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Subject: The 18XX cost: an honest question rss

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Craig McRoberts
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Background: I have never played an 18XX game, nor have I done much more than look at component lists as research.

Why is the cost on some of these games so high? This is not a critique or a whine or anything of the sort. I'm legitimately curious. It just doesn't seem to add up, to me. We're looking at tiles, a board that may or may not be mounted, very little in the way of art, and plenty of DIY work before playing.

Is there something I'm missing?

Now, I know that not all are this expensive. Many are in the normal realm of most other Euro games of the same size (~$70 MSRP). But then I see some that are well in excess of $100, with people gladly buying them for that price. Hence my question.

Thanks in advance!
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Ron
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Usually because of a very small print run. soblue
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Craig McRoberts
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PzVIE wrote:
Usually because of a very small print run. soblue


Ah, that makes sense. Kinda surprising, though, considering the love I've seen for them.
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Bill Eldard
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imprimis5 wrote:
PzVIE wrote:
Usually because of a very small print run. soblue


Ah, that makes sense. Kinda surprising, though, considering the love I've seen for them.


Yep. Supply and demand. Some 18xx are custom-built; in other words, the publisher actually makes the components to order for each game.

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Robert Taylor-Smith
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I paid around $30 for 1856 in the 1990's. Many out of print but popular games fetch far more than the original price in the after market years later. Note the key phase 'Out of Print'. 18xx games aren't the only type of games that have the collector/grail game price spike, just look at Dune.

Why some of the best 18xx games aren't being reprinted (1856, 1870) is the interesting question. Maybe Mayfair doesn't have the rights from Bill Dixon anymore.
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Craig McRoberts
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Eldard wrote:
imprimis5 wrote:

Ah, that makes sense. Kinda surprising, though, considering the love I've seen for them.


Yep. Supply and demand. Some 18xx are custom-built; in other words, the publisher actually makes the components to order for each game.



Oh wow. That I didn't know. That is love.
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Shawn Fox
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imprimis5 wrote:
PzVIE wrote:
Usually because of a very small print run. soblue


Ah, that makes sense. Kinda surprising, though, considering the love I've seen for them.


The 18XX community is small... most people don't have the time (or at least, claim they do not) to play an 8 hour game. The games do (usually) play faster once a group is experienced, but during the first few plays there is so much going on that a new player usually struggles to understand what is going on and thus the games can take a really long time.

As far as the cost of the games, I'd guess that the only 18xx games that have much more than 1000 copies in print would be 1830, 1856, and 1870. Most of the others are very limited print runs or are hand made by www.deepthoughtgames.com one at a time. Deep Thought currently has a backorder queue that is going to take 2+ years at the current rate they are processing the orders.

Here in Dallas it is really hard to find people to play them at all. I know of only myself and two others who play 18XX games regularly and are usually willing to play. There are more active groups in the northeast, especially in the Chicago area. Probably some elsewhere as well. btw, anyone in the Dallas area that wants to play 18XX feel free to drop me a geekmail.
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Jean Gagnier
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imprimis5 wrote:
PzVIE wrote:
Usually because of a very small print run. soblue


Ah, that makes sense. Kinda surprising, though, considering the love I've seen for them.


Homesteaders, according to this, has sold 1,500 copies in its first edition. There has been a subsequent one, but we're talking about a medium weight game in the BGG top 200 that plays in under 2 hours and that I could teach to anyone with a modicum of tolerance for strategy games.

I'll grant you that it has probably sold a lot more copies in its upgraded form. Let's speculate and say that the second edition brought the total copies sold to 8,000-10,000. That's half the amount of people who attend any Miami Marlins home game. That's a ridiculously small niche for a game with critical esteem, easy to learn, not so hard to track, and an affordable price point. If such a game sells 10,000 copies, what chance does one that plays in several hours and that features a much harsher learning curve have? And what chance does it have to extend to most members of the 18xx family?

Basically, the cost of a board game, like that of a book (why do we buy $25 new books in bookstores when there are perfectly good ones at $1 in thrift stores?), is much more than its physical components.
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Craig McRoberts
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All very good answers. The conclusions I've come to are as follows:

1) The fan base is dedicated, but small.
2) Publishers are doing small runs, either due to personal involvement or profit margins.

Does this seem accurate? If so, consider my curiosity sated.
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simon craddock
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The other point to note is that several of the small print run games have had the files released prior to publication so that it has been possible to print your own copy. These files are usually there to enable playtesting and feedback before the final version of the game is released and are taken down at that point.

