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Subject: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC! rss

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Richard Young
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I believe 1830 to be the ultimate railroading game. The tension between operating your rail-line(s) efficiently, and managing your participation in the stock market to emerge ahead of the pack, is a marvel to experience. That it has stood the test of time in a burgeoning game industry is a tribute to Francis Tresham's crowning achievement in game design, possibly only to be outdone by his recent Revolution: The Dutch Revolt - only time will tell...

Other than determining the starting player turn order, there is not a single random element in this game. What you achieve and how well you fare in this game is entirely up to you. It is not a game for the faint of heart or shortness of attention span. Truly understanding the financial model and how best to exploit it takes study and many playings. It has proven to be an intellectual challenge beyond many who dislike the mathematical rigor this game requires. Some have expressed that it is the only game they know of that requires a calculator and a spreadsheet to play well.

On the board, it also demands players who are willing to devote the energy required to keep track of price levels on the stock market, calculate the value of train deliveries on the many alternative runs a given railroad must choose from, predict the various track patterns the tile laying process can yield and calculate, when required, the dividends to be paid out after each run. All in all, it is quite fiddly to keep up with everything that is going on in this game - and has nothing to do with developing a winning line of play but everything to do with keeping the game's "books" up to date.

It is also a game that is unforgiving to novices and unless all the players in the game are at roughly the same level it will be a case of sharks loose in a salmon pen. Given dedicated experienced players, the pay-off is the richness of the game experience which is virtually unequalled anywhere else.

That said, this game instantly becomes much more accessible if played on the computer via the mid-nineties Avalon Hill PC release done by that marvelous design team, Sim-Tex, who also gave us Master of Magic. In the hotseat mode, up to six humans and/or 'bots can play, and all the finicky bits of business are done for you behind the scenes (what computers do best), leaving you to simply play the game. Track laying options are presented simply (you just click on a desired hex until it is in the configuration you desire), the stock market is always up to date and correct, and revenues and dividends are calculated instantly. The computer never forgets or misinterprets the rules and won't let you make an illegal move.

What is even better about the computer game is its customizable nature. Game options incorporate many of the variants and optional rules developed for the boardgame up to the time of the PC game release and include:

1) Random Map. At the click of a button a random map will be generated and displayed. If you like what you see, you proceed to the bidding phase; if not, you spin the bottle until you are satisfied. The replayability that alone affords is one of the computer version's greatest strengths

2) Random Revenues. Normally revenues are calculated against a strict schedule. If desired, you can opt to have the revenue from a given run randomized up to a maximum of plus or minus 20%.

3) Split revenues. Here, you can opt to be given three options when deciding what to do with the revenue generated by a run: pay-out all revenues in the form of dividends to stock holders, split the revenue between dividends and the corporation or withhold all revenues to the corporation. Paying out increases stock value, witholding lowers it while splitting does neither. Further, splitting gives some proceeds to each certificate holder (or the bank) while retaining half the revenue for the corporation.

4) Reading Railroad. The option to add a ninth railroad corporation is given, which if selected also ripples into some other rules as to the number of trains available (adds an additional "four train") and maximum number of stock certificates which may be held and so on.

5) No Diesels. What it says. And "4 trains" are now permanent.

6) Longer or shorter game. Adds or subtracts an amount of money the bank starts with and does what you might expect - makes the game longer or shorter.

7) Unlimited and/or additional tiles. You can add some track tiles not included in the original game and/or opt never to run out of a given track tile type.

8) Delayed Obsolecence. This delays the removal of lesser train types when the larger ones are first purchased until the ones slated for removal have had a chance to run one last time (the "kinder, gentler" option).

9) Delayed Company Sales. This prevents any private company sales from taking place until after the stock round following the purchase of the first "3 train." This is intended to give every corporation the chance to sell companies in the same set of operating rounds (and an attempt to mitigate the "sharks in the salmon pen" thing). Purists will probably scoff at this one.

I can't recommend the game, or the way it plays on the computer, highly enough and explains why I have gone to some trouble with this post to detail some aspects of the computer version. This game should have set the mold for what the PC could bring to the hobby but for some reason didn't. Maybe because most of the other AH PC games were such dogs, this one escaped everyone's attention. It highlights what the computer does best...scratch away at the calculations while you get to think, plan and play!

