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Subject: Are there any reviewers out there? rss

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Abraham Drucker
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I've read about it, looked through questions about it, followed the saga of the vanishing priority numbers, poured tears out over the cigarette smoke fiasco, but would like to know if it is fun.

If I buy this, will it just teach me how to play other 18xx games, or is this a game in its own right? Can I buy this with the expectation that I can play it more than three times (once per level) and then put it away forever?

I have 18FL and 18Can on order from Deepthough, and I'm wondering if I should just wait it out (81 and 300 in the queue respectively) or jump aboard and buy this. I don't want to buy it if it is just a glorified rulebook though, I want it to be FUN. Is it fun?
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I'm also hoping to see some reviews soon since we know plenty of people have received their game (and some have logged 3+ plays). I am afraid I can't answer your queries, but I personally ordered the game regardless of what reviews we see. I have played one 18xx game in the past so I am still a newb at them (though I think that I could manage just jumping into something like 18FL or whatever), but I still want something like this for a few reasons:

- Fast play time is huge
- This would still be great for me to introduce new players to 18xx before getting them into FL/AL/GA/etc.
- To support the designers/publishers for the effort, and print quality appears to be good, so it's worth it to me

Edit: poor grammar
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Scott Petersen
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It's a tough game to review. As a game, I don't think it compares to any of the other beginner level games (18AL/GA, 1889, etc) when you consider replayability. However as a teaching tool, it is worthwhile and as a tool for building interest in 18xx, it is priceless. I cannot believe how much interest this game has created on BGG. Kudos to Drew.

I'm going to try to squeeze in a play tomorrow and I'll post something on Sunday.
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JR
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scottredracecar wrote:
It's a tough game to review. As a game, I don't think it compares to any of the other beginner level games (18AL/GA, 1889, etc) when you consider replayability. However as a teaching tool, it is worthwhile and as a tool for building interest in 18xx, it is priceless. I cannot believe how much interest this game has created on BGG. Kudos to Drew.

I'm going to try to squeeze in a play tomorrow and I'll post something on Sunday.


Even if you don't feel ready to post a review, a thorough session report would be of great interest, I'm sure.
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Scott Petersen
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FYI, throughout the prototype playtesting phase, I felt that the trains were way too cheap and led to uncontrollable player position deltas. That was my biggest hang up on the game. In the last days of playtesting, I believe the trains were shifted to something more similar to other games and hopefully the game is a bit more balanced now. Anyone have a feeling about this?

I read one comment that said the train rush is severe, so I fear that the fix was not enough, but that is just one data point.
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Morgan Dontanville
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I failed to see any train rush in it.
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J C Lawrence
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I can only think he was referring to Steam Over Holland.
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Scott Nicholson
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The challenge in writing a review is that it is three different games, and I don't feel it's fair to do a full review until I've tried all three with the appropriate gamer types.

For what it's worth:

- Stage I with experienced 18xx players was not an enjoyable experience. But I need to try this with people who have never played the system to see if it accomplishes its goal, as this was not intended for experienced players.

- Stage III, played with experienced players, didn't work for our group. Players didn't feel the cost/reward of the privates was appropriately balanced and the minors felt out of place. The minors weren't well-documented in the rules, nor were appropriate components provided (minor stations) to help puzzle out how they should work. The hexagonal map with the one large joint station in the middle made the board feel very similar and lines ran in similar ways. However, the goal of "learning how these components work" was reached.

I do already feel the stock market is too punishing for this to be a game for new people - with each share sold dropping the price and the price dropping again if there are unsold bank shares (ed. note - we didn't play it this way, I was remembering another 18xx game we played the same weekend when I originally typed this...), it's quite rough on the new player getting dumped on. Since the dumping is something that drives new players away from 18xx, it's regrettable that it's so rewarding to do in this game. Other 18xx newbie games have controls that prevent some of the damage.

I theorize (and hope) that Stage II provides a better experience. It feels like it was designed for Stage II, and I was a simplification, while III was adding stuff on. I thought the added content to Stage III did not improve the game, so I will be curious to see how Stage II works.

I also like the idea behind it, and it may be that the result is like many educational games - good for education and not as great for the game. But I haven't yet fully tested it out. I think the idea is great, and the parts are good, but the two experiences I've had with it have not been positive.

I want to try it at least three more times - Stage I with new players, Stage II with new players, and Stage II with experienced players - before giving a full review.

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Jack Neal
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If someone sends me a copy, I'll review it.

