The Tao of Gaming

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Random thoughts about 18Mag

I’ve now played two multi-player games of 18Mag (plus a handful of 2p games with the TaoLing), and I’m at that phase where its unclear as to why I’ve won or lost a particular game … so far the logic seems to be: “Is Jeroen in the game? Then I lost” which — despite having several nice properties, like accuracy in prediction — doesn’t offer much guidance (beyond table selection).

So I thought I’d type up my random thoughts and see if anything popped out.

The path to victory is to build up your income faster than anyone else. (Novel, I know). So let’s talk about income rush, no matter how basic the ideas may look.

Some thoughts about the train rush

As far as I can see, only Minor #6 (“Kassa-Oderbergi Vasút”) can buy a 2 train unaided in OR1.1 (By using its terrain token and building Kassa and Misskolc and then paying the mine fee). The problem? Buying a second two train actually costs K-OV income in the next OR! Because it won’t have money to lay a station token, and because a mine doesn’t actually count as a stop, you can’t run the second train at all. And you are totally broke, you can’t even pay the $10 fee to use the mine!

Sad trombone.

Its the “train trap!” You rush the train, and delay income! You would have made more money waiting one OR. It’s a frequent issue on the first game figuring out how to get a train and then realizing (either before the purchase or in the next OR) that it didn’t actually help.

So now that we’re aware of that — Let’s have #6 buy a train, then have another minor buy the train across (for some money, but less than $80). This provides K-OV cash to build more track and/or pay the mine fee again (and maybe even buy another 2 train to repeat). The purchasing minor should retain enough cash to use two trains (obviously you’ll need to have some track development that works as well as the train).

Ideally you want to buy the train into a minor later in the same OR (7-13), because then the train can be used in the next OR. If you buy the train across into 1-5, it gets bought in the next OR and only used in the following OR, so its less rush and more “hurried walk.”

(This is a common feature in many 18xx games that due to ordering a train swap one way lets you use the train in OR (N+1) but the other way makes it (N+2). But I rarely see these “downstream” issues noted explicitly. Similarly that in 1830 there are companies where a 20%+ minority stake is safer because they operate last … if their trains get bought the current president must rescue them before dumping the shares).

But what if we skip the part where we can afford a new train, and just buy a train across? Might that result in a speed up? I think there are cases, The #1 minor (Magyar Északi Vasút) which starts in Buda can use two trains to good effect. There are a few companies with terrible early runs (looking at you, #9 / Szabadka-Újvidék Vasút … if you run to Belgrad you are stuck and otherwise you can only run to a dit on OR1.1. Now, losing ~$20 in OR 1.1 to gain ~$30 in OR 2.1 isn’t a great deal, especially if you could have used that money to buy an additional share. But … if you can’t its no great loss (and if you actually save some money because your train-less company can lay two tiles in separate ORs to save the fee to yellow….)

Tricks like this really start popping up in OR 2.1.


Early Money from Majors

Money from majors in the early ORs isn’t huge, but SIK (Green, the major that gets terrain money) will likely make a killing in OR1.1 ($12 seems average). SKEV (Yellow, get terrain/station money) also has a good first OR, although a bit less. These two companies will stagnate unless driven later on, but if either starts at $80 grabbing it to pocket the cash and then selling to trade for an extra share seems reasonable, and possibly worth an early pick. Heading into OR2, grabbing LdSTEG/MAVAG (the train majors) are generally good, because there will certainly be trains bought


From my (limited) experience, 18Mag is fast enough that cert limits are a minor concern. (Our last game ended with us ~3 below limit, IIRC) (Update — but that may have been a fluke, I seem to recall the cert limit mattering in my other game). A presidency’s upside is basically the ability to token out a city. The +$10 a run for the $40 station will likely always be worthwhile (if you can find a place), and if it blocks someone so much the better. The $80 station usually won’t pay out offensively, but if it can block a route that will be huge. The downside of a presidency is not the obligation to buy a train, but the fact that you are locked in …. that means you can’t ebb and flow (see below) and also that you are a bit more predictable for other players (very minor, to be sure).

Another reason to grab an early presidency is that you can tune the dividends more than the NPC president, saving the odd $10-20 and keeping the price lower when you are about to buy.

Late Money to Majors

A driving force of the late game is the “graft” of diverting excess minor money into your favorite major company. Some companies are more graft-worthy than others. Spending money on SIK/SKEV to place stations and tiles should help your company get better routes and block others. Similarly, spending for the “enhance your run” companies (G&C, RABA, SNW aka Blue, Red, Grey) should also help your runs, and are easier to get more money into (because late game you can do 20/30/40 and have some control on how much, where as you are station/terrain/track limited).

