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1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire» Forums » Sessions

Subject: 1861 Play By Email Session W/ Cyberboard rss

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David Fair
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This is a session report on an online game of 1861 using Cyberboard. I'm throwing in my commentary and analysis, flawed as it is. Take it for what it is worth. Playing by email gives experienced players a chance to try out alternative strategies and explore the gamespace a bit, so to speak, so the games are not always as expected.

I don't really cover all the rules, so if you don't know the rules, some (a lot?) of the below may not make much sense.

Dave Fair, Ken Gutermuth, Bruce Beard and Pete Chace "sat down" to play. These players are all well-seasoned 1861 players, with Dave likely being the least experienced with only 12 to 15 plays.

Dave was randomly awarded priority, each player received 315 Rubles (R315) and the auction order followed the order above.

As a reminder, here is what the board looks like with no player-built track:



Auction of the Private Companies
Bidding on the privates was nothing too unexpected, and after all the privates were sold, things looked like this:

Dave: R220, P1 & P3
Ken: R220, P5
Bruce: R260, P2
Pete: R240, P4

Stock Round One
In the initial Minor Company auction (Reminder: to start a minor, you bid and pay twice it's starting price), Ken started the KR at 110. Bruce started the Nikolai (N) at 80 and the OK at 50. Pete started the MK at 70 and the KK at 50. Dave started the SPW and the MNN at 55 each. David was left with Priority for OR2

Operating Rounds 1a & 1b
In the first set of OR's, the KR connected the KK and the M-K through Kharkov, the OK connected to Kiev and headed to Poland, and the SPW connected to Riga. A total of 9 of the 10 T2 trains were purchased (The OK and the KR, ahd both doubled up on trains, th KR doing so itself, and the OK by buying a train over from the Nik after it bought a second train) meaning anyone that started a railroad may be looking at their first train purchase being the first T3, unlocking green tiles for the other players.

a few surprises so far... 110 is pretty high to start a railway other than the Nik, but the KR can benefit from 2 trains earlier than most others, as it doesn't start in a terminus, but can build in 2 directions, and with both the KK and MK working with him, he had every incentive to do so. The SPW building toward Riga is also a bit of a surprise, as Poland is the normal first connection, but Dave was planning for the future. Being able to start a Moscow-based railroad at only 55 was a huge surprise as well, and the number of trains gone through this quickly was surprising, but not entirely unexpected with savvy veterans like these.

After the first set of OR's the stock market and the map looked like this (click through for larger images):




Stock Round Two
Coming into SR2, Dave & Ken both had R130, Bruce had R110, and Pete had R115. Thanks to what he called a huge miscalculation on his part, Dave had made the R-O (which starts in Riga) a very desirable place to start, but had left himself R5 short of how much he would like to fund it with.

Side note, you likely want to try to give your railroad at least R135 if you think you may have to buy a T3, as R135+R90 (from the 2 loans you allowed to take) exactly equals the cost of a T3

Even so, Dave bought the RO, starting it at 65 and giving it his full R130. Ken then bought the KB for R130, Pete bought the MV for R100. Bruce chose to hold onto his capital until SR3 and did not buy another minor this round.

I was surprised at Bruce's decision here. I like to invest my money as much as possible, usually, but, if he was planning to Grow Up the Nik this round, in OR2a, then it is understandable. Also, the third SR is usually considered the most important one, so maybe he was just making sure he went into that as fully funded as he could expect to be...

Operating Round 2a
The KR operated first, and it laid no track, ran it's trains and was done. The Nik did the same thing. the MNN laid a tight curve north to avoid Kazan and the expensive track below it and head towards Ekaterinaberg. THe KB avoid the direct route to Poland and opted to build towards the Riga/St.Pete line.
The interesting thing here was watching everyone duck that final T2, which in turn delayed the green tiles arrival. The RO bought a T2 from the MNN, the KB bought one from KR, the MV bought one from the KK, and the MK bought the last T2, freeing up the MNN to buy the first T3 from the bank (using loans, of course).
Some of thsi shuffling was done smartly (have the lower valued company buy a train down from the higher valued one, as Ken did with the KB & KR) and some was not (the RO buying from the MNN orchestrated by Dave, for example).

