Note: The below was written to a friend just starting out with an 18xx design project. I’ve copied (and lightly edited) it here for preservation.
More directly, I think you are losing sight of the game, or at least where the game lies within the larger system.
The 18xx are fairly simply structured from two and a half almost-complete games bolted together. There is a spatial route building game and a stock market game, and they are glued together with a creative destruction technology race to make one complete game. Each of those components is damn near a standalone game in its own right, and certainly other games have been made from just those subsystems (Greentown, Lokomotive Werks, etc), but at the end they are just mostly-isolated subsystems with the actually interesting bits in their connections to each other (the players sit in the connections).
The internal structures created by that glueing process are also boldly simple:
There’s an evaluation function which each company uses to generate a number using as inputs the network on the board and the trains in the company, and we call that evaluation function “running trains”. You can get all sort of complicated here about the details of track and tokens etc, but at the end of the day there’s just a function that does something and returns a number that is input into the stock market game. All the rest is internal implementation details. Sometimes the number is a bit special in that it expresses a liability for the president (emergency train buy), but it is still just a number communicated from the evaluation function to the stock market game.
The stock market game takes the numbers that the network game generates and thence changes its own numbers in well known ways.
And, as a back-flow, the stock market game moves some of its numbers back into companies (withholdings, etc) via the creative destruction technology race glue to change the inputs to the network evaluation function (train purchases and rustings).
And thence of course those new numbers go into the stock market game and so forth.
And so we have a triangle: The network game informs the stock market game which informs the technology game which informs the network game which…etc. And the players sit in the middle fiddling with the dials in all three sub-games: moving the numbers around in the stock market game (shares), moving the numbers around in the technology game (trains), and moving the numbers around in the network game (building/changing routes), all while the loop keeps cycling as a feedback loop, round and round and round.
Which I assume you already know — there should be no surprises there — but you might not have articulated in such a stark format. More usefully and more to my point, what this really basic deconstruction does is to highlight where the game is. The game is in the players fiddling at those three key junctures in the triangular feedback loop while the game spins underneath them:
Players can fiddle with shares
Players can fiddle with technology
Players can fiddle with the evaluation function inputs
And that’s pretty much it. Everything else is in the feedback loop orchestrated by the rotating sequence of SRs and ORs stepping around and around the feedback loop and relentlessly driving the game forward.
What this means however as a game designer, is that it outlines where your interests and activities lie. In order to do something interesting in the 18xx world you have to either alter one of the three interaction points (shares, technology, evaluation function) in a way that substantially changes player concerns, or you have to alter the properties of the feedback loop itself (1880 did this latter with its new intertwingled OR/SR model; 1846 did this by fundamentally changing the feedback loop of money with how its incrementally capitalised companies work; 1860 did this by allowing entities to enter, leave, roboticise and re-enter the player interaction-space, etc etc etc).
My general sense is that at the litmus-test level, in order for any change to be interesting, it must substantially affect at least two corners of the triangle in ways that provide both substantial opportunities and problems for the players to address. Just touching one corner isn’t enough, as that’s almost instantly an internal implementation detail rather than anything materially interesting. And so you need at least two player touch-points to change in a way that’s substantial and different and interesting.
But more usefully (I hope), that deconstruction provides a set of analysis tools and litmus tests for your candidate changes. You can look at any candidate change and ask how it affects those three contact points, how that change to those contact points significantly alters the three stages of the feedback loop and thence how it changes the player’s competitive lives. And if you come up with a good answer, your idea potentially has some good legs under it, and if you don’t come up with a good answer, then your idea is more likely just shuffling the deck-chairs around.
And, shrug, I find that useful, as it sure weeds out a lot of options that fiddle little numbers inside one of the touch points without actually doing anything structural. Oh look, now this little internal number that isn’t actually a primary contact point is a little larger or smaller or different or has little brass bells and is painted red…but everything else is exactly the same…and…this…is…interesting…WHY? I do that a lot, and then I slap myself on the back of the head, say “Doh!” and move on.
PS BtB this deconstruction has an amusing side effect of also dropping out the four basic types of 18xx by extrapolation — which is kinda cute and unexpected (by me).
Three quick quips which I’ve had cause to reference multiple times and thus seem useful to keep stashed. First a comment on how and why I live:
Meanwhile the universe is interesting, delightfully interesting even, and I apply and dedicate my awareness and interest to that end. I assume, generously and with scant evidence, that it is a Good Thing to Have Understood, or at least to have Striven to Understand. I don’t know if that is in fact true, it seems quite likely that it isn’t, but it also seems a fine and possibly even wonderful conceit to live under.
That the answer is complex.
Primarily I see it as a function of cognitive ability. Oh, not in any elitist or superiority sense, but simply in terms of capacity. Tic-tac-toe is a fine game for younger children as they simply don’t yet have the cognitive abilities necessary for recognising what’s necessary to remove the game. It is rather less interesting if you or I played it. Similarly, the game of Go is very interesting for people precisely because we don’t have the cognitive capacity to remove the game. In short: in order to be a game the system as presented must fundamentally exceed our ability to comprehend the system.
How it exceeds us, by complexity for instance, or by stressing analytical forms we humans are inherently weak at like conditional probability, or by requiring modes of thought that we’ve not yet fully developed (and thus a lot of games for pre-adolescents stress symbolic thought as they’ve only just developed that capacity (it comes in around age 11)) — how it exceeds us really doesn’t matter, just that it exceeds us and is hauntingly close to the apparent edge of our capacities so as to provide the taunting illusion of almost-graspability. And it will remain a game only to the point that no matter how hard we study and analyse and work it, that we will still not fully understand the system represented or implied by the game.
(Somewhere in here there’s a fine rant that I’ll skip for now on the necessity for ambiguity in games, and how far too many so-called “games” are not in fact games because they don’t contain ambiguity: they just have game-states that are hard or laborious to parse)
Now a kicker in this is that most games rely on the fact that as humans we cannot completely model another human (of comparable capacity to ourselves). Godel’s incompleteness theorem guarantees that, and provides the primary reason I rarely ever play 2-player games. The problem here is that the modelling problem is also a cheap out for lazy game designers (ahem — there’s no subjectivity in this declaration, no sirree!). In this I find that the more interesting games exceed their players in both their systemic demands and in their demands of modelling the other players (and thus in the intersection of multiplayer interactions and the system, an implicit third factor).
After that basic, well, it gets murky and subjective and ever so much more complex. A lot of the subjective preferences there are arm-wavingly discussed in my profile text here on BGG. And, not to short shrift you too badly, I need to get ready for a gamesday with one of the top 18xx players in the world (Todd vander Pluym) who is in the area for a few days…and fascinating as this question is (and it is truly interesting), that’s a time-bounded opportunity and this question isn’t. Sorry.
And finally on the activity of playing games:
I find that face-to-face games provide context and variety which is largely not available in solo study. That alone more than makes face-to-face play worthwhile. Just participating in a game with other actors, and observing those actors, actors not in my mind, suffices a lot of my requirements for playing a game as you say. Much of anything I may think during that time or later will be catalysed and informed by my observation of those actors during the game — which is the great thing about playing games rather than merely thinking about games.
I wrote the following on Boardgamegeek and it seemed worth preserving locally:
There are four basic types of 18xx:
- Run Good Companies
- Where’s the Free Money?
- Put Things Together (typically mergers or company pairs or synergies)
- Timing Games
Clearly some, most, all(?) 18xx games are mixtures of the four camps in various degrees and at various times during a given game. The private sales to companies in many games is a free-money element, but so are destination runs with multi-jump stock increases and the extra 40%-50% in free capital given when floating companies in full-capitalisation games. The mergers in 1817, 1824, 18EU, 18C2C etc are clear plug-things-together moments etc, but so are the synergies between privates and majors in 1846, 18C2C etc. The portfolio management of the 1825s, 1853 and the like fall out cleanly as timing games, but 1826′s focus on getting the right trains into the right companies arguably does too.
Few if any interesting 18xx seem to be purely any one of the above meta-types, rather they move and shift focus across a balance of those points over the course of the game.
Amusingly, 18xx players can also be classified across the above four criteria, and like the games, the Run Good Company players are considered the least interesting and the Free Money players get all the despairing head shakes.