Putting money into the train companies is hard late game. Even if you have the ability to simply buy a train each OR, that means dumping one and losing 50% of its value each round. That may still be worth while (in terms of increasing your value faster than you increase your opponents value) but it will happen more slowly than for the person dumping money into

Putting it together

All those points (coupled with the fact that you never risk having to buy a train for a major) means that you can (and should?) move into and out of positions with respect to majors rapidly as the major companies prospects ebb and flow. (A point I was groping towards when it was explicitly mentioned by Eric Brosius).

Minor Thoughts

  • There is a little bit of the “the first train of each type is a poison,” because it opens up new tracks for other players first. Of course, with each player owning 3+ companies (in a 3-4 player game) this isn’t usually a major point.
  • I implied above that the SIK craters but of course that depends quite a bit on the players. It can keep going for quite a while even without any outrageous track to nowhere….

So, did we learn anything? Other than Vasut is Hungarian for “Railroad”?

Written by taogaming

September 3, 2022 at 1:29 pm

Posted in 18xx, Strategy

A followup to 1846 strategy

I have now lost an 1846 game by the scores of $6616 to $6614. So, yeah, I want my two dollars.

Written by taogaming

July 27, 2020 at 2:30 pm

Posted in 18xx, Session Reports

Tagged with

1846 Strategy by People Smarter than Tao

I have recently taken to playing 1846 online (at board18). I learned 1830 in the 90s by the traditional method: getting repeatedly stomped until I managed to hold my own and — eventually — start competing then winning. I’ve had an OK record in 1846 in games with my local group, but in this online group I am clearly the weak player at the table. (We play on Board18). So I decided to maybe use the newer method of “maybe just learn without losing as much by reading.”

After perusing the strategy articles on BGG I found that most of what was there seemed … merely OK. Well, since I had an online discussion group with people who have play counts in the hundreds, I thought — “Why not just ask them?” So, I lobbed up questions and gathered responses.

A PBEM Game in progress on Board 18 — and some doodling with extra tracks and tokens.

The below has been edited for clarity (and sometimes to turn several fragments into a single sentence or paragraph). So, this should be considered to be paraphrased, instead of exact quotes (though they often are). Occasionally I have re-ordered some comments that had others interspersed because of multiple people typing at once, and removed some examples to specific games, jokes, and ramblings. Mistakes should assumed to be mine (as I also had to untangle a few threads going at the same time).

Also, several people would agree via emoji, so I will just put “(Agreement)” after some statements to indicate these got a thumbs up or two from other participants.

I thank all the participants involved. (Some of whom I do not quote here).

The Participants (I decided to go with first names only, not because I’m trying to hide the full names — most of my readers can identify everyone — but because I don’t put my own name on this blog and it felt odd to do so for other people):

  • Dan did not provide a count of 18xx
  • Discoking7 has around 60 plays of 1846 with approximately 600 plays across 18xx.
  • Eric is a noted ambassador for 1846, posting rules videos, answering questions, and generally exposing the game to the wider community for over a decade. He has played 290 times (at the time this bio was provided) and roughly the same number of 18xx games other than 1846.
  • Jeroen has played 1846 roughly fifty times, and many other 18xx titles.
  • Joe H has played 1846 282 times, and other titles 185 times.
  • Joe R has played 1846 roughly 250 times, and many other titles.
  • Mike has played 1846 roughly 30 times, and the other 18xx titles (combined) slightly less.

Tao — One of my general biases (or learned strategies) from 1830 is to start low, run for a good P/E ratio, loot, then start a second company. I’ve witnessed several people using what I would think of as an “Endgame” strategy right away in 1846, even from OR1. This seems viable. For example, taking the Big 4 and selling it in OR1.1 is a loss, but the speed it gives your company is huge. Some of this is clearly going to be the privates you have access to, but What are your thoughts about the “fast buck” vs “aim for early E-W run” and early PE vs capitalization costs…..

Dan — Running an early company for money and then dumping it for a second company can be viable, with the big caveat that if everyone is running a company early (almost always the case) there are only two extra companies, so you have to make sure you can start one. You have limited control over the priority deal – it’s more viable in a three player game.

Tao — Yes, that is a concern, and one that is structural into the game. Being familiar with Tom (and having recently watched the interview with Tom about 1846 on Wheel Tapping) the company limit and cert limits are clearly designed to make this a tipping point of the game. But, to move from theory to practice — if you somehow magically knew you could get a second company, where would fast buck as a strategy be as compared to others?