Operating Round 2b
In OR 2b 2 more of the precious T3's came out, being bought by the KR & the KK. Dave sold his Privates to the RO and the SPW, Bruce sold his to the OK, and all companies ran and advanced except for the KK, who was trainless at the start of the phase. The RO built track to Moscow, with the help of the MNN who adbandoned, for now, his march eastward to help his friend, the MV connected to both Moscow and Kharkov while the MK built up to St. Pete.

Shots of the Stock Market and Map (click through for larger images):




Stock Round Three
This is always the most interesting SR and set of OR's so lets double-check where we are at...

Player Holdings:
Dave: R330, SPW@65, RO@65, MNN@55 - Net worth: R700
Ken: R205, KR@135, KB@60, P5(WVR) - Net worth: R685
Bruce: R415, N@100, OK@60 - Net worth: R735
Pete: R265, MK@90, KK@50, MV@50, P4(MRR) - Net worth: R720

As you can see, a mere R50 separates first and last place. Pretty close so far.

Dave bids R270 for the E and starts it at R135. He needs help getting another train and building to the East, and this should do it. Ken bids 200 for the V and wins it. Bruce starts the D at 120 (bid 240) and Pete starts the MB there as well. Then, in a surprise move, Bruce starts the SV at 50 (bid 100). Pete has Priority for SR4. What is Bruce up to ???

Operating Round 3a
Lots of track laying here. The KB connects into the Riga/St. Pete line. THe RO & the SPW start building a second eastern line toward Smolensk and the MB, who hooks into their first eastern line to connect to Moscow. The E builds westward to help the MNN, and the OK starts building around Kiev towards Kharkov. The D & the V do little more than lay their initial track tiles, The SV doesn't even bother doing that much, and the N builds a tight curve North of Moscow to start the eastern run along with the MNN.

In the train market, all the remaining T3's sell out (to the E, D, MB, and V) who all hold onto them long enough to admire the shiny metal, then sell them off for pennies to the MNN, the N, the MK, and the KB) while the SV spent all its money on a T2 from the Nik. Things are getting interesting as people try to consolidate money on one company to get a T4, while keeping T3's on the other companies they want to keep. Beacause when the first T4 is bought, all T2's rust and anyone left without a train is then nationalized immediately. this isn't that bad, as the owner gets paid for it, but some still try to avoid it, sometimes too much so, even to their own detriment (watch Dave in the next OR for a good example of this).

Merger Round
Note, i've been ignoring these so far, as no one has done anything in them yet, that changes soon, so i will start adding them in now.
Surprisingly, no one merged or grew up in this round. Arguably it might have been wise for Dave to merge some or even all of his companies at this point, and the Nik, the KR and the MK could have all grown up solo, or made mergers with other minors. When the T4 is about to break, people often merge to keep their companies alive. I think no one did so here as their is a reluctance to merge when you are unable to buy more stock in the new company. It hurts your income too much if you don't do so.

Operating Round 3b
The board gets busy with track. The E and the MNN connect up Moscow and Ekaterinaberg. The MV hooks in on that action as well, and heads towards Gorki/NN for safe measure. The SPW/RO decide to head south to Kiev instead of to Smolensk, and the KB builds around Kiev in the swamp to connect up with the KR, and adds a second line into Poland.

Pete and Ken steadily run all their trains as much as possible, and leave all the train shuffling machinations to Dave, and to a lesser degree, Bruce. Bruce ends up with a T3 on the Nik, and a lot of cash on the OK to buy the first T4, but Dave ends up getting T3's onto the SPW and the MNN, and leaves a lot of cash on the RO who buys the first T4 just ahead of the OK. All this train swapping hurts Dave's valuation as his companies end up not moving forward in value much this round, while Pete's and Ken's do. The loss of the OK with more than R250 on it and the swapping that was needed to get it there really hurts Bruce's net worth as well. We can see that Bruce was using the SV as a way of funneling cash over to get the first 4, but it kinda backfired, and this takes Bruce pretty much out of the game. It's hard to recover from a lot of loss early in an economic game like this.

