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Subject: Spotlights of a 3-player session rss

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Björn “Beorn” Rabenstein
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We (Manfred, Stefan, and Björn (that's me)) played two interesting 3-player games over the weekend. Some people on BGG asked about playing time: We finished the first in a bit less than 3hrs, the second took us slightly more than 3hrs - and Stefan is still a beginner, he played only one game before. Both games had 15 turns (which is by chance, the game has no fixed number of turns.)

I took a few photos during the second session (please pardon the low quality of images, neither my camera nor my skills are sufficiently evolved for this kind of ad-hoc indoor photography), and I thought I share them here with some comments. The result is not a complete session report with coverage of the whole game game, but a few story lines and spotlights to illustrate typical situations and moves.

We started the day with 1835, so we were in the perfect mood for Rolling Stock (the initial two tiers (red and orange) of companies in Rolling Stock are the same as those represented in 1835 (minors and majors, respectively). Full of anticipation, we set up the game...

A single $ is quite a lot of money in Rolling Stock, and that's even more true in the beginning of the game. The two "cheapos" (KME and BSE, low cost and low income) were among the three initially selected companies in the offering, so the usual "should I bid one more $" question became even more intricate, with face values of $1 and $2 only... Björn ended up with both the cheapos, and Manfred got the BME.

The first two thirds of the game saw very few corporations. Going public when one should better not is a typical mistake of beginners, so I take this reluctance of founding corporations as something good...

So what happened on the corp front? Björn was the first, in T2. But he only did so after Manfred agreed to sell him his BME for $7 (which is the max price, after all... ). The BME has a synergy with the KME, and that was enough of an incentive for Björn. Going public with a "cheapo" is quite a burden, though, because you have to toss in so much private money. Björn chose the minimum possible share price of $10 to go public with the BSE, so he had to toss in $8 in cash to compensate the $2 face value. In the company trading phase, he bought Manfreds BME and his own KME. Here you see his Bear corporation just after forming in T2 (note the one share in the bank at the top).

And here in T3 just after issuing a share (share price had increased to $12 in T2 and fell to $11 by issuing a share - the reward is quite a bit of money in the treasury).

T3 also saw the 2nd corporation of the game, Stefan's Star. In contrast to Björn, he used an orange company (the BY - Bavaria) and a pretty high share price, usually a set-up for a rock solid company while Björn's $10 Bear had an aura of disaster from the beginning.

The 3rd corporation of the game would only be formed in T9 by Manfred (the Android, see below). He was completely in the trader role (see player's guide) for the first eight turns of the game. As you will see in a bit, Björn dumped his Bear on Stefan in T4 and only got a new corporation in T11 (the Orion, which was an intentionally crappy corp, see below, too).

Another interesting feature of T3 was that nobody bought the (quite inexpensive) WT (Württemberg), so the Foreign Investor used his chance to grab a company very early in the game.

T4 was an interesting pivotal point in the game. Björn had by now funneled the HE (Hesse) into his Bear, and it didn't look too bad, despite the low initial share price. Stefan had even bought a Bear share. However, the first wave of cost of ownership was looming. Björn's plan was to buy the MS (Mecklenburg) from the offering and funnel it into the Bear, too, which would have given it a pretty nice setup. But the game needed to progress slowly to make this plan a success. Björn was first in player order in the share trading and auction phase of T4. He asked Stefan if he wanted to keep his investment in the Bear. That would have slowed down the game enough, and Björn would have bought the last remaining share of the Bear from the bank (resulting in 67% with Björn and 33% with Stefan). Stefan didn't want to commit to anything at that time, though. So Björn switched to plan B and did exactly the opposite in terms of game speed: He sold his one Bear share (making Stefan president) and went for the brand new yellow companies. Stefan was now the president of both corporations in the game, the Star and the Bear, just with the president's share each:

This situation is both, very powerful and extremely dangerous. It's in particular very difficult to handle. In fact, the most typical deadlock beginners maneuver themselves into is to have all their wealth bound in two president's shares of dying companies. That's basically the point of no return...