Other structural divides centre around elements like:
Fast trains: Some games tend to focus on train rushes, and coming out on top after the dust has settled. The key metric is how large a fraction of the purchase cost is the typical run value and how many times they’ll run. 1843′s trains generally need to run three times in order to cover their purchase cost, but will often only run once or twice before rusting. Another key metric in this space is whether trains sometimes rust before they ever run. This usually means that the key decisions in the game are made leading up to the early cheap permanent trains. 1830, 1841, 1843, 1849, 18Mex etc all tend to feature blistering train rushes (though 1843 skips the cheap permanents bit). David G. D. Hecht designs (as a broad for-instance) tend to have rather sedate/processional train progressions.
Low or high income: A basic measure of how rich the game is, especially as a function of train purchase and company floatation prices, but it can also be as a function of more basic operational costs (eg tack-laying costs). 1830 is the most notorious example of a low income game, but 1849 gets in there too. 1843 tries to be a low income game and often is. 18C2C and most of the Double-O Games designs are high income games.
Tile manifest: Are the tile limits a significant function of Good Play? 1830, 1843, 1849, many of the Wolfram Janich and some Double-O Games designs fall into this camp. In other games, the tile manifest is explicitly generous, or at least rarely if ever a consideration in Good Play (1817, 18C2C, most-but-not-all David G. D. Hecht designs, etc).
Stock appreciation vs dividends: Which is more important: dividends and cash in-hand or stock appreciation? 1830 is the grand-daddy of stock-centric games with 70+% of player scores descending from stock appreciation. Most Mark Derrick designs are heavily cash/dividend focused.
Certificate limits: Are key strategies in the game focused on managing certificate limits (yellow fever, forbidden forest, variations in share density, number of presidencies, etc). Most any game with a classically coloured stock market falls into this camp with 1830 and 1870 being the two most notorious examples. 1817 plays in this space with share densities and thus the balance between stock appreciation and dividends.
Liabilities: Are investments possibly significant liabilities? The classic form of this is the potential requirement to buy a train out of pocket. Not all 18xx have that property (eg the 1825s, 1860 etc), and several of the Double-O Games titles feature not-very-onerous loans which smooth the edge there. The 1825s, 1853 and to some extent 1860 conversely impose no requirement for companies to own trains, just financial hiccoughs if they don’t.
Balance of share values: Which is more important, owning the best shares or owning more shares? Does that change over the course of the game? 1846 for example is notable in being readily won while still not at paper limit — it is a game in which owning better shares is commonly more important than owning more shares. Conversely 1830 is the poster child of owning more shares typically defaulting to being better than owning fewer better shares.
It is worth nothing that the shape of the stock market does not feature anywhere in this list. 2D and 1D stock markets are effectively identical, just with rather more complex price movement rules for the 2D markets.
One of the 1839 playtesters argues convincingly that $2700 is too much starting capital for 1839. When playing, that feels right, it does seem too rich, but the numbers don’t make sense to me. Both games have a non-sellable B&O-type private for $220, so ignoring that:
- Maximal total private sell-in value in 1830 is .
The privates in a given game of 1839 are semi-random, but the face value of the random portion ranges from $400 to $680
- Smallest maximal private sell-in value in 1839 is .
- Largest maximal private sell-in value in 1839 is .
That’s variously $260 and $540 more than 1830. In a 4-player game of 1830, privates generally sell as a collective set for a little under a 40% premium over face value, or 70% of maximal sell-in value. 1839′s privates shouldn’t be any worse than 1830′s in sum, and are often better due to useful special powers. That gives baselines for total expenditure:
Which puts the baseline additional expenditure on 1839′s privates from $182-$378 more than 1830. While I haven’t done a formal permutations analysis as to where the average total value is for 1830, my sense is that it sits around $1,150, which gives $245 more in overage. As such, adding $300 to the game’s starting capitalisation seems not-reasonable. Yeah, a bit rich, $15ea too rich in a 3-player game, but surely not overwhelmingly so? Or is the richness seen more as a product of the dutch auction for the privates rather than 1830′s traditional reservation auction?
Early playtests of 1839 have been promising, but have not gone well. The game has played smoothly enough, it has clearly shown that there is an interesting game in there, but also that the then current incarnation wasn’t it.
But, it is getting closer. Perhaps it is time to review where it has gotten to.
First, some background context as much has changed:
Track and stations
- Companies may place up to two tiles per OR, one of which may be an upgrade.
- The second tile is optional, and has an additional cost of $20 if placed.
- All companies have 5 station markers.
- Stations cost the value of the revenue centre where they are placed, multiplied by the number of hexes with that companies station markers after the placement.
- A revenue location counts for revenue only once, no matter how many trains hit it.
- There are exchange markers. An exchange marker is a second station marker placed underneath where the company already has a station maker.
- Each company may have one exchange marker on the board at a time.
- An exchange marker allows a company to count that revenue centre once for each train that hits it.
- An exchange marker also makes that station market not-blocking. Other companies can run trains through it and lay track on the other side.
- A route ending at another company’s exchange marker counts that revenue center normally.
- A route passing through another company’s exchange marker counts that location for $0 revenue.
The trains have stabilised as to definition, even if not as to count:
- +trains don’t count dits and off-boards but do count cities, and pay all three.
- (Currently being considered) This would mean that off-boards don’t count against train-length, but also don’t satisfy the definition of a route.
- I’ll almost certainly have to reduce off-board revenues if I adopt this notion.
- D-trains count and pay only cities and pay but don’t count off-boards, and then pay double that total.
- FLOOD-trains pay the sum of every revenue center that could be reached with infinite numbers of infinite trains and infinite track-reuse.
- At the start of each SR a marker notes the smallest brown-or-larger train currently in a company.
- If a company still owns one of those trains two SRs later, the game is over.
- As a result, brown trains may be permanent, but probably won’t be. Red trains will probably be permanent, but also may not be. Gray and black trains are always permanent.
Privates? Yeah, they’ve gone haywire. Five privates are always in the game.
- Cost: $40
- Revenue: $5
- Blocks: H7
- Power: Owning company can place an additional yellow track tile or upgrade, in addition to their normal build, closing the private.
- Closed: When power used.
- Cost: $160
- Revenue: $20
- Blocks: nothing
- Power: Owning company may place a tile (can be an upgrade) and station marker (must be both) at K16 or L3 for 80f.
- Closed: When power used.
- Cost: $160
- Revenue: $20
- Blocks: J7
- Power: Owning company may place a station or exchange marker for free
- Closed: When power used.
- Cost: $220
- Revenue: $35
- Blocks: F13 and G12
- Power: Comes with the presidency of a random company picked during setup. Company is automatically parred at $94. Flevoland bypass automatically built when closed.
- Closed: When that company buys a train.
- Cost: $300
- Revenue: $25
- Blocks: C10 and D9
- Power: Comes with a 10% certificate of a (different) company randomly picked during setup. Owning company may place a station or exchange marker for half cost. Afsluitdijk built when sold.
- Closed: In red phase or when power used.
There are then 10 more privates which are shuffled face down and then drawn randomly until the total face value of the drawn set exceeds $400. The drawn privates are then used in the game and the rest put away:
- Cost: $60
- Revenue: $10
- Power: Comes with a $20/$10 token that may be put in any port location, permanently increasing the revenue of that location by $20 for that company and $10 for all other companies.
- Closed: When the power is used.
- Cost: $120
- Revenue: $20/$0 (No revenue when owned by a company)
- Power: Owning company has a 50% discount on all terrain costs.
- Closed: In red phase.
- Cost: $160
- Revenue: $20
- Power: Owning company may mark a train as obsoleting rather than rusting.
- Closed: In red phase or when the power is used.
- Cost: $180
- Revenue: $20
- Power: Owning company has a discount on train purchases: Green $100, Blue $150, Brown or later $200.
- Closed: In red phase or when the power is used.
- Cost: $200
- Revenue: $20
- Power: All towns are +$10 revenue for the owning company.
- Closed: In red phase.
- Cost: $200
- Revenue: $20
- Power: Owning company may buy a train, including as an emergency purchase, at any time in its operations.
- Closed: In red phase.
- Cost: $200
- Revenue: $25
- Power: Owning company may convert a town to a yellow city for a 40f terrain fee as the company’s upgrade tile lay.
- Closed: When power used.
- Cost: $220
- Revenue: $15
- Power: Owning company may add $10 to every revenue center encountered by one of its trains.
- Closed: In red phase.
- Cost: $250
- Revenue: $?/$0 (Nothing when owned by a company)
- Power: Owning player is paid the revenue value of each previously unconnected revenue location connected by track to a station marker for the first time by a company controlled by the player.
- Closed: In red phase.
