Posts about 18RT

goes around, comes around

Until now the development of 1820 has been mostly discussed on BGG. Given the new blog stack etc, it seems time to bring that back home.

1820 has been developing apace1 and is now in rather fine if not-quite-complete fettle. I don’t know that there are any problems2, but the end-game hasn’t been fully proven out3 and I don’t think I can adequately validate that here. At least not within my lifetime. To the bat c…, umm, external development! So play-tester copies need to be made and that means not only more use of XXPaper’s new-found support for The Game Crafter, but also getting John Tamplin’s/Deep Thought Game‘s track-tile generation4 and production system setup here5.

So, what to do while that’s going on? I’ve been talking about setting a game in Java for a few yearsnow, but those ideas are too undeveloped to use now. 18RT is an older and troubled design. Many of its ideas were taken by 1820, but not all and while most of what’s left is crap, perhaps there are worthwhile bits to rescue. Thus 1836 is born – in Cuba7 commemorating Gaspar Betancourt Cisneros‘ founding of the first railway service in Camagüey (aka Puerto Príncipe aka Port-au-Prince)8.

Sugar train

In launching any new design it is always easy to make it a derivative or extension of the prior design. While I don’t want difference for difference’s sake, 1836 should stand on its own feet as an independent and original design.

Already a troublesome goal.


The center of the game of 1836 is Cuba’s sugar trains. Those are the minor companies that start the game.

Sugar train

Then, later, come in the trams to ferry people – these are the major companies. It is unclear which might be more profitable.

As Cuba is poor, 1836 will not be a rich game. Instead the expectation is that players will be deep in debt for the entire game, but through asset growth their net values will end up being positive (maybe) by the end of the game. Figure winning scores in the $hundreds, maybe just over $1,000-ish after accounting for a fat handful of loans (eg: ending the game with $5,000 in assets and $4,200 in loans for a net score of $800).

  • Basic economic model the same as 1820 (incremental capitalisation, where shares pay, no half pays etc).
    • Stock movement is a little different:
      • Pay a dividend of your stock price to move up.
      • Pay a dividend of double your stock price to double-jump.
      • Pay less and fall.
      • Fall again if you didn’t have a train.
  • A variation on 1820‘s free track system.
    • No simple track.
    • Every hex is a double dit.
    • Double dits can then upgrade to OO and more typical green cities (eg #14, #15, etc).
  • As Cuba is long and skinny and free-track-like systems don’t work too well with narrow constraints, I’ve “fattened” the island10.
    • This made the map too large, and so I’m cutting into two sections along the coloured lines seen below, with a two-hex overlap between the sections.
  • Players start with no capital, but can borrow money.
    • Yes, players take loans, not companies.
    • Loans are probably for $200.
    • Currently expected interest rate is 40%.
  • The train progression is the typical yellow, green, blue, brown, red, gray.
    • Minors can only run/own “G” trains. Majors can only run/own “N” trains.
      • G trains ignore cities and pay dits.
      • N trains ignore dits and pay N cities.
    • Brown rusts green, red rusts blue, gray rusts brown.
    • Yellow 1G trains are rusted by brown and replaced by permanent brown 2Gs.
    • Green trains are thus N trains (for majors only)…and are probably 2Ts.
  • The game starts (SR1) with a ~dozen ~5 share minors,
    • Auctioned by an as-yet-unknown method.
      • I want a simultaneous auction ala 1820‘s lobby system, but do not want to recreate/re-use 1820‘s lobby system.
        • Goa’s spatial auction has been haunting my head.
          • But it is too involved.
          • But I love the idea of players paying other players in the initial auction.
    • Minors are only available in SR1.
    • Minors must start adjacent to ports.
      • On a yellow city.
        • The sole exception to the rule of all yellow track tiles being double dits.
    • Minors can lay two yellow track tiles per OR or one upgrade.
    • Minors do not pay terrain costs for yellow track.
    • Minors have a single station marker until later in the game when they gain a second station marker which may be placed for free(?).
    • Minors start with a 1G train which pays dits and not cities.
      • Yellow dits are worth $5. More in later colours.
      • The 1G rusts in brown and is replaced by a 2G train.
        • This is probably when the second station becomes available.
  • In SR2 and later majors can be started.
    • Two stations (home plus one, free placement)
    • Cannot lay yellow track but can do 2 upgrades per OR.
    • Major’s N-trains cannot run on yellow track.
    • Minors can merge into majors:
      • Each pair of minor shares trades for a major share.
      • Loose shares can pay up or get cash instead.
  • Yellow double dits upgrade to:
    • Green double dits (one of the dits grows a third leg, the other dit gets more revenue)
    • Green OO cities (same spacing requirements as big cities in 1820)
    • Green normal cities, but with 5 legs.
  • Upgrades from there do nothing interesting except that the brown OO tiles have one of the cities growing a leg and the other getting more revenue.
  • No director’s certificates.
    • Same buy-to-40% to float as in 1820.
      • Yeah, this really is its own game…
  • All shareholders are liable.
    • Mostly this means emergency buying trains.
      • Like loan debts in 1820, shares in play are obligated to cover their fraction of the expense.
  • Game ends after…?
    • Probably after N ORs in gray.
    • Intended game length is 6 SRs.
      • Well before Castro.