When this happens, the RSR comes into play and the E, D, MB, V, OK, KK, and SV all get nationalized, and the RSR gets tokens galore as well as a total of R354, enough to, when he operates at the end of this round, buy the second T4 without ever taking out a loan!

Shots of the Stock Market and Map (click through for larger images):




Merger Round
The KR grows up into the MVR, the MK grows up into the MKV. Dave, Ken and Bruce each take one share of the MKV

Stock Round Four
Player Holdings:
I lost track of exactly when, but Ken & Pete's privates both get bought in OR3a/3b at some point.
Dave: R450, SPW@80, RO@65, MNN@65, 1MKV@110 - Net worth: R980
Ken: R10, KB@70, 5MVR@165, 1MKV@110 - Net worth: R1085
Bruce: R540, N@120, 1MKV@110 - Net worth: R890
Pete: R410, 6MKV@110, MV@50, - Net worth: R1190

Now we see the gap starting. Ken adds R400 and Pete adds R470 to their net worth, while Dave and Bruce manage only R300 and R155 each. This is gonna be hard to overcome for them.

Pete has priority and takes another MVR, Dave gets the last MKV, Ken passes, and Bruce starts the GRR, placing it in Perm and starting it at R70. Pete buys a share of the GRR, Dave gets another MVR, and after Bruce buys 4 shares of GRR, Pete gets one as well. Then Bruce buys one more GRR, everyone then passes, and Pete will have Priority in SR5.

Operating Round 4a
With everyone still using green track, and most of the runs for the final game already clarified. the board takes on that familiar 1861 look - a spoke system around Moscow and some long E-W runs.

Ken manages to delay a second E_W run from Moscow to Ekaterinaberg by looping it back into the first run, while extending the lower run as well. Smolensk connects to Riga/St. Pete.

In the Train Market, the MVR buys a 4 (Trains: T3, T3, T4), and the MKV buys both a T4 and a T5 (Trains: T3, T4, T5). The Grr buys a single T5. The RSR runs for 200, and it will need only 2 more runs like that until it can buy a T5. Brown tiles are now available, however, so run values are going to increase.

Merger Round
The Nik grows up into the SE. Bruce gets a 40% stake, while Dave, Ken and Pete each take one share. It has a T3 and R599.

Operating Round 4b
Dave's three minors and Pete's one minor run and payout, Ken manages to buy a T5 with his KB. Moscow, St. Pete, Voronezh, Kharkov and Perm all get upgraded to brown. The southern E-Run extends a bit, as does the Northern one, but the Central-E-Line is still the only one running. THe RO/SPW builds towards Kiev again, but still has not reached it.

The SE buys the last T5, the other "Big Boys" are Train Tight (Train Limit is 3), and the RSR runs for 240 but is far shy of buying a T6 (the next train available).

Merger Round
The SPW grows up into the NW, and the MNN and the RO merge and become the SW.

Stock Round Five
Ken and Pete both buy 2 shares of the SW, while Dave ends up with 60% of both the SW and the NW by selling his 2 MVR. Pete gets the last share of the MVR, Bruce, Ken, and Pete all buy more shares of the SE. And Dave dumps one share of the MKV to keep Pete, who is the clear leader here, from getting a stock price bump. The SE & SW, are sold out and get price bumps. Dave has priority in SR6, as Pete is the last to Pass.

A questionable move by Dave. He dumps a stock to keep Pete from getting a stock bump worth more to him than the others, but can't re-invest lest he lose Priority in what promises to be the last SR. It might have gone better for him had he held onto that. We'll see...