- Cost: $300
- Revenue: $0
- Power: May be converted by the owning company to any single train prior to brown phase. Auto-converts to a brown train at the start of brown phase.
- Closed: In brown phase.
- The auction starts with the player with the #1 player card and proceeds in player card order with the #1 player next in rotation after the player with the largest player card number.
- Each player in turn may pass or do one of:
- Buy one of the displayed private companies at a purchase price of the face value of the private company minus the total cash currently placed on the private company.
- Place 10f from the bank on any private company.
- If the total cash on a private company reaches its face value, the next player in turn order must acquire that private company at no cost.
- A player that passes may act in a future round of the private auction.
- The private auction ends when all players pass in sequence, or all private companies have been acquired by the players.
- At the end of the private auction, the player order for the upcoming stock round is set using the numbered player cards in ascending order of remaining player cash. – Tied players retain their prior relative order.
- There are 8 foreigners in the game, one each for each off-board.
- Each is a 10-share incrementally capitalised company.
- They are grouped in three countries: Germany, Belgium, and Overseas.
- Each foreign company has a private income slot and they share a common country treasury.
- A train may not run from an off-board to another off-board of the same country.
- Foreign companies are parred at the largest legal par available the first time a train is run to them, and operate from then on.
- When a company runs to an off-board, 20% of that the total run for that company is put from the bank on the income slot for that foreigner.
- When a foreign company comes to operate, the money on the income slot is put into that country’s treasury, and then all the shares of the off-board pay 10% of the total cash (rounded up) that was in the income slot (paid from the bank).
- As such, they have crap dividends.
- The foreign company then buys all of their own shares they can from the Open Market, using the country treasury.
- And then buys all the trains it can with any remaining monies. Any bought trains are discarded from the game. Any phase related changes happen immediately.
- Thus investing in the foreigners accelerates the train rush.
- Foreign company shares do not count against certificate limit.
- The stock market is identical to 1843′s except that all the coloured sections have been made white.
- There are no pars. Everything sells at the current stock price.
- Shares of a company may not be sold until that company floats.
- Selling shares does not change stock price.
- At the end of an SR:
- Shares in the open market move the stock price down once per share for public companies.
- Shares in the open market move the stock price down once for foreign companies.
- Public company stocks move right only if their total dividend equals or exceeds their stock price, otherwise they fall left.
- Foreign company stock prices move right if they pay any dividend at all, otherwise they fall left.
- Both move up for being all sold out at the end of SRs.
- The game ends if a stock reaches a price of $500.
Variants to consider for the new 1830 cardgame:
Move the hand management to after the turn order auction:
- Players auction for turn-order before discarding their hands down to 3 cards.
Address the turn order auction as well:
- First to pass will go last, second to pass will go second to last, etc with the last remaining bidder going first.
- Winning bidder pays their bid, all other bidders pay half their bid rounded up, except for the player last in turn order who pays nothing.
- After the turn order auction, players reseat in turn-order order.
Remove and reduce the silly trackable information:
- Players keep their initial hands of action cards face-down on the table before them (but may of course inspect them freely).
- Drawn cards which are kept in the hand are put face-up on the table before them.
- All played cards in the discard piles may be freely examined and counted at any time.
Increase the information level of the draft:
- In addition to the three cards for the action draft, also lay out the next three cards, face up, that will be drawn to replace drafted cards.
1839 has been lurching forward somewhat like a dyspeptic hedonist.
In May I attacked the privates:
- Cost: $20
- Revenue: $5 (or $0?)
- Blocks: One side of Amsterdam.
- Power: Player can build an additional yellow track tile for $20 from their personal cash for any company of which they’re the president (any terrain costs must be paid by the company treasury), during that company’s operation and in addition to that company’s normal track build.
- Notes: Closed if sold to a public company or if power used. Power can be used in yellow phase.
- Cost: $40
- Revenue: $5+
- Blocks: ?
- Power: Gets additional revenue of %20 of any terrain costs (rounded up) paid by any company. Terrain costs range from $80 – $120. Terrain tends to be where track wants to go.
- Cost: $60
- Revenue: $5+
- Blocks: ?
- Power: Additional revenue of $5 for every train certificate bought by any company. When owned by a company, can mark a train as obsoleting rather than rusting ala the VdL in 1843.
- Note: Closes when its power is used.
- Cost: $80
- Revenue: $5+
- Blocks: ?
- Power: 18OH-style revenue of $5 for every revenue location connected to a token for the first time.
- Cost: $100
- Revenue: $20
- Blocks: The teleport locations
- Power: D&H style teleport for the cost of terrain at the target (one of which is $free but out of the way, other $120 and highly desirable).
- Note: Can be bought in yellow for face value. Closes as soon as its power is used.
- Cost: $120
- Revenue: $20
- Blocks: Connectivity to Rotterdam
- Power: Either a 30% discount on a train purchase OR (exclusive) a token that can be placed under one of its station markers or on a dit. Every company that runs a train to/through that location pays half (rounded up) revenue of that location to the owning company’s treasury from the bank OR (exclusive, 3/4 player game only) may teleport/place a token in a space reserved/blocked by the discarded company for free.
- Note: Closes when the power is used. Revenue token is removed in brown phase.
- Cost: $150
- Revenue: $25
- Blocks: Blocks Afsluitdijk.
- Power: Comes with a random %10 share (cf VdL/M&H). Owning company can place a station marker for free, or can place an additional/extra station marker (one more than normal for the company) for $100 (may be done out of order?).
- Note: Closes when the power is used. Afsluitdijk is built when private closes.
- Cost: $220
- Revenue: $35
- Blocks: Flevoland bypass.
- Power: Comes with a random 20% presidency which is parred at $94 (cf PLM).
- Note: Closes when that company buys a train. May not be bought by a public company. Flevoland bypass is built when it closes.
These are auctioned in an 1830-style auction. Everything, including the trigger, will block something of importance. Purchase price by a major can be from $1 to 200%. The random share allocations, as well as which company is out of the game in a 3 or 4 player game, are determined during game setup before the auction. All privates close in brown.
After that is done one 10% share of each of the 8 off-board companies is auctioned in an 18Neb-style auction with a starting price of $60, with the extension that when all players pass all bid items are bought for their bids and everything remaining gets $5 cheaper. Repeat ad absurdum, must “buy” if $free. Note: The off-boards are parred at the highest then-legal par the first time a train is run to them. Until then their shares are not liquid. Off-board shares do not count as paper.
Summary: 16 things are auctioned before the ISR.
Priority is then sorted in order of ascending cash for the ISR (not sure about this?). At the end of all subsequent SRs priority sorts in order of descending cash (cf ’43 and ’44).
In June I went to work on the trains, which as-expected, changed everything. I should have known better than to touch anything else first.
First, all of a company’s train-routes must intersect, and at least one of them must end in an off-board. But additionally, each revenue location may be counted only once, no matter how many trains included it as part of their run (ala 1873)2. This of course will require all the station marker counts to be revisited.
Additionally presidents may buy up to 60% from the IPO but may buy past 60% from the Open Market. If they reach 80% their paper limit goes up by one each time. 80% of a company may be in the pool, but no more than 50% may be sold in a single sale. Share distribution is identical to 1849 with the second 20% share always being heavy.
But back to the trains:
|red||6ED||x9||$1,200||by black||$360 – $480||0.35?|
In short the lower train ranks are split Poseidon-style with the last trains of the rank (eg orange after yellow) being over-sized and more expensive, but rusting one rank later than the first trains of the rank. Unlike Poseidon I’m thinking of not making the rust-later trains a choice: the half-new technology is the only thing available.
- Note: Green phase still does not start until the green trains, brown-phase with the brown and gray with the gray.
The definitions and prices of the upper trains are uncertain. I’m modestly happy up to red with maybe a $25 adjustment here and there on the prices. I suspect the big trains might get a bit more expensive(!).
- E trains are infinite length, best-N-stops.
- The current idea for the 6ED is either infinite length and double the best 6 stops, or infinite length and the best 6 stops with the company’s stations doubled (ie not quite as good).
- A Double-D would be a standard diesel that doubles everything (seems like a Bad Idea).
- A Flood would be every revenue location that the company could see from all of its stations assuming infinite trains of infinite length (ie an 1873 diesel).
Given the smallness of the map and the large number of tokens, a diesel-equivalent train seems a weak idea. Other notions are welcomed. I like the simplicity of running a Flood for the late game.