Mike — I’ve increasingly gotten the sense that opening a second company in 1846 is a last resort – to be taken by players who are unable to buy up the great paying shares, or who need to help their first company with trains or track to make it good. The companies that open early tend to have the best token infrastructure for the endgame and the late-starting companies are rarely able to catch up.

Dan — I think ‘last resort’ is a little strong, but I agree that the classic way to lose 1846 is to start a second company too early, while there are decent shares to be bought.

Joe R — FWIW, I try to make money early. I do not equate that with “looting the company”, since I assume I will be running the same company for ever. But running well in the beginning means I can invest and invest better, which is the most important thing in 1846.

Tao — Perhaps looting is too strong, since in 1846 you can only sell for face value. It will rarely be terrible for a company to buy out privates, not like selling the Cambden & Amboy for $320. (Note — In 1830 you can sell privates for up to 2x face value).

Dan — yes, another classic way to lose is not buying enough shares early.

Joe H — Or, put another way – getting behind in the share race.

Joe H — The best way to earn money is with a bunch of shares of a company with an earning boost – Meat Packing, Steamboat, or a quick E-W run. The best way to make back your investment in privates is by buying privates with a good P/E ratio. The best way to set up for the mid-game is starting at a high stock price, so that you can get two green trains.

Joe R — When I start a company in the first round, I think of all the things Joe said. And usually I am predicting how many shares I can end up with at the end of Stock Round (SR) 2. Not just SR1. It is not difficult to plan that far ahead.

Dan — Having enough cash going into SR2 is key. (Agreement)

Joe H — Or, put another way, having enough shares leaving SR2. I looked through 18 completed games. The net position of the winner, at the end of Stock Round 2, was a total of 1 more share than the other players. The best position for the winner was +3, the worst was -4.

Tao — You mean that someone was four shares behind the “leader” (of most shares) and won? Presumably that was a fast buck player who went bankrupt (or otherwise took a major hit).

Joe H — Oh, yes – and how are you going to convince others not to buy your stock.

Discoking7— I always play 1846 with the endgame in mind. My decisions are weighted towards the long-term (with the already mentioned caveat of keeping an eye on the share count). This is because of my biased preference for playing this way, but it is also a very successful approach in 1846. I have not seen a looting strategy come to much in this game (you’ve already gotten the details of how such maneuvers are curbed a bit by the rules). To me, the competition in 1846 is on the board and in company financing. Attacks come in tile/tokens and by investing early in other companies.

Eric  — First, I focus on what my stock holdings will look like at the end of SR2. If I have more/less money in privates, I will be able to put less/more money into the corporation in SR1, but after buying in the privates, I’ll have more/less to spend in SR2. So it’s the net of all that that matters.

Second, I’d “prefer” to run only 1 corporation. I did a study at one point to compare the results of 2-presidency players with those of 1-presidency players. In 3- and 4-player games, the 1- and 2- presidency players win about equal number of games. In 5 player games, the winner almost always has only 1 presidency.

Third, our opponents’ ability to and interest in cross-buying into your corporation makes a big difference. One drawback to starting low is people snapping up cheap shares. Sometimes you have to respond to that by dumping the corporation in SR3 (typically.) If you decide after SR2 that this will be your plan, you pay out full in OR2.1 and 2.2 and let someone else worry about the permanent train.

Fourth, The main reasons to launch a second corporation: a) Provide capital to help your lead corporation buy a permanent train (or a second one.) b) Get extra track-laying power to reach an E/W or route around a token-ed out city. c) Spam tokens around to ruin other people’s routes. d) There’s nothing left to buy in the early corporations. In recent months I’ve launched my first corporation as low as 50 and as high as 112. I’ve had success with both approaches. Tom (Lehmann) has explicitly said he wants the choice of starting price to be non-obvious (unlike 1830, where you always start your first company low.) Check the Long View podcast episode with Tom Lehmann

Jeroen — Another obvious question is where is your second permanent train coming from; and the power of half-pays (especially when double-jumping: “Joe’s rule”).

(Joe’s rule is — If you can pay out half your dividends and still double jump your stock value, do it — unless your company no longer needs money).

