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1856: Railroading in Upper Canada from 1856» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Like a Pack of Ravenous Feral Dogs rss

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Jesse Dean
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Last night six of us played 1856 at Coolstuff Game’s Wednesday game night. Four of the six had played it on Sunday at my place, as recounted previously (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/427329). We were originally expecting give, but Will (who I thought was on a cruise), showed up unexpectedly. At first we were hesitant to add one other person, but we didn’t want to exclude him (and I heard that 1856 was actually decent with six), so we let him and ran with it! At Bryan’s request we played with the 8 trains instead of the Diesels.

The Private auction ran rather efficiently. David (who had priority), Mike R, and Mike D all bid on the Great Lakes Shipping Company, and then Bryan bought the Flos Tramway, I bought the Waterloo and Saugeen Railway Company, and Will bought the Canada Company. At that point the auction for the Great Lakes Shipping Company started, with David and Mike R both passing, giving Mike D the company for 85. David got the Great Lakes Shipping Company and Mike R got the St. Clair Frontier Tunnel Company.

With the Privates out of the way, we started companies. Mike D began with the LPS (which made sense considering its very strong synergy with the Great Lakes Shipping Company) and Bryan started the TGB for reasons I did not understand. I was torn. With the WSR Private, I had a lot of options but was most strongly leaning towards GW or GT as they both had a nice combination of tokens and position. I ultimately went with the GW, however, as it seemed to be in the best position to slow down LPS in the early game while still being able to take advantage of its track a bit later. Also, if anyone started the CA we could set up some cooperative, mutually advantageous builds. Unfortunately that did not happen, as Will started the WGB and both David and Mike R decided to play investor.

The early game went about as expected, with the only unusual thing being my build of a gentle curve between St. Thomas and Glencoe. Take that LPS!!! We maneuvered back and forth in train building exercises with my GW transitioning from two 2s to a 4, and others ending up with varying mixes of 3s and 4s. Mike R eventually started the Canada Air in order to take advantage of my track, while Mike D started a second company, the BBG and started to build it towards its destination, while shuffling money around such that the BBG ended up with some weaker trains and the LPS ended up with a stack of money. We all ended up hovering around the last 4 train while slowly accumulating piles of cash. No one wanted to buy it and be stuck not getting a 5 or 6. The situation broke with Mike D’s purchase of the last 4 through the LPS.

This happened at the end of a set of operating rounds, which caused a bit of a lull before the big train rush. At this point, Mike D’s companies were both in dangerous territory. The LPS was sitting in yellow, and the BBG was only a few share sells away from going bankrupt. I pointed this out to everyone and we descended on his company like a pack of ravenous feral dogs, buying up his stock and, on our following turns selling it in such a way that it caused the BBG to go bankrupt. Mike D was not very happy about that, but it amused the rest of this a bit. David started up the GT at this point, in order to try to take advantage of the impending switch to permanent trains.

After some more stock shuffling we moved into the next operation round. Three companies ended up buying 5 trains: the GW, GT, and WBG. For my train purchase I had to think quite a bit, trying to decide what I was going to do with the GT. I knew that Mike R was planning on driving his debt-ridden CA into the government, and he was planning on using the money he had collected so far to buy a 6 train to ensure that the CGR would have a decent train option when it folded in. I realized, looking around the table that a) if the GW folded into the CGR than I would end up with the largest share of it and thus be the president b) with only two companies going in, it would still be a 10% company. So with that in mind I took the plunge and bought a five train.

When it got to Mike D, he had a bit of a problem. He had been planning on pushing the CA into the CGR, but he now realized that I was going to follow him in and would end up in control of the company. (He was a little annoyed at that.) It was still the best choice for him however, as it looked like the CGR would end up with a 6 train and a 5 train and be set up for some massive hauls later. If he didn’t, then Mike D, who was following him, most certainly would buy a 6 train, and a similar effect would happen, except this time he would be forced to spend the money in his treasury to pay off his loans and then would be forced to buy a train on top of that. I had left him no choice in the matter. So the CGR was formed, with me taking 30%, Mike taking 20%, and David and Will each getting 10%.

The brutality of the train rush continued when Mike R used the money he had sitting in the LPS to upgrade to an 8 train. Bryan’s 4 immediately rotted away, and when we got to him he was forced to sell the majority of his stocks and in order to be able to buy the last remaining 6. Luckily (for some people) that did not end the game.

