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Subject: My attempt at tweaking 1830 for beginners. rss

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I've been planning this for a very, very, long time. I've read almost all the posts and geeklists 18xx related for this.

I wanted my first game with my gaming group to be somewhat newbie friendly, so I made some arrangements. We had an unfinished 18AL experience, but we considered it rather interesting. This was a lesson for me. The problem with "beginner versions of 18xx" is that every time, they remove things from the game instead of making it more accessible. It often result in shallow experiences.

Below are all the tweaks I made for our first game of 1830 last week with my gaming group.


I placed the station tokens of corporations not yet floated next to their shares, so people could easily see how much stations were available for each company.


For the initial auction, instead of using station tokens, I used colored wooden tokens from the game "steam", so each guy of my gaming group could get his favorite color without messing with the rest of the components.


I thought that the fact that people cannot build on the hexes of the privates too hard to remember. I took black wooden cubes from steam, and placed them on the hexes of the privates. We removed them only when the privates were sold to companies. It worked pretty well, and nobody forgot that it was impossible to build tracks there.


I took red and blue wooden cubes (from the game steam once again) on the hexes of the S&StL and D&H, as a reminder of their special power. So every player knows that something could happen suddenly at theses areas.


I drawn some cards that I placed next to the privates to explain their special powers for those who have one.


Lastly, a thing that I'm pretty proud of, unfortunately though, it still lacks playtesting. I was very worried about the fact that the game could last 9 hours or 11 hours like I've seen on some session reports. I don't want to play a game who last this long. I've read that a game between 3h and 4h30 was common among regular players, this is what I was aiming for.

I also understood that the reason why the game could get stuck, were :
1)not pushing trains,
2)not investing in new corporations.

I thought that the harder to do for newbie would be to be confident enough to invest in a new corporation. If they were satisfied with their dividend, they wouldn't touch the state of the game, witch could be stuck at the "3 trains".

Plus, even if they are pushing trains, if everyone starts just one company, you can still be stuck because nobody has enough money to buy a 5 train without withholding dividends several turns.

My propositions was this. "At the end of the SR 3/5/7, if 4/6/8 corporations are not floated, the game ends." (this was aimed for a 4 players game)

I think it's better than just asking them to push trains and companies. First, it's not some meta-game consideration, witch means it's less aggressive to the player. Secondly, this way it engages them to think about the choices they have to make. At each stock round, they have to ask themselves if it would be a good thing for the game to stop now, and if it's not, then, they have to invest. Like in "normal" games, it's up to the guys that are late to make things changes. If they invest, trains will be bought, an so the engine of train rush will work, even with newbie.

Anyway, if they don't make the engine work, then the game will be reasonably short. 2h to 3h instead of 9h to 11h. I think that's a really big improvement.

----

I think the major issue still there is about the privates. No one can estimate them well without playing an 18xx once.
I think a good idea may be to delay their auction to SR 2 or 3 maybe. At this point, players understand the tiles, the map, their cash, the companies and everything. They can make meaningful choices at this point.

Plus, it have a good side effect for beginners, they may have to trash some share to buy some of the privates, so it could help them understand what can be done on the stock market.

Still, it's too heavy for me to playtest it well, and I don't know 18xx enough to really understand what I may break with this idea. Plus, it may not be that a big deal if they don't get them at the right price.


Theses things are my attempt at tweaking 1830 for beginners. It's been heavily playtested with myself on rails, and just once with humans. I'd be very glad to have your comments on what may not be a good idea, what can be improved and what other techniques you have in mind.

I hope that with the help of what may come out of this tread, we will put 1830 back as a point of entry to the 18xx genre (since 1889 is still only available via Deep Thought Games).

(Since I still don't have an avatar, if you liked this post, consider giving to me some GeekGold so I can buy one.)
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Peter Mumford
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Here's a geekgold, toward your avatar.

Most of your ideas for clarifying the game seem like they'd work OK (organizing the tokens, etc). But this is silly:
wygo wrote:
My propositions was this. "At the end of the SR 3/5/7, if 4/6/8 corporations are not floated, the game ends." (this was aimed for a 4 players game)

Your first game is going to go over 4 hours, no matter what. If you don't finish, no biggie. That's what they call a learning game. Provoking players to rush the trains, or float unwise corporations (when they are not sure what they are doing) is not going to help. Ending the game arbitrarily is also not going to help. Players need to see the bigger picture of what's going on, and know what and how to calculate to make the key decisions: when to buy trains, when to float (and dump) corps. Only experience can give you this knowledge, theres no shortcut.

That said, I think you are over-thinking this whole issue. 1830 is not that scary a game. And every subsequent game you play will cut half an hour off your time, until you reach the 4 hour mark.
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The cubes on the board is good, I do that with 18C2C.

I hope you are playing with poker chips -- they shave a LOT of time off the game.

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J C Lawrence
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Using poker chips will shave at least an hour off the game, possibly much more.

Stack all the players chip's for a given private in a single stack. This way the height of the stack represents the total current bid on the private and the order of the player colors represents the order of subsequent bidding.

The rest of your ideas, other that the game-shortening/forcing are fine though their utility is often small. That one is both game-breaking and unnecessary.
 
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I'm very glad you liked most of the ideas. :)

Morganza wrote:
I hope you are playing with poker chips -- they shave a LOT of time off the game.

We played with poker chips, though mine didn't shaved during the game. I suspect them to do it only on the chip case.

I confirm the game would be unplayable with paper money. I was afraid that it would break the theme, but in fact it worked very well.

clearclaw wrote:
the game-shortening/forcing are fine though their utility is often small. That one is both game-breaking and unnecessary.


Well, I'd like some real arguments on this one.