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snicholson wrote:
I do already feel the stock market is too punishing for this to be a game for new people - with each share sold dropping the price and the price dropping again if there are unsold bank shares, it's quite rough on the new player getting dumped on. Since the dumping is something that drives new players away from 18xx, it's regrettable that it's so rewarding to do in this game. Other 18xx newbie games have controls that prevent some of the damage.


I could very well be totally wrong, as I haven't yet received the game and have not seen the actual rule book, but from reading the phase 2 and 3 rules just to get an idea, I did not get the impression that the bolded statement is correct. What I read was along these lines:

- When a share is sold, the company stock marker moves down one row (unless it is already at the floor)

- At the END of the share round, if the company's shares are all owned by investors, the stock marker moves up one row (unless at the ceiling)

Of course, when dividends are paid the marker goes to the right and when withheld, to the left, but the idea that the stock drops with each sold share AS WELL AS at the end of the share dealing round if there are unsold shares is not something I see here.

Again, I could very well be wrong, so let me know if I am, but if I am correct, maybe this helps alleviate some of your concerns about the harshness of the stock market?
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jrebelo wrote:
snicholson wrote:
I do already feel the stock market is too punishing for this to be a game for new people - with each share sold dropping the price and the price dropping again if there are unsold bank shares, it's quite rough on the new player getting dumped on. Since the dumping is something that drives new players away from 18xx, it's regrettable that it's so rewarding to do in this game. Other 18xx newbie games have controls that prevent some of the damage.


I could very well be totally wrong, as I haven't yet received the game and have not seen the actual rule book, but from reading the phase 2 and 3 rules just to get an idea, I did not get the impression that the bolded statement is correct. What I read was along these lines:

- When a share is sold, the company stock marker moves down one row (unless it is already at the floor)

- At the END of the share round, if the company's shares are all owned by investors, the stock marker moves up one row (unless at the ceiling)

Of course, when dividends are paid the marker goes to the right and when withheld, to the left, but the idea that the stock drops with each sold share AS WELL AS at the end of the share dealing round if there are unsold shares is not something I see here.

Again, I could very well be wrong, so let me know if I am, but if I am correct, maybe this helps alleviate some of your concerns about the harshness of the stock market?



No, you are right, and we did play it right - I just forgot it wrong when typing. We played another 18xx game that had that other dropping rule (B&O); when I was typing this, I got the two screwed up in my head.

This one just had the one-drop-per-sale rule. But this was a problem, as I watched, in a 40/20 situation, when the 40 player sold out, dropping it to the basement level, screwing the 20% player and leaving them not much . This is overly nasty; it could have been prevented with a "single drop no matter how many are sold" rule.


(and..this is why I'm not comfortable doing this kind of review until I feel comfortable with the game...)
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J C Lawrence
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snicholson wrote:
We played another 18xx game that had that other dropping rule (B&O)...


I wouldn't call B&O an 18xx, but that is perhaps a quibble (it doesn't infringe on the this-tile-affects-adjacent-tiles aspect that Francis Tresham identifies as the unique core of his design).

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This one just had the one-drop-per-sale rule. But this was a problem, as I watched, in a 40/20 situation, when the 40 player sold out, dropping it to the basement level, screwing the 20% player and leaving them not much . This is overly nasty; it could have been prevented with a "single drop no matter how many are sold" rule.


I don't this is the mistake in the design. Having share value drop a row for each share sold is a fine mechanism in a newbie game -- as long as there is some other reward for having your stock trashed. There is even a small positive benefit from the model in teaching new players early that the simple constructive approach of preserving share-value and running good companies is not the heart of 18xx.

In the normal 1830-branch, stock in the Open Market pays into the company, thus making stock trashing both damaging and long-term supportive of the company. 18EZ doesn't take that approach. Instead it has only unsold IPO shares pay into the company, making the simple removal of shares from the IPO pool damaging to the company's future capitalisation. I don't recall if 18EZ allows companies to buy back their shares from the pool (the game is in the car, I'm not), but if it doesn't, if the movement of shares out of the IPO pool permanently removes their capitalisation ability from the company, then yes, this is a big problem.

The other games which have only IPO shares paying the company, eg 1826, 1832, 1846, 1870 etc all provide some method of recovering or supplanting the lost capitalisation ability of bought/sold IPO shares. For instance in 1826, 1832, 1846, and 1870 the company can buy back its own shares from the Open market (ie redeem them). Having the game simply taking with both hands, destroying stock value on the one side and capitalisation on the other, is too much. There needs to be a recovery path of some form or the game only supports and rewards capital destruction rather than capital creation and (an odd turn of phrase that I hope communicates) creative capital destruction.