Player Holdings:
Dave: R288, 6NW@100, 6SW@150, 1SE@150, 1MKV@150 - Net worth: R2088
Ken: R41, KB@80, 5MVR@200, 1SE@150, 1 MKV@150, 2SW@150, 1GRR@70 - Net worth: R1871
Bruce: R11, 6SE@150, 5GRR@70, 1MKV@150 - Net worth: R1411
Pete: R40, 6MKV@150, 3MVR@200, 2GRR@70, 2SW@150, 2SE@150, MV@70, - Net worth: R2420

Pave managed to more than double his Net Worth here, and move into second, but he is still a long, long way behind Pete, who continues to play conservatively, and move steadily forward. Bruce's earlier setbacks still hamper his growth, while Ken's overly high stock price prevents his more complete investment.

Shots of the Stock Market and Map (click through for larger images):




Operating Round 5a
Tokens start coming into play here when the SW tokens out St. Pete, and the NW tokens Riga, closing both cities to through traffic from other railroads. MKV & MVR both token out Kazan, and the SE and MVR block traffic through Kharkov.

The SE buys the first T6, rusting all the T3's and causing the MV to be Nationalised by the RSR with a bank of R304 on it! Moscow and St. Pete are upgraded to Gray, The Northern E-Line is completed but construction on the Southern has stalled. The NW & SW work together to start a second Moscow-St.Pete line and complete a second St. Pete-Riga line.

The RSR runs it's T4 for R320 and it buys a T7. And it STILL has R313 left.

Operating Round 5b
Kharkov goes Gray, Kieve finally gets upgraded to Brown, and the Southern E-Line gets completed. No new tokens to spoil anyone routes, however.

The MVR buys the T5 from the KB, ducking the last T7. The SW could let it go by as well, but as he only has a T4, this would hurt him a lot, as he would not be able to come close to the valuable runs the other companies are getting. He bites the bullet and buys the last T7.

The RSR runs his T4 and T7 for 880 and buys the first T8. The KB and all privates are Nationalized, and the RSR shuts down (not really, but you no longer have to run it and it buys no more trains). There are unlimited T8's available, and 2 2+2's and 2 5+5E's as well.

Stock Round Six
Dave has Priority and uses his position to buy the presidency of the MKN, putting it in the south, near Kharkov and Odessa and starting it at R200. The last shares of NW, GRR, MVR, and MKV are all snatched up, and then Bruce and Ken work together to buy the other half of the MKN stock.

Aftter the stock round, everyone gets a stock bump due to being sold out. Escept the MK, which was never started.

Player Holdings:
Dave: R89, 6NW@110, 6SW@220, 1SE@220, 1MKV@200, 5MKN@200 - Net worth: R3489
Ken: R173, 6MVR@270, 2MKV@200, 1SE@220, 1NW@110, 2SW@220, 2GRR@100, 2MKN@200 - Net worth: R3563
Bruce: R100, 6SE@220, 6GRR@100, 1MKV@200 3MKN@200, 2NW@110 - Net worth: R3040
Pete: R1111, 6MKV@200, 4MVR@270, 2GRR@100, 1NW@110, 2SW@220, 2SE@220, - Net worth: R4581

Ken fights hs way back to second place, but the margin is slim... And another risky move by Dave. It's pretty late to be starting a company, as there are now only 3 operating rounds, and the game is over. Still, there were not enough companies out there to get fully invested in, and Pete had both a share and cash advantage. Due to the way the stock price bumps work, the MKN operates before the MKV. This turns out to be pretty helpful to Dave...

Shots of the Stock Market and Map (click through for larger images):




Operating Rounds 6a-6c
The NW & SW work together with then MKN to build it a network to quickly connect Kiev and Moscow. The MKN reciprocates by buying both 2+2's in the OR 6a, and selling one to the NW later that same round. This blocks Pete's MKV from getting a second train. It then buys a 5+5e for itself in OR 6b. The MVR buys a T8 in 6a, but no other trains get bought. All the while, everyone is maximizing their own runs, but by this point, tile laying is mostly done by everyone excpet those working to ensure the MKN has good runs.

The newly-formed MKN puts a token in Kiev, and the GRR puts one in Kharkov. Ekaterinaslav gets updated to brown by OR 6c.