I don't think it ok, even remotely, to have the game last 9 hours or even to drop it in the middle. I consider this a bug, and it can be fixed. (Maybe not with my proposition of course).

photocurio wrote:
Provoking players to rush the trains, or float unwise corporations (when they are not sure what they are doing) is not going to help. Ending the game arbitrarily is also not going to help. Players need to see the bigger picture of what's going on, and know what and how to calculate to make the key decisions: when to buy trains, when to float (and dump) corps. Only experience can give you this knowledge, theres no shortcut.

You acquire experience by watching or trying. Most beginner will consider dropping shares to buy another company a risky move. So if nobody shows it to them (game with only newbies), they may not even try it before the 6th hour of play.

If they "play the game well", then this rule will not have any influence on the game. Maybe forcing the players to open all the company is too much, and unnecessary, but I still think that the pacing of the game will certainly be broken if only 4 or 5 company are opened. I'm very open to modify the "forced" pacing I propose, but I need some solid points made to drop it.

I think it still respect the mechanics of the game as variable playtime is already there as a game mechanic.

When I say it's not violent towards the player, it's because it's not mandatory, it's not metagame, and it gives them a clue about the way to go to have free money.

They may not understand what can be done with two company unless they see someone do some tricks, or unless they already have theses two company. What I've seen I my fist game confirms it. Once a played had a company dropped on him (so now he has to companies), he understood how one can buy trains to sell it to his other company.

My point is, to respond to photocurio, they will be sure about what they are doing only after experimenting.

photocurio wrote:
That said, I think you are over-thinking this whole issue.

I'm a game designer, it's my duty to over-think games ;)
I de-construct all I can find in terms of mechanics, pacing and flux.

My work here is just to push players towards the interesting part of the game, witch is not 4 players, 4 company floated, all having 100% shares in the hands of players, not floating any other company until someone reaches 1000$ in cash, and never selling shares to avoid missing dividends.
 
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wygo wrote:
I'm very glad you liked most of the ideas.


Like is too strong. I think they're pretty close to irrelevant. What hexes the privates block is already marked on the map. How many tokens companies have is already marked on their charters. The powers of the privates are pretty thoroughly irrelevant, in newbie or skilled player's hands. Etc. I don't see anything particularly destructive or particularly useful in your list outside of the forced game ending.

Quote:
I don't think it ok, even remotely, to have the game last 9 hours or even to drop it in the middle. I consider this a bug, and it can be fixed. (Maybe not with my proposition of course).


Ooops, then the 18xx and 1830 in particular are not for you. Play something else. Really, they are not for you. Go away and do something else.

With a table of all newbies your first dozen plus games will likely last 8+ hours and your first couple games will be over 10 hours. With all newbies you'll be doing well, really well, to get below 6 hours after 20+ games. The long playtime can be fixed -- with experience and the skill from experience. Forcing the game into a preset shape will only distort their learning curve.

If longer game lengths are a problem, then don't play the 18xx; they are not for you.

Quote:
You acquire experience by watching or trying. Most beginner will consider dropping shares to buy another company a risky move. So if nobody shows it to them (game with only newbies), they may not even try it before the 6th hour of play.


Yup, and that's just wonderful; they're doing nicely then.

Quote:
If they "play the game well"...


They're newbies. You'll be bloody lucky if the game finishes in less than 10 hours anyway. You may not like this, but it is a great, and arguably the best, way for them to learn in the absence of an experienced player (and it is easily and often better than the experienced player route).

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My point is, to respond to photocurio, they will be sure about what they are doing only after experimenting.


Precisely. Let them experiment with the real thing.

Quote:
My work here is just to push players towards the interesting part of the game, witch is not 4 players, 4 company floated, all having 100% shares in the hands of players, not floating any other company until someone reaches 1000$ in cash, and never selling shares to avoid missing dividends.


Then show them through your own actions. Be the example.
 
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If you are concerned about 1830 playing too long, and the complexity of the rules, you should start with 18AL or 18GA. These games are both shorter and easier. Actually the rulesets aren't so different, but the games overall are more forgiving.
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wygo wrote:
I've read that a game between 3h and 4h30 was common among regular players, this is what I was aiming for.


With an electronic moderator handling everything except the map, track and stations, 1830 is can be played in 150 minutes by skilled players. A typical tabletop game is typically 4.5-5 hours with skilled players. Some games (a few) with experienced/skilled players will still head for 6 hours.

Quote:
I also understood that the reason why the game could get stuck, were :

1)not pushing trains,
2)not investing in new corporations.


Those are the surface reasons. They are what gets the playtime down to 6 hours or so. The locals, who generally have several hundred 18xx games under their belts, will typically take around 5 hours for a game of 1830 (eg start at ~20:00 in the evening and finish by 01:00). If we restrict the game to only those with ~400+ games of 18xx played (versus the ~100-150 at our low end), then we'll wrap in ~4 hours.

Quote:
My propositions was this. "At the end of the SR 3/5/7, if 4/6/8 corporations are not floated, the game ends." (this was aimed for a 4 players game)


A typical 4 player game will see 2-3 companies floated in SR1. While an additional company may float in SR2, more typical is for the first new company to hit in SR3. It depends on how the privates sold and where priority sits. Having only 3 companies operating at the end of SR3 is neither uncommon or bad. SR4 is typically where the dam breaks.

Quote:
Anyway, if they don't make the engine work, then the game will be reasonably short. 2h to 3h instead of 9h to 11h. I think that's a really big improvement.


We disagree.

Quote:
I think the major issue still there is about the privates. No one can estimate them well without playing an 18xx once.


There are multiple good tables of valuations of the privates for different player counts around. They're generally aimed at newbies as the values with skilled players are typically considerably higher and more dynamic.