A five player game, OR 3.2

Tao — For some reason 1846 reminds me of Go. In particular, the initial draft has far reaching consequences that are not always obvious. I am actually wondering if this may be a barrier for entry. In an auction, you can see what everyone is bidding and get an idea after a game or two. But a draft may still be bewildering to new players — even if they can’t shoot themselves in the foot as easily, that’s different from playing well. The only real advice I see is “don’t spend too much” but clearly you can spend $200 and do fine. What thoughts do you have on the draft? What is ‘too much?’

Eric — I really don’t stress over the draft. I don’t see a way to ruin your chances in the draft other than by overspending. And note that it is impossible to spend more than $380 in the draft, even with everyone colluding and playing “double dummy”. But drafting MS, Big 4, Mail, and C&WI for $380 would indeed be ruinous. I don’t think $200 is a hard spending limit; I’ve seen people spend as much as $260 or $280 and do okay. But when I’m giving advice to new players, I warn them against spending more than $200 because it takes skill to manage those situations in which you spend a lot on privates. I will admit you can get good combinations in the draft. I am fond of both the (MS, Steamboat) and the (C&WI, Meat Packing) pairs.

Joe R — FWIW, people often get hung up on some of the privates because they think it dictates what they should do. On the other hand, I will take, e.g., the Michigan Central without ever planning on going to Michigan.

Dan — Yes, the $40/15 privates should certainly not drive strategy. I think the key for beginners in the draft plus SR1 plus planning OR 1.1-2 is “how do I enter SR2 with a decent amount of cash?” (There are) lots of ways to do that but also lots of ways to not do it, e.g. buy one cheap private and then open high, buy a bunch of privates and then don’t capitalize your company enough to buy them, etc.

Tao — The player with the priority has the benefit of knowing he can open whichever company he wants. How do you react as player 4(ish) in the draft, knowing that company choice will be limited? Do you aim for teleporters, independents, huge cash?

Mike  — When I’m in the last seat for SR1, thus the first pick, I prioritize making a pick that either teleports whatever company I get to where the action is (C&WI or MS) or something that is not bound up to tightly on the map (noting that MC and O&I are tied to specific hexes but they provide just good ROI for low cost that I’d happy to take either of them even without the track abilities). That means I’m probably avoiding Meat Packing and Steamboat in that seat, unless they are still in the pack for my 2nd pick

Joe R — Suppose meat and steam boat are in the game and I can choose meat as 4th player in a 4-player game. Then I am happy if I get Big 4, MS, or CWI as my second pick. There is a good chance I will, because one of the three players may pick steamboat, leaving the other three. In addition, for companies, will I be able to get GT or PRR sitting fourth? Those are not prime choices, so the answer may be yes. Either of those can be made to work with meat. Again, I think of all this as I am choosing the first private. FWIW, I would rather go last than first. Company choice is limited, but I have more knowledge as to what to par and what others will likely do.

Dan — I agree that sitting in a later seat has its benefits. For example, in [ a recent game] I would have much preferred to be later so I could see more of the par values. I felt I had to open fairly low sitting in second seat; had I been later I would have opened higher…

Joe H — To run counter to Mike, somewhat – I think Meat Packing and Steamboat are fine choices; Steamboat + B&O is sufficient unto itself to run reasonably, and Meat Packing works well enough with PRR or IC or even GT that I assume some useful company will come my way. (The people in this chat) IMHO, seriously undervalues the Mail Contract. Knowing that, I have intentionally run plans based upon expecting to see the Mail the second or third time around.

Eric — I have put Steamboat in Toledo with NYC or Erie and gotten +20 on three trains. I think of Steamboat as a flexible (and capital friendly) option.

Tao — Its funny that you mention GT as weak, because in my early plays we found the GT very good (and BGG had several forums echoing that), mainly because its so obvious and doesn’t require any thing that goes against 1830 instinct. Just run quickly for money, then go EW in one of the shorter routes. Now that I’m playing more it does appear fragile, but still a reasonable choice.

Eric — GT is like the military strategy in Race For the Galaxy. (Note by Tao — Also designed by Tom Lehmann). It’s obvious and easy to run, so in beginner games it often dominates. Other positions require more expertise to run well. GT suffers from having only 3 tokens. If it can get one special token (ideally C&WI or MS, but even Big 4 gives a base from which to run southern routes,) it’s much better. GT is prone to running well early, having its shares bought out, limping its way to a 5T, and running for revenue in the mid-30s at the end (plus possibly the Mail bonus.)

