The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Baltimore and Ohio Initial Thoughts

I’ve been hankering to get some 18xx in, so when I saw Baltimore and Ohio I paused ($60 MSRP), but eventually picked it up. Today we got to play a three-player game.

Now, it’s not strictly an 18xx, but it’s relevant. If I described a game as “Like Go, but you capture a group when it has 1 liberty, not 0” then the mechanisms are almost the same, but it leads to grossly different gameplay. Baltimore and Ohio has a few key differences:

  • You buy as many shares (of one company) as you like, and there is no artificial cap or presidents share or share limits.  This means that (to our eyes, at least) a key strategy is the race to be the first player to own 100% of a company ( safe from your opponents constantly buying and selling to destroy value).
  • Trains do not rust (ala 18xx), but instead the maintenance costs escalate constantly throughout the game, making when to scrap a train (and get 20-40% of its initial cost back) to avoid paying upkeep an interesting decision.
  • Most importantly, players can (with some limit) manage income. In particular, shares go up in value when you pay a dividend worth more than last turns dividend. In essence, the days of micromanaging market expectations were alive and well in the 19th century.

I suspect that Baltimore and Ohio is much more subtle than 18xx. You don’t have a fixed market order from turn to turn, but re-arrange based on money, which prevent some shenanigans, but (coupled with the fact that you can buy multiple stocks from the same company at once) means that you may often have a fight to have just enough money to start a company, but slightly less than everyone else. Similarly, your trains won’t just disappear (oops, I operate after the first 5 is bought), they’ll just get slightly costlier. You won’t have a station cut you off from the rest of the network, but you’ll have to wait for another slot to open up. That kind f thing. Given that there’s (some) compound growth, a race for a few extra dollars early on can really matter.

However, a player who does well can run away with it (I think). And given the capitalization rules (and starting money) there’s some implicit (and explicit!) collusion possible, depending on play style. So, not for everyone (in case the 3 hour thing didn’t turn you off). I’m not sure how long our game took. I think a touch over 3 hours with rules. (Using poker chips, of course).

In any case, this scratches my “economic train game” itch quite nicely. Long enough to be meaty, different enough to give a real interesting feel. I may only play it a few times, but I don’t think I’ll be able to complain that my money was wasted.


Written by taogaming

November 13, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Posted in Reviews

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  1. I highly recommend Ken Boone’s computer assistant for B&O. It cuts at least 30-45 minutes from our games.

    Tim Harrison

    November 14, 2010 at 12:06 am

  2. […] but never have their infrastructure fail (trains rusting ala 1830 or maintenance costs rising ala B&O). You can’t have a rice company and spice company merge to make Siap Faji, which drastically […]

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