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Subject: How to Best Deal With a Perceived Imbalance for Newbies? rss

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JR
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First, don't bother consuming time and brain power trying to equate Chicago Express to anything even remotely intended to resemble reality. It's an abstract game with share auctions and area control (blocking) with a lightly painted on train theme.

Second, I would advise never playing 5- or 6-player games of CE. With inexperienced players, it's a mess. With experienced players, it's arguably pointless because too little control is spread too thin.

The rest of the puzzle will really only come with experience. I would recommend reading some session reports from established players, and looking at some of the strategy discussion already available here on the geek. JC Lawrence (Clearclaw) has posted some set piece articles about Wabash Cannonball strategy which are good places to read up.

Good luck.
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oeste wrote:
...I wonder if anyone can explain to me the decision to not include a bidding rule that when a stock is bought, all future bids until the next dividends are payed out must start at the final purchasing price of the same stock.
Because the game is trying to be a game, and not a simulation?
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Eric Flood
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jrebelo wrote:
First, don't bother consuming time and brain power trying to equate Chicago Express to anything even remotely intended to resemble reality. It's an abstract game with share auctions and area control (blocking) with a lightly painted on train theme.


Agreed. However, it is important to note that, historically, company founders have sunk a large amount of their own capital into their new babies, and offered strong (cheap) stocks options to wealthy investors in the interest in gaining more start-up capital.

But yeah, this is less of a simulation, and more of an applied-game-theory game.
 
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J C Lawrence
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oeste wrote:
Would I be wrong in teaching this to new players?


Yes. Shares in the initial auction are worth as much as $2 over half the starting capital.
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oeste wrote:
The individual who taught me, and several other new players this game emphasized that companies need capital to actually build, so it is important to not bid too low.


While this is true, I emphasize to new players that if you bid too much of your capital, other players will get shares in your company for peanuts. This is especially true in 4+ player games. In part, this is a game about asset and income dilution.
And yeah, never 5 with new players, and never ever 6 at all in my book.
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I'm really good, btw, at winning at CE with new players (which is often a difficult task, as new players seem to spin things almost at random...) (about 90-95% win rate).

The main secret to my success is to only buy shares in the initial/first rounds for about $2 less than I would otherwise. Over-investing early with new players kills you every time. The only exception to this is if I can win the PRR *and* believe I will win one of the other three in initial, putting me in position to show them a null-cap first action. The game will invariably be better if I can manage to put myself in this position (as the other players take quick inspiration and have a sudden large jump in understanding of the game), but I lose those games more frequently.
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oeste wrote:
The individual who taught me, and several other new players this game emphasized that companies need capital to actually build, so it is important to not bid too low.


The cheaper you get a share the better, except for (maybe) the small companies (Wabash and Erie from the expansion). The company can always be recapitalised later, or you can build for a different company. With 6 players shares would be spread thin, so this might not work. If someone is getting a share dirt cheap, something has probably gone wrong.

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After all other players proceeded to pay over half of their starting money to buy into companies, including player 1 who bought the second PRR stock, the game owner simply used her first two turns and paid one more dollar than anyone else had left to purchase multiple stocks, one of which was the third PRR stock.


Players can use null auctions to prevent this.
 
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J C Lawrence
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oeste wrote:
What is the calculation behind that number?


It leaves enough to put sufficient pressure on other players. values the shares reasonably, and gives enough room for interesting turn-order & positional plays.

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Is this based on a certain number of players, or does that fluctuate between a 3 and 5 player game?


Nope.
 
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blueatheart wrote:
The main secret to my success is to only buy shares in the initial/first rounds for about $2 less than I would otherwise.


When teaching I give a tip that shares are worth half your starting money give or take a few dollars. People tend to interpret that to mean that they must bid slightly more than half their money to ensure they win, and the shares sell for $16,17,18
 
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blueatheart wrote:
I'm really good, btw, at winning at CE with new players (which is often a difficult task, as new players seem to spin things almost at random...) (about 90-95% win rate).


That's a funny observation that is very true. In my regular CE gaming group, I fared quite well when all players were at a reasonable level of experience. When playing with a table of new players, it was almost a toss-up who would win, because doing 'the right thing' often is of little consequence at a table of people who don't know what the right thing is when their turn comes up. As such, the first few games are best played quickly and considered throw-away learning games. Once people start to pick up the subtleties, it gets interesting.
 