The final runs in 6c are:
GRR for R330
MKV for R340
SW for R470
SE for R700
NW for R730
MVR for R780
MKN for R920

Final Player Holdings
Pete: R3562, 6MKV@270, 4MVR@360, 2GRR@135, 1NW@150, 2SW@300, 2SE@300, - Net worth: R8242
Dave: R2861, 6NW@150, 6SW@300, 1SE@300, 1MKV@270, 5MKN@220 - Net worth: R7231
Ken: R2622, 6MVR@360, 2MKV@270, 1SE@300, 1NW@150, 2SW@300, 2GRR@135, 2MKN@220 - Net worth: R7082
Bruce: R2758, 6SE@300, 6GRR@135, 1MKV@270 3MKN@220, 2NW@150 - Net worth: R6598

As you can see, Pete took an early lead, got a lead in shares owned, and played a conservative game that capitalized on his early advantage and crushed those of us who tried to be tricky and to switch things up too much. Dave was able to make a comeback and take second away from Ken (by the narrowest of margins... only R149 or 2% of his final net worth), mostly on the strength of the 2+2 and 5+5e runs for the MKN and the NW.

It was a great game between well-matched opponents. We are planning a rematch. I'll keep you posted.

Shots of the final Stock Market and Map (click through for larger images):





Edit: Fixed the V/SV confusion in SR3.
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Michael Shaver
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That was a great read Dave. Thanks for the report.

One quibble, in SR 3 you start talking about two companies named "V" one that opens for 100 and one at 50 and I get a little confused. Could you clear that up?


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David Fair
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Glad you liked it.

The V opens with it's stock price @ 50, which cost Bruce R100, as buying a minor means you pay twice it's price. Essentially, you set the price of the minor, then buy the president's share at twice that. Sorry for the confusion.

Oops, now I see what you meant. Ken opened the V for 100 (paid 200), Bruce opened the SV for 50 (paid 100). I got things wrong while editing. I'll clean it up.

Thanks, good catch.
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Andrew Schoonmaker
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It is interesting to see a detailed session report from another group, as your expected patterns are different from those that I'm used to. For example, I've never seen the R220 company in the first round. It seems to have worked out moderately well for Ken, but as you say his high share price was something of a mid-game cash sink. I'm also somewhat surprised that Pete didn't just directly connect the MK and KK and leave the KR out in the cold, but perhaps the extra R40 expenditure would not have been worthwhile.

We hardly ever see the SPW go to Poland, but then again the RO usually starts in SR1, too (generally by the owner of the SPW). On the other hand, I'm not sure I would've passed up the MNN for R110, either.

In SR2 you mention being surprised that Bruce didn't start a minor, but by my count all 10 were already gone (true, he could've bid up the MV, but presumably Pete would have rebid to R115)

The question of which companies buy the 2Ts is one that's come up for us somewhat more in recent games. It used to be that it was one 2T per company (doubling up to afford a 3T when those were available), but lately the Nik has been buying a second 2T early on. I am of somewhat mixed mind about the value of this, although it does add some flexibility to one's position.

To reiterate, though: nice session report! I'm looking forward to the details of the rematch, should you also write that up when it's done
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Emily H.
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Great job! Thanks for posting this, Dave.
 
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Ian Wilson
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Thanks for the detailed report, Dave. I especially liked the Cyberboard snapshots - makes it a lot easier to follow the action.

I have seen the KR start with 200 once before, and because the MK & KK were owned by different players it worked reasonably well. In this case, Ken was fortunate that Pete didn't leave him in the cold by connecting the MK directly to the KK (I've seen that happen too).

This game saw Bruce try the 3x2T strategy i.e. shuffle a 2-train in the first OR to get a third ASAP. This strategy can work very well in the 5-player game, but I'm not so convinced with fewer players. What happened here shows what a risky strategy it can be, although I suspect that Dave shot himself in the foot in the effort to get Bruce. Admittedly, the N-OK combination is not ideal.

I have seen a few games recently where two players try the 3x2T strategy. This invariably ends in tears for one of these players.

Ian D
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