But Stefan was still in good shape. The key to his situation is to increase his percentage of one corporation and minimize his percentage of the other, and then let the "socialized" corporation feed the "privatized". It took Stefan a while to get this model going. He was stuck with one share each for many turns, and he diluted them both at the same rate. At one point, Björn guessed he would push the Star and co-invested, but then Stefan went for the Bear, making Björn lose quite a bit of money. Later (after Björn had given up his investment in the Star) Stefan switched back from Bear to Star (you have this kind of power when you are the president of both). By T8, we had the following picture of a rising Star and a falling Bear:

At this point, the red companies were all closed already. After a series of trades, the Star had acquired quite a few good yellow companies. Stefan owned 3 (out of 6) Star shares and 1 (out of 5) Bear shares. The Bear had only the aging WT, soon to suffer a negative income. In T10, most of the orange companies were closed (by then, a $6 cost of ownership applied to red, orange, and yellow). The Star had consolidated to the following (note the dying Bear in the background):

The Bear finally went bankrupt in T11. Here you see it just before its share price drops to $0. Note that 8(!) share are issued, so even at the low share price of $6, the Bear's market capitalization is 6*$8=$48, which is a harsh contrast to its book value of $5 cash + $15 for the HE = $20. On the share price card, you can see that it would have required a book value of at least $40 to survive.

The Star, BTW, kind of lost the tech race when it came to the blue and purple companies. It managed to acquire a green company (the BSR) but no more, and while Stefan had a private purple company in the end, the Star never saw a blue or purple company for the rest of the game. At the end of the game, it had a share price of meager $16, and Stefan had mostly switched to other, more profitable investments.

But let's go back to earlier turn an see what Björn, Manfred, and the Foreign Investor did.

As mentioned before, the Foreign Investor had a good start buying the WT early. In T4, the Bear (just having changed president from Björn to Stefan) bought the WT from him, so that he could buy his next company in T5 already. Alas, the cheapest company at that time was the already aged MS. Nobody wanted the MS later, so it rotted in the hands of the Foreign Investor. With the very speedy game progression that followed, he never ever had enough money to buy anything else.

As said, Manfred was focused on the "trader" role for quite a while. His best customer was Stefan's Star corp. Overall, he was quite successful, but he didn't sell everything he had. The red AKE, for example, stayed in his private possession until it had to be closed.

Björn jumped on the (infamous) first green company, the British Rails (BR, matching his initials ;-), which is a very good company to keep private for a while, which he did.

In T9, Manfred finally went public with the Eurotunnel (E). His Android corp then bought the BR from Björn, resulting in a very "green" corporation:

Manfred build up his Android consistently throughout the remaining game, first acquiring London Heathrow (LHR, making it even more "British"), then expanding to the Netherlands (HR, NS), and finally turning LHR into a space port to Venus (VP). See the following progression of pictures with the peak of the Android in T15 at share price $73 (and note Manfred's four juicy Android shares in his private possession in the last picture).

Björn, in the meantime, had bought another green (SZD, the Soviet railroad company, another one that is very well suited to keep as a private). But he needed liquidity in T11. Three juicy blue companies were in the offering, and all of them would be bought in that vicious T11 (one by Manfred, two by Björn). Björn did a kind of emergency money raising by going public with the SZD at a share price that gave him two shares, of which he then sold one, resulting in the following:

Note the three Orion shares in the bank, and the huge pile of cash in Björn's private pocket. The Orion was just paying as much dividends as it could from then on (75% of it going to the bank, sadly), and ended the game at $8 share price. What looks like a loser, gave Björn the needed cash in the right moment, and he could even milk the Orion for a while during its downfall. He managed to buy Ryanair (FR) and Frankfurt airport (FRA) in T11. After that auction-heavy T11, there were loads of shares in the bank, and only shiny new purple companies in the offering.

In T12, Björn went public with FR and sold FRA into his new Ship corp with a nice blue-blue +$8 synergy.

Manfred did very well in the battle over the purple companies. He got two of them, Björn and Stefan only one each. Unfortunately, the purple companies to turn FRA into a space port were not in the game, so Björn used an alternative approach: In T15, he went public with his purple company (the Asteroid League, known from 2038). The resulting Jupiter corp bought the RCC from Manfred (for max price, so it was a good deal for Manfred, too), gaining the giant +$16 purple-purple synergy bonus. He also was able to buy five out of six Jupiter shares, thereby pushing the share price up quite a bit. Things looked pretty impressive at that point:

That was also the last turn of the game. Most corporations maxed out their dividends in the last turn, resulting in a general drop of share prices, but the Ship managed to "double-jump" up and then to "roll" over the new (lower) $60 share price of the Android to end up on top with $66. (Unfortunately, Björn had only one Ship share left at that point.)

Final result:
1. Björn $408
2. Manfred $340
3. Stefan $276
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