Quote:
I think a good idea may be to delay their auction to SR 2 or 3 maybe. At this point, players understand the tiles, the map, their cash, the companies and everything. They can make meaningful choices at this point.


No. That would largely break the game. Privates are early commitment forcing functions. The primary early function of the privates is to introduce significant positional differences and thus large butterfly effects to the game. The rest of the value of a private is the large lump of free money it introduces to the game when it is bought, and thus the matching liability (cf creative destruction).

Quote:
Plus, it may not be that a big deal if they don't get them at the right price.


The only ones that are significant for pricing are the M&H and C&A. A little over face-value isn't too bad for the rest.

Quote:
I hope that with the help of what may come out of this tread, we will put 1830 back as a point of entry to the 18xx genre (since 1889 is still only available via Deep Thought Games).


1830 is already, right now, an excellent entry point to the 18xx.

It is unlikely that 1889 will ever be available anywhere else but DTG.
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clearclaw wrote:
How many tokens companies have is already marked on their charters.

It takes way too much room, and you have to put in relation the shares and their charters. We disagree.

clearclaw wrote:
What hexes the privates block is already marked on the map.
Yes, but it lacks emphasis, and since it's a special rule, newbie forget those. Having volume on the board help seeing theses hexes as potential obstacles.


clearclaw wrote:
The powers of the privates are pretty thoroughly irrelevant, in newbie or skilled player's hands.
No special rules should exist without a reminder somewhere in modern board game design. If they are really irrelevant, maybe they should not be there at all in a first game since it give new player the message that it may be even more important than the revenue, or how much do I sell them to companies.

clearclaw wrote:
Go away and do something else.
This is an "ad homnem attack". The lowest form of argumentation. Keep them for yourself.
How to desagree

clearclaw wrote:
If longer game lengths are a problem, then don't play the 18xx; they are not for you.

The problem is not length. I repeat: 4 players floating only 4 companies during 6 hours is not interesting, it absolutely boring and tedious. Nobody would like this situation, and it can be avoided. If a game have to last 6 or 11 hours, it should be interesting all the way. This one can't handle it, when the game last this long, it's because players stopped making choices and are playing on auto-pilot.

clearclaw wrote:

A typical 4 player game will see 2-3 companies floated in SR1. While an additional company may float in SR2, more typical is for the first new company to hit in SR3. It depends on how the privates sold and where priority sits. Having only 3 companies operating at the end of SR3 is neither uncommon or bad. SR4 is typically where the dam breaks.

This is interesting. So when does the 4rd company is bought when it is bough late ? 4SR ?
Did you ever experienced a game lasting less than 6 hours with no more than 6 companies floating and ending with the bank breaking ?

clearclaw wrote:
Forcing the game into a preset shape will only distort their learning curve.


Giving new players boundaries restores the pace of the game. The fact that they learn the game in a different way than most of us, by suffering, doesn't mean it will distort them.

I think that most player a kept out of the 18xx system not because of complexity, or playtime. I think it's because of the tremendous high probability of first game experience being way too long and still fill shallow.

The preset shape of pacing I propose is better than the most probable shape of game lasting too long for what it has to offer.
photocurio wrote:

If you are concerned about 1830 playing too long, and the complexity of the rules, you should start with 18AL or 18GA. These games are both shorter and easier. Actually the rulesets aren't so different, but the games overall are more forgiving.

The complexity is almost the same in 18AL and in 1830

By making 18AL forgiving, the designer took out from the game several possibility of interaction between players.

One train per turn, removes the possibility of deliberately accelerating the pace of the game. (It removes player interaction)

12 yellow tiles for city means there will not be competition for the tiles, and I think that's a shame. (It removes player interaction)

By being forgiving, the game get kinda boring during SR, because nobody really feels danger apart from placebo effect (maybe I'm exaggerating here, I'd like to know how you feel about it).

(It's my opinion after only one game of 18AL, but I saw that I'm not the only one thinking this)

The problem as I said, is that this game don't make 18xx more accessible but makes it shallower.

That's why I prefer 1830 as a point of entry.
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As a dissenting opinion, I found Steam over Holland an excellent entry point into the 18xx. By letting the companies sell their own shares it injects a lot of cash into the game and with a fixed ending after 15 rounds (5 SR, 10 OR), it doesn't take long at all.

Others may consider SoH to not be a "real" 18xx game (or at best 18xx-lite) but I've found it to be fun to play and easy to introduce noobs to.

I'm hoping to get a few more games under my belt and than possibly try 1830 again (or maybe even 1860).
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wygo wrote:

clearclaw wrote:
Go away and do something else.
This is an "ad homnem attack". The lowest form of argumentation. Keep them for yourself.
How to desagree


No. As the very link you cited explains, the argumentum ad hominem is attacking the person who made the argument instead of the argument itself. "Of course he would say that. He's a senator."

Saying "Go away and do something else" is neither attacking the argument nor attacking the person who made it. It's just not being especially nice.

What JC's saying is essentially correct. If you strain really hard, you might be able to get one particular 18xx game to finish an hour earlier. You're still not going to solve the general problem, which is that 18xx games take a long time, and they're designed for, and played by, people who not only don't mind that they take a long time but prefer that they do.

Even if you were able to tweak 1830 "for beginners" so that it played in 2 1/2 hours, then what? What would the "beginners" have begun at? They'd be exposed to an exciting genre of games that take three times longer to play than their initial experience led them to expect. If I don't like playing 9 hour games, is playing a stripped-down version of 1830 going to change me? No.

I myself have come to terms with the fact that I don't like six-hour rail games enough to play them 100 times. I have, in JC's words, gone away and done something else. This is not a bad thing.
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I agree that shortening 1830 to 2 - 4 hours for noobs doesn't make sense. Rather than shortening it, you could also just set a time limit of say, 4 - 6 hours and say, when we get to that point, we'll see where we're at and probably pick it up and start over another time.