Eric — Back to the draft. The two private companies I never draft the first time around are the Big 4 and the Mail. It’s not that I don’t like them; it’s rather that they cost a lot of money and thus limit my options so early. You might wonder why this doesn’t apply to the Michigan Southern. The MS is even more expensive, but its station in Detroit and substantial treasury will help you carry out a low capital strategy. Whereas the Big 4 is much less of a help, and the Mail Contract is something that (IMO) doesn’t go well with a low capital strategy. It wants a corporation that’s into green trains asap.

I will take the Lake Shore Line, Michigan Central, or Ohio & Indiana without regard to geography, just for the revenue. Any use of the powers is gravy (and for this purpose I rank them LSL is better than O&I, which is better than  MC.)

(Tao’s Note — The discussion also included a few “surprising maneuvers that have since been copied,” including:

  • Connecting Cairo directly to St. Louis,
  • Buying in the CW&I (in OR1.1) and then driving from Chicago to Detroit,
  • Buying in the Big 4 in OR1.1 (then going to Cincinnati in OR1.1 and Louisville in OR1.2)

Tao — Also, After a few plays with novices, when looking at online shark games, it is astounding how much you can squeeze in OR 1.2 by buying independents (and possibly privates) in OR1.1, sacrificing profit for good company/speed. Any guidelines for newer players? (This is admittedly a more specific “Fast buck vs good company” dichotomy, which may certainly be false).

Mike — I like Eric’s heuristic which is “Buy in Big4 in OR 1.1, and everything else in 1.2, unless you have a good reason to to otherwise” The most common reason I see to buy in C&WI or MS in 1.1 is to use your track lays in that part of the map right away. Sometimes you’re so close to the wire that the extra $10 or $15 in private revenue being in the company lets you lay a track or a token in 1.2 that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten, but I’m not yet seeing those spots, because most of the time they’re pretty marginal. Hindsight can maybe teach us something on this front – how often do you have an extra $x at the end of SR2, where #x is the revenue of a private you sold to a company in 1.2? Would it have been better if that $x was in the company treasury instead?

Eric — The reason I want to buy in Big 4 early is that the 2T will run much better in OR1.2 in a corporation (usually) than in the Big 4. Plus, you only give up a single track lay. If you buy the Michigan Southern in early (which sometimes makes sense,) you give up a $60 run (you’re probably not going to do much better in a corporation, and you may lose some of it to the pool or cross-investors) and you give up two tile lays in a critical area.

Joe H — $60 or possibly better. If the MS heads west it can frequently upgrade Chicago in OR 1.2.

Eric  — Another issue that’s not separable from this is “what trains are you going to buy in OR1.1 and OR1.2?” You can’t be sure, but you can guess based on what situation your opponents are in. It’s easier late in priority order. I hurt myself last night by buying two 2Ts with IC to go with the Big 4 2T. I should have only bought one.

Joe H — I’ve begun looking at Big4 as a way to get my real company a 2T for $40 of my money. I particularly like the Big4 with a high-cap company, to secure it a 2T – though often that doesn’t suggest an immediate buy-in.

Joe R — Oh, and I still think “Fast buck vs good company” is a false dichotomy. Reminds me of people who would ask me whether I would rather get good grades or learn something. Embrace the power of “and”. Another thing about the draft: I am finally past just doing a greedy algorithm for my choice (“which of these is best”), but starting to think about what others may have chosen, what am I likely to see again, how do those answers affect my choice of major, etc. Asynchronous play and the draftbot have helped a lot.

(Note — Mike A. wrote a discord bot to automate the 1846 draft by IM’ing people their choices and requesting one).

Tao — Switching gear to the endgame….as mentioned above getting a second permanent (or perhaps a ‘better’ permanent) seems to be the key feature of the endgame. Some companies will cap out at $30-40 dividend per OR, so they will not advance as far on the stock track (and may not sell out). But how do you set up for a ‘good’ company? Not having your sells share early (so you have more capital). What else?

Joe H — Building two E/W route possibilities. One of the advantages of the NYC and Erie. It’s not required to make two trains run well late, but it does help.

Eric — Some games end too quickly for the second permanent to be worth it. It all depends on how the group plays. Our group routinely aims for two permanents (perhaps driven by Joe H, who loves to build track and run trains — not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But I wonder whether some people are hurting themselves by supporting the “two permanents” policy.

Dan — it’s also perfectly possible to win by running a 5-share (or less) presidency with one permanent and owing a lot of shares in other companies with two (Mass Agreement).

Joe R — Especially if your company started low and thus is still double jumping with a single train (say with the mail contract).

Tao — Final question. What separates the intermediate 1846 player from the shark? Is it simply experience, or is there an insight that the intermediate is missing? Any final tips?

