green tiles. It was confusing that there aren't any yellow nor green L tiles - only brown/russet ones. We've found ourselves frequently peeking under the regular yellow and green city tiles to see if they are in L hexes or not.

The Japanese rules are silent on this, but the tiles in question are taken from 1856, and in 1856 the normal green 14 and 15 tiles upgrade to a brown L tile (125). (The rulebook says "place a Mayfair tile" at one point, so I think the designer is actually playing with the 1856 tiles.)

RaDiKal wrote:
2. M&A doesn't require a contiguous route between companies. This just didn't seem right (having played 1861 and 18EU). We accept it but this opens the M&A shenanigans quite a bit. That's not necessarily a bad thing mind you.

I think you're playing it correctly. M&A rules are the part I'm least certain about, but I can't find any reference to them needing a track connection. There is an idiosycratic phrase the designer uses to indicate continuous track, and it's not in that section.

RaDiKal wrote:
3. It seems quite limiting for the GRR to not be able to lay track on the other side of another companies token. We don't see how the GRR is of any use given this restriction combined with 1 tile per purchased share. The requirement to place tokens every share round until one of the red station tokens can be placed is fairly constraining (drains cash) but adding the half dividend limit until all three routes are established makes the GRR very questionable (even though the 3 routes ignore tokens and distance).

I think the intention must be that the red tokens can be placed without a connecting route in the initial phase only, so that the GRR has two railheads: one in Nagoya and one coming in from the outside. This should give the GRR more cash and also let it build around obstacles more easily. (Also, the red tokens are free to place.)

The Japanese rule here is:

株式ラウンド終了時、官営鉄道の駅マーカーが1つも配置されていなければ「武豊」と「浜松、中津川、下呂」のいずれかに駅マーカーを置く(計2個)。

Which I read literally as:

At the end of a stock round, one of GRR's station markers is also placed unless (until?) 「Taketoyo」 and any of「Hamamatsu, Gero, Nakatsugawa」have markers placed (2 pieces total).

There's no route exception given for the marker placement here, but it it does happen in an SR rather than an OR, so it's arguable that the OR placement rules don't apply here. If the GRR is crippled otherwise, that supports the SR placement being an exception.

Hope that helps, and if you agree with my interpretations we can revise the rulebook again.
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I wonder if the intended use of the GRR is to open it late, after getting other publics to lay most of the track for you, or whether it's just there as a temptation, trying to lure someone into using its cheap track builds.
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It's all in the file section, Download! Download! Download! then Print Print Print and Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy!!!
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sbszine wrote:
I wonder if the intended use of the GRR is to open it late, after getting other publics to lay most of the track for you, or whether it's just there as a temptation, trying to lure someone into using its cheap track builds.


I thought about that when pondering opening the GRR.

The half price track is either to help extend other company routes (120 through mountains is dang expensive) or to address the half dividend constraint - not sure which (or both). If the former, then opening early would be preferred to leverage it.

Given the very long routes that must be connected to get to full dividends, I suspect the GRR would be better played in the middle game so the delay to full dividends isn't so long and the 10 tile max isn't too small.

Waiting to the late game means colliding with the Showa Depression (on purchase of the 1st 6 train) which shuts down the IPO pretty much killing the GRR unless there was a stock buying frenzy earlier. Since I'd rather float a new company and merge it in than flush more cash into the GRR during the mid-game, this only makes sense when all the other companies have been soaked up.

We'll likely give it another go in August and include the revised interpretation for the GRR. That plus a wiser president (me) should afford a more useful role for the GRR.

So, to be clear, I'm interpreting what you say as:
1. We should consider the offboard red reserved city hexes as railheads for the purpose of placing a token at the end of the stock round.
2. We place a black token on the board at the end of the stock round until all three route pairs are established.
3. Red token placement does not satisfy the placing of a token at end of SR requirement.
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RaDiKal wrote:
So, to be clear, I'm interpreting what you say as:
1. We should consider the offboard red reserved city hexes as railheads for the purpose of placing a token at the end of the stock round.
2. We place a black token on the board at the end of the stock round until all three route pairs are established.
3. Red token placement does not satisfy the placing of a token at end of SR requirement.

After much rulebook anguish the only literal reading I can make is that the GRR is going to place a single red token at the end of the SR in which it floated, and it's just going to drop that red token on an offboard hex (presumably without needing any track connection). It now has a base and can operate. The GRR then places its black home base token in either its first OR or at the end of the next SR (if it doesn't want to block some friendly company), and that satisfies the "two pieces total" rule.

It's hard to say exactly what the designer's intention is, because the rule is in a terse point form, and just says "at SR end", which could mean "this one stock round" or "any stock round" or "all stock rounds". Japanese doesn't distinguish between singular and plural nouns or present and future tense, so this will never be clear until he adds a lot more explanatory text. The one thing that's very clear is that a total of two tokens are placed during this process, and that one of them goes on Taketoyo and the other on an offboard hex.

Now, this leaves the GRR with two extra red tokens whose purpose is mysterious. The rules do not mention these at all, but the charter notes that they are free to place. I have two guesses as to what these could be for:

1. Perhaps the GRR can lay them normally in an OR if it has a track connection to the appropriate offboard area. Since the GRR offboard areas have a straight piece of track rather than the usual offboard area arrows, it could be the intention that these tokens block other publics from offboard revenue.

2. Another possibility is that the offboard hexes count as extra 'home bases', so the GRR can drop a red token without a track connection at the start of its OR before laying track, in the place home base token step. The entirety of the relevant rule is: "Home base marker placement."
 
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Okay, how about this as the ruling which does the minimal damage to the known rules?

GRR places one token at the end of each SR, until a total of two -- one black and one red -- have been placed [from the rulebook]. Placing the red token in an SR doesn't need a track connection [implied since the red token can be placed prior to the first OR... this is the only real bit of handwaving].

GRR skips the home base placement section of the OR [implied, since the black home base token will be placed under the special GRR rule].

Only the GRR may place tokens on red offboard hexes, and red tokens must be used here. Red tokens are not home base markers. Aside from the red token placed in an SR as a consequence of floating the GRR, red tokens are always placed in the OR, using the normal placement rules [implied by lack of special rules for red tokens].
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sbszine wrote:
Red tokens are not home base markers.

Do you mean that one can not extend track nor operate trains from these red tokens?

That seems to make them worthless from a normal operations perspective. Given the awful terrain that most of the red station locations offer up, even if they were allowed to originate track and with an unlimited number of tile lays for the GRR, it would still be questionable to use the GRR in that manner.

I'd suggest the GRR needs all the attraction it can garner and let all tokens be considered equal (black & red) in all respects except restrictions on where they may be placed. Further, they do not block the red hex values for other companies.
 
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RaDiKal wrote:
sbszine wrote:
Red tokens are not home base markers.

Do you mean that one can not extend track nor operate trains from these red tokens?

By 'home base' I mean the one free station marker that a company places on its reserved city space when it floats. I think the intention is that each public company has one 'home base', and that GRR's is in Taketoyo.

I think the red tokens are just regular station markers that are optionally placed after laying track. Like any other station marker, you can extend track and run trains from them.
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RaDiKal wrote:
I'd suggest the GRR needs all the attraction it can garner and let all tokens be considered equal (black & red) in all respects except restrictions on where they may be placed. Further, they do not block the red hex values for other companies.

That all sounds right to me.
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