jcl – @DaveB Yo!
DaveB – joined #18xxdesign by invitation from jcl.
jcl – For everyone else: @DaveB is the designer of 18GB. Early
in my plays of the game I asked if he’d be interested/willing to have
an online chat about some aspects of the game I found curious and he’s
DaveB – Better late than never (I hope)
jcl – To give a little more context, there was a BGG thread this
morning on 18GB:
DaveB – @jcl, what would you like to ask?
jcl – So the first thing for me is the small number of companies.
In general it is 2N.
Locally this has meant that all the second round companies float at
the same time least someone never get a second, and then are never
significantly sold down least they never get it back.
Is there a logic/sense here?
Some of his is based on our games ending very comfortably in 6SRs,
so there’s just not much time to do the necessary stock actions.
DaveB – I think it’s 2N+c, where c is 1 or 2. The exception is
the two player game, where there are six companies, and the six-player
game, where there are twelve companies.
jcl – A 4 player game has 8 companies IIRC (I’m a bit away from
my copy). 3P is 7, 2P I think is 6. I’ve not yet done 5P.
DaveB – It’s 9 companies for the 4-player game, 12 for the
jcl – Then I’m reading something very wrong there for 4P.
totters down the hallway to fetch his copy
DaveB – Unless something got messed up in production, it should
be nine companies.
jcl – I just fetched my copy…checking back page of rules.
You are right! Aaaargh!
Okay, that makes a significant difference.
DaveB – Phew! I’m glad we didn’t mess up the production.
jcl – How long have your games generally been in SRs?
DaveB – I found that the “extra” companies often didn’t get
floated. This may reflect the people who tested the game.
jcl – By default I tend toward capital heavy strategies, so all
the companies will be used in every game. eg last game of 1860 I
floated 5 companies and kept 2.
DaveB – 18GB was tested by several groups but to an extent the
design reflected the biases and feedback of the testers.
jcl – Of course.
DaveB – In general, I think I’ve seen 6 or 7SRs. How many do you
jcl – 6 with 5 threatened. We’ve usually ended in 6.1 or 6.2.
DaveB – Do your games end with the top of the stock market or do
you run out of trains>
jcl – Both, slightly more often top-of-market (sample size: 5 so
a 3:2 split).
DaveB – That’s what I generally find.
jcl – It is hard to prevent a top of market when someone piles
all the trains into a company.
DaveB – One aim of the design was to explore the space around
1825/1860 as investment games, in which you don’t have to worry about
companies being dumped on you, but without the strict order of company
jcl – nods. Two areas I’ve long wanted to design something
within: 1) the 1825 model (including Phase IV) and 2) Price
DaveB – Hence the borrowing of a couple of rule from 1860 to
limit the sale of the last train, and sales of train-less companies
yielding half price.
jcl – Of course – that rule prevents a boatload of degeneracy.
But mostly here it has made for wee timing games of putting about to
rust trains into a company so as to ensure it is train-less.
DaveB – A couple of players did suggest price protection,
particularly in response to the impact of share sales on company
conversion, but I felt the tactics around conversion can be quite
interesting (and price protection would have been an extra
jcl – I also think Price Protection marries particularly poorly
with the 1825 economic model.
In particular, it isn’t as if stock value means or is worth much for
the first 2/3rds of the game. And the hit to capital is…piffle
DaveB – (Also, I wasn’t particularly familiar with price
protection at the time - I’ve only started playing 1870 recently).
jcl – 1870 is a wondrous game – but the skill curve is
particularly long and deep.
In particular, I’ve seen none of the capital cycling in 18GB that
you see in 1860 (for instance) of float a company, loot it, dump it,
let it run insolvent for a while, pick it back up full of money etc as
there’s just not time to do all of that....and given the rest of the
game, this seemed....odd.
Mostly because there hasn’t been time…say you dump in SR3…by SR4
it is still crap....SR5 the game is about to be over!
DaveB – I did want that to work, and I have made it work
sometimes, but you’re right that it does depend on the pace of the
game. The X trains can put a fair bit of cash into a company.
jcl – With a 7SR game as you say you sometimes see…yeah, I
could imagine it working, but not otherwise. As soon as the X trains
hit here there’s a pretty basic pattern of ploughs-to-train-limit then
DaveB – The conversion mechanism interferes with that as a
dominant strategy because conversion gives another way to add capital
to a company.
jcl – I almost always convert as quickly as I can. The capital
is nice but largely irrelevant to my approach. I want the station
markers! That said, I’m by no means convinced that this is a dominant
strategy. Mostly I drive for paying-trains first,
stations-second. Which means the blue trains are pretty close to
toxic. (Blue trains are what you buy when you have no other choice)
DaveB – I know people who always convert as late as possible. I
haven’t found either approach to be dominant (yet).
jcl – nods. There does seem some flexibility there.