1836 development map

  1. I guess getting to here in about 4 years is a “pace”. 

  2. I’m not expecting anything big. A cousin or a port might profit from a small adjustment, a terrain on a hex here or there perhaps. 

  3. To wit the tension BR and the final viable with a FLOOD. I suspect that the game is a little too heavily canted against the final viable company, but that’s dashed hard to tell conclusively. 

  4. The software stack, custom die for my Ellison Prestige Pro and whatever physical system they use for die registration. 

  5. Conceivably I could hack ps18xx to produce track tiles to fit DTG’s dies, but I expect that bleeds would be a problem. 

  6. I’m going to miss using ps18xx for track tiles… 

  7. I’d originally intended Ireland, but it seems mannerly to give Ian Scrivins’ 18Ireland some room. 

  8. Albeit horse-drawn. While Cuba has one of the most extensive railway systems in the world, arguably the largest per capita, Cuba operates on small scales. 

  9. But can borrow money at only faintly usurious rates. 

  10. Hopefully still recognisable. 

The great affair is to move

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.

18RT?” I hear you cry? 18RoadTrain, an 18xx-inspired game set around the road trains of Australia, although in this case many Baltimore & Ohio inspired notions have been sneaking in as well.


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.

Stock market

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:

40 45 50 60 70 80 95 110 125 145 165 190 220 255 295 340 390 450 520 600 690 795 915 1050 1210 1390 1600
35 40 45 55 65 75 85 100 115 130 150 175 200 230 265 305 350 405 465 535 615 705 810 930 1070 1230 1415
35 40 45 50 60 70 80 90 105 120 135 155 175 200 230 260 295 335 380 435 495 565 645 735 840 960 1095
35 40 45 50 55 60 70 80 90 100 110 125 140 155 175 195 220 245 275 310 345 385 430 480 540 605 680
30 35 40 45 50 55 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 135 150 165 185 205 230 255 285 315 350 390 435 485 540
30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 85 95 105 115 125 140 155 170 185 205 225 250 275 305 335 370 405
25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 95 105 115 125 135 145 160 175 190 205 225 245 265 290
30 30 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 105 115 125 135 145 155 165 180 195 210 225
25 25 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 95 105 115 125 135 145 160 175 190 205 225 245
25 25 25 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 85 95 105 115 125 140 155 170 185 205 225 250 275
20 20 20 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 80 90 100 110 120 135 150 165 185 205 230 255 285
20 20 20 20 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 75 85 95 105 120 135 150 170 190 215 240 270 300
15 15 15 15 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 70 80 90 100 115 130 145 165 185 210 235 265 300
15 15 15 15 15 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 65 75 85 95 110 125 145 165 190 215 245 280 320
10 15 15 15 15 15 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 60 70 80 90 105 120 140 160 185 215 245 280 320 370

Market Details

  • 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)

Game Events:

  • 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.

  1. And more on 1845 later as well. 

  2. ie everything except Western Australia. 

  3. 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. 

  4. I am also toying with using something like 1873’s train-multiple concept here. 

  5. 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. 

  6. The gray sections are for calculations and are not part of the market. 

  7. eg $210/share should a stock reach $1,600/share 

  8. 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. 

  9. Recently termed the stock anus or sphincter in local discussions.