Richard Young
Canada
Victoria
BC
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We finally got a chance to trot out the advanced rules. However, as we were six players, we decided to try them on the base RRT map (but using the terrain costs of RoE/RoE&W). We also decided to use the clarifications that are emerging, along with the variant proposed by Rick Vinyard: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/47499

We had a lively initial stock round that saw four players end up with a company to direct, one deliberately sat on the sidelines to see how just being an investor would pan out, and the sixth player ended up with two companies (Yellow and Black). Most of the auctions ended in the high teens except for those last two. One player bought the Green company by starting it at $20K?!? Sold! Next?

Then on to operations. Red started us off by building south from Detroit! Green built south from Philadelphia to Richmond. Blue built south from Richmond while Lilac built north from Philadelphia. Yellow and Black inter-weaved from Chicago down to Louisville. Mostly we saw building - a couple of shares were issued to support Yellow and Black which were not capitalized as well as the rest and having longer links to build.

Incomes were small as were the dividends with most of the companies satisfied just to maintain their share values (we were using the -2 penalty for zero income and it served to dissuade anyone from trying the "do nothing" gambit). We begin to see the "dividend dance" where one juggles total payout (effects share value) with the payout per share calculation and the desire to enrich oneself while not cleaning out the company treasury completely. The effects of "share dilution" become apparent. We find ourselves overjoyed at receiving $5K but wondering what we did to deserve it! Share prices are mostly static with the same operating order for the next set of ORs.

The Share Phase saw most of the players attempt to consolidate their holdings in the company they were directing. As we were using the "Vinyard variant," the IPO shares remained at par while the "issued shares" followed the market price when it came to auction. Some more IPO shares are bought but no companies change hands.

The Merger Phase proves to be a non-event which it will continue to be for the rest of the game (we had enough problems).

And away we go again! Red continues south; Green seeing himself hemmed in by Blue and Lilac, heads across the mountains to the west and on to Pittsburgh. Blue continues south while Lilac continues north. Yellow and Black continue to cooperate in sharing the west (issuing more shares in the process). More cubes are delivered.

The Income Phase is still modest as are the dividends but some railways issue enough to advance their share values. Thank goodness for the free $5K!

The Share Phase is much similar to last turn but we begin to see the tension between wanting to acquire shares at a potentially lower price with the desire to reduce dividend dilution and/or profit from dividend payouts that are simply going back to the bank. Some issued shares are bought along with one or two IPO shares. Red, asleep at the switch, loses his company to the director of Blue. He will remain director-less for the remainder of the game. Mergers anyone? Nope...

On to the next turn. Red is running out of ideas and mostly delivers cubes for medium sized payouts. Green heads over to Dover. Blue is content to deliver. Lilac heads up the river from New York to Albany. Yellow and black combine building with sharing deliveries.

The Income Phase sees incomes that are gradually inching up. Dividends are getting larger as well. More shares are purchased. Still no mergers.

Rinse and repeat for the next several turns. Less building and more deliveries. Lilac is bent on reaching Buffalo enroute to Toronto, but it is expensive (issues two shares!). So far, we are not emptying a lot of cities or towns. As for share purchases, we begin to see who has been shrewdly picking bargains after others have spent too much on targets they have become fixated on. Lilac has established a lock on his company but has little else. The "director-less" player has accumulated a nice portfolio. Despite the Yellow and Black director having the least valuable shares and has issued the most (mostly black) in order to build in the west, he has also managed to amass a respectable portfolio. The Green player who spent the most for his one share, and who has been boxed on the board, is clearly struggling. The Red player, having lost his company, is struggling to find a way of getting it back. Blue/Red is happy to have two well performing companies and appears to be in good shape.

The emphasis is definitely shifting to building up income by mostly delivering cubes. It is almost like a feeling of failure to have to build further at this point. Empty cities are starting to appear at a frightening rate. The dividends are getting substantial now and the competition for issued shares is heating up. There are a couple of IPO shares still available but they aren't getting the same attention (targets of opportunity for some leftover cash) as they were earlier. The larger the dividend, the more frustrating it is to watch money being paid to the bank instead of into our pockets; but, it is also disheartening to watch the auction proceeds go back to the bank instead of into the company coffers. Diabolical! The Share Phase now provides another surprise as the director of Yellow/Black snaps Green as well! All the shares are now gone, and the prospects of seeing any more are slim at this stage. Mergers? Nope. Maybe this should have been the time if there was going to be one.