The game was somewhat static after that. A few more companies were started (I began the CV and Mike D started the WR) and near the end David dumped the GT onto Mike R. Beyond that the game was mostly spent upgrading track and running for money, until the bank finally broke and we ended it.

The final scores were:
Will: 6453
Jesse: 6437
David: 5064
Mike R: 4879
Mike D: 3848
Bryan: 3305

As you can see it was really, really close. The majority of Will’s final score was from stock value. His WGB ended the game at maximum share value, and that accounted for a large part of his score. Mine was mostly from my income, as both of the companies where I had majority ownership were making a lot more than the companies that he owned.

We realized afterwards that I had forgotten to use the tunnel bonus that the CGR acquired when the CA was rolled into the government. If that was accounted for, I would have won by a few dollars.

Afterwards Mike R, David, and I ended up hanging out and talking, first in the store and then in the parking lot, about the game. We are all very, very impressed by it (to the point where I have added it to the small group of games that I rate a 9), though David is still frustrated by the dragging of the end game. (A dragging, which I am a little bit less bothered by.) I suspect I need to work better on tokening effectively. I could have potentially hamstrung some of the other company’s values by using CGR’s tokens and somewhat ample treasury to lock opponents out of making some of their better runs.

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Breno K.
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In our group we have printed out charts to shorten the endgame grind. One to mark what each company is earning (boxes that go from 1-100, in which we place the par price markers: we write the par prices on a separate sheet, since it's a value that doesn't change) and one table that multiplies 1-100 by 1-6 (actually 1-10, since some games allow you to own more than 60% of a company's stock) so you don't have to break out the calculators so often, just look up the results. Both of them have taken less time to create than what it saves in a single match.

We didn't go the moderator route since we thought that playing with no (literally) tangible money would feel kind of weird. Plus, 4.5 hours feels about right with 1856; playing 1830 on DOS in 30 minutes always felt to me like one of those comically sped-up movies from a long time ago.
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Jesse Dean
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That sounds useful. We already were recording how much each company was making each round in order to allow people to make more informed decisions about buying companies.

The worksheets you describe would help even further.

I was looking at your ratings and saw that you rate some of the shorter 18XXs reasonably well. How do you feel that 18GA and 18AL compare to longer games like 1856?
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Breno K.
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I really like the short 18xx's, but if I have the extra hour or two I'll usually pick the longer ones. I think the short ones retain the overall feel of 18xx, but still feels like I'm not getting the entire experience, only like a representative part of it, like someone decided to imitate 18xx in miniature form. It looks very realistic, and even acts like the real thing, but it's still a little too short and small. Given the time, I'd rather play one match of 1870 than two consecutive ones of 18AL.

Since I'm not always given the time to do so, 18AL is still a nice game to have in my collection (one day I'll print it out). I'd rather play it than, say, two matches of most eurogames.

I like 18AL much more than 18GA (better map, better privates), and since they both pretty much fill the same hole, I think 18GA suffers for it.
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A Derk appears from the mists...
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18AL and 18GA are very good. I've played 18AL four or five times, and 18GA three times. Unfortunately they're all spaced over a period, so I can't judge which I like more.

As Breno said, I prefer the longer ones, but the shorter ones come to the table more often, so there's definitely something to be said for that.

Played 1889 for the first time the other day. It has the dividend chart on the board, which is nice. As anxious as I am to speed the game up, I still like to use money. In fact, the meeplepeople.com mini chips are freakin' amazing. Gotta have the numbered replacement chips, but still. You can have a ton of money in a small area, and very easily count out how much is left. They have a lovely heft, while still being small. Easy to read. Love 'em!

I played 1856 last weekend for the first time. Three noobs got roasted by an experienced player. I think the CGR is waaaAAAAaaay powerful in the hands of an experienced player. A noob tends to want to run his company the 'right' way, rather than the cutthroat way. Plus, I found the capitalization rules in 1856 very difficult to wrap my brain around. Very different from so many of the other 18xx's I've played recently. This effect is amplified by the debt factor...
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Jesse Dean
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Yeah, I've played 1830 on the computer a bit (and accidentally bought a copy of it this morning. Whoops.) and it was interesting to compare how much the capitalization schemes can change the feel of the game. I currently favor 1856 over 1830, but that could simply be because I haven't played it against people yet. I hope my computer plays of 1830 don't sour me to playing it in person.