FWLIW it is creative capital destruction, the cyclical creation of vibrant new capital via the destruction of other capital, that I see as the real heart of 1830-style 18xx. It also happens to be a fairly decent game-model of our rapaciously cannibalistic industrial economy.
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clearclaw wrote:
...I don't recall if 18EZ allows companies to buy back their shares from the pool (the game is in the car, I'm not)...

It does not.

Edit:
snicholson wrote:
The minors weren't well-documented in the rules, nor were appropriate components provided (minor stations) to help puzzle out how they should work.
I know you're regretting having said anything before your review is ready, but I should respond to this one bit.
Although it isn't stated in the rulebook, the tokens numbered 1-4 are intended to be used as minor RR tokens. We may have confused the issue by putting logos on their charters in addition to the numbers, but that is normally the way to mark minor railroad stations. (This being a game intended for people who don't know how things are normally done though, I should have made that more clear in the rules. blush )
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From the responses I've been hearing, people who have never played 18xx for the most part tend to like the game quite a bit. People who are familiar with the series tend not to like it at all, because it doesn't have all of the complexity of the typical 18xx game. I'll agree with that. I have said publicly on several occasions that this game isn't intended for the hardcore fans. I have even gone as far as to advise a few people not to buy it! surprise

I think some of us tend to forget how difficult it is to pick up on all of the subtleties of this series. For a new player, learning the mechanics of what could easily be two different games is a real chore. To expect them to learn the myriad strategies at the same time is asking a lot. Until now, it has been necessary to have at least one experienced player at the table to essentially tell everyone what to do for the first session or two. That's just awful in my opinion.

The aim of 18EZ was to have a game that an entire group of inexperienced players could pick up and start playing, as they could with almost any other non-18xx game. It was also intended not to detract from their ability to play any other game in the series. That is why some of the features that are used in 1 or 2 games aren't used here (except where crystal clarity trumps ubiquity.) Since every 18xx game has at least one of those traits, the experienced player is left wanting a bit.
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drewdane wrote:
From the responses I've been hearing, people who have never played 18xx for the most part tend to like the game quite a bit. People who are familiar with the series tend not to like it at all, because it doesn't have all of the complexity of the typical 18xx game. I'll agree with that. I have said publicly on several occasions that this game isn't intended for the hardcore fans.


That's not my complaint. With the system as written (and I have the rules in-hand now) there is no reason for every player to NOT dump every other player's stock down to the bottom of the market in the 3rd or 4th SR and every SR after that. There is no cost to them for doing so and there's is a lot of cost and no benefits to their competitors for having their stock trashed. Simply, they'd be stupid, dumb and thick as posts not to see the obvious benefits of stock-trashing. Any player with even a dim-bulb's fragile clue will stock trash at every possible opportunity, every time, at no cost or risk, and that's a problem.

In short you have provided an effectively free supply of you-lose chips that players can give each other. Not good. You can try and whitewash it by saying the game is only aimed at newbies, and that's a fine justification if the newbies it is aimed at all have the IQs of house-bricks. But it doesn't work for newbies who can find at least one neuron to make their own on a good day. For them, the guys who can dream of having a clue one bright hopeful day, you've just gutted the game and made it irrelevant.

As a secondary effect the game now actually teaches the wrong things. It teaches its players to play badly and to make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons (compared to other 18xx). For a teaching-game, that's not a good deal.

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I think some of us tend to forget how difficult it is to pick up on all of the subtleties of this series.


I run a monthly 18xx group. We played ten 18xx last month (see my games-played history). Every month we run at least one teaching game with new players. This coming Monday I'll be teaching 3 more new players. Many months I will personally teach and run 2 or 3 teaching games with new players. There hasn't been a month this year in which I haven't taught 18xx at least once and many months have seen more than a half dozen people wander through my regime. While some have decided that the 18xx are not for them, a number of those I've taught have continued on to make 18xx a part of their regular gaming library. It took me several years and a lot of 18xx played to get to the point where I can at last aspire to be a mediocre player. I have some reasonable idea of what it takes to guide a new player into the 18xx and can support that notion with direct experience on both sides of the student and teacher fence.

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The aim of 18EZ was to have a game that an entire group of inexperienced players could pick up and start playing, as they could with almost any other non-18xx game. It was also intended not to detract from their ability to play any other game in the series. That is why some of the features that are used in 1 or 2 games aren't used here (except where crystal clarity trumps ubiquity.) Since every 18xx game has at least one of those traits, the experienced player is left wanting a bit.