During my first game of 18xx, we messed up something so that after 6 hours, we were getting minimal returns for our companies. We had held dividends multiple times and train rushed to either 4 or 5. In short, we'd messed up the game. Sure, we could have gone another 4 - 6 hours and finished it, but I think it was better to pick it up and plan to play it again aonther time with a little bit better understanding of what is going on. More than most games, I think 18xx benefits from one (or more) learning games where no one is expecting that they'll reach the end (but will be happily surprised if they do).
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wygo wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
How many tokens companies have is already marked on their charters.


It takes way too much room, and you have to put in relation the shares and their charters. We disagree.


The larger point is that token count is only significant for modestly experienced players, and even then it is of fairly questionable interest. More simply, novice players focusing on token count is counter-productive.

Quote:
clearclaw wrote:
The powers of the privates are pretty thoroughly irrelevant, in newbie or skilled player's hands.


No special rules should exist without a reminder somewhere in modern board game design.


1830 is not a modern design and doesn't pretend to be. The only 18xx designs which seem to make any claim for modernity in this regard are 1846 and perhaps (if less so) 1860. The rest of the field is set very comfortably in the 1980s.

Quote:
If they are really irrelevant, maybe they should not be there at all in a first game since it give new player the message that it may be even more important than the revenue, or how much do I sell them to companies.


The game would be very little changed if the private powers were all removed. It would be quite reasonable with new players to simply ignore the special powers and to thus leave only their face values and blocked hexes.

Quote:
clearclaw wrote:
Go away and do something else.


This is an "ad homnem attack".


No, it isn't. If you are uncertain on the accurate definition, please see the definition of ad hominem here.

My quoted comment was advice. Your comments and stated preferences suggest that you will not be successful by your metrics in playing the 18xx and that as a result the games will simply fail for you. On that basis I recommended and recommend that you not play them. You would appear to be better off, by your standards, going away and doing something else.

Quote:
The lowest form of argumentation. Keep them for yourself.
How to desagree


While Paul's comments are good, they do little to forward the quality of debate (which I value over the participent's emotions). I prefer the Nizkor Logical Fallacy list as a guide to better quality debate as it emphasises accuracy.

Quote:
The problem is not length. I repeat: 4 players floating only 4 companies during 6 hours is not interesting...


And I don't expect it to ever happen. If you are really concerned about this, I recommend impressing two principles on your players:

1) If you are not winning, then change something NOW. Waiting will only mean that you lose by more.

2) It is not only acceptable to end the game with a score of $1, but preferable -- as long as all the other players have less.


The 18xx are bloody tooth and nail cannibalistic wargames fought with spreadsheets and the sooner your players understand that, the more successful they'll be. Getting them to read up on and thoroughly understand creative destruction may also help -- those principles are central to the game.

Quote:
If a game have to last 6 or 11 hours, it should be interesting all the way.


That's not really a characteristic of the 18xx. The 18xx are narrative affairs with periods with little interest and action interspersed with periods of high stress and intense focus. Much of the game is understanding the when where and why for these rhythms and thus acting either before the critical events occur, or to move the critical events away from other player's predictions.

Quote:
This is interesting. So when does the 4rd company is bought when it is bough late ? 4SR ?


It all depends on how the private auction went, the location of priority for the first few rounds, and how nervous the players are. The general pattern is that by SR5 all the companies are floated or their presidencies reserved. The same state is also common in SR4, but it also isn't uncommon for the last companies to float in SR5 or even in SR6 (tho the latter is fairly rare). This is fairly expectable given that the game is typically only 6-8 SRs long (assuming no bankruptcy -- which is a bad assumption as well over half of the game with 4 players should end in bankruptcy).

You may also note that 4-player 1830 is critically unstable. Roughly 85% of our 4-player games end in bankruptcy, and we do rather better than many.

Quote:
Did you ever experienced a game lasting less than 6 hours with no more than 6 companies floating and ending with the bank breaking ?


No, not once in ~7 years of playing the 18xx.

Quote:
Giving new players boundaries restores the pace of the game. The fact that they learn the game in a different way than most of us, by suffering, doesn't mean it will distort them.


The problem is that the boundaries are false and disguise one of the central and driving decisions in the game: when to accelerate and when to pull back and slow things down, how that necessarily varies across the players, how each player must understand the other player's positions and needs, and thus how each player must be able to predict and/or forestall the other player's preferences. This aspect is much of the heart of the 18xx and masking it behind a forced schedule precludes the structures that will encourage learning it.

Remember: 1830, like most 18xx, is inherently and continuously unbalanced. its natural tendency is to fly off the handle in one direction or another and to thus deliver a crushing victory to one of the players while the rest suffer in squalor. The game is only ever approximately balanced at any given time because the players have forced it to be through their play-decisions -- and the game then adroitly responds by unbalancing in another direction to someone else's massive favour and thus requiring another balancing response from the players. The natural behaviour of the system is to run-away in one player's favour, and it is only the other players struggling to pull him and the game back that makes the game work. And of course once they do, the game then runs away in some other direction and to another player's favour.

Quote:
I think that most player a kept out of the 18xx system not because of complexity, or playtime. I think it's because of the tremendous high probability of first game experience being way too long and still fill shallow.


I have taught the 18xx to ~50 people over the last few years, possibly more. None have ever said anything like that -- and that wasn't due to any great skill or quality on my part as a teacher. The most common reason for their not continuing to play 18xx was simply that the games were too demanding of them as players and that they didn't want to commit that much of themselves to a game; they wanted something more casual, less stressful, and which involved less personal commitment.

Quote:
The preset shape of pacing I propose is better than the most probable shape of game lasting too long for what it has to offer.


