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Peter Evett
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18AL is a gamekit, originally produced by Mark Derrick, employing the 18xx game system. I will not discuss the general 18xx system here, as that can be reviewed elsewhere. By reducing the map size (fewer hexes) and the number of companies the game length is reduced as well. The rules say 3-4 hours, which is about right.

Gameplay is quicker and more friendly than in other 18xx games. The key friendly rule change is that companies are limited to a single train purchase per operating round, until the first 4 train is bought. Also, the stock market has fewer rows, and more ledges, which combine to limit the damage done by stock trashing. These combine to make the game much more survivable early on, and make it less overwhelming for the non-expert player.

The private companies offer some very interesting play choices (a $10 coal token, special town token, named trains that give bonuses for connecting certain cities, and a half-price train purchase). All of these are interesting and well balanced.

The map offers a variety of interesting locations. There are several strong starting locations. The map is less interesting in the later part of the game however, as little strategic tile laying is needed. An interesting aspect of tile laying is that towns, while still providing $10 payments, do not count as connections for train runs. Thus, you try to go through towns, rather than around them.

The game provides a bonus for having your company reach a destination. The bonus is only a free station token (we play it as your most expensive token placed for free). THis turns out to be fairly minor, and doesn't tend to push route construction (certainly no where near the way it does in 1870).

Train purchasing, as usual with these games, is critical. Here the small numbers of trains (4 2s, 3 3s, 3 4s, 2 5s, 1 6, 1 7 (which rusts the 4s!) and then 4Ds) makes buying decisions difficult, and can create train-rust cascades in the critical mid-game turns. Do not play the optional 4Ds rust 4s rule. The 7 train is pretty sorry and it badly needs the rusting incentive to push the train in that direction. A problem arises then, and that is that the 4Ds (which hit 4 cities, but double all of their values!) are supremely powerful and can easily determine the outcome of the game.

Extreme Caveat:
Beware the L&N. :0 It is BY FAR the best starting railroad! All other players must remember the power of this company and deal with its stock appropriately. After 6 or 7 plays we now believe that (as per optional rules) its starting home should move south to Decatur. The rules say this will make it more powerful - no. The power of L&N lies in the ability to run multiple times out of Nashville for early HUGE money. Take that away by making Nashville untokenable, and move L&Ns token to the far less valuable (and needing a tile!) city of Decatur.

Plays well with 3. Not so sure about the higher numbers. A real learning curve with the L&N skewage. Takes under 4 hours (we are definitely slow 18xx players), sometimes closer to 2 hours.
 
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Chris Shaffer
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There are five 2 trains.

Note that the destination bonus is a $100 payment. If you're playing your $40 token, you pay $40 to lay the token and take $100 for the bonus - a net gain of $60.

The L&N can run to Corinth early for $90 and with a second train to Decatur for $60. However, if it goes to Corinth right off the bat, it will never get a token in Birmingham (its destination and the only $70 pass-thru city). If it goes straight to Birmingham, it isn't guaranteed a token and doesn't get the really valuable early runs. I don't think it's overpowered, though you're right that the other players have to react to it.
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