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Bill Eldard
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imprimis5 wrote:
Eldard wrote:
imprimis5 wrote:

Ah, that makes sense. Kinda surprising, though, considering the love I've seen for them.


Yep. Supply and demand. Some 18xx are custom-built; in other words, the publisher actually makes the components to order for each game.



Oh wow. That I didn't know. That is love.


Here's an example of one such publisher, Craig.

http://deepthoughtgames.com/#games




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Craig McRoberts
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As I said, I've never played before. That being said, I wouldn't mind giving it a try. I find passion infectious, and this thread has kind of inspired me. Now, there's a significant barrier to entry here, both with price point and players. Where's a good place to start?
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Tim Benjamin
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I downloaded for PnP 18AL,18GA, and 18EU. The first 2 are great 'learning' games in the '1830 branch of 18XX', for 3 players. 1830 has just been reprinted and has a very devoted following.
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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imprimis5 wrote:
Kinda surprising, though, considering the love I've seen for them.

The demand for 18xx games is very deep, but not very wide.
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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imprimis5 wrote:
Where's a good place to start?

If you can find someone with a copy, my recommendation is 1846: The Race for the Midwest. If you buy it without the paper money from Deep Thought Games (most of us use poker chips,) it's $77 plus shipping. It's also one of the shortest 18xx games and is beginner-friendly for an 18xx game. However, if you put in an order today, you'll get a notice in about 12 months telling you that if you still want it, you should send your money in and they'll make one and ship it.
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Frank McNally
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I am surpised to see so little in way of 18xx web based games. 1830 was a very decent DOS release by AH (for new player the computer opponenets will be challenging). Web based play would be very fast since money handling is reduced and auto route selction can be done (was in old DOS game).

Regarding time, 1830 can be played with players who know rules in
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FrankM wrote:
I am surpised to see so little in way of 18xx web based games. 1830 was a very decent DOS release by AH (for new player the computer opponenets will be challenging). Web based play would be very fast since money handling is reduced and auto route selction can be done (was in old DOS game).

Regarding time, 1830 can be played with players who know rules in

There's quite a bit of play-by-email and play-by-forum 18xx gaming.
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PJ Killian
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I see no reason not to start with 1830.

1. The Mayfair/Lookout edition looks great -- there's a couple of minor errata but this is easily remedied. Old 18xx hands don't much care if their games aren't visually impressive but everyone else appreciates the nice presentation.

2. Despite the schnazzy presentation, the (relatively) large print run and support from a (relatively) major publisher means that the game is (relatively) cheap and widely available.

3. 1830, as befits the game that is at the root of a whole branch of 18xx games, is an excellent reference point for learning future games using the same system. As the most widely-known 18xx, your chances of meeting someone who is familiar with the game are a bit better than if you pick a more obscure title.

4. The computer game is out there, can be run under DosBox and is an excellent low-stress way to learn the rules. (The computer doesn't roll its eyes at your n00b mistakes.)

5. If you end up hating it or never playing it, the chances are pretty dang high that it will go out of print again and you should be able to sell it at a reasonable price, whereas the games published by DTG (given its status as essentially a hobby) will presumably be available so long as there is a DTG.

6. The game is long (though there are certainly many longer 18xx games) but it is absolutely playable in an evening by a table of players who know what they're doing, and if a game that could potentially take six hours is just not happening for you or your group, general consensus is "play something besides 18xx," not "play the shortest 18xx you can."
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Also, 1830 is a good choice because it's hot molten awesome. Neglected to mention that before.
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Enrico Viglino
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flapjackmachine wrote:
I paid around $30 for 1856 in the 1990's. Many out of print but popular games fetch far more than the original price in the after market years later. Note the key phase 'Out of Print'. 18xx games aren't the only type of games that have the collector/grail game price spike, just look at Dune.


Those mayfair ones are still kicking around at decent prices used.
I picked up '35 for around $30 recently. '53 as well. And I see
'56 and '70 often enough. It's the really tiny run specialty ones
from deep thought that score the big prices.

Quote:
Why some of the best 18xx games aren't being reprinted (1856, 1870) is the interesting question. Maybe Mayfair doesn't have the rights from Bill Dixon anymore.