There are multiple systems in the game to ensure that doesn't happen, from the decreasing number of trains available at each rank, to the certificate limit, to the gross rewards for never withholding, to the simple profits from using brown track tiles.

Quote:
By being forgiving, the game get kinda boring during SR, because nobody really feels danger apart from placebo effect (maybe I'm exaggerating here, I'd like to know how you feel about it).


18AL's and 18GA's core problem is that they are untextured/flat, not that they fail to embody risk. Both 18AL and 18GL embody the risk aspects of 18xx fairly well.

UhhhClem wrote:
I myself have come to terms with the fact that I don't like six-hour rail games enough to play them 100 times. I have, in JC's words, gone away and done something else. This is not a bad thing.


Quite.
 
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Butterfly0038 wrote:
I agree that shortening 1830 to 2 - 4 hours for noobs doesn't make sense. Rather than shortening it, you could also just set a time limit of say, 4 - 6 hours and say, when we get to that point, we'll see where we're at and probably pick it up and start over another time.


Recommended.

Quote:
More than most games, I think 18xx benefits from one (or more) learning games where no one is expecting that they'll reach the end (but will be happily surprised if they do).


Yes. Sometimes it takes three of four such tentative almost-games before the players start to get their feet under them.
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wygo wrote:
I confirm the game would be unplayable with paper money.


I've been playing 18xx with paper money for 20 years. I don't suggest it for new players, but it works fine once you get used to it. Our games go just as fast as games with chips. The banker and all the players work together to make things go smoothly. If I get $24, I will immediately hand the banker either $1, $16, $66 or even $466. If I don't have any useful change, I'll tell the banker that. There is more effort for the players but it doesn't take longer.
 
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clearclaw wrote:
The game would be very little changed if the private powers were all removed. It would be quite reasonable with new players to simply ignore the special powers and to thus leave only their face values and blocked hexes.


The beginner rules for 1889: History of Shikoku Railways do exactly that. (IIRC they do away with blocked hexes as well, and just leave a price and a revenue.)
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clearclaw wrote:
Butterfly0038 wrote:
I agree that shortening 1830 to 2 - 4 hours for noobs doesn't make sense. Rather than shortening it, you could also just set a time limit of say, 4 - 6 hours and say, when we get to that point, we'll see where we're at and probably pick it up and start over another time.

Recommended.

I think that's a flaw in game design, it's certainly not a feature. When I propose to stop the game with in-game, well integrated rules, you propose a meta-game solution regarding the exact same problem. I'm not saying that I found the only way to shorten the game if players fail to modify pace. If you don't like this one there is some other way to have the same effect without having the game stop like this.

BFoy wrote:
wygo wrote:
I confirm the game would be unplayable with paper money.

I've been playing 18xx with paper money for 20 years.[...]

Everyone's tastes are different I guess.


clearclaw wrote:
The game would be very little changed if the private powers were all removed. It would be quite reasonable with new players to simply ignore the special powers and to thus leave only their face values and blocked hexes.

I think this information is very important. It's good to have it for beginner's rules if everyone agree.

UhhhClem wrote:
If you strain really hard, you might be able to get one particular 18xx game to finish an hour earlier.

You don't understand what I am working on. I'm not working on shortening the general length of 1830.

I'm working on avoiding a typical problem in a game with only newbies (or maybe only newbies and on guy who know more on the subject). This is not about artificially shortening the whole game. It transforming a newbie first game experience of 9 to 11h to less than 6 hours.

I really think it's worth the hassle.

Just read the session reports of first-timers and try to recreate them with rails. You will see that 4 players not opening new company will get the game stuck without possibility to buy a 5T (or a 6T) without withholding several times, witch they may not even do. As I say the probability that these players wait to have between 410 and 1000 in cash to start a company without selling shares is high, even if it takes hours.
clearclaw wrote:
There are multiple systems in the game to ensure that doesn't happen, from the decreasing number of trains available at each rank, to the certificate limit, to the gross rewards for never withholding, to the simple profits from using brown track tiles.

Yes, but again, it's not enough. Because of the train limit for each company preventing the healthy companies to push the game forward.
The solution to this problem you know it, and you said it there:
clearclaw wrote:

Sidewynnder wrote:
If a company is at its train limit, it cannot buy another to replace one, correct? This was the cause of a major time lag for us.
Correct. I guarantee that was not the cause of the long game time.

The solution, you said it in this thread, is again floating new companies.

We can't deny theses "time lags" exists on beginner-only game, and I think they are making this game unnecessarily painful.
Players who haven't started a new company once they had to will loose money, will do it late, but will do it.

clearclaw wrote:

1) If you are not winning, then change something NOW. Waiting will only mean that you lose by more.

2) It is not only acceptable to end the game with a score of $1, but preferable -- as long as all the other players have less.

It's still meta-game. If you accept to modify the behavior of players with meta-game consideration, why are you so hostile with using in-game techniques, which are far more natural, less immersion breaking while keeping feeling of agency.

Butterfly0038 wrote:
As a dissenting opinion, I found Steam over Holland an excellent entry point into the 18xx. By letting the companies sell their own shares it injects a lot of cash into the game and with a fixed ending after 15 rounds (5 SR, 10 OR), it doesn't take long at all.

I like the fact that in most 18xx the moment the game ends depends on the action of the player. I think this feature, witch may be a good compromise, take something very interesting out of the game unnecessarily.

clearclaw wrote:
The problem is that the boundaries are false and disguise one of the central and driving decisions in the game: when to accelerate and when to pull back and slow things down, how that necessarily varies across the players, how each player must understand the other player's positions and needs, and thus how each player must be able to predict and/or forestall the other player's preferences. This aspect is much of the heart of the 18xx and masking it behind a forced schedule precludes the structures that will encourage learning it.