The estimated runs for the big trains are atrociously bad. They depend intimately on track development and I’ve a hard time predicting that far into the game. The lower estimates are fairly reasonable if a bit optimistic.
The train counts are likely also poor. The intent is that with trains running for a ~third of their purchase price and with no cheap single trains ala 1843, that trains will move quickly enough that the players are always under capital pressure.
It is also assumed that companies will run out of capital and that presidents will need to pay out of pocket for trains starting fairly early and likely 2-3 times per game for some companies. As trains are not cheap and revenues are not high until the end-game (when they can be huge) this is hoped to be interesting. In partial support of this I’m tempted to use 18India-style dividends of anything between $0 and $INCOME/10 with the stock price falling to the left if the total dividend is smaller than 50% of the stock price or rising if the total dividend is equal to or more than 50% of the stock price.
- Bankruptcy still ends the game.
- $500 stock-value still ends the game at the end of that OR (ala 1843).
- The game also ends at the end of two sets of ORs during which the smallest brown-or-larger train owned by any company did not change during both sets of ORs (ie didn’t rust).
The intent is that the brown trains might be permanent (not often, but might be), the red trains will usually be permanent, and the gray trains will always be permanent (if they come out).
The new trains are causing the station marker counts to be re-examined. If some train types explicitly reward stations, then the total number of stations per company should not be as disparate as they are now (currently between 2 and 4 inclusive). The temptation:
- All companies have 2-3 stations after their home-station.
- Stations are more expensive: eg $50, $75, $100 for a company with a weak home-station; or $100, $150, $200 for a central company with a strong home-station.
- There should probably be a private which has a power of offering its owning company either an additional station marker, or a discount on an unplaced station marker.
- A morning that starts out with Morecombe & Wise at Breakfast is simply a better morning than most. Thanks @neilhimself http://t.co/ufnruz4S #
A quick simulation run on a 9×9 board ran for over 2,500 turns. Repeating on a 7×7 board with a somewhat dumber greedy algorithm hit 900 turn before I got tired. This is clearly unreasonable for a tabletop game.
Some concepts for address:
Keep the board size no large than 7×7. While 6×6 is tempting, the side-length being a natural multiple of 3 is overly pleasant. 5 or 7 are more attractive and 5×5 appears to be clearly too small.
Give a marker to the start player. After the player with the marker takes a turn, they must place an unmarked level 1 tile of the highest level the player is qualified for1 on an empty square of the board, if possible without causing a glob. If a glob is formed, the resultant tile is left unmarked. After their turn they pass the marker to their right (against the flow of turns).
Among the objects that can be placed during setup are a variously large number “rocks” which create dead squares on the board and thus break up object formation globs.
When three ore more level 4 objects glob, the active player is awarded a VP tile…which is placed on the board with a player marker and otherwise acts as a “rock”.
The game ends N rounds after the first VP tile is placed.
- humans > animals > vegetables. ↩
Making Ground:1 a placement game of terraforming for 2, 3 or 4 players. The 4-player game is a partnership game.
A board of squares, perhaps 7×7 or 9×92. A large number of tiles in three families (vegetables, animals and humans) with four ascending ranks per family (eg grasses, bushes, trees and forests in ascending order for the vegetable family). Coloured player markers. (Optional) A small number of “rocks”, or tiles used to mark parts of the board as dead/unplayable. A bag.
- Randomly assign turn order.
- In a 4-player game, opposite pairs of players are partnered.
- Put a small number of tiles from the first two ranks of each family in the bag.
- In turn order each player draws a tile from the bag and places it on the board on any empty square which is not adjacent to an already placed tile.
- Do this twice (thrice?).
In clockwise rotation the players optionally accept a previously proposed first move as their own (must not have previously accepted a first move) and then propose a first move themselves by placing a level 1 vegetable tile with two of their markers on the board. A move is accepted by replacing the player markers on the proposed move with one of the accepting player’s markers.
There is then a second round, in the same order, of the players that did not accept a move on the first round (necessarily true of the first player, but may be others). On their turn they must accept a previously proposed move.
The game then starts with the player to the left of the player to last accept a move3. All subsequent turns are in clockwise rotation.
A set of three or more orthogonally adjacent tiles of the same family and rank glob and become a single tile of the same family and the next higher rank which is substituted for the tile that created the triggering glob. If the set of globbed tiles, including the newly placed and upgraded tile, was orthogonally adjacent to three or more tiles of the same family and the new higher rank of the placed tile, then the placed tile is globbed to the next higher rank etc. In this way multiple levels of globbings can occur with a single tile placement.
All the constituent globbed tiles of the final upgrade set are removed from the board and are returned to their owning players.
Removed tiles without owners (ie those added during setup) are awarded to the active player.
An animal glob must consume an adjacent vegetable tile of the same or lower rank if possible (active player choice of which).
Likewise, a human glob must consume an adjacent vegetable tile of the same or lower rank if possible.
The consumed tile is removed from the board and returned to its placing player, or the active player in the event of an unowned tile.
Players accumulate a private supply of tiles that have been returned to them.
Three tiles of the same family and rank in a player’s supply automatically and instantly upgrade into a single tile of the next higher rank in the same family with the globbed tiles being returned to the general supply.
- Three tiles or more of the fourth rank on the board or in a player’s upgrade into a VP chip.
Upgraded tiles are returned to the general supply.
On their turn the player must place one tile on the board along with one of his player markers4.
- Players are always allowed to place level 1 vegetable tiles from the general supply.
- If they collectively have at least three level 2 vegetable tiles on the board or in their personal supply, or at least one level 3 or 4, they may instead place level one animal tiles from the general supply.
- If they collectively have at least three level 2 animal tiles on the board or in their personal supply, or at least one level 3 or 4, they may instead place level one human tiles from the general supply.
- Instead of placing level 1 tiles from the general supply, players may place any tile they currently hold in their personal supply.
- Placed tiles are marked with one of the placing player’s markers.
Any automatic upgrades are then executed, along with tiles being returned to their placing players and any resulting upgrades and tiles in player’s supplies.
If there are no empty squares left to place a tile on a player’s turn, the game is over.
The game ends when all players pass in rotation, or the board fills such that no further tiles may be placed.
- Vegetable tiles on the board are worth 2, 4, 8 and 16 points respectively based on level. Tiles in player’s supply are worth half that.
- Animal tiles on the board are worth 3, 6, 12 and 24 points. Tiles in player’s supply are worth half that, rounded up.
- Human tiles on the board are worth 4, 8, 16, 32 points. Tiles in player’s supply are worth half that, rounded up.
- VP chips are worth 50 points 5.
The player or partnership with the most points wins. In a 4-player partnership game, the score of the partnership is the lowest of the scores of the individual members of the partnership.
- Mostly a thought model at this point. ↩
- The size will likely vary with player count. ↩
- Questionable: May be the first player as nominated before the game started instead. ↩
- There’s a good argument that in the event of a player’s placement resulting in a glob/upgrade, that they then get an additional turn, but this may prove analytically overwhelming. ↩
- Yes, an odd number. ↩
Introduction to the foreigners
Many of the Double O games have a concept of “foreigners” who buy trains at the end of sets of Operating Rounds. This not only keeps the trains moving in the presence of timid train buyers, but makes the distribution of available trains in a given game uncertain. I borrowed this idea in 1843, extending it so that the foreigners would not just buy a train at the end of every set of Operating Rounds, but if they bought the last train of a rank they would also buy the first train of the next rank as well, thus lurching the game forward and shortening the train distribution and speeding the train rush even more.
Extending the system
1843′s extension worked well, accomplishing most of what I expected in providing an addition tool for players to affect the rate of the train rush1. But for 1839 the abstract and infinitely well-funded foreigners didn’t sit well. I want a way to represent the hurdy gurdy jolting of how the Netherlands was tossed about on the technological and political waves of its geographic neighbours. Additionally, the 1843 model seemed as if the game were providing a control knob for only one half of the control system and that it would be inherently more interesting if player controls for both ends were somehow implemented, thus providing some level of tension between the two in influencing the train rush.
The specific thought is for:
- The foreigners to be limited in their train-buying by their capitalisation.
- Players to directly affect the rate at which the foreigners can buy trains by affecting the foreigner’s capitalisation.
- Company operations to affect the train rush rate in the normal manner through their train buying, but also by affecting the foreigner’s capitalisation.
- A lumpy rush/dawdle train-buying pattern by the foreigners which is yet deftermiistic and player-predictable.