Derk, since you have played 1830 and 1889, do you think that if you have a smaller 18XX collection it is worthwhile to have both? I am getting 2 games from DTG (currently 18MEX and 1889) and am wavering on whether to keep 1889 on the order (now that I got 1830) or to replace it with something else.
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Breno K.
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The 1830 capitalization is the "standard". I think 1856 is the only one that uses the "get money as people buy shares" system (I think 1861 does this too, when the major companies are formed, but the stock market in that game is almost completely dead, so it hardly counts).

Many 18xx'ers do not like 1856's system because it allows for a lot of metagaming.
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Jesse Dean
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Steam Over Holland uses a similar system. It will be interesting to see how my play group reacts to 1830 now they have gotten used to this capitalization system.
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J C Lawrence
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BrenoK wrote:
The 1830 capitalization is the "standard". I think 1856 is the only one that uses the "get money as people buy shares" system...


No. See the 18xx differences list. There are two main questions for company capitalisation:

1) How many shares must be sold to float? 5 or 6 is common, but there are variations such as 1856's train-sizing etc.

2) Fully capitalised when floated or incrementally capitalised (ie as each share is sold)?

Quote:
Many 18xx'ers do not like 1856's system because it allows for a lot of metagaming.


More because collusive players break the game.
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Breno K.
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clearclaw wrote:
BrenoK wrote:
The 1830 capitalization is the "standard". I think 1856 is the only one that uses the "get money as people buy shares" system...


No. See the 18xx differences list. There are two main questions for company capitalisation:

1) How many shares must be sold to float? 5 or 6 is common, but there are variations such as 1856's train-sizing etc.

2) Fully capitalised when floated or incrementally capitalised (ie as each share is sold)?


I didn't mean it a "standard" as in "rule that is always followed", but more as the most frequent method utilized. There are probably as many games that use this capitalization scheme as ones that don't, but the ones that don't all use specific schemes.
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clearclaw wrote:
More because collusive players break the game.


I'm curious about this line. How would this take place?

1830 vs. 1889. I feel that having choices is always better. I have both, but would I recommend both? *shrug* No idea. Especially given the price of 1830. Honestly, I haven't played either enough to say definitively. I do think that more 18xx's is a good thing, as it allows you to have choices. Anything that allows 18xx to come to the table more, strikes me as a good thing.
 
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Chris Shaffer
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BrenoK wrote:
I didn't mean it a "standard" as in "rule that is always followed", but more as the most frequent method utilized. There are probably as many games that use this capitalization scheme as ones that don't, but the ones that don't all use specific schemes.


Actually, if you review this: http://www.fwtwr.com/18xx/rules_difference_list/3_3.htm you will see that 21 use full capitalization (1830 style), 15 use incremental capitalization (1856 style) and 15 use something more complicated (most leaning toward 1856 style). So I would say 1830 style full capitalization is actually slightly in the minority.
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derk wrote:
I'm curious about this line. How would this take place?


Two players cross-capitalising each other companies.
 
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Tom Lehmann
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The upside of incremental capitalization is that it makes cash flow within companies more of an issue during the early and middle portions of the game.

The downside of incremental capitalization is not only the possibility of collusion, but also that it often discourages investment in companies other than the ones you own (as the money invested may help that company and hence its majority shareholder (not you) too much).

(Also, note that collusion can exist in full capitalization games, where players can simply float each others companies -- this is why many newer games will not permit players to sell shares in newly floated companies until after they operate.)

I happen to prefer 18xx games where the focus is not on looting your first company to benefit your second one, but instead on investing in good companies (whomever they are owned by), as well as running your own companies well. (This is a personal preference. Many players prefer the "loot and run" style 18xx games: 1830 and its descendants, plus the games -- such as 1856 -- where first company liabilities can be ducked by letting them go into some form of national railroad.)

When I revisited the 18xx system for 1846 and 1834 (the latter is still in DeepThought's queue), my solution was to allow companies to float at 20% (just a Presidency), have partial capitalization (for the cash flow pressure), but to also allow companies to *issue* shares at their current value, equal to the number currently held by players.

So, a company might start with 3 shares bought and issue up to 3 more shares for additional money. Typically, a company wants to delay issuing shares as long as possible as their share price increases. So, a company with 3 shares bought might only issue 1 more share (that's all the cash they need right away). If, instead, some other player decides to invest and buy a fourth share, then the company doesn't issue any shares. Sometimes, a player's investment may allow a company to raise more money (since more shares are held by players), but often it just means that the company issues fewer shares.

This approach removes most of the disincentives to invest and collusion possibilities (at the cost of a bit more rules complexity).
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