That's a fine goal and it also misses the point. The game as currently written does detract from their ability to play any other game in the series. It does this by teaching them to play badly by rewarding them for playing badly. It teaches them that capitalisation control is non-existant, and it isn't, not in every other 18xx. It teaches them that stock trashing is free, obvious, and carries neither risk or penalties, and that's simply not true in every other 18xx. It teaches the new players that having your stock trashed is an unmitigated bad with no possible upsides, and that there is nothing you can do about it except suffer, and that too is not true in every other 18xx. It also teaches new players that capitalisation is fixed, that there is no such thing as creative capital destruction, and that capital under control is actually an almost completely illiquid quantity, and yes, that is just not true in every other 18xx.

The 18xx are games of capital management. They are capitalist wet dreams. Oh there's the whole business of companies and trains and track and stations and tile upgrades and stock prices and what-not, but that's all just frilly distracting glamour on the core of the game: management of capital. That's all the players do really: they manage capital. They invest that capital in shares in order to earn dividends and stock appreciation, thus adding to their capital. They float new companies so as to gain control of yet more capital via capitalisation, and then leverage that larger controlled capital into accelerated growth of their own capital. They manipulate the market and the trains and all that other palaver so as to minimise the risks to their own capital while maximising the risks to other's capital. They manage capital from the moment the game starts until the moment the game ends, and they measure their success (score) in the game by, yep, measuring their total capital. The 18xx are games of capital management.

I expect an 18xx-teaching game to teach new players good habits and patterns of thought regarding capital management. Or at the very least, not to teach them bad habits and sloppy thinking that will kill them as soon as they step into a real game.

Okay, I have perhaps shot at you enough. In truth the situation is not that bad because it is easily rescued. There are two obvious approaches to a fix:

1) Instead of IPO shares paying into the company (which is the more rare form), have shares in the Open Market pay into the company (the more common form).

or

2) Stay with only IPO shares paying into the company, but change the capitalisation of companies from full capitalisation (100% on float) to incremental (as each share is bought from the IPO pool its purchase money is added to the company treasury), and also allow companies to buy back their shares from the market during stock rounds (putting them back in the IPO pool) as well as to sell their own shares into the Open Market to raise capital.

Both approaches work, both approaches restore the capital balance of the game, and best of all, both approaches teach new players that they can in fact predict and constructively manage capital into the future. The first form is simpler and perhaps more obvious for new players. The second address is more complex and allows for a much larger range of creative options, but you may find it too confusing for new players (a fair complaint).

There is definitely still time available for a rules-errata.
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Jack Neal
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Any player with even a dim-bulb's fragile clue will stock trash at every possible opportunity, every time, at no cost or risk, and that's a problem.


Sheesh, JC.... I haven't even bought the game and you're already calling me out.
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clearclaw wrote:

1) Instead of IPO shares paying into the company (which is the more rare form), have shares in the Open Market pay into the company (the more common form).

Choose this one for simplicity of both rules changes and play.

Incidentally, the earliest prototype had both full and partial capitalization in the different levels, but this was removed (which I think was a good idea to eliminate another source of confusion).
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scottredracecar wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
1) Instead of IPO shares paying into the company (which is the more rare form), have shares in the Open Market pay into the company (the more common form).


Choose this one for simplicity of both rules changes and play.


Agreed. The other biggie that needs fixing is the flat stock market. That too teaches the wrong habits and thought processes. I've an Early Experience review mostly written -- I go into that aspect more there. I'll GM you the current draft.

Quote:
Incidentally, the earliest prototype had both full and partial capitalization in the different levels, but this was removed (which I think was a good idea to eliminate another source of confusion).


Aye, that was a good choice.
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clearclaw wrote:
scottredracecar wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
1) Instead of IPO shares paying into the company (which is the more rare form), have shares in the Open Market pay into the company (the more common form).

Choose this one for simplicity of both rules changes and play.

Agreed. The other biggie that needs fixing is the flat stock market. That too teaches the wrong habits and thought processes. I've an Early Experience review mostly written -- I go into that aspect more there. I'll GM you the current draft.
Quote:
Incidentally, the earliest prototype had both full and partial capitalization in the different levels, but this was removed (which I think was a good idea to eliminate another source of confusion).

Aye, that was a good choice.

It seems like whether ipo or market shares get dividends is not really that complicated either way; the beginner just wants to know what the rule is, clearly. (And, hopes it's the same in other 18xx.)

Your alternative (2) allows a company to buy/sell its own stock, as in SoH - that's a significant complication. If that's the 'fix', (1) seems much simpler as an alternative, and more consistent with 1830 etc.
 