- An implicit brake on the system such that if the foreigner’s train buying did rush and suddenly buy many trains, it would then slow down and some provide respite.
- Each off-board would be a 10-share company that “floated” as soon as a public company ran a train to them.
- The initial stock price of the off-board company would be the highest par price available in the current game-phase.
- The off-boards would effectively be incrementally capitalised companies2.
- Public companies would be required to run at least one train to an off-board if possible3.
- A thematic addition could be that all of a company’s routes must intersect, ala 18604.
- As public companies operated, the bank would pay 20% of the company’s total revenue5 to each off-board included in one of their trains’ routes.
- At the end of the Operating Round, after all public companies had operated, the off-board companies would run in descending order of stock price, and would pay dividends, from the bank, to their shareholders based on an assumed revenue of the total amount collected from the bank for public company operations.
- The off-board stock price would then move in the normal way (dividend, no-dividend etc).
- The accumulated revenues and dividends would then be swept to the off-board company’s treasury.
- The off-board company would buy-back any of its shares in the pool for current market price it could afford6.
- If the remaining treasury funds are sufficient, the off-board company would buy as many trains as it could afford from the supply.
- Trains would generally run for a third of their purchase price (ala 1843).
- Off-board shares would not count against certificate limit7.
First order effects
The general expectation is that some off-boards would be more popular in the early game, as they are (generally) the highest revenue locations on the board and route development to them could be shared, thus accentuating early revenue generaton. Additionally, the constraint of running at least one train to an off-board would encourage route and revenue generation near the off-boards first, and then moving inland as train lengths grew and the map developed.
The capitalisation of the off-boards should scale fairly directly with company activities. In the early game the off-board shares are severe under-performers and thus unattractive for player investments. However players could trash off-board stock prices, in the process marginally capitalising the off-board for the delta between the purchase price and the re-purchase price, and further reducing the off-board’s capital raising from future share sales.
Conversely, in the later game the off-boards become prime investment opportunities. Public shares are starting to become significant liabilities, and some off-boards may well have 4+ public companies running to them, lifting their average dividends above the average dividend of the public companies. And of course the off-board shares would not count against certificate limit — making them extremely attractive for increasingly flush and potentially paper-tight players.
The flight of capital from the public companies to the off-boards would initially accelerate the train rush due to the increased capitalisation from the share purchases (making public company shares even less attractive), but once the initial burst of trains have been bought, the capitalisation rate of the off-boards should slow due to the loss of the dividends from the purchased shares.
Train buying models
Assuming N operating companies, the off-board capitalisation should approximate 8, distributed across the participating off-boards. Assuming each company has 2.5 trains (reasonable after the first tranch), and that trains run for an average of one third their T purchase price, the rate of off-board capitalisation in terms of train purchase cost approximates . Or more directly, if 3 companies are operating, each with 2.5 trains, and are each running to the same off-board, then that off-board will raise ~enough capital in each OR to buy one train.
What about a late game scenario of 8 operating companies each with 2 trains, collectively running to all 6 off-boards, 4 of the companies are running to 2 off-boards, 5 companies are running to the Ruhr off-board (as it is the most valuable), and all of the off-board shares have sold out?
First let’s look at the Ruhr’s income (where T is the purchase price of a train): In other words, ignoring escalating train pricing, the Ruhr will be purchasing a train every other Operating Round, and two trains every third Operating Round. Ooof, train rush!
What about the ~three other off-boards with only one such active company? They’ll be buying one train every seven and a half Operating Rounds.
And the ~three off-boards being run by two companies? They’ll be buying a train every 3.75 Operating Rounds.
Summing the above: That’s just a smidge (13.34%) under an average of two trains being bought by the off-boards per Operating Round. But of course train-prices are not constant. The unpopular off-boards are going to lag and buy and lag.
The result should be that that train cost progressions should make the off-board’s purchases bursty. As rusting events progress, the base train-cost will rise faster than revenues and companies will run out of capital and be replacing their trains under the Emergency Train Buying Rules, and thus only running a single train rather than the two trains modeled above. At the crudest level this should not merely halve the train-buying rate of the off-boards to just under one train per Operating Round, but to somewhat less as the unpopular off-boards will tend to chase and miss the ever-rising train prices, thus delaying their purchases.
The actual train buying rate will be the sum of a number of wave functions with each off-board running on its own cycle, decelerating as the train prices rise and accelerating as the companies fill with and run fresh trains. When the trains rush quickly, the off-boards will lose their source of capitalisation and slow their purchases. However the accumulation of capital in their treasuries injects latency into this system, even as the revenues fall due to train rusting events, the marginal off-boards will increment over a purchase price threshold and buy a train. The result, I hope, should be an unstably punctuated equilibrium!
- Specifically: the doubled trains gave players the ability to exchange capital for increased revenue, and single trains the ability to exchange train rush for train movement flexibility and lower capital expenditure. ↩
- Shares would bought and sold for current market value with purchase prices paid to the company treasury and and un-bought shares paying dividends into the off-board company’s treasury. All the public companies however would be standard 1830-style with full capitalisation at 60%. ↩
- This fits thematically with the Netherlands transit/port role for its neighbours. ↩
- In this way a company’s routes as an evaluation function of a company’s network would somewhat model the Netherlands role as a transit port for raw materials and finished goods moving among the neighboring countries. ↩
- Rounded up to an even multiple of 10 for easier arithmetic. ↩
- This may be an unnecessary optimisation. ↩
- Thematically they would be members of foreign stock markets and thus not subject to domestic restrictions. However players would still be limited in their total holding of a single property. ↩
- Yes, part of the reason for this post was to play with the LaTeX module for WordPress. ↩
For most of the last year I’ve been working on the development of 18FR-RCE in order to address an excess of False Decisions and degenericy with the 6-trains and 7-trains. Much was changed, not least the renaming of the game to “1843“, and more was learned in the process1. I also hope to release a ps18xx implementation in the near future.
A Euro is a marketing construct that describes a game aimed at the demographic of a young(er) suburban and culturally active/aware couple, possibly with 1-2 kids in the 6-14 age range, who wish to play games as a family or couple and/or socially with a similar couple. This well-defined, identified and understood market is the focus of many designers and publishers.
Another off-hand note that seemed more interesting after I’d noticed I’d written it:
My litmus tests for calling a game “strategic” are something like:
0) Does the game reward continuous planning from the current state out through the end-game starting from before the game’s actual start until the game ends?
1) Does the game also reward a continuous 3-5+ turn detailed look-ahead?
2) Are the decisions made in that detailed look-ahead primarily concerned with support of the continuous end-game planning?
3) Will players that fail to coherently do any of the previous three (necessarily(?)) lose to those that succeed in coherently doing the previous three?
I wrote the following in a rather off-hand manner and found that I’d written rather more than I’d recognised I knew on the benefits of mobs and individual for the species:
Man is prone to witch hunts (and pillories and stocks and coventries, and…). Arguably the tendency toward witch hunts has been a significant contributing factor in the social binding and coherency that enabled our success as a species. We got the benefits of (assumed) individual intelligence and of herd/flock coherence, and that’s a pretty potent mix.
An economic game implements an economy which the players either significantly create or engage in during the course of play. An economy consists of one or more marketplaces in which one or more currencies are exchanged either for goods/resources or other (potential) currencies, and in which the cycle of inputs to conversions to outputs is or can be self-sustaining. A currency is merely a granular entity with variable value which is conceived of as a trade item for other currencies or value goods.
I wrote this a bit ago on BGG and had trouble finding it later, thus I note it here:
It came to me out of the wet dark and leaked ichor down the side of my bureau. By morning it was dead, life having fled from its rends and tears and broken teeth for the crust on the floor. I buried it deep behind the midden and rolled a heavy stone atop to remember its breathing by. I dare not eat the dark apples from the tree that sprang from under the stone.
Virtual graphs, virtual networks, connectivity expressed by derived relationships rather than represented directly… I last wrestled with these concepts in Corrupt Beneficence. In this post I’m waving an 18xx/route-building stick at them. The following discusses a possible mechanical representation of the operational side of 18xx as a card game.
Imagine cards. There are cards which simply represent railroad track and cards which represent revenue locations (cities and towns). Some revenue locations are also the home stations of various companies. Thus, for instance, the NYC card might also be the home station of the NYNH&H.