Joe H — Maybe the shark is simply the person who learns from other’s errors and successes rather than having to try everything out themselves. I, of course, have to try everything out myself, so I’ll never be a shark.

Eric — One thing is that they not only know the standard things to do in various situations, but they know why to do them, and in addition they know when the situation is such that they need to step back and re-think their course of action from first principles. Joe H is especially good at this, and I’d classify him as a (chaotic aligned) shark. Joe has stolen someone’s presidency early in several games I’ve been in when the other player either launched a second corporation or bought a second share in Joe’s (decent) corporation, allowing Joe to dump the corporation not for the usual reasons, but to lock up the other player’s liquidity so they could not defend their first presidency.

The Tao of Gaming thanks everyone for their generous gift of time and knowledge in answering these questions!


With careful play, I was able to come in fourth…



Written by taogaming

July 20, 2020 at 6:46 pm

Posted in 18xx, Strategy

Tagged with ,

Some quick actual game thoughts

Karuba — Still good. I just found out about the ‘hard mode’ (you must build the paths from the explorers out) and enjoy it.

Roll to the Top! — I’m not a huge “Roll and Write” guy, but this (with it’s Take it Easy simul nature) seems like a great example of the genre.

Gambit Royale — An improvement over Ruse and Bruise, but not a big one. The problem is that there are so many 20-30 minute fillers that are actually good. Gave away my copy.

China — Web of Power is a classic, and this was the easiest way to re-acquire it.

1862 is almost a dime for the year already, but I do want to play another few multi-player games (instead of 2er).

Written by taogaming

February 3, 2020 at 9:19 pm

More thoughts on 1862

A local did not care to keep his pre-order, so I took it off his hands and (while I was messing up the solo game), the TaoLing expressed interest.

So I’ve now played four 2p games. To my surprise, 1862 plays well at 2p. The opening reminds me of pro Go players spending half their time on the first 10% of the moves spending it analyzing the long reaching implications of a particular fuseki/joseki. (I don’t do that, but I do play much slower in the first Parlimentary & Stock Round). During our second game I realized that practically any opening move I chose in the first parliamentary round (that I set cheaply) could be countered by a nearby company parring slightly higher and cutting me off (the first 8 companies were crowded along the northern border of the map), and so I passed.

Re-reading my earlier thoughts, I’m pleased with the variability, I think this is borne out by my plays — we’ve tried several different strategies and the random setup has given games different feels — a knife fight in a closet (that North map), a more languid game with locals stacking up cash in slow trains. We’ve had players open 1 company in SR 1, I’ve opened four companies in SR 1. And I have no reason to feel that these aspects are limited to 2p games. (I do wonder how well an 8p game works, but the mere fact that it may be possible impresses me).

Having also read some of discokings articles (while not being sure I understand them), I think the financial decisions are interested. In one game I dumped a company on the TaoLing (after taking its train cheaply for my other company) and got the worse of the deal. I sold at 1/2 price, and then he simply refinanced it and now its earning well. (In fact, one of the interesting things about 1862 is that a company without a train may be in a better position than a company with a non-permanent or even permanent train).

I see Eric’s comment on BGG that 1862 lacks the bomb of forced train purchases (and I worried about it myself). Now I’m leaning towards believing that the financial mechanisms contain equally powerful (but more subtle) bombs. If you make a big mistake in ’62 you’ve lost just as badly as any other game, but it won’t be the going-into-pocket of bankruptcy, just slower growth or halving shares.

Whether that’s a pro or con depends on taste.

My big thought about ’62 (and with ’46) is — do I need to play 1830 again? The (US) original’s totally fixed opening, coupled with multiple dozens of plays means that — while it’s the local father, I think it has been surpassed by the newer titles. (Certainly I had already preferred to explore newer titles, but now I think its clear). Anyway, still looking forward to more plays of ’62, hopefully a few with 3-5p.

Slay the Spire — Tomorrow the new version drops. I’m at Ascension 14 with Ironclad, 6 with Silent and 7 with Defect.