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the game owner simply used her first two turns and paid one more dollar than anyone else had left


Also note that you don't need to bid one more than, you can bid equal to. They can't raise so must pass.
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jrebelo wrote:
That's a funny observation that is very true. In my regular CE gaming group, I fared quite well when all players were at a reasonable level of experience. When playing with a table of new players, it was almost a toss-up who would win, because doing 'the right thing' often is of little consequence at a table of people who don't know what the right thing is when their turn comes up. As such, the first few games are best played quickly and considered throw-away learning games. Once people start to pick up the subtleties, it gets interesting.


One of the other key things that will lose me a game with new players is when there is a "good" player who gives an early share to the wrong player, usually when they themselves want the share. They'll let the other player outbid them, although it'd be a reasonable bid, because they have difficulty with pricing. This will invariably throw the game to that third player (and is another reason why overinvesting early lessens your control over this situation, and causes more difficulties than it's worth, with new players).

I'm usually happy with this result, however, as the implication is that I've found a player with promise of being/becoming "good." The implication is that the player understood that a share needed to be pulled, and pulled the correct share, but did not understand the value of the share (which is something with arises with experience).
 
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oeste wrote:
Good point, Paul. I think the lesson I learned is to not let someone buy into my company so easily that they don't feel invested in it. They should have to pay enough that they will then take build and develop actions which help the company grow instead of cheaply riding my work.


False. It is often necessary to Good Play to buy shares for which you never perform actions. It is also frequently necessary to Good Play to buy shares for which your only actions are to waste or squander the company's money, cubes and future.

The value of a share is primarily a measure of the effect it will have on the gestalt of incentives across the set of players. not in how much that individual investment vehicle will earn over its lifetime. Most especially in the mid-game, shares are often worth considerably more than their life-time earnings due to the effect their purchase has on the balance of player incentives.
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clearclaw wrote:
False. It is often necessary to Good Play to buy shares for which you never perform actions. It is also frequently necessary to Good Play to buy shares for which your only actions are to waste or squander the company's money, cubes and future.


I will certainly let a player who is in a bad position into a company I have a plethora of shares in. My funds are likely better invested elsewhere, and their earnings will not much hinder my incentives to perform beneficial actions for that company (if that's my position).
 
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oeste wrote:
My statement was that if I have a share in a company that has potential to do well, and I perceive that an opponent wants to buy a share in that same company, but has one of the two incentives you listed, that I make it as difficult or costly as possible.


Such an approach is usually self-defeating. The other players profit by sticking you with the share and then exploiting the fact that your incentives are primarily tied to a single source.
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oeste wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
oeste wrote:
My statement was that if I have a share in a company that has potential to do well, and I perceive that an opponent wants to buy a share in that same company, but has one of the two incentives you listed, that I make it as difficult or costly as possible.


Such an approach is usually self-defeating. The other players profit by sticking you with the share and then exploiting the fact that your incentives are primarily tied to a single source.


But if I made it highly costly for him to win the share in a bid, then I have lost no money...


Unless you win the share. If he wins the share then his incentives are changed to the degree that the purchase changed his game length posture.

Remember: individual shares do not have to be profitable. The only requirement is that the net effect of purchasing a share across the revenues of all shares, be profitable.

Quote:
... while he has, so I still have cash to invest in another company if sabotage is his plan, or possibly he will reconsider whether he wants to sabotage a company he paid highly for. If he decides not sabotage, then I can buy another share in that company cheaply since he paid high dollar.


You are assuming that you have access to a Capitalise action. While you may, that's not the default. With rare exception with Good Play, Capitalise is always the first three actions in any given round. Asides from Null Capitalises, one of the more common patterns is to choose shares and initial bids such that the other players lose no matter what they bid or not or what they do in subsequent actions (ie a fork).

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If I outbid him and retained control over the company I was invested in, then I still have a chance of making the railroad make it too Chicago, along with other profitable cities, so I should make my money back.


No, it mostly means (assuming you have a significant plurality of the shares (eg not a 2:2 split of the B&O)) that the next player to get a share of the company will ensure that it never reaches Chicago.

Remember: 3 player games should generally never see a Chicago Dividend. Chicago Dividends are tolerable in 4 player games, bu are still not the default with Good Play.

Depending on the company in question, preventing the Chicago Dividend will take only one or two actions. More generally, a single player working alone should never be able to get a company to Chicago (exception: Erie). The cases in which a single player working alone should be able to get to Chicago all center around a player who is already out of contention and thus irrelevant to the game.