The director of a company, say the B&O, would have a card before them for Baltimore. On the Baltimore card they’d place a token for the B&O’s (home) station. Other revenue locations (non-home stations) would have spaces for companies to place stations ala the normal model. If player were running a different company than the B&O, they would have a different card of a different revenue location for that company’s home station if enough cards for that revenue location exist in the game
During the course of the game the B&O president would place track cards adjacent to the revenue location. Cards could be placed on each of the four sides (perhaps limited by game phase), forming a stack or route leading away from that location. The president might also place revenue locations at the ends of such stacks, assuming that the stack contains enough cards to satisfy that revenue location (eg the Lancaster card might require 3 track cards before it can be connected/placed).
And this is where the network enters. There are multiple copies of the revenue location cards. Thus for instance, the B&O may place track from Baltimore to Lancaster and thence to Chicago. Meanwhile another, say the C&O places track to NYC, and then Chicago and thence Scranton. There would be two Chicago cards, one on the B&O’s network, and one on the C&O’s network. Indeed a company might have the same revenue location on several of the routes that fan out from the edges of its home station.
This is where the network enters. All those repeated Chicago cards are the same location. Thus in the above example the B&O might run a train from Baltimore -> Lancaster -> Chicago (transitioning to the C&O’s network) -> NYC -> Scranton. In fact a route might transition across several different company networks as they connect shared cities into their routes. And in the above example the B&O might drop a token in Chicago (and thus on all the Chicago cards), thus allowing them to run trains out of every route in every company’s stack that contains Chicago. As companies acquire tokens in other company’s networks, they might also place track and revenue locations directly on those networks (where visible from their tokens) instead of onto the networks directly attached to their home stations. A virtual implied network, all build from cards!
- RT @nytimes: A Kind of Hunt That Even Deer Can Get Behind http://nyti.ms/ (And deer over-population is still a problem?) #
- RT @sciam: The Little Energy Program That Could? http://bit.ly/9OrKCh (Any successes? More profitable paths?) #
- The problem with the blind leading the blind: when they get somewhere they can't tell where (or if) they went. #badmeetings #ohdearleader #
- Quick straw poll: How important is it to get 1849 back on the market? #18xx #
- @scottredracecar I've been talking to a different #18xx publisher about 1849. Does that make a difference? in reply to scottredracecar #
- @joshuabaer @technotheory @cyantist @davemcclure Yes, @alizatw is both female & an email maven. in reply to joshuabaer #
- @scottredracecar: What sort of numbers do you think 1849 would sell? #18xx in reply to scottredracecar #
- ♺ @AsteroidWatch: See the comet making a death plunge toward the sun? Watch the coronagraph http://bit.ly/c2m8eH & watch lower right (4:00) #
- ♺ @venturehacks: Don't expect to pay yesterday's prices for exceptional talent; Facebook and Google have to buy whole companies to recruit. #
- @scottredracecar: #18xx didn't buy 18EZ, newbies did. 1860 sold ~400 copies. Only hardcore will buy 1849? I figure 150-200 copies over 2yrs. in reply to scottredracecar #
- @BrenoKummel Important to the market & important to development of #18xx as a genre. I find 1849 a significant (fringe) design in the genre. in reply to BrenoKummel #
- @frandallfarmer I notice the implied operational tax and reduced productivity more. (Sarbanes-Oxley) #finance in reply to frandallfarmer #
- @BrenoKummel Nod. 1849 has clearly affected my design processes/goals. Few others express the dangers of _any_ investing so clearly. #18xx in reply to BrenoKummel #
- @BrenoKummel 1849 isn't so short. 4.5-5 hours here. #18xx in reply to BrenoKummel #
- RT @titleofmagazine Man builds telegraph using only stone age materials found in the woods: http://bit.ly/96Pg0g (A Maker-fu Master!) #
- @gilhova I say, "Heavens to Murgatroyd!", tho Betsy is a bit more common. in reply to gilhova #
- RT @NASA: The Gravity of Water: See the big seasonal shifts in water across the Americas from the GRACE satellite. http://go.usa.gov/amS #
- RT @newscientist: Water cycle goes bust as the world gets warmer http://bit.ly/cLNUGy [Watersheds: the new goldfields] #
- RT @sciam: Whooping cough in California: deaths caused by the anti-vaccination movement http://bit.ly/cCcMlr #
- RT @sciam: Is killing yourself adaptive? That depends: An evolutionary theory about suicide http://bit.ly/cmNHDB #
- ♺ @scienceRSS: Scientific American: Will birth control solve climate change?: 150 people/minute join humanity… http://bit.ly/aoOWbp #
- The true size of Africa: http://twitpic.com/2woim6/full #
- RT @timoreilly: Like Google's censorship map. http://bbc.in/bYI0EX Transparency is good. [Bravo!] #
- RT @GreatDismal: The Polari Bible: http://www.thesisters.demon.co.uk/bible/ #
- RT @newscientist: Bomb hotspots of northern Europe http://bit.ly/bRKiWY <munitions lost during World Wars I & II> #
Now that 18FR-RCE is getting publisher attention (more on this later), I’ve been working on two more designs: 1845 and 18RT. 18451 has been in flight for more than a year now, but 18RT has replaced it as the smaller, simpler vehicle for trialling some of the core notions of 1845 while also exploring its own area.
The current notion is for the map to cover the area from Darwin in the Northern Territory, down through Alice Springs to Adelaide in South Australia, and thence Melbourne in Victoria, and across to Brisbane in Queensland2. Perth (Western Australia), Tasmania and the various major ports would be represented by off-boards, the Nullarbor Plains likely being implied by a token surcharge in the Perth off-board or extreme terrain costs for a single hex connection there. The primary focus of the map however would be a morass of dits and terrain surrounding the cattle ranches, metal mines and other bulk-export production centres.
The general idea is for a slew of private companies with 1870-esque revenue bonus tokens, accelerated track-builds, terrain discounts and the like. The general idea is that these would either be assigned to major companies ala many David G Hecht games, or sold (at close to cost) to major companies ala 1846.
I’d like to also represent, if only partially, the excessively poetic GSR and Ghan. Wrapping them in a revenue-based private is an obvious route, but perhaps less interesting. Instead I’ve been toying with the idea of a president-less investment vehicle (akin to the bank of England in 1848) which pays liability-less revenues as a function of both the current train technology level and much of the connection between Adelaide and Darwin has been built. Something similar might be also done with the (recent) iron ore connections to China, the Tasmania produce connection, the vast emergent wine industry etc, but in those cases in a manner which more directly connects to major companies operating in those areas.
I’m currently toying with 8-10 major companies which can be incrementally capitalised or fully capitalised at the president’s choice3.
Trains, err, Trucks
A first notion is to change how trains are managed. Of course they’re not really trains, but bear with me as calling them trains makes the 18xx-relevant language easier:
- Unlimited trains per technology level
- No train limits for companies
- Maintenance fee due for each train at the end of that company’s operation of: ((current_tech_level – train_size)^2-1)*10. ie the sequence of $10, $30, $80, $150, $240 etc.
- A company may research the next technology level and upgrade all of its trains (for a $fee) to the next available train-level. When doing so the company may not run the trains that are upgraded. This may happen multiple times in an Operating Round with increasing expense for each acceleration.
- If no company researches the next available technology level in a given set of Operating Rounds, then the game does immediately before the Stock Round.
- The definition of a legal route is changed. Only stations and off-boards count against train-length. Dits count for revenue but not against length. At least one train’s route must intersect both one of the company’s station markets and a small town/dit. All subsequent trains must either intersect one of the revenue locations touched by a previous train and a dit and a city, or must intersect a station marker (in a city) and a dit in the normal manner. As a result, a single station marker can support many possible train routes that spread out somewhat like a peacock’s fan from a single starting station (ie a sort-of flood-fill)4.
- A company which pays a dividend and cannot profitably run a given train (ie income from the train is larger than maintenance fees) must discard the train (for no recompense).
The next area of exploration is a tentative form of impermanent track combined with an inversion of normal revenue allocations:
- Dits (towns) are generally worth more than cities and upgrade to be worth a lot more. Specifically dits appreciate faster and further than cities when upgraded.
- Bush “track” is represented by narrow gauge track.
- At the end of each set of ORs all narrow gauge track is removed from the map (dirt roads wash out with the rainy season)
- Most of the centre of the board is terrain interspersed with single and double dits.
- Yellow narrow gauge track can be upgraded to green standard gauge track, which is not removed at the end of the set of ORs
- Single dit track does not upgrade (ala 1830).
