Recommend
12 
 Thumb up
 Hide
7 Posts

18xx» Forums » General

Subject: How to teach 18XX rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Now that I've been back in the 18XX hobby for a year, have taught the system to a number of people and watched it being taught to many others (I use 1846: The Race for the Midwest but there are other games that also work well for beginners,) I've made an observation. The 18XX concept that beginners seem to have the hardest time picking up is the nature of the train rush. This is a problem, because it makes it hard for many people to enjoy the game as much as they might.

People seem to understand the idea that different players can buy stock in a company and the person with the largest stock holdings runs the company. It's a natural idea for most people. They also understand the idea that companies lay track and trains run on the track (at first it may seem odd that track can be used by any company that can reach it, but that becomes natural after a few ORs.) The choice to pay or withhold dividends, and the resulting stock price movements, are natural. Most people pick up tokening and the resulting blocking techniques easily, perhaps because many people like games in which you can directly impede opponents. Even the dreaded company dump isn't too hard to conceptualize as a "sneaky trick" you can play on an opponent.

This hasn't been the case with the train rush. In beginner games, it's not uncommon for one company to buy 3 2-trains and a 3-train and run for huge dividends while the people who are primarily invested in other companies watch patiently as the player who owns 60% of the dividend-paying juggernaut slowly empties the bank of cash over the next 11 hours of play (I'm exaggerating slightly.) It's even worse if this person is the one who taught them the game, giving them the impression that the game is long and unbalanced.

I'm thinking that, rather than starting the explanation with a statement like "in 18XX games, players buy stock in companies that pay dividends," it might be better to say something like this: "In 18XX games, players buy trains that earn money. You can also make your opponents' trains obsolete by buying newer trains." You could then go on to explain that only companies can buy and operate trains, so you need to buy stock in companies in order to invest in and make money from trains.

The game then becomes a contest to see who can do the best job of balancing several objectives:

(1) Running trains (in companies you own most of the stock in) to generate dividends (and stock appreciation) that make you richer,

(2) Using the dividends you collect to buy even more stock, increasing the impact of (1), and

(3) Saving up money (in companies you are president of) to buy newer trains to make even more money while making trains of companies mostly owned by opponents obsolete.

In general, buying a lot of non-permanent trains makes the game move faster, so that newer trains come out faster and non-permanent trains are worth less. On the other hand, buying fewer non-permanent trains makes the game move slower, so that non-permanent trains are worth more. The fact that they are worth less the more of them you buy makes decisions challenging.

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Yes, this is a common barrier to understanding. The more pervasive problem I find however is the assumption that the game, the game-system, should do something about righting any positional imbalances among players. The notion that a player must spend/lose money in order to cause other players to spend/lose even more money appears to run heavily counter to many new players ways of thinking. This seems especially true of players with a strong exposure to recent euro-snowballs, games which are constructive/additive rather than delta-relative.

However, getting back to your point, I've often found it useful to discuss the notions of creative destruction while discussing the rules and the system's construction when teaching the 18xx -- much in the same way that I would discuss the ideas of deficit spending when teaching Age of Steam.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Eric Brosius wrote:
(3) Saving up money (in companies you are president of) to buy newer trains to make even more money while making trains of companies mostly owned by opponents obsolete.


BtB I find this is an overly natural concept to new players, so much so that they prefer to plough and build treasury (thus usually destroying their position) rather than simply buy trains out of pocket as needed. Even worse, they react with unfeigned horror at the notion of consolidating trains in a company in order to force out additional trains. It is a timidity that seems to need blunt force trauma before they start catching on, and even then they do so only gingerly. The natural result is that the aggressive train-buyers simply walk all over the timid players, winning with gratuitous ease as their portfolios and revenues outstrip the timid players, and the timid players are then obliterated by the train rush.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian Scrivins
United Kingdom
Brighton
Sussex
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You could start people off by playing Railroad Barons. That way they only have to think about the train rush. It's a quick game too.
2 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
iansc wrote:
You could start people off by playing Railroad Barons. That way they only have to think about the train rush. It's a quick game too.


That's true, but unfortunately, I don't find the game to be very interesting.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian Scrivins
United Kingdom
Brighton
Sussex
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Eric Brosius wrote:
That's true, but unfortunately, I don't find the game to be very interesting.


Railroad Barons is certainly closer to 1825 than 1830 (I can't see why it shouldn't work with an 1830-style stock market, but that's another question). However in RB the only way to attack your opponent is to rust their trains. Could be a useful lesson.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
iansc wrote:
However in RB the only way to attack your opponent is to rust their trains.


Buying their shares also works.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.