We are now seeing the end game unfold as in all likelihood, the 16th empty city marker will be placed in the upcoming set of ORs. Everyone studies the best routes for the last set of deliveries. We finish the deliveries and start to think about the final tote.

Yellow/Black/Green director adds up $172K after cashing in his chips. Next is Blue/Red with $170K (close)! The Director-less player shows that you can be competitive with a respectable $140K score. The remaining three end up with just over $100K each. The final share prices were: Red=17; Lilac, Blue and Green=15; Yellow=14; Black=13.

So, what did we learn? First, I was relieved to see that the game is far from broken. We were happily engaged at all times and no-one had the feeling that there was "something wrong." The starting cash and the inflow and outlay of money seemed appropriate to the stage of the game were were in at the time. The $5K "income" is very necessary at the beginning but recedes in importance toward the end. The dynamics of share purchasing poses tension producing decisions and the auctions were always interesting. The "do nothing" strategy is rendered toothless by the adoption of the penalty for zero income. Problem solved as far as we were concerned (along with a sense that even if allowed it wouldn't be a winning line of play).

Another encouraging thing was the way the RRT map worked with six players using the advanced rules. Yes, it's tight but by using the simplified terrain cost matrix, we were able to do all the building we wished (and without requiring the wholesale issuing of shares). Maybe we got a fortunate cube seeding but our initial fears that cubes would be way too tight, without the ability to do goods growth or urbanization, proved unfounded.

I highly recommend the Vinyard Variant, especially the IPO shares remaining at par. We didn't see anyone sell off a share or have a company try to repurchase an issued share, but we discussed these and all agreed that we could see how it could be useful in certain situations.

The one thing we don't yet understand is the Merger procedure. I mean we agree that the clarified procedure is the one to follow (only paying for shares in hand and issued shares), but we couldn't imagine a scenario where it would be worth doing. Yellow/Black could have easily done it as he controlled both lines and had built them to be mutually supporting, but he couldn't see the advantage and would simply be putting one of them in a position to provide potential competition via a restart. Moreover, for the target company to achieve anything by being restarted it would seem to be early in the game - but the attraction of merging didn't seem to occur in our game until late and was a lukewarm attraction at best. We need to hear more about other's experiences with this aspect of the game.

Bottom Line: an encouraging first play under conditions meant to stress the game (six players, RRT map). We need to play this a lot more before coming to any sweeping conclusions but we like what we saw enough to want to continue with it...



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Bruce Murphy
Australia
Pyrmont
NSW
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Rust Belt?

B>
 
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Henry Dove
United States
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When I played on the England Wales map one person would continually do mergers so that he could make longer delivieries. Most of the rest of us started to follow that strategy. However, he severely diluted the dividends because so many shares were issued to get the money to merge. The winner ended up being the person who did not do any mergers and he never had a very long delivery. Next time I am inclinded to try that and see what happens.
 
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Patrick S.
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Thanks, I've been interested to hear how both the variant and the original play. You nailed them both in one session report!
 
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Richard Young
Canada
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BC
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thepackrat wrote:
Rust Belt?

B>

Yeah, I know. Force of habit I'm afraid. The 1830 map and the base AoS map (not exactly the same but similar) show parts of north-eastern US and south-eastern Canada - specifically the area south of the Great Lakes commonly referred to as the "rust belt" because of the dominant industries of steel making and manufacturing (particularly automobiles and auto parts) located there. I would use that reference to the applicable side of the map in Steam as well.

The base map in RRT includes a lot more than that but "rust belt" sort of describes it and is easier to say than "eastern US and south-eastern Canada." I acknowledge that my shorthand reference may not help folks unfamiliar with a lot of rail-themed games. Hopefully, if folks are interested enough in the general topic they will see a better description in the session report itself.
 
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