DaveB – I don’t understand - trains first, stations second - but
you convert to get station markers rather than trains?
jcl – Yeah. I can always get trains with the odd hold but
getting key station markers down requires growing up.
DaveB – Makes sense. Getting the right tokens is important.
jcl – eg The last two games I’ve stitched up the midlands so that
I’ve had the only companies that could possibly run N/S.
DaveB – (Slightly less so in the published game than in earlier
versions, but still important).
jcl – Quite. I’ve been on your Development mailing list for some
years now and worked through some earlier iterations. The current
token count seems quite low.
(we had a few chats there over the years about odd bits)
DaveB – (Yes, I appreciated the chats.)
jcl – grins
DaveB – Some station spaces aren’t important, IMO. The
competition for the more relevant spaces can be quite intense
jcl – I find it is mostly simple counting. Who gets a tile there
DaveB – If you have the tokens to place, yes. If you’re
balancing that against converting late, it’s more of an issue.
jcl – Seems like there’s 4-5 control token spots on the board and
then it is XX tiles. OOs are mostly a waste except for early and
simple cities are stupid.
nods converting late. That’s why I convert immediately.
DaveB – Do you think that extra tokens would benefit the game,
given they would be placed in less strategic positions>
jcl – Yes. Help stitch up the board.
One of the things I do with any game is count the total number of
station locations if everything is fully developed, and then the total
number of markers in the game. Ideally the second number is within a
small handful of the first. A gap of say 2-5 is Okay.
DaveB – I worry that it would be a distraction, leading to more
recalculation of routes for little overall impact on the game.
jcl – Depends if they fall early or late.
DaveB – Analogous to some games where people chase dits to
increase their income by 10 each
jcl – If they fall early it makes for more track tile roster
focus/interest in working around barriers and stopping people working
(Yeah, dit chasing is silly)
But I’m also of the mind that Frustration-Is-Good in games.
DaveB – Maybe I’ll experiment with adding an extra token per
company. (Or do the sums properly).
jcl – Jolly good.
DaveB – I agree about frustration. In my experience, players
want it to be easy to lay the right tile, play the right station
marker, buy the right stock, keep their company afloat, etc. One of my
goals as a designer is to make those choices less straightforward.
jcl – Precisely.
DaveB – On the other hand, if players are tripping over a
mechanic that isn’t an essential feature of the game, then that’s a
rough edge that needs smoothing.
jcl – Which makes 18GB’s two-upgrades-only-one-city track
development seem incredibly excessively rich. Everybody
gets…everything they want very quickly modulo tokens and hills.
(One of my general wants as a designer is for companies to be still
laying key yellow track in the last ORs)
DaveB – Unless another company gets there first! Many of the
track laying rules in 18GB arise from the nature of the board, with a
dense area of cities in the middle and empty space to the north, south
jcl – Of course. Mostly the whole board goes brown in a couple
ORs and half the companies have no track to build/develop for their
own interest for a large chunk of the game.
DaveB – Hence two non-city actions or one city. Also the
restrictive upgrades and the unusual OO and XX tiles.
jcl – (My lead company has its tokens down and end-game routes
already defined half-way through blue)
DaveB – The last few ORs are basically an evaluation function
over the game state to that point.
jcl – Which leaves only the tail-end-charlie track development
from blue forwards. (I’d say sets rather than ORs)
DaveB – Halfway through blue is quite impressive. Allied to the
early conversions, of course.
jcl – nods. Always push.
DaveB – Do you find you’re making enough income compared to
people with non-converted companies?
jcl – I lag for one SR and then blow past them.
Hang on, two hexes OR one city?
DaveB – Neat.
jcl – We’ve been reading that as two hexes of which only one may
be a city.
DaveB – You’re right
jcl – Phew.
In 5 games....we’ve never once built a hill. In short the cost is too
large a fraction of the price of a train and so is Just-Not-Worth-It
as it is effectively punishing an already-loser. You?
DaveB – I’ve just finished an online game in which people crossed
at least three hills.
Late conversions can lead to spare capital, which allows people to
build round those pesky tokens.
jcl – Were they worth it?
Seems like that late capital is better spent doubling up on trains.
DaveB – In most cases, the hills seemed worth it.
jcl – aims for all of his companies to be train-tight for the
second half of the game.
DaveB – I don’t recall which companies had which trains. In some
cases, a player had one company build a hill that was used by another,
where the second company had two trains.