I just don't think the market's there. There's a small fanatic base,
but how many of these does someone outside that base really need?
You could ask the same kind of question with the Winsome line -
there are a few that were picked up by other companies, and that's
enough for most gamers.
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Adam Porter
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imprimis5 wrote:
As I said, I've never played before. That being said, I wouldn't mind giving it a try. I find passion infectious, and this thread has kind of inspired me. Now, there's a significant barrier to entry here, both with price point and players. Where's a good place to start?


I recently picked up Poseidon very cheap (£15) and played it a number of times enjoying it very much. (It's a simplified and much shorter re-themed 18XX game, which is readily available at a good price).

Excited by the experience, I picked up 1830 and spent a number of hours poring over it, working out the rules and reading as much as I could online about 18XX. I was very much looking forward to playing a game. I played it once and enjoyed the mechanics, but was bored after 4 hours. We finished after 6.5 hours, and we were playing with a reduced bank hence a reduced finishing time.

I still have a lot of respect for the game-system, but have learned that I don't want to invest that amount of time in a single game, regardless of the quality of the mechanics. Hence my future with 18XX is likely to be limited to playing Poseidon. I know some 18XX fans are not keen on this title since it leaves out a lot of the neat 18XX features, but for me it was a perfect introduction to the system. It's worth a try if you can find it cheap!
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imprimis5 wrote:
Where's a good place to start?

Right now you have three good choices, in my opinion.

1825 Unit 2

1825 is a remake of the original 1829, the original game of the series. It focuses on timing, company growth and stock management more than in risk and manipulating the market, which makes it different from most games of the series which are 1830 derivatives. Companies rise and fall and you really try to ride the profit wave.

It has the benefit of being playable with 2 and taking 2 hours to play, as well as being as simple as the average eurogame.

1830: Railways & Robber Barons

Most accesible and one of the best in the market manipulation series. Probably better than the alternatives.

1889: History of Shikoku Railways

A small 1830 variant that can be freely printed. It has the benefit of being a great game with 3-4 players and taking a far shorter time than 1830.
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Paul Oakes
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The problem with using 1830 as an introduction for new players to the 18XX collection is that it is possibly the most viciously unforgiving games of the entire series. For me this is a good thing, but a new player will be appallingly vulnerable throughout the game without any idea what they need to be working towards or how to stay safe.

More recent games (all of them, essentially) are much more forgiving for the novice (you still lose, but early bankruptcy isn't an issue). If all the players don't know the game then 1830 is a reasonable choice as it is towards the lowest level of complication I've seen in the series, and the nasty options will not be deployed in the first few games until the players spot the options, or read the appropriate articles.

I also feel that the game length mentioned in some posts above is excessively pessimistic. My regular group in the 90s played with up to 6 players and a 3 hour game was regarded as slow. Obviously we were all very familiar with the game, but the idea of 6 hours of 1830 would direct me to strong drink. I would expect 1830 to be completed inside 4 hours, even with some novice players.

Because large parts of the system can be assumed, once you understand the share dealing /track laying /train buying /operating system mechanics then the rules for other games in the series become a list of relatively minor differences, which may change the best way to play the game by a lot which is how they get us to keep buying them.

I'm loath to suggest good starting games for the series because I have no idea about availability. But despite that, recent releases that are a better starting point than 1830 include 1825, produced by Trefoil Games who started the whole thing off with 1829, Steam over Holland and 18EU. 1825 is a typical Francis Tresham game with track laying the focus of the game, and a mostly passive stock market (not much selling). SoH is the same idea, virtually a pure track laying game and a great introduction to the key concepts as well as a good game for those who don't want to play a game with too many options. 18EU is a more dynamic game, but if you understand how to operate a company (that's not easy, 1825 and SoH will show how it's done) it doesn't require a lot of extra effort for the vast increase in options such as creating cash cows that will give you lots of early income to reinvest or long-term track building for big payments later on.

To drift back to the original question, then while the cost of these games is high, the cost per game played is likely to be very reasonable if you like complex and reactive business games. I've been playing this series since the 70s, and I was arranging a game for next week earlier today. I'm regarded as a casual part-timer by the specialists.

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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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PaulinTheLion wrote:
recent releases that are a better starting point than 1830 include 1825, produced by Trefoil Games who started the whole thing off with 1829, Steam over Holland and 18EU.

Note that 18EU is a print-and-play candidate.
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Adam Baig
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I recently picked up 1853 for $18 Canadian new... I think that there are the occasional over-large print runs and stores are looking to get free up some shelf space.
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