Written by taogaming

January 13, 2020 at 10:22 pm

Posted in 18xx, Strategy

Tagged with ,


I played this with the local 18xx enthusiasts last night. I actually wondered if I had ordered this, but it turns out I had not. (I have pre-ordered 1848, but I should probably go and cancel under the theory that there will likely be 2+ copies here locally anyway). Some quick thoughts on 1862:

  • Our (5p) first game took 4h, not including a bit of rules reading. Should be able to trim an hour or so from this once the rules become second nature.
  • Lots of variability here. If my combinatorics are correct (unlikely) there are nearly 9 quadrillion possible setups, which means that if everyone on earth played a game a day, our nations would erupt into war and lose vast amounts of GDP without even making a dent in the chances of playing the same setup twice.
  • Some rules questions — Given that any player can apparently open up as many auctions as you like in a parlimentary round, why does the game open with two of them? We also spent a bit of time clarifying things, but overall it wasn’t bad given the sheer number of differences from a typical 18xx.
  • Things I liked:
    • The stock market double, triple, quadruple jumps let companies catch up.
    • Mergers as a dynamic are always interesting (see also,  Indonesia)
    • The novel train mechanism where some companies want direct routes and others want meandering routes, coupled with a tight board.
    • The “re-running track but no double counting cities” route mechanism, which rewards mergers (since companies get rights to multiple train types), which encourages mergers even though the financials force players to take a haircut in stock value after a merge.
    • The “two ways to capitalize”
    • The variable setup
    • The warranty rule (the ability to buy a few extra turns before a train rusts, but you must prepay).
  • Potential worrying aspect:
    • Somewhat nitpicky corner cases in rules (possibly)
    • It seemed like a reasonable strategy may just be “start fast cash company, buy up any IPO stock after it appreciates, then dump everything into the bank and start again.”

Regarding the last point, I was running away with the game when the train rush hit and had a company with a soon-to-expire D train, when another company got dumped on me. I could have dumped both for £2000 (maybe a bit shy, but certainly enough to found 1 or 2 big companies), but I decided to keep one and merge my new company with it to get two different permanent trains (an express and a freight). This was OK, but it meant I had ~5 less certs for 3 ORs, and despite having 70% of the best company I lost by 20% or so. I think if I’d just dumped everything and went for a boring two new companies route, I would have won.

It is early to make such a bold claim, but it is worrying. (I suspect a part of my problem is that you want to merge in ORX.3, not ORX.1, so you have timing to re-acquire a portfolio.

I take it as a good sign that Joe R. and Jeroen both rate this very highly.

Rating — Enthusiastic (and may even pick up a copy, and would certainly trade for it).

Written by taogaming

December 10, 2019 at 6:03 pm

Posted in 18xx, Session Reports

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A few thoughts on recent games

Timechase — I remember when Mu und Mehr came out and discussing it with Jeff Goldsmith (who is still a much better bridge player than I am, but hopefully less so than two decades ago) and his comment was basically “Trumps don’t work.” Unpacking that, it was too easy to void yourself of a suit and too many trumps. Timechase has a great idea …. you play to a trick. The losers earn gems, and you can use gems to go back to a prior trick and play another card (changing the winner), you earn gems by playing low on a trick and some every turn (less for each prior trick you won).

And it doesn’t work. The leader has a huge advantage, and if you have to follow suit, that’s it. But worse, if the last trick was won by the ace of spades and you still have any spades, you can’t win it! You can also go back to “Trick zero” which just sets trumps (if you are alone). A hell of an idea, that doesn’t work. It would be better if there rotating trumps (for example, you could beat the ace of spades with the duece through four of clubs, which just changes the suit). I spent a game following suit for 2 tricks, jumped back in time to a suit I was now void in, trumped it, and then had no good options. (Trump had changed again and … even assuming I had any … I would have to follow suit and lose to any prior trick). I’m assuming this is better with less (we played with five) but at best I’m indifferent and this is borderline avoid, but I’ll likely try once more with 3-4 players.

Got in another game of 1889 — one thing that playing various other new 18xx (like ’46) is that I’m more enthusiastic about games that do not reward “hyper fast ROI at all costs and figure out how to rescue your train buys later.”(Which is not to say that ’46 doesn’t reward it, but it is not the sum total of the game). That being said, ’89 is fast and clean. I played an interesting game where I solved my long term problem by dumping my companies while they still had 3s and 4s while Diesels were a long way away and being a minority investor in safe lines. I’d had such an early jump that I was able to (barely) out score people with more shares than me at the end. Still enthusiastic, but I’d prefer a few other titles (including revisiting ’70) that are floating around the city. Also I heard City of Big Shoulders has qualities between 18xx and Arkwright, which is intriguing.


Played Power Grid — Northern Europe Map. Fine, and I like the idea that you adjust the deck based on which regions are in play, which gives some simple variety. The ‘no nukes’ rule seemed a bit weak, since you just had to have a non-nuke at all (as far as we could tell), but this was a fine variant map. Still playing Power Grid, so enthusiastic.