There’s a risk if all companies aim for two trains, in that the game
may end before those trains pay back their cost.
jcl – If you can get multiple trains usefully across the
connection then…maybe. My early grow-up & track development tends
to preclude such being interesting to me, but that’s clearly not a
DaveB – (For onlookers, this is because the game ends when all
trains have been bought or removed).
jcl – Yeah. Thus our games that ended in 6.1. Mostly for us it
has meant that the gap from the 4X->6X is about 1.5 ORs.
(I’ll happily buy trains that never run if it stops even more
opponent’s trains from ever running)
DaveB – nods
jcl – It is good to deny people quad-jumps for shares you don’t
You think the privates are worth buying?
DaveB – You mentioned on BGG that the privates are over-valued.
That’s an area I struggled to get right and its probably the area I’m
least happy with the design as it is.
jcl – I’ll buy the Liverpool.....and maybe the Edinborough thing
if I have scrap money and it isn’t an edge on a share… But more
generally if I could get out buying no privates I would in every game.
DaveB – Edinburgh? Do you mean the AF with the Perth tile lay?
jcl – Yeah, that one.
DaveB – The Leicester tile lay is quite strong.
jcl – It is for red, but it also requires a token, and that’s a
DaveB – And the station markers can be good too.
jcl – But it is the only other one I’d think about
DaveB – The LNWR can build through Leicester too.
jcl – York? So very easy to wall off – and it isn’t even an
EXTRA marker, just reserved.
Which brings up red (Midlands?) as being significantly stronger than
black (LNWR) or light green (NER).
DaveB – If I had another round of tweaks to the design, I’d look
at making the privates more powerful, both in ability and possibly
also by making the closure payment multiplied by the phase (e.g. 1x
for yellow/green, 2x for blue/brown, 3x for gray, or something like
jcl – Neat.
DaveB – I’ve never found the Midland (red) to be significantly
stronger than other companies. The NER can be a bit weak, I agree.
jcl – NER runs a lot of short trains quickly and easily and has
some good control token opportunities…but then suffers badly.
LNWR…just desperately needs someone to build track for it.
Something…some edge. MR is in the middle of a forest of XX that it
can get and token before anyone else, defining both revenue and shape
and the mid-board.
Oh, and if they are not XX they’re OOs that also pay more.
DaveB – I think the LNWR can reach Manchester before the
MR. Also, what about the LYR?
(Which starts in Leeds, one of the XX cities).
jcl – LYR has been second tranche in all our games…but even
worse, is short a token.
If it had the token…I’d agree that it is stronger than MR.
DaveB – The reason I introduced the tranche system was because
people were forming rigid openings. Varying the range of companies
available to open made the game less predictable / less subject to
jcl – nods. I’ve no problems with the tranches.
DaveB – I’m guessing you haven’t tried opening two companies in
SR1, as you had only N companies in the first tranche instead of N+1?
jcl – I think I did once, worked out Okay.
DaveB – (This might not be possible with all player counts, as
you start with less cash)
jcl – Yeah, certainly not at 4P which has been most of our games.
DaveB – I wanted it to be a viable option without being dominant.
jcl – It currently seems weak but not always Bad, but I also
haven’t looked at it hard.
(Only time I did a 2-company start was in a 2P game – think? Tough
to remember now.)
DaveB – OK
jcl – Gnahh…the games start to drift together and blur.
BtB I do like the add-legs-and-no-revenue pattern.
There’s been a lot of slag thrown at the N/S bonus as irrelevant BtB.
I’ve suspected that it may be the difference in getting multi-jumps
for tighter games, but it hasn’t been here.
DaveB – Originally, the income for simple cities was always 20
regardless of phase. But people kept tripping over this, so I changed
it to the more familiar pattern (albeit 10/20/30 instead of 20/30/40).
The N/S bonus makes the off-board hexes worthwhile compared to
stopping at Glasgow or Edinburgh or Dundee.
I’d prefer it to be +30 instead of +20 but didn’t make that change
in time for production.
jcl – Ahh, I jerk that sort of thing around here for my designs,
so people are used to having to pay attention.
DaveB – I need to sign off tonight. Thanks for the conversation!
jcl – nods off-board. I’ve certainly wrangled or poisoned track
to make getting to the off-board better/worse.
waves. It has been great to chat to you!
Would you mind if I posted a log of this? (With cleaned up typoes
DaveB – On BGG?
jcl – I hadn’t actually thought about it, but uhh, sure?
DaveB – I mean, where do you want to post it?
jcl – I’ve not actually thought that through.
Left by itself this chat will slowly roll off the history. Seems like
there’s ~value in making a log more accessible.
So, let’s say BGG.
DaveB – OK.
jcl – Thanks.
DaveB – No problem. Bye for now.
jcl – waves. Thanks.