The downside is that it is long OOP and a DOS game to boot. So, even if you can still find it these days, you have to figure a way to run it (and is why I still maintain a computer that can run Win 98). I understand there is a reasonable DOS emulator for Win XP - I would highly urge anyone who wants to like this game to go to the trouble to try it on the PC. It is well worth the effort!
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Ben Smith
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
Great review thanks Richard.

I've played the PC version many times but I've only beaten it once on the easiest difficulty. The AI seems very solid. I can't believe the PC version of 1830 has flown under the radar for so long, it's such an incredibly good implementation.

Ben
 
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Pierre Philippe Goyer
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Great review, thanks Richard.

I have this game and have played it more than 100 times with my son.
We both won it many times and our names are on top of the Hall of fame at the hardest difficulty. Never been that much satisfied in a piece of software and seeing our name on the screen of the hall of fame is a great satisfaction after each brutal game. It's that good.
This is a software I am proud of having. It is a true gem along with Advanced Civilization.

Owll
 
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cooper anderson
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
I have the game. It seems to work on dosbox, but I don't have any sound. Is sound possible?
 
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Pierre Philippe Goyer
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You will have sound but not music.
You need a system with a 8 bit sound card like the sound blaster pro. I could never make it work with a 16 bit.

Owll
 
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Richard Young
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Thanks for the kind words. This PC game sports one of the best AIs I've ever seen, yet Sim Tex had a rap for neglecting that aspect of design in their products. Well, it sure wasn't in this one!

Playing solo is an excellent way to "go to school" on the game and strengthen your play. As your expertise improved, the level of the AI could be notched up correspondingly and could be extremely challenging to beat. I know of few other PC games I would say that about. In fact, I can't think of any...

The group I used to play with had the board-game which they played a lot. After being introduced to the PC version, they set up the board and intended just to use the computer (in the multi-player "hot-seat" mode) to plan their moves and track prices/etc but to still use the board on the table as the center of attention. That lasted exactly one game, maybe even less. It was so much easier just to stay gathered around the monitor and play wholly on the computer that the board got packed away and never came out again.
 
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Michael B
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I am not sure if the AI was good, it seems to be programmed to always take actions against the human. It's like playing a game with 5 people that hate you... I agree, it's a great way to play the game, but it's not realistic as many of the actions taken would never be taken by an actual person. The AI will choose to hurt the human player rather than help itself.

With that said, if I could get it working on my Windows XP machine, I would love to play it.
 
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Richard Young
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For those wanting more info on running this game on newer systems, you might try these links:

http://boards.avalonhill.com/archive/index.php/t-419.html

http://dosbox.sourceforge.net/news.php?show_news=1
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Michael B
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Thanks,

I actually avoid playing games solo on the PC since I have so little gaming time and am trying to make the best of it. I just enjoy the face to face gaming so much more. If there was ever a good 18xx multiplayer platform where I could play with live people (especially people I know)... sign me up!

Actually, I also think playing against the AI is unrealistic even though it's one of the best AIs I have ever seen in a game. Nobody gangs up on you in real life that much unless you are extremely antagonistic.
 
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Richard Young
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Quote:
In the hotseat mode, up to six humans and/or 'bots can play, and all the finicky bits of business are done for you behind the scenes (what computers do best), leaving you to simply play the game.


Umm...I had hoped that my review of the game, via the PC, made a careful point of saying that it is the only way for any number of live players (from one through six) to play this game. The hotseat mode this program offers is almost unique as it is a feature in PC strategy games that you hardly ever see anymore, if at all. And in this case it is actually a far superior way to play than on the board, for all the reasons I set forth.

Avalon Hill's release is very versatile. If you only have four live players you can set it up for those four to play, or you can throw in one or two more "synthetic" players to round out a proper six player game and the 'bots will be surprisingly cunning and provide really challenging play rather than simply being punching bags. And yes, they will cooperate with each other to shaft the humans every chance they get. I view that as a further strength of the program rather than a deficiency. And playing solo against them can be extremely challenging as a result. Think of them as Cylons: they have a plan...