Yes, but if in SR 6, there is still only 4 company floating, then, someone obviously missed an opportunity to do what he had to do.
I don't want to punish players for missing this with a game lasting 9 to 11 hours. So at some point, we push the game forward or we stop it.

With this rule, we should not impose the perfect pace. We should let them take some time to understand what can be done, and to make mistakes. Then once they lose some money and if they still can't understand what can be done, we should propose them to push the game forward.

The game last for so long not because some players plays well, but because the newbies players currently loosing don't do anything to change the situation. (correct me if I'm wrong, of course).
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The problem is, that your proposed variant doesn't solve your problem of new players starting up too few companies.

When the players approach SDR 5, and 5 or fewer companies have been floated, you assume that they would start companies just to prolong the game. But why do you think their aim is to have the game take as long as possible?

In fact, if they are clever, they will realise that it's in the interest of the richest player to end the game; but the richest player is the one that has the best opportunity to start up a new company. So you're creating incentives not to float companies.

The result may well be that the game ends prematurely, with no player ever having owned more than one company, thus depriving them of the most interesting phase of the game.

What you should be doing is explain to them why starting a second company is beneficial for their position in the game. The best way to do that is to demonstrate that by starting a second comany yourself at 100, buying two 5 trains, and dumping one of your companies the next SDR. At that point, either the game ends because of a bankrupcy or they will now scramble to buy their own second companies.
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A possibly cleaner way to get around the problem of new players not floating companies would be to limit the percentage of a player's holdings which can be "investor" shares versus "controller" shares, so that players run out of things to buy much faster.

This turns it from a game of chicken (where nobody wants to sell profitable shares to float the new company which keeps the game from coming to an untimely end) to an aggressive game where players compete to float new companies to increase their share limits.

For example, if the paper limit is usually 12, change it to allow 4+4N where N is the number of companies you are President of.

(An alternative way to accomplish the same thing would be to make shares in companies you don't control count double (or even triangular numbers) towards your paper limit.)

While a game played like this would not be 1830, it might be a useful teaching tool.
 
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wygo wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Butterfly0038 wrote:
I agree that shortening 1830 to 2 - 4 hours for noobs doesn't make sense. Rather than shortening it, you could also just set a time limit of say, 4 - 6 hours and say, when we get to that point, we'll see where we're at and probably pick it up and start over another time.


Recommended.


I think that's a flaw in game design, it's certainly not a feature.


1830 and the 18xx have many flaws.

Quote:
When I propose to stop the game with in-game, well integrated rules, you propose a meta-game solution regarding the exact same problem. I'm not saying that I found the only way to shorten the game if players fail to modify pace. If you don't like this one there is some other way to have the same effect without having the game stop like this.


With an all-newbie table it seems likely there is not a better way than stopping the game, calling it a day and restarting some other time. The process of learning a game is also the process of learning the implications of decisions. Continuing a newbie game past the point of, we all really badly screwed a dozen rounds ago does not seem overly productive.

Why are you so insistent on not calling the first several games, taking the lessons learned, and restarting?

Quote:
clearclaw wrote:
The game would be very little changed if the private powers were all removed. It would be quite reasonable with new players to simply ignore the special powers and to thus leave only their face values and blocked hexes.


I think this information is very important. It's good to have it for beginner's rules if everyone agree.


Conversely, I don't find it important. My general approach is to tell new players about the powers, to also say that they are almost entirely irrelevant, and only to expand on that or go into detail if there's a specific need or question (there rarely is).

Quote:
I'm working on avoiding a typical problem in a game with only newbies (or maybe only newbies and on guy who know more on the subject).


This is not in fact a typical problem, or is at least not a typical problem in the manner you're describing it. In every newbie game all the companies will float, and that alone will force the trains to move. There simply aren't enough trains to do otherwise. The kicker is that they won't float as quickly as they might and the stock market won't be as abused as it needs to be in order for the game to work, and as a result the game will be completely determined (modulo typical newbie screwups) relatively early in the 3Ts. And that's just fine. And expectable. And proper. The new players learned something and given some small clues or a bit of thought and insight, they'll come back next time and utterly bollox the game in some new way (likely still in the 3Ts), and they'll learn from that and screw it up in a different way the next time so forth.

Quote:
This is not about artificially shortening the whole game. It transforming a newbie first game experience of 9 to 11h to less than 6 hours.


Modulo an early bankruptcy, I do not believe that this is possible without either critically castrating the game, or requiring the presence of at least one and probably two modestly experienced players.

Quote:
I really think it's worth the hassle.


I don't. You're distorting the game and sacrificing the value of iterative exploration for no apparent gain.

Quote:
Just read the session reports of first-timers and try to recreate them with rails. You will see that 4 players not opening new company will get the game stuck without possibility to buy a 5T (or a 6T) without withholding several times, witch they may not even do. As I say the probability that these players wait to have between 410 and 1000 in cash to start a company without selling shares is high, even if it takes hours.


Given even quite remarkably bad play with fairly dreadful portfolios, by SR5 every player should be making a bare minimum of $100/OR, or $200 per set of ORs. Only $600 is needed to float a company at a par price of $100 (I don't know where your $1000 is coming from). Slightly better play and portfolios will deliver comfortably over $200/OR with only green track ($400 per set of ORs). ~$300/OR is not uncommon with good players. What you are imagining is not a problem.

Quote:
The solution to this problem you know it, and you said it there:


The problem isn't with the game, but with player's understanding of creative destruction (and by side-effect conditional probability). FWLIW I don't consider that 9.5 hour game in the other thread to be a failed game. Rather I consider it a stellar success as it delivered a learning experience sufficient to make their next play far more interesting -- and the players recognised that. For an all-newbie game, they did impressively well.