- Yellow double-dit narrow-gauge track can be upgraded a green tile to a mix of a narrow-gauge route and a standard gauge route. In this case at the end of the OR the tile is demoted to a green single dit of a higher revenue.
- Yellow narrow gauge double-dits can also be upgraded green track with to both sides being standard gauge.
- Green double-dit standard gauge cites can be upgraded to (standard) green/brown 4-exit cities.
- The offboards which ring the map allow train (gangs) which run to them to double-count N dits for revenue.
I’m interested in varying the rates of appreciation at different sections of a stock market, as well as stock markets which don’t have the traditional triangular shape5. What if the market had a different shape? What if the top-edge of the market weren’t flat? What if the rate of appreciation across the market were non-uniform in an interesting manner? What if navigating the marker’s new particulars were significant to gameplay?
A first toy idea is below6:
- The top row appreciates by 15% horizontally. The next row down by 14%, the next row again by 13% and so on down to 8%. Then the next row down by 9%, 10% etc back up to 15%. The result is a market that’s heavily skewed towards stock-appreciation at the edges, but is flat and uninteresting in the middle — that same middle that the shape of the market pushes all shares towards.
- The magnitudes of the stock-price increases toward the top, especially in the second section, and are thus rather large7. It is hoped that this will provide a balancing tension between being dividend/income-centric versus portfolio/stock-centrism.
- Arrows on ceiling cells by walls point down and to the right for when stocks bounce on the ceiling or hit the wall.
- Similar arrows for floor cells merely point vertically up (no acceleration).
- Red cells are possible pars (some will likely need to be removed)
- Players may buy past 60% from the Open Market.
- The coloured sections in the corner may be removed, or if they remain, are unlikely to have traditional definitions.
Stock price movement
- Up or follow arrow if 100% in player hands
- Right (at least) once if total dividend is larger than price
- Right twice if total dividend is more than double price and company is incrementally capitalised8
- No movement if total dividend equals price
- Left if total dividend is less than price but larger than half of price
- Left and down if total dividend is half of price or less
- Down on stock sales (possibly once per sale rather than once per share)
- Down if shares in the Open Market at the end of a Stock Round (maybe)
- Yes, a stock can pay a dividend and move right or up and find its price reduced as a result. Of course it can also pay an inadequate dividend and move left or left and down for the same reduced price result. Simply consistently paying dividends is no longer enough to prosper.
- (Not shown) the stock market is divided into diagonal stripes. Companies start with a limited and small number of station makers. As their stock prices move right across the various bars, they are allowed to buy and place additional station markers.
- On the sale or research of the first 6T all share prices fall to the floor, move left (if possible), and then fall to the floor again. (This ordering is deliberate and specific) Again, like 18FR-RCE’s all-the-trains-rust moment, this is in recognition of World War II. It is generally hoped that this will happen when several companies are near or shortly past the market constriction around $1059.
- The result of the steeply banked par values and stock-appreciation differences, encourages fully capitalised companies to par high in order to maximise capital and ease getting their price through the passage.
- Conversely, incrementally capitalised companies do not want to par high as later shares will (almost necessarily) be much cheaper than the initially parred shares, and will proportionally fail to raise capital. However parring an incrementally capitalised company low simply fails to raise enough capital to be viable.
- And more on 1845 later as well. ↩
- ie everything except Western Australia. ↩
- This may change. I do want to provide a choice regarding capitalisation, but I want it to be a real choice where both answers are frequently correct. ↩
- I am also toying with using something like 1873′s train-multiple concept here. ↩
- After 1828′s market which has a large new triangular section bolted on the end-tip of what is otherwise a normal triangular-shaped market. ↩
- The gray sections are for calculations and are not part of the market. ↩
- eg $210/share should a stock reach $1,600/share ↩
- The notion is to have both incrementally capitalised and fully capitalised companies, at the player-choice per company, with the choice as to which to prefer and when being difficult. ↩
- Recently termed the stock anus or sphincter in local discussions. ↩
Stock-trashing in 1830: Is it actually necessary for Good Play or is it merely gratuitously abusive? This came up recently in both our 18C2C game and in an 18FR-RCE game a couple weeks before. I’ve no doubt it will come up future games as well. In both the mentioned games I set about trashing the stock-market (often buying shares and then selling them at a loss and so losing money) and several players complained that I was just being unnecessarily negative and wasting everyone’s time with an overly long and uninteresting Stock Round, when in truth a lot of my later success in those games was due to the fact that I’d stock-trashed so heavily (and taken the loss) earlier. Yep, if I hadn’t stock-trashed, I would have come in dead last rather than competing for the win.
The primary keys to the value of stock-trashing1 mentioned, are return on investment (ROI) and liquidity. It will take a little bit to explain exactly how, so bear with me.
Imagine a game of 1830, perhaps a 5-player game. The game starts, the private auction happens, and you get…nothing, or maybe only a really small private company. Everyone else has nice big private companies and everyone (who can) is going to float a major company. You will float a major company too, but they’ll be getting nice big revenues from their private companies and you’ll be getting what, a few more shares and their piddly revenues and meager stock appreciation to match?
Key point: You’re already losing the game. Yep, you are already losing.
Think about that. You’re already losing the game. The game has just started, and you are losing. If you let this continue, you will in fact lose. That is, or should be, utterly unacceptable and you’d better do something about it right now. You need to win!
Right now you have more money than they do, but they are making money faster than you are, and pretty soon they’ll catch up and pass you as they sell their private companies into their major companies. At that point the game is history and you’ve lost. If you’d like to compete for the win, and I assume you are playing for the win, then you’d better change something and change it fast. Going on wanly hoping isn’t going to do it. The winning players certainly have no interest in changing anything as they’re already winning (or at least contending for the win). You are losing, so it is up to you to change something so that you can win instead, and this is where stock-trashing can come in.
But before we get there, we’d better understand a little more about how and why you are already losing, because you are most certainly already losing, and losing badly.
At core you are losing because your money is not working for you as well as their money is working for them. Sure, you can buy more shares than they can, but their private company revenues have massively better returns than any share you can buy. What they’ve invested in is simply better than what you’ve invested in, and they’ve got more of it than you do. Even better for them and worse for you, in a few more turns they’re going to be able to sell their private companies into their major companies, pulling out gobs of money, and they’ll use that money to buy even more shares than you can! Their money is not only working better than your’s, but they have a great wad of free money just sitting there waiting for them to take it! You don’t have any of those advantages, but they do! Thus, you are losing.
Change something. Now.
In the classic form they’ll sell their private companies in for massive money and then immediately sell down (or even better dump) the company they just looted, adding all that wonderful stock-appreciation they’ve made in the meantime to their dividends and private company money, and then they’ll float a brand new company for a nice high par and never even bother to look back. If someone wants to take their old company, then they’re welcome to it as it has crap trains and no money2 They’re interested in their bright shiny new company that’s full of bright shiny new money!
That classic form is not good for you. Sure, it is good for them, but I really hope your goal in the game is for you to win, not for them to win. So, you’d better change something, and this is where stock-trashing can usefully enter.
The core problem is that their money is working better than your money, and you have to change that. One of the things you can change is stock-appreciation. If after they loot their companies when they then want to sell those (now crappy) shares in order to buy bright shiny new shares in a new company full of money it turns out that you’ve already trashed their stock so they have no stock-appreciation…well gosh, their money isn’t working for them so well any more, is it? You’ve killed their ROI (stock appreciation). And if you also just happen to have left the Bank Pool full of their trashed shares so that they can’t actually sell much into the market, well, you’ve clipped their wings even more as you’ve killed their liquidity (ability to sell shares to raise capital). Oh, and that new company they float? How about you stock-trash that as well, really beat the crap out of it? They bought $600 worth of shares in floating that company. If you can beat it down hard enough, that $600 worth of shares will now only be worth $300 or less (perhaps given a little help from the other players). Again, now their money isn’t working for them so well any more. Sure, they’ve got control of $1,000 in bright shiny new capital — you can’t solve every problem all at once — but it is going to take a long time to get that share-value you destroyed back. But, even better, you’re probably going to be able to buy those shares you trashed back again in the next stock round pretty cheaply as they won’t have appreciated much! You buy the shares, you trash the shares, you wait a set of ORs, then you buy most of them back again on the cheap in the next Stock Round. Now your money is starting to work for you better than their money is working for them!