I had also hoped that I made the point that playing solo is mainly for its tutorial value, allowing you to learn the game on your own and on your own terms. You can experiment with different strategies without wasting other peoples time when you just want to see "what happens if...," and to get a feel for the game dynamics with four, five or six players.

But I hesitate to repeat too much more of what was in my original post and I apologize if it wasn't clear the first time around...

On further reading, I think you may have been referring to multi-player via the internet which is not available it's true, and I'm not aware of any 18XX networking hosts out there but that's not to say there aren't any...maybe we'll hear from someone who knows of one. I made no reference to that aspect because this is a boardgame site and we should be restricting ourselves to discussing game experiences where the gamers are playing face to face not via satellite. In this case, the PC is simulating the board...or actually is the board, so I felt justified in spending some time discussing its virtues and why I think it makes a case for the computer's role in face-to-face gaming which never seemed to take off.
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J C Lawrence
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
Kharnik wrote:
I actually avoid playing games solo on the PC since I have so little gaming time and am trying to make the best of it. I just enjoy the face to face gaming so much more. If there was ever a good 18xx multiplayer platform where I could play with live people (especially people I know)... sign me up!


Use limi's moderator. All that's left on the table is the board and track. Charters, shares, money, and trains are now all on the computer. You get the best of both worlds: a far easier and simpler overview of the game and games that take half as long to play.

Quote:
Actually, I also think playing against the AI is unrealistic even though it's one of the best AIs I have ever seen in a game. Nobody gangs up on you in real life that much unless you are extremely antagonistic.


We certainly do.
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Robt. Ferrett
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
Kharnik wrote:
It's like playing a game with 5 people that hate you...


Agreed. Based on this thread, I tracked down the game (and DOSBOX)--it's fun, but the AI definitely conspires against humans. For example: if I don't buy B+O, the AI players always help float it...when I do, they don't touch it. They're very quick to float one another's lines, but consistently unwilling to float mine.

Tough room.
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Richard Young
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Yup, very tough. The more 'bots you have arrayed against you the tougher it gets, and is why I sometimes set the game to be played with only four or five total players if I'm flying solo. Six (five 'bots and poor you) can be brutal, but gives much greater satisfaction when you beat them despite all their collusion. In addition to helping each other float companies, but never yours (unless they see an opportunity to "lift" it from you), they will dick with your share prices, each buying and selling the same share (yours) back and forth as you helplessly watch your stock price plunge (why you must get to the "ledges"). Of course, you can't return the favor as the 'bots won't be as helpful at boning one of their own.

What you get to see first-hand is brutal, skillful, cut-throat play which should be quite instructive for when you have more humans to unleash these techniques on. It's a tough but effective way to learn...
 
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Bill Dickerson
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Richard,

Wanted to thank you for posting this. I have been racking my brains the last few months to get this to work. I couldn't get it working through dosbox, but it will work when I change the compatability as you outlined.

Bill
 
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Michael B
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Quote:
Use limi's moderator. All that's left on the table is the board and track. Charters, shares, money, and trains are now all on the computer. You get the best of both worlds: a far easier and simpler overview of the game and games that take half as long to play.


I saw some posts for this on the 18xx boards, but I thought it was used to speed face to face play. I didn't worry about it because I thought I could do the same with a spreadsheet if people wanted to speed it up this way.

Does anyone have a link to find the moderator. Also, is there a community of online players? btw, I have no geekgold to tip with, so I am sorry I can't tip anyone for providing the answer.

 
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J C Lawrence
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
Kharnik wrote:
I saw some posts for this on the 18xx boards, but I thought it was used to speed face to face play.


Correct.

Quote:
I didn't worry about it because I thought I could do the same with a spreadsheet if people wanted to speed it up this way.


Lemmi's moderator, once you're practiced, typically cut game length down to half to a third of normal play times. eg We've been playing 1824, 1830, 1856 and even 1870 in about 2.5 hours. There's even a group that plays 1835 in less than an hour... A spreadsheet will typically give about 45 minutes back to the game, but little more.

