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18OE: On the Rails of the Orient Express» Forums » General

Subject: A beginner's guide to 18XX rss

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Mark Frazier
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Since kicking off my campaign, I have received a fair number of questions about 18XX games from folks who haven't had much (if any) exposure to the genre. With over 20 years of 18XX gaming goodness under my belt, and the unique opportunity that this project is providing me, I thought it appropriate to put together a guide for those who are curious about the hobby.

18XX games are notable due to the fact that almost all of them feature no random elements other than the initial draw for seating order. There are no cards to draw or dice to roll: it's a pure battle of wits and diplomacy from start to finish.

18XX games are really two games rolled into one: the stock market game, where players jockey for position to develop the best stock portfolio, and the operations game, where the railroads' presidents lay track, build stations, run trains, and buy new trains. Each of these "sub-games" requires skill to play well: many players will be better at one of them and deficient in the other. The genius of 18XX is that these two halves are intertwined: what happens in one half of the game is intimately connected to the other.

18XX games are generally split into two main types, generally referred to as 1829 style, and 1830 style. Each of these branches has its own distinct flavor, and emphasizes each of the two primary skills involved with 18XX play. The 1829 style games, such as 1829, 1853, and 1825 focus on the operations game. The 1830 style games, such as 1830, 1856: Railroading in Upper Canada from 1856, and 1870: Railroading across the Trans Mississippi from 1870 focus on the stock market game.

This is only a sampling of the many 18XX designs that have sprung up in the years since Francis Tresham published the landmark 1829. It's worth noting that Francis Tresham was also responsible for the well-revered Civilization and Advanced Civilization board games: Sid Meier wrote in the manual for the first edition of his Civilization computer game that Tresham's design was his inspiration.

Which branch of 18XX games should you start with, you might ask? If you like the concept of building track and running trains, finding a copy of 1825 is worth your while. Does stock trading appeal to you? Try 1830 on for size. There are plenty of "indie" designs that also fall along the spectrum between the emphasis on stock market vs. operations.

Where do 18C2C and 18OE fall within these categories?

18C2C was inspired heavily by Bill Dixon's 1870. Many of the mechanics are quite similar, including laying multiple tracks per turn, the eased restrictions on holding more than 60% of your own stock, and the "destination run" where you are rewarded for connecting your home station to your historical destination. Interestingly, if you lay the 1830 board on top of the northeast portion of the 18C2C map, you'll find that the hex grid aligns perfectly: the rest of the map is to the same scale as 1830. While 18C2C rewards the skilled operations player, managing your portfolio is the dominating feature of the game.

18OE leans more towards the operations side, even as it brings a fresh approach to the 18XX genre. There are many mechanics in this game that have no precedent: ports allow you to "run your trains across the water" (odd sounding as it is, the abstraction deals with the shipping infrastructure involved with building stations in port cities), patronage tiles encourage track building to different areas of the map every game, and the fact that all of the railroads open early is a departure from most, if not all other 18XX games.

18OE's emphasis is on the player's ability to manage a fragmented set of railroads that are spread across the map, and synergize them into a finely-tuned network that stretches from Constantinople to one or more of the metropolises of Europe.

There will be more to come as my campaign progresses; I'll put a series of general 18XX strategy articles together that will (hopefully) be a good read for those of you who are interested, but afraid to ask about our unique little corner of the board gaming world!
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Craig McRoberts
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Thanks so much for this. I started the topic regarding the general cost of the 18XX genre that quickly went OT into general 18XX chat. Glad to see this thread here for us n00bs. I'll be following with great interest.
 
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Mark Frazier
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imprimis5 wrote:
Thanks so much for this. I started the topic regarding the general cost of the 18XX genre that quickly went OT into general 18XX chat. Glad to see this thread here for us n00bs. I'll be following with great interest.

Yes, and I was just as guilty as the others of devolving that discussion into jargon-heavy debate on the finer points of 18XX - rather destructive to the topic, I'll admit! blush

That, and the questions I've received, have driven me to do begin these posts - 18XX is a great hobby, and goodness knows all of us who are already in it would love to bring more gamers into the fold!

-Mark
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Edward Uhler
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Ganraeln wrote:
imprimis5 wrote:
Thanks so much for this. I started the topic regarding the general cost of the 18XX genre that quickly went OT into general 18XX chat. Glad to see this thread here for us n00bs. I'll be following with great interest.

Yes, and I was just as guilty as the others of devolving that discussion into jargon-heavy debate on the finer points of 18XX - rather destructive to the topic, I'll admit! blush

That, and the questions I've received, have driven me to do begin these posts - 18XX is a great hobby, and goodness knows all of us who are already in it would love to bring more gamers into the fold!

-Mark

Very much this. We have a few fellas in our local game group that have their curiosity piqued, so directing them here would be excellent. May I also suggest a few other good "starter" 18xx's: Steam over Holland and 18AL. SoH has some of the best production quality in any 18xx currently on the market (will be surpassed by 18OE), so that may help some who think that 18xx's are plain and ugly, too
 
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J C Lawrence
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Brian Bankler
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Ganraeln wrote:
It's worth noting that Francis Tresham was also responsible for the well-revered Civilization and Advanced Civilization board games: Sid Meier wrote in the manual for the first edition of his Civilization computer game that Tresham's design was his inspiration.