Quote:
We can't deny theses "time lags" exists on beginner-only game, and I think they are making this game unnecessarily painful.


1830 is by its nature and design, rather painful. That's one of its charms.

Quote:
clearclaw wrote:
1) If you are not winning, then change something NOW. Waiting will only mean that you lose by more.

2) It is not only acceptable to end the game with a score of $1, but preferable -- as long as all the other players have less.


It's still meta-game.


No. All the above two rules really express are the central principles of competitive play. A more common phrasing of both might be: If you're not winning, then you're losing. Don't lose! and Score doesn't matter so long as you beat the other player. These principles are not specific to the 18xx: they apply universally to any game. Another common phrasing that embodies both is If you don't want to lose, then make the other guy lose! It is just that they are often not seen that way, or that simply, or are seen as only that way by the assumed over-competitive (which is both absurd and silly).

The difference and the problem per se is that many modern players have been habituated to games which maintain their balance and the game's own forward progression through the internal game-system, and the 18xx and 1830 in particular don't do that. The reaction of the 18xx game-system to imbalance is to help the winning player to run away with the game. Modern players are commonly used to games proceed on their own without the player's complicit involvement, or which provide catchup mechanisms, or some advantage to tailing players so as to keep the game more "even", and the 18xx pattern is instead to put even more roadblocks in the way of trailing players while giving advantages to the winning player.

More simply, the 18xx delegate both game balance and game progression to the players -- and that's a responsibility that a great many players don't recognise or know what to do with. This is not a fault of the game or game-system, it is a fault of those player's lack of competency as players. Thankfully, they can (usually) learn and improve.

Quote:
If you accept to modify the behavior of players with meta-game consideration, why are you so hostile with using in-game techniques, which are far more natural, less immersion breaking while keeping feeling of agency.


Re-read what I wrote: There's no meta-game. In fact the primary thing those rules do is to grant and assign even more agency to the players. The whole game plus their personal success or failure rests on their shoulders. It is all up to them. Now that's agency!

Quote:
Yes, but if in SR 6, there is still only 4 company floating, then, someone obviously missed an opportunity to do what he had to do.
I don't want to punish players for missing this with a game lasting 9 to 11 hours. So at some point, we push the game forward or we stop it.


So, stop it, call the game, talk it over and then restart. A fine solution. Everybody has made mistakes, lessons have been learned, notions and suppositions have formed: so have another go using your new understanding.

More simply: 4 companies is only 36 certificates. With that little paper in the game, the players are going to be piling up cash and looking for somewhere to spend it.

Quote:
With this rule, we should not impose the perfect pace. We should let them take some time to understand what can be done, and to make mistakes. Then once they lose some money and if they still can't understand what can be done, we should propose them to push the game forward.


And which player pushes the game forward and why? How do they understand their responsibility/necessity? Why is it their necessity? These are core lessons of the 18xx.

Quote:
The game last for so long not because some players plays well, but because the newbies players currently loosing don't do anything to change the situation. (correct me if I'm wrong, of course).


There are two things driving game-length: pace of decisioning and game progression. With an all-newbie table with companies floating at a reasonable rate and trains being bought at a reasonable rate (assuming no bankruptcy) I would still confidently predict and expect an 8+ hour game. Why? Because they build track badly, they stick tokens in silly places, they count runs badly, they hum and haw and then hum and haw some more over route building, and then it all breaks when the tile shortages hit...so they hum and haw some more...and that's just fine and proper. They are learning.
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Thanks you for attacking the core of the mechanic I propose.

Quote:
When the players approach SDR 5, and 5 or fewer companies have been floated, you assume that they would start companies just to prolong the game. But why do you think their aim is to have the game take as long as possible?


The only player who should like the game to stop now should be the guy currently winning. This may be a bias of course, as I borrow this hypothesis from game theory, whose been proven wrong on human behavior a lots of time.

Since the guy currently ahead may have a very profitable company, I try to suggest the other players to buy company, and therefor to buy trains, and therefor to harm the player currently winning.

Harming the player currently winning is still a good side effect, my aim is still to make shy players push the game forward.

Maybe ending the game on theses milestones is a bad idea. But then what other alternatives can we use ?

Quote:
but the richest player is the one that has the best opportunity to start up a new company.

This may be indeed a big flaw in my proposition.
The hypothesis I took, was that the richest player, may not want to change anything anyway.
I know he can still open new companies to put more misery on the guys still struggling with their one 3T, but I though it was still more crucial for the players behind in money to open new companies.

Quote:

What you should be doing is explain to them why starting a second company is beneficial for their position in the game. The best way to do that is to demonstrate that by starting a second comany yourself at 100, buying two 5 trains, and dumping one of your companies the next SDR. At that point, either the game ends because of a bankruptcy or they will now scramble to buy their own second companies.

Is this meta-game ? Or is it the way already skilled players do in a game with newbies ? (This is indeed what happen in our first 1830 last week)


I think of another possible big flaw in the rule I propose. Maybe I'm giving way too much handicap to the guy who is currently earning the most money, versus the guy already is ahead in cash.

Quote:
A possibly cleaner way to get around the problem of new players not floating companies would be to limit the percentage of a player's holdings which can be "investor" shares versus "controller" shares, so that players run out of things to buy much faster.


I don't think that the limits of papers is that a big deal in this issue, tough I may be, of course, cruelly wrong.

Anyway, I like how it gives the players a clue about the importance of having more companies. The major problem may be that we are not encouraging players to dump companies ?
 
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clearclaw wrote:
With an all-newbie table it seems likely there is not a better way than stopping the game, calling it a day and restarting some other time. The process of learning a game is also the process of learning the implications of decisions. Continuing a newbie game past the point of, we all really badly screwed a dozen rounds ago does not seem overly productive.