What makes this a little more interesting is that many good players will buy/sell the last (6th) share of a company they’re floating. They do this in order to dissuade the stock-trashers waiting in the wings (it now costs money to stock-trash as the par is higher than the stock price), but also so that they can then use that money to buy a share that will be paying better than their new company (their new company will miss at least one dividend as it has no train). Someone may also flip a share or two into the market while you’re building up your portfolio to dump, thus costing you even more money as you trash the market. The costs to stock-trash can be high.
How much is stock-trashing worth to you? How much is it worth to your position to beat them down? Is it worth buying 4 shares at $67ea and sell them at $65ea, losing $2 each? What about buying shares at $100ea and selling them at $90ea, losing $10 on each one? Or buying shares at $100 and selling at $82? There’s a judgment call here on how much loss is acceptable. There’s a point at which it is simply too expensive, but how much is too little and how much is too much? Not biting the bullet will lose the game, but losing too much money in stock-trashing will also lose the game. Finding the right middle ground is key3.
You’re going to have to lose money, to deliberately throw money away, in order to slow them down and to rescue your position, but how much money should you throw away and which stocks should you trash and how much? If all goes perfectly (unlikely) you’ll convert an obviously losing position to a competitive position, but doing that is going to cost you some of that money you so desperately need. More likely you’ll convert a losing position to a merely weak position, and then you’ll have to fight again, and again in later stock rounds, beating and thrashing the stock-market, taking losses as you do so, until you’ve caught up and pulled them down to your level. It won’t be cheap, or easy, but if you do win, you’ll have earned it by tooth and claw from the ground up.
But then isn’t the answer then to just make sure you always get some good private companies and thus bid whatever’s needed to get them? No. Pay too much and you’ll never get it back4. The guy without any private companies will stock-trash, you won’t get your money back from your over-large bids, and you’re losing yet again. There’s a balancing point, and it is hard to find and balance correctly5.
Also, won’t everybody just stock-trash, turning stock-trashing into a shared pathology that makes no net difference? Yes and mostly no. Stock trashing sacrifices opportunities. You’re buying bad shares or passing on doing any actions while the other players snap up the good shares. Do that too much of that and you’ll lose as well. Also you’re making good shares cheap, and the other players are going to buy some of them (at their new low price) — so you’re helping as well as hindering them with your stock-trashing. Getting that balance right is not easy. In short stock-trashing is a necessary thing, but also a fairly subtle and highly contextual thing.
Also, remember that stock-trashing is not your only weapon. There’s also track and the train rush to consider among others. 18xx players have many offensive and defensive weapons to choose among. Stock-trashing is just one.
- There is another value of stock-trashing, which I’ll not discuss in this article, of manipulating operating order so that certain companies run before other companies. This can be critical, but is outside the scope of this article. ↩
- That company is now a dog. If nobody takes that liability away from them, they’ll rescue it with their third company or, more likely, just buy its permanent trains out of pocket from the great dividends they’ll make from all their great new shares. ↩
- And that’s a hard spot to find accurately. ↩
- As learned to my cost in a game of 1856 where I bid $5 too much for the port… ↩
- If it were easy, we wouldn’t be playing the game. ↩
The concept of the poison train is common in 18xx games. Commonly it is the poison 4-train: the last train before the permanent trains, and might never run before it rusts, and almost certainly won’t run for long. From a design-perspective, how bad can that poison train be before it becomes unreasonable?
In the particular case I’m looking at, the poison train is a little worse than the poison 4-train in say 1830 as there isn’t a nice cheap permanent train on the other side. Instead…there’s another poison train right after the first poison train. Oy vey.
Some explanation is in order. I’m looking at a fairly standard extended train roster: 2/3/4/5/6/7/Diesel. The 4-trains rust the 2-trains, the 6-trains rust the 3-trains, the 7-trains rust the 4-trains and Diesels rust the 4-trains and 5-trains (both). Yep, 5-trains aren’t permanent. Also, both the 7-trains and the Diesels become available for purchase immediately after the first 6-train has been purchased. What this usually means is that after the first 6-train is bought, the very next train bought is a Diesel which rusts all the trains in the entire game, outside of that first permanent 6-train. It is fairly dramatic.
The problem with this pattern is that nobody wants to buy the last 5-train, as it will get to run no more than twice and probably only once before it rusts, if that.. So, I copied a page from Lonny Orgler: At the end of each set of ORs the government/foreigners buy a train from the supply. Thus, even if the players pause, the trains keep moving and the game advances. The twist I’ve added is that if the government buys the last train of a rank, thus making a new train-type available, then they also buy one of those (with all game phases changing as appropriate). Thus, for instance, if there’s one 2-train left, then the foreigners buy a 2-train and the first 3-train, thus putting the game into the green-phase. Or, more topically, if there’s one 5-train left, then the foreigners buy it plus the first (permanent) 6-train, thus rusting the 3-trains and starting the rush for the permanent trains. So far the form in our games has been that the foreigners take the first 6-train at the end of a set of ORs, and the first first company to run after the Stock Round buys a diesel, thus causing every other company in the game to lose all their trains. It is, as they say, dramatic.
What this all means is that not only is the last 5-train a poison train, but the penultimate 5-train is also a poison train. If a company buys the penultimate 5-train, then the foreigners will buy the last 5-train and the first 6-train and VOOM! the game is moving fast and that 5-train the player bought is about to rust very soon now. Ditto of course for the last 5-train.
But…if someone doesn’t buy the penultimate 5-train, then there’s another set of Operating Rounds while the foreigners/government whittle away the penultimate 5-train, and then at the end of the next set of ORs the foreigners take the last 5-train and the first 6-train — which means that the first 5-trains probably get to run 5 times, which is pretty good, and maybe too good.
And there lies the rub. Having a company buy the penultimate 5-train is essentially throwing money away, in this case $4001. Who is going to buy it? The only player that has any incentive is the player that’s losing. They are losing, so they have to change something to have any hope of changing their position — except that in this case the only thing they can do also comes with a $400 fee. Ouch.
And yet players buy the poison 4-train in 1830 all the time. It hurts, they know it is poison, but they also know that if they don’t they’re really sunk. So they bite the bullet and buy the 4-train…and usually the first 5-train immediately after it (which softens the blow a little). And that’s fine, except that I don’t have any nice permanent train immediately after the poison train, just another poison train…
There are three basic cases:
1) The “losing” player buys the 5-train because if they let the non-permanent trains continue to run they will lose, but if they bring out the permanent trains then they’ll win (presumably because of their better diesel routes) Of course in this case they’re not really “losing”.
2) The losing player buys the poison 5-train because if they let the non-permanent trains continue to run they will loose massively, but if they bring out the permanent trains, then they won’t lose as badly. Thus buying the poison train improves their position.
3) The losing player buys the poison 5-train, brings out the permanent trains, and thus loses even more badly than if they had let the non-permanent trains continue to run.
The first case is ideal, and not a problem from a design-vantage.
From a design-vantage the second case is also fine and even somewhat ideal. However it requires unusually perceptive players in order to distinguish between the second and third cases a 3-9 Operating Rounds before the end of the game. That’s a pretty high competency threshold.
The second two cases are the more likely to happen in real games, and in those cases it may seem that the game-system is punishing the losing player by $400, and it is punishing them because they’re losing. They’re down, so the game kicks them. Worse, I suspect that many players will see everything but the first case as being the third case, and then they’ll often see that in the worst possible light as punitive punishment of the already destitute.
I don’t think that perception matches reality. The reality I’ve seen in games with players of mixed skill in our local 18xx group is that the first not-really-losing case is far from common (and is absurdly hard to detect), the third going-to-lose-even-worse is also not common and usually only happens after the game has spent an extended period in the already-losing-but-will-lose-by-less middle case, and the already-losing-but-will-lose-by-less middle case is actually the significant majority of all cases.
But, detecting that the middle case is actually the most populous case rather than the third case, requires a skilled and perceptive player. Just how high can, should, I set the bar of required player-skill for an already-losing player to make the Right Decision? It seems a significant question. I don’t want to design a hand-holding game for perpetual novices, but I also don’t want it to only be effectively playable by world-class players. Gah2.
Which, even ignoring that more interesting question, puts me right back to the initial question. How bad can that poison train be before it becomes unreasonable? If the poison train cost $10,000 it is clearly too expensive to ever bite the bullet. If the poison train cost merely $1, then nobody would even blink at buying all of them. Somewhere in the middle is the this-hurts-but-I-have-to-bite-the-bullet point that also provides for the most interesting game decisions, and I have very little idea how to determine where that point is. For now I’ve picked $400. It is as good a number as any and better than most (and perhaps worse than a few?).