And I believe that Sid Meier(?) wrote in the back of the Railroad Tycoon manual that 1829 & 1830 inspired RRT.
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Joe Miller
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Another point to make is that there are gaming conventions where you can go to learn the 18xx games and game systems as well as play several different games over the weekend. At the forefront of these would be of Course Gen Con and Origins. Where scheduled play is the norm. Origins has the added plus of having the "Board Room" where people can go to play pick up style games in addition to organized play. This past year there was always a 18xx game running at the "Board Room"

High on the list of 18XX Conventions would be:

RailCon (Denver)
Chattanooga Rail Gaming Challenge
NW 18xx Tourney Portland OR
Mid Sum Con Chicago (Right before Gen Con)
Buckeye Game Fest Columbus OH (September)
And Starting this fall Conception (Sept but after Buckeye Game Fest)in Chicago (this one will be on Warhorn after July 15).

Another thing to point out is that if you have questions there is a major yahoo group dedicated to 18xx play. You can find them at this link. http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/18xx/.

Of great interest to me is the files sections which is massive on games and other related information. You can get a lot of questions answered here and just reading the daily chatter is a hoot to say the least.

And yes, our group brought 3 copies of 18OE and can't wait for the production copy. Great Job Mark and Ed!

Joe Miller
Columbus OH
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Mike Calhoon
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KublaCon in the SF Bay Area over the Memorial Day weekend always had my group's playing 18xx games, and they'd love to get new players. They play at the South Bay Gamers Night on virtually every Monday night in the Yahoo Cafeteria. Eric Flood also has a relatively new group of players in San Francisco.

There, I've tried to proselytize from 3000+ miles away.

The Fort Myers, Florida area where I live now has essentially two players including myself.
 
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Rick Scholes
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While introducing new players to 18XX and listing conventions in urban areas, how about some tips on how to talk new players in rural areas into playing 18XX games. I wouldn't suggest 18OE as the introductory game but it would be nice to find some interested players in northern New England [too far north of Boston to make it a day trip, much less an evening's game] that would learn to love 18OE and other 18XX games.

What do you say to people to get them to come sit at your game tables when there is substantial travel time involved? 18OE has so many interesting new twists in track laying that I yearn to try it but suspect I'll mostly be playing with just my wife.
 
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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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Rick, Unity Games, which occurs every year roughly around February just north of Boston, usually has some 18xx. It's just a day, but it's 9am to midnight.
 
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Dave K
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Love 'em even if a few games get scuttled from time to time.
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Nice guide!

One other factor for new players: 1830 is probably the only 18XX game that is still in print and is easy to find. I'm not sure if 1853 is still in print or not but that would be next as it was printed recently and got mainstream distribution.
 
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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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It is also possible to buy Poseidon (my Online retailer of choice, Gamesurplus, has ding and dent copies in stock, though they're currently out of non dnd ones.) It certainly will show you what 18xx feels like, even if it is about shipping in Ancient Greece rather than railroading.
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Mark Frazier
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Happymrdave wrote:
Nice guide!

One other factor for new players: 1830 is probably the only 18XX game that is still in print and is easy to find. I'm not sure if 1853 is still in print or not but that would be next as it was printed recently and got mainstream distribution.

1853:

http://www.coolstuffinc.com/p/137969

1830:

http://www.coolstuffinc.com/p/137968

Both are still available at Mayfair's website:

http://mayfairgames.com/games.php?category=49

There are also plenty of other conventions around the country that have 18XX games going: Prezcon in Virginia, WBC in Pennsylvania, etc.

-Mark
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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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Ganraeln wrote:
There are also plenty of other conventions around the country that have 18XX games going: Prezcon in Virginia, WBC in Pennsylvania, etc.
At WBC there's a tournament that runs the last weekend of July (into Monday if you make the semis.) Last year there were 58 participants. Then a number of people stick around for 18xx open gaming. I know I got to play 1824: Austria-Hungary for the first time at WBC on Tuesday last year in open gaming. Here's a link:

http://www.boardgamers.org/yearbkex/8XXpge.htm
 
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Edward Uhler
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Also, if you watch the BGG Auctions, there are quite a few 18xx's that come up for auction now and again! That's how we've gotten copies of 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, 1853, & 1870: Railroading across the Trans Mississippi from 1870.
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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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The huge Mayfair printings of 1856: Railroading in Upper Canada from 1856 and 1870: Railroading across the Trans Mississippi from 1870 took a long time to sell out (I got the former for less than $30 new no more than 3 years ago,) but virtually every commercial 18xx game since (in much smaller printings) has sold out. It seems to me that games like this will hold their resale value well (in case you buy one you don't like.)
 
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Edward Uhler
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Here is a pretty decent primer, too, in a very fast video.


This is 18AL, but at least helps people visualize the jist of an 18XX.
 
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Dave Berry
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There are others available, albeit not in the shops.

1824 and 1848 are still available from the designers (in Europe) - http://www.ohley.de/english/. I bought 1848 recently.

I think Steam Over Holland is still available from Vendetta (in The Netherlands) - http://www.vendettaspel.nl/steamoverhollanden.htm

1861 is available from All-Aboard Games (in the USA) - https://sites.google.com/site/aagamesllc/home/1861-the-railw...

Northumbria Games in the UK are listing 1860 as available - http://www.northumbriagames.co.uk/products2.php?menu1=20&men...

1865 is available from Gotha Games in the UK and Deep Thought Games (without their usual waiting list) in the USA - http://www.ilgotha.org/1865.php

There are a number of copies of 1835 for sale in the BoardGameGeek marketplace, some of which are listed as "new". Ditto for 2038.

Deep Thought Games produce a large number of 18xx games but have a long waiting list (probably over a year).



 
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Brian McCarty
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Probably should add Scott's video
http://www.boardgameswithscott.com/?p=82
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM3jFVJVe_w

Brian
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Bankler wrote:
And I believe that Sid Meier(?) wrote in the back of the Railroad Tycoon manual that 1829 & 1830 inspired RRT.
Not quite. He said he played 1830 but that he didn't like it because it was a game of playing the stock market and being an inverstor, he wanted a game of running a train company.
 
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