Why are you so insistent on not calling the first several games, taking the lessons learned, and restarting?


There is value to seeing the endgame. Do the Diesels crush the 5Ts or vice versa? How important is stock value versus dividends? Where is my permanent train coming from?

Another, more traditional method of shortening the game: remove some of the trains. For a crushingly fast game, remove one each 2T, 3T, 4T, and 5T. The game will naturally progress faster. The trains will rust faster. Track upgrades will be available faster.

It will be hellaciously unbalancing, but people will see the trains move and will learn to survive disaster, or not.
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wygo wrote:
The only player who should like the game to stop now should be the guy currently winning. This may be a bias of course, as I borrow this hypothesis from game theory, whose been proven wrong on human behavior a lots of time.


The general case with newbies is that somebody is winning and the other players did nothing about it until the situation was extreme and now there simply isn't enough time to do anything effective as the winning player is too far ahead. In a typical newbie game this will happen somewhere fairly early in the 3Ts.

Quote:
Maybe ending the game on theses milestones is a bad idea. But then what other alternatives can we use ?


Stop the game, discuss the position, pull out the lessons learned, the hypotheses formed, call the game and start a new one.

Quote:
I know he can still open new companies to put more misery on the guys still struggling with their one 3T, but I though it was still more crucial for the players behind in money to open new companies.


It cuts both ways. Companies are floated aggressively and defensively in other to prevent another player getting them.

Quote:
Quote:
What you should be doing is explain to them why starting a second company is beneficial for their position in the game. The best way to do that is to demonstrate that by starting a second comany yourself at 100, buying two 5 trains, and dumping one of your companies the next SDR. At that point, either the game ends because of a bankruptcy or they will now scramble to buy their own second companies.


Is this meta-game ?


No.

Quote:
Or is it the way already skilled players do in a game with newbies ? (This is indeed what happen in our first 1830 last week)


It is normal play with both skilled and novice players.

Quote:
I don't think that the limits of papers is that a big deal in this issue, tough I may be, of course, cruelly wrong.


It rapidly becomes the single factor which dominates the game.

Quote:
The major problem may be that we are not encouraging players to dump companies ?


Dumping is not actually necessary. Selling down, eg selling down from 6 shares to just the presidency without dumping the company (as nobody else has 2 shares) is a common tactic, but I wouldn't expect it from your players until after at least a handful of more games.
 
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wygo wrote:
pijll wrote:
What you should be doing is explain to them why starting a second company is beneficial for their position in the game. The best way to do that is to demonstrate that by starting a second comany yourself at 100, buying two 5 trains, and dumping one of your companies the next SDR. At that point, either the game ends because of a bankruptcy or they will now scramble to buy their own second companies.

Is this meta-game ? Or is it the way already skilled players do in a game with newbies ?

There's a meta aspect here: you're not just trying to win; you're trying to teach the other players a few basic techniques, so that they will play better next time. But this meta purpose is just pushing you to do things that are good play anyway.

I would do things like this in games with new players. In many games, there's a tendency to be gentile with new players, in order for them to enjoy it. This doesn't work in 18xx for the reasons you've already stated: if the players aren't aggressive enough, the game isn't interesting.

What I do, is to explain at the front a few basic rules that make them play more aggressively ("if you don't do anything, you'll lose; when in doubt, buy a train; invest all of your money in shares because cash doesn't pay interest"), point out clear mistakes, especially if I'm the one who would profit ("if you upgrade that tile, my company can token that city, and you'll be blocked from NY"), and comment on your own actions ("so the reason I was able to buy two 5 trains was because starting that second company gave me $800 free money from the bank to play with").

So play aggressively yourself; the game will be shorter that way (but not below 6 hours) and new players will lose but learn. If a big loss in their first game would scare them away from 18xx, it's not a game for them anyway. 18xx works best for people who react to losing by making sure they play better next time.
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Morganza wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
With an all-newbie table it seems likely there is not a better way than stopping the game, calling it a day and restarting some other time. The process of learning a game is also the process of learning the implications of decisions. Continuing a newbie game past the point of, we all really badly screwed a dozen rounds ago does not seem overly productive.

Why are you so insistent on not calling the first several games, taking the lessons learned, and restarting?


There is value to seeing the endgame. Do the Diesels crush the 5Ts or vice versa? How important is stock value versus dividends? Where is my permanent train coming from?

Another, more traditional method of shortening the game: remove some of the trains. For a crushingly fast game, remove one each 2T, 3T, 4T, and 5T. The game will naturally progress faster. The trains will rust faster. Track upgrades will be available faster.

It will be hellaciously unbalancing, but people will see the trains move and will learn to survive disaster, or not.


I agree that seeing the endgame is one of the best ways to entice new players. When they see the opening only (from their confused bidding to about the 5Ts, as has been a frequent "first game" experience for me with a table full of newbies), they do not understand what makes the game special. The next time they play, if they return, they will play for early revenue, and crash when the Diesel arrives. Mostly they won't return.

I might recommend two things:

-a starting packet of privates, taken from a relatively even opening with experienced players. I know this is unpopular, and I might only recommend this in a situation where you are the only non-new player at the table. It takes less time, and they can figure out the detail of how to try it in their second game.

-Instead of the SR ending proposed (which I dislike, honestly), or the train-removal, which will have similar problems, I might instead propose to remove any 2Ts from the bank at the beginning of SR2, 3Ts at SR3, 4Ts (plus rusting 2Ts) at SR4, 5Ts at OR4.2, 6Ts (plus rusting 3Ts) at SR5, and rust any 4Ts at SR6, if those events have not happened yet at those times. Game-breaking, but it should drive good responses and expectations for the future.

If even one other player at the table has played even once, I would play the game normally.
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