Who would have thought that building railroads in Scandinavia could be so fun? 18Scan is a custom made 18xx designed by David G.D. Hecht and published by Deep Thought Games (www.deepthoughtgames.com). David states “In 18Scan, I hope to bring to the table a simple game, yet with some strategic options, and a forgiving game -- unlike, say, 1830. At the same time, 18Scan has a number of subsystems (Minor Companies, a merger railroad, Destinations, various categories of trains) that provide a panoply of the wide variety within the 18xx gaming space." I think David has achieved those goals in 18Scan and below I describe why.
Having only ever played 1856 many of my comments are geared toward the comparison of 1856. I will update this review after I play 18Scan a few more times. 18Scan is a good game for a number of reasons.
It is designed for 2-4 players. Most other 18xx games are best with 4-6 players. Yes, many can be played with 3 players. The flavor of 1856 with 3 people is less competitive and seems to have less maneuvering options. This 18Scan game rocks with 3 players.
The game says it can be played in 2-4 hours. I think this timing is based on not only 18xx prior knowledge but after at least one run through of the 18Scan itself. Well versed 18xx’ers may disagree but for us uber wannabees cracking 4 hours the first time will take a concerted effort (Every three player game I have ever played in 1856 has taken at least 8 hours). However, I do feel that a time range of 3-4 is certainly reasonable if the majority of players have some experience.
This game has some neat mechanics that are apparently part of other 18xx games.
Stock market double jumps and freezes. If the run for your public company’s operating revenue (technically profit) amount, say K250 (K for Korona), is twice the company’s stock share price, say K120, and the company pays out, the company token advances 2 spaces on the stock market to K130 instead of K125. If the company does not pay out at least K120, then the token does not advance.
Train types. All of the non-permanent trains have possible dual functionality. The 3 train for instance can, as like in 1856, operate through any 3 cites or you can pay slightly less (Generally 20K) and get a train that can hit 2 major and 2 minor cities. Depending on your location on the board this can be a very good strategy move.
3 Private and 3 Minor companies. The private company feel is much different than in 1856. They all seem to dispense with their “special feature” and go away rather quickly; one of them is actually structured to only operate in the first operating round and then immediately closes. The Minor companies all roll into a Merger public company after at the beginning of the third phase. Think forced predestined companies for the CGR.
Board and bits. No review is complete without a review of the game pieces. The game pieces themselves are custom so your experience may vary. The game I played had the highest end optionality that the game publishers offer. Good card stock and everything laminated. The board and pieces are “hand made” with each game order. You can even order the pieces and cut them yourself. Just get an account and run through the options at www.deepthoughtgames.com
Price. Quite variable depending on your options. I priced the fully laminated and publisher cut pieces, without their custom money (I own good poker chips), and the one piece “low end” box with shipping comes to a grand total $52.30 payable via Pay Pal. I think the game tops out at about $60 with all high end options.
Re-playability. It seems to have a fair amount of potential, but as I have only played one game that got cut short due to time constraints I can not say for sure. After I play it five times I will let you know.
Strategy. Plenty of it. Just learning to be effective in the opening auction will take a few tries. Don’t help the mine company is a good idea. Be sure to read the rules on running to off board locations or that can skew game play. The timing and working of the minor companies is tricky. Minor company 1 can be a pain to the DSK but be careful they could get paid back later.
Again, my recommendation is a buy. If you like train games add this one to your collection. I know I will this year.