Quote:
That would be the logic that would go through my head at least.


Nod. Please read my joseki articles.
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oeste wrote:
But if I made it highly costly for him to win the share in a bid, then I have lost no money, while he has


Sure, and figuring out the point where costly for the other player becomes *too* costly is important. Go too high, and you have lost the game for yourself. Better to play into the position where two other players are bidding high for the share, and you can watch them beat each other over the head while you rest.

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so I still have cash to invest in another company if sabotage is his plan, or possibly he will reconsider whether he wants to sabotage a company he paid highly for. If he decides not sabotage, then I can buy another share in that company cheaply since he paid high dollar. If I outbid him and retained control over the company I was invested in, then I still have a chance of making the railroad make it too Chicago, along with other profitable cities, so I should make my money back. That would be the logic that would go through my head at least.


Regardless of whether or not the player will sabotage at that point, you should assume they certainly will if you win another share (if not, they are playing badly).

There is a key rule to CE, and understanding why and how is vital: no single player will ever drive a RR to Chicago. If this ever happens in the game, it is the fault of every single other player.

This results, with proper logical steps leading to a corollary to the above theorem, in the understanding that no company in which a single player has a majority should ever make it to Chicago. The one exception here is if an odd share is sold immediately prior to Chicago.
 
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oeste wrote:
From the description in the last few posts, it sounds as if all of your experience has led to the conclusion that with multiple good players, each will have a majority hold on one or occasionally two companies and a minority hold on another one or two companies, and the best strategy is to derail the companies in which you have a minority stake so that the companies in which you have a majority share will pay out slightly more once everyone is done destroying all other businesses. Everyone punch each other in the face and the last man standing wins. Don't worry about defending yourself, just make sure to punch harder. I may not be reading this correctly, but is that the gist of it?


Way off; the strongest position is often a 1-1-1-1 holding.

Also important is to realize that it is not the punching which is important, but the threat therein - see that big guy with the muscles over there? Why, exactly, is it a bad idea to insult his mother and then throw a drink in his face? Use the same common sense here, don't put yourself in the line of fire of someone ready to punch. If you line yourself up for his right hook, don't be surprised when it lands.
 
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oeste wrote:
From the description in the last few posts, it sounds as if all of your experience has led to the conclusion that with multiple good players, each will have a majority hold on one or occasionally two companies and a minority hold on another one or two companies, and the best strategy is to derail the companies in which you have a minority stake so that the companies in which you have a majority share will pay out slightly more once everyone is done destroying all other businesses.


No, the game isn't long enough for that. Actions are precious (and Capitalise opportunities the most precious of all). They can be used to advance your own position (along with another's), or to ensure that another doesn't unduly profit from his position, or to manipulate the balance of opportunity and incentive across the table. Doing all three is required. Getting the balance required among the three is the delicate bit and often comes down to repeated dollar-precise calculations and timings.

Quote:
I may not be reading this correctly, but is that the gist of it?


No. A lot of good material has been written elsewhere about Wabash Cannonball, not least the Joseki articles. You have a few hours of good reading ahead of you.
 
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When playing with newbies, you have to see if they are stubborn or willing to listen. The best games I have had are when I help players out by throwing in key advice. The first thing I say is auction, auction, AUCTION. It is true that one may do a better move besides auction at times, but I try to reiterate that this is the strongest move in the game and you get a better feel for it by using it more.

I then say that when auctioning, in the early game, you do not want to immediately buy your own share. I say this because if you do so, you will not earn any more money and will be weak in future auctions. There are again exceptions, but as said before, I give general advice.

I also tell players that most of the time, they will want to hurt the strongest player. Failure to do so usually will throw the game to that player. So if a guy is pushing red hard and red has the most income, I will say that red is in the lead. I say that to hurt players, try to auction off a stock that they own and someone else should get it. That will dilute the income that he gets and also allows sabotage to be used.

When players push or develop trains, I try to point out that if they benefit a company that they have 33% stake in, instead, they might want to push a track they have 50% stake in to get more of the benefit. Also, I tell them that they might want to reconsider pushing a track they own a minority of shares in.

I also tell them that develop is probably the weakest move compared to build or auction. I say that you can improve an area where the trains you own meet and it can also change the starting order for next round so that the player will get a chance to use the auction.

I also definitely tell them that each initial share goes for half of their starting money, plus or minus 2 bucks. Red however might go for more than that.
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Really stupid question, but what is meant by a capitalize action?
 
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