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jimb wrote:
It seems like whether ipo or market shares get dividends is not really that complicated either way; the beginner just wants to know what the rule is, clearly. (And, hopes it's the same in other 18xx.)


True.

Quote:
Your alternative (2) allows a company to buy/sell its own stock, as in SoH - that's a significant complication. If that's the 'fix', (1) seems much simpler as an alternative, and more consistent with 1830 etc.


The logic is fairly simple: If Open Market shares pay into the treasury, then company presidents can manage their capitalisation by keeping shares in the Open Market. If IPO shares pay into the treasury, then company presidents need to be also able to buy shares back into the company from the Open Market in order to manage their capitalisation. It is, mostly, that simple.

The fillips of incremental capitalisation and allowing companies to issue shares to the market to raise capital merely make the IPO-funding model both self-consistent and interesting. They aren't strictly necessary. As a side-benefit, all sorts of clever capital movements become possible with those tweaks, tweaks which are fascinating in the other games which use that system. But yes, it is also considerably more complex and perhaps not so suitable for a strictly newbie-teaching game.
 
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clearclaw wrote:
It is, mostly, that simple.
Understood.

clearclaw wrote:
The fillips of incremental capitalisation and allowing companies to issue shares to the market to raise capital merely make the IPO-funding model both self-consistent and interesting. They aren't strictly necessary. As a side-benefit, all sorts of clever capital movements become possible with those tweaks, tweaks which are fascinating in the other games which use that system. But yes, it is also considerably more complex and perhaps not so suitable for a strictly newbie-teaching game.
Which 18xx are those? Just curious. I've seen it in SoH, and now 18EZ - I think all the other 18xx I've seen use your #2 (1856, 18AL/18GA, 1844, 1830).
 
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jimb wrote:
Which 18xx are those? Just curious. I've seen it in SoH, and now 18EZ - I think all the other 18xx I've seen use your #2 (1856, 18AL/18GA, 1844, 1830).

This is precisely the sort of question you should be addressing to the 18xx difference list document.

B>
 
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thepackrat wrote:
This is precisely the sort of question you should be addressing to the 18xx difference list document.B>

Turns red behind the ears.. mutters about lawyers.. trudges around from the wrong computer.. retrieves Bruce's useful link to the 18xx differences list.. hurls undeserved epithets at librarians.. comes back into class with -

8.2 - What dividend payments go into the company's treasury?
1800, 1846, 1861, 18GL, 18Scan, Steam Over Holland Those for shares in the company treasury.
1824, 1825, 1829, 1829 Mainline, 1830BC, 1848, 1853, 1854, 1860, 1862, 18EZ All Levels, Crisis None.
1826, 18EU Those for unissued shares. But note that if a company floats after a certain phase it receives 100% capitalisation and unsold shares are issued into the bank pool.
1830, 1835, 1837, 1838 Rheinland, 1844, 1856, 1889, 18EC, 18FL, 18GA, 18Mex, 18NL, 18TN, 18US, 18VA Those for shares in the bank pool.
1831 Those for shares in the company treasury. They can only get there through the 'redemption' process.
1832, 1850, 1870, 18C2C Those for unissued shares and redeemed shares.
1837SX, 1841, 1849, 1851, 1895, 1898, 18MW, 18Rhl Rhineland Those for unissued shares.
1842 Those for unissued shares; except for the HAV, which receives none.
18West Those for shares in the company treasury. Granger Road companies pay 50% to the treasury.
2038 Those for shares in the bank pool, and those for unissued shares in the Asteroid League and in growth companies.


Not sure which of these are commonplace, though.
 
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Our game yesterday brought out some of the issues discussed here and in the forthcoming review that JC is working on. Hopefully Drew considers these changes. JC's review makes some good points about teaching the "right" way to play 18xx that should be addressed.

The key difference in 18EZ compared to other games is the level system. Many brand new players that are coming to the game cold will see the benefit in this system (as I witnessed in the prototype group). If this is the primary interest for you, 18EZ could probably fulfill this--especially if the game remains in production an can be obtained quicker/easier than Deep Thought Games.

However, when it comes to comparing this game to the other commonly discussed beginner games, it is less favorable. As soon as the concepts are mastered after one or two plays, I'm sure players will be more than eager to move on to other more flavorful games. But don't mistake this game for a required stepping stone.
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Scott Petersen
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jimb wrote:
Not sure which of these are commonplace, though.

Mostly, the games which pay for uncapitalized shares are partial capitalization games. The Dixon games (1832/50/70) are notable exceptions.
 
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