Does anyone have a link to find the moderator. Also, is there a community of online players? btw, I have no geekgold to tip with, so I am sorry I can't tip anyone for providing the answer.

[/q]
 
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Christian Becker
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
Quote:

Does anyone have a link to find the moderator. Also, is there a community of online players? btw, I have no geekgold to tip with, so I am sorry I can't tip anyone for providing the answer.


There is a Yahoo Group dedicated to 18xx gaming:
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/18xx/

You won't find it in a search for the group name, probably because there once was an issue about it being adult oriented (the name could lead to such a conclusion...shake ).

As to Lemmi's moderator: You can find it on his webpage at:
http://www.18xx.de/docu/18xx/dmain.htm
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Andy Allred
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Question for anyone: I have the game, I can run it with dosbox, but I can't seem to find a blinkin' crack or the manual to get through the authentication question. Can anyone help me with a solution for that?
 
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Yann Gomez
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
Go to:

http://www.the-underdogs.info/game.php?id=2

There are links for a crack (which I've never tried) and the manual in pdf (which I've used to get past the question).

Hope this helps, and enjoy the game!
 
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Bubslug wrote:
Umm...I had hoped that my review of the game, via the PC, made a careful point of saying that it is the only way for any number of live players (from one through six) to play this game.


I second that. This game is raw genius, but playing the boardgame version is hopelessly tedious. SimTex's translation is flawless. I'm not sure which is the greater shame - that SimTex only ever made four games, or that their best one is the most obscure. - ZM
 
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Frank McNally
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Dosbox runs my copy of 1830 with sound on myXP machine.
 
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Richard Young
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
Lucky you! I can't do it with sound even on my older computer, but then I always played with the sound "off" anyways as I found the stock music got extremely annoying after a while! I do miss the arrival sound of the diesels tho' I must admit...

Set up a boombox in your room with all the Boxcar Willie cuts you can find!
 
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
If you run this game on your pc and allow your friend to access your pc via a remote control software like logmein.com, then the other player can be anywhere there is an internet connection.

On his turn, he can control the mouse and then give back control to you when he is done. Since there is no hidden information this will work fine.
 
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Richard Young
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
I must find out more about this! How many "remote" players would this accommodate, or is the limit two?

The key aspect of the success of the PC game in the "hot-seat" mode is the fact that there is no hidden information, as you astutely point out. Avalon Hill also released a PC version of Advanced Civilization which is another direct port of board to computer, and also allows for hot-seat multi-player (humans) play but doesn't work as well as 1830 because of the trading business. When each player is planning his "offer" (which can include a bluff to pass off a calamity), the other players have to look away or get up and go somewhere until he's done. It's do-able but messy and in the end you are better off sticking to the board. Besides, there are fewer compelling reasons to prefer the computer over the board here (not a lot of fussy book-keeping etc).

The problem with 1830 was linking remote players as the technology was not there in the mid-nineties. The previous post gives us another possibility that I intend to follow up - thanks for the tip!
 
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Eric Parker
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Re: 1830: Ultimate Railroading Game - but best played on PC
It's been a long time since I last played the PC version (or board version) of 1830, but here's what I remember.

1830 is one of my favorite board games because the only element of chance is when determining the initial order that players go in. After you know who goes when for the private companies phase, there's no more chance, no dice to roll, no cards to draw from a shuffled deck, etc.

Regarding the board game, the drawback I had with it after playing the PC version was primarily due to there being no Reading in the board game. Adding Reading and how it opens up Boston and Baltimore changes the dynamics for the better because it means that there's at least a three-way fight to get into NYC from the south (Penn, B&O, and Reading) just as there always is from the north (NY Central, NY New Haven & Hartford, and B&M).

What my group found with the board game was that the players controlling Penn and B&O had it pretty easy getting into NYC without a third railroad competing with them. Collusion.

Whereas the owners of NY Central, NYNH&H, and B&M would either drag each other down or one player would control 2 of the 3 and beat the rest of us pretty handily.

Reading really balanced things out.

It would have been great if Avalon Hill made a Reading expansion (and perhaps more money, extra trains, and extra tiles), so that we could play on the board using the variants in the PC version.
 
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