Had a decent game of Wingspan with not much Eggs, and may have won if I remembered you can substitute food 2:1. I focused on getting a lot of tuck+egg powers on the water (draw cards) row, and a few leeches on other people’s lay eggs. The fact remains that I’ve seen huge wins on engines built on the egg row and possible wins on other rows when nobody really thrashes Eggs. I guess that means you just need to grab certain birds ASAP. I’m considering raising my rating but right now I’m indifferent-plus.

Written by taogaming

September 13, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Labor Day Gaming

Tried Northern Pacific — A minimalist (Winsome?) where you either drive a route inevitably towards Seattle or invest in a city by placing a cube (and many players can be in the same city, but each player has one “large” cube worth double). When a city is hit, all the cubes pay out by being returned (with a bonus). But if you get bypassed your cubes are locked. At the end of each round, you get points for each cube you have left. Cubes left on the board are a (bad) tiebreak. So, implicit collusion and a bit of zugzwang. (Since you are compelled to make a move on your turn and cubes are tight). Interesting idea, didn’t love it, but its fast and I’d play again. Indifferent.

Got in a few games of Caylus Magna Carta, the rare ‘card version’ I prefer to the original (because its faster and the individual decks means that there is much more variety between games — players can’t always play buildings in a groupthink order). Suggest, still.

Another game of Quacks of Quedlinberg. A local has the (verrah nice) acrylic (?) pieces. I’m not a huge bling-out-your-game guy, but I may start it for a few games I love. Growing on me, a little.  The Taoling wants me to get this, I think. Indifferent plus.

(Speaking of blinging — I invested in quite a few card sleeves for Mage Knight which was a good idea — the card sleeves have worn out! That’s what 400 games will do).

Played a few more 1846 (and some others played the 1867(?) Canada game today). I’ve won all of these, but in the last game I really botched the opening. I took  the Port and CWI (? chicago token) and then opened B&O, but I parred it too high which meant I had to buy the first 3 instead of a two and a three and — adding insult to injury I had to go first in OR2 and was a build short of connecting into the NYC’s network, so I had a pitiful run. However, the owner of the Illinois Central got greedy and tried to dig into multiple Chicago spaces and that let me quickly steal/finish an E-W run through Detroit, and in the (long) brown phase I was running four, four and five train (the latter getting the EW bonus) for too many ORs. I’m really enjoying the 18xx Renaissance here. (It helps that a few locals are snapping up many different titles).

I didn’t play in that other one because I was playing at the bridge club. Here’s an odd suit combination:

Q8xx in dummy opposite ATx. Playing in 3NT with plentiful entries I lead low from the queen (planning on hooking the T) when 2nd hand played the king quickly. I won this (naturally) and then spent a lot of time looking at how to endplay the other hand to force them to lead a diamond presumably from their presumably remaining J9xx. I did consider if 2nd hand had done something tricky or just bizarre, but she was a new-ish player, so played for a stiff.

Nope — second hand high from K9 doubleton. If I read that I pick up the suit for three tricks and no losers (leading the Ten to smother the nine) but I just played for the stiff king. Frustrating.

At least I was playing in a deliberate pace and not just automatically. I gave several hands detailed consideration. Possibly even correct thought. A decent chunk of my analysis is — “which line gives my opponents more options to make mistakes” but honestly that’s a big part of the game at a local club.

Written by taogaming

September 2, 2019 at 9:19 pm

Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea

Nope. What he said. My thoughts further down the chain.

But I did get to play 1846, so I got that going for me, which is nice. I won (with a commissioner’s asterisk), and I really need to to play that more. It still seems like Grand Trunk for earlier ROI is the Royal Road in this game, but our meta doesn’t have many cross purchases to remove shares from the treasury. (The asterisk is really small, because I got the mail company for $60, which was a surprise and I think a big mistake by the others. But I’d drafted two of the “no purchase” cards and really neither other op could easily afford it).

Written by taogaming

August 20, 2019 at 4:53 pm

1889: History of Shikoku Railways

1889 is pretty much a straight 1830 (assuming I got the rules right), but made for 2-5 players and shorter. We played for 2.5 hours before we called it. (I had relatively new opponents, which slowed the game down a bit).

Rating — Pretty much whatever you rate 1830 (with maybe a small kick for novelty). For me that’s suggest.

Written by taogaming

February 14, 2019 at 9:55 pm

Posted in 18xx, Session Reports

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