BGC Meetup 13/2/09 (Part 2) @ OTK Cheras – 18TN

Gamers: Phuah (phuah), Lim (lim), Alvin (keealvin), Allen (blownfreaks), Yee Ling (crabzai), Heng (ayheng) and Jeff Au (jack208)

Games: Galaxy Trucker, Bang, Santiago, 18TN, Agricola

Location: Old Town Kopitiam Cheras Google Map 
Date/Time: 13 February 2009 (Fri) 8.00 PM – 5.30 AM

Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report (Part 2) @ Old Town Kopitiam Cheras 13/2/2009
by jack208


In the first part of my report, we played Galaxy Trucker, Bang! and Santiago. keealvin, blownfreaks and crabzai have to take their leave and there were four of us remaining. It’s just 12.30 am and we reckon we could do two games before we call it a night.

The choice for the 1st game was between 18TN, Brass and Agricola. Since Phuah has only played a few 18xx games and Lim is new to the 18xx series, everyone agreed it would be good to do my new 18TN game that’s based in Tennessee & Kentucky.

18TN Tennessee & Kentucky

18TN is the latest 18xx games to be added to my collection (Nov 08). I still have two other (bigger) 18xx games – 1832 and 1841v2 – that have not been played yet. However my choice for 18TN is part of my quest for a good beginner game to get more ppl into the 18xx genre.

IMHO 18AL and 18GA are two of the best intro 18xx games around. They’ve simple (small) maps, clean rules and can be played within 3 hours. 18AL would be better for 18xx newbies as it can be completed within 3 hrs while 18GA offers heavier gameplay at the expense of slightly longer play-time.

Both games are designed by Mark Derrick but sadly they are not produced as game sets to be sold off-the-shelf. Instead they are available either as i) free print-n-play download for your own DIY, or ii) partially assembled kit produced by John Galt that you can buy.

I did try 18Scan but find that it has too many non-standard rules – including Minors – and detract from my objective of looking for a standard 1830 intro game with cleaner rules. 18Scan is still a very good game (that plays in 2-3 hrs) and it’s the perfect game to intro you to the heavier 18EU.

18TN is also a Mark Derrick creation and bears similarity to his 18AL & 18GA. With the exception of the Civil War rules, 18TN plays almost as a standard 1830 game with basic rules.

I should clarify what I meant by basic (or clean) rules. By these I meant the game plays with the standard 18xx ruleset (and most 18xx games are notorious for introducing some slight rule variances) without too much chrome, yes the vanilla flavor for eg.

  • Major Companies float on 60% shares sold, with 100% capitalization
  • Buying & selling of shares during Stock Round – can buy/sell in the same turn, once sold cannot buy back etc
  • Standard trains from 2-train to 8-train (without any of those 4D or 5E type of trains)
  • No bank loans or mergers or Government corporation coming out in later part of the game (though this is one feature I luv most about 1856)
  • Dividends for shares in the Open Market pays to the company, in the IPO pays to Bank.

Without much ado, let’s dive into the 18TN gameplay and see how good it really is….

BGC Meetup - 18TN 
phuah and lim starting to get familiar with the 18TN map

Out of the four gamers who were doing this first-play of 18TN at OTK; two are seasoned 18xxers – ayheng and jack208 – while phuah has a couple of 18xx games under his belt and lim was a total newbie to 18xx. This mix of gamers experience with 18xx would be a good gauge of how 18TN plays among the new and the seasoned.

ayheng did the rules explanation for standard 18xx to phuah and lim while I scan thru the 18TN rulebook to determine if there are any rule variances or chrome. There was only one – Civil War – which is triggered when the fourth (and last) 3-train is bought. During the Civil War (which lasts one OR), each company will choose to lose the income from one of its operating trains.

I decided to omit this rule from our play since it’s seemed designed to add a little flavor into the game and does not impact gameplay that much.

Note: By 18xx, I usually refer to the 1830 branch of the 18xx series and not the 1829 branch. From the BGG Wiki – “The 1829 branch games emphasize stock-picking and portfolio management while the 1830 branch concentrates more on financial prediction and stock market manipulation.”

Bank has $8,000 – the same amount as 18AL so this shud play relatively quick since a $8k bank is easier to break – and $1,800 is given as starting capital divided among the players. In our 4-player game, each gets only $450 capital to start.

18TN has five private companies ranging from lowest of $20 ($40, $70, $100) to the highest priced private at $175. Corporations (ie major companies that can lay tracks, run trains and have their shares floated to the stock market) can operate only when they’ve floated 60% of their shares.

With par value starting at $65 to $90, this means you can only start a major company on your own only if you buy one of the two lower price privates. With 5 private companies to go with 4 players, only one player can float a major company with his own funds, the others have to collaborate at the beginning.

The Privates do not contain variety of special abilities. With the exception of one, the privates block tile laying in their home hex and if sold to a company, allows the company one extra yellow tile laying in the home hex. Doing the free tile laying action does not close the private.

The most expensive private – Louisville & Nashville $175 – gives you the President cert (20%) of the L&N Railroad company. L&N has a special rule that allows it to float even with just 20% shares sold.

I find this greatly simplifies the auction of the private companies as players now only need to consider i) the location where the private grants the free tile laying action, and ii) the ROI (return-of-investment) of the private vs its par (purchase) value. Unlike in the other more complex 18xx games like 1856 where each private confers a different type of special abilities and players can spend a long time trying to understand the impact of each ability.

There’s also a special rule that allows an operating company to buy a private on its first OR in order to activate the free tile laying action. But this purchase has to be at the private’s face value.

Note: Buying a private after 3-trains are purchased can be done within the range of 0.5 – 1.5 its face value.

There are 6 major companies in this game; with two of them having a slight specific rule. I’ve already mentioned about one of them ie the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) which can float with just 20% shares sold.

The 2nd is the Illinois Central Railroad (IC) which has a President Cert comprising 30% shares (instead of the normal 20%). Not much difference except to start this company, you need to be able to afford its 30% President cert.

BGC Meetup - 18TN

The other rules governing company shares work as per standard 18xx rules such as  shares in Open Market pays dividend to the company, shares in green/yellow zones do not count towards hand limit and you can acquire up to 100% of shares in the yellow zone.

The 20% float for L&N looks like an important feature of the game. Firstly since only one or at most two players would be able to start a new company entirely using his own money in the first Stock Round, the others would have to collaborate to kickstart one company  and later sell its shares to fund their own railroad companies.

18TN “encourages” this by having L&N float on just 20% share meaning it’ll operate the moment someone buys the L&N private company. And since a company floats at full capitalization, once it floats those with money would usually invest their funds into those “operating” companies hoping for dividend payout and later selling them once their share prices have appreciated.

The Two Starting Companies
In our session L&N (bought by Lim) was the first to float at $90 par – I suppose since this company floats on just 20% and its President Cert is given to the owner of the L&N private, it’ll always be the first company to float – while jack208 decided to start GM&O at $65 par. Both these companies have 4 tokens.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 

The other two – since they’d bought the more expensive privates – wouldn’t have sufficient funds to float a new company on their own hence they chose to invest into one of the two companies already started. ayheng (below) decided to invest his funds into L&N (10%) and GM&O (30%), no doubt with the intention to sell them off for capital gains later. 😛

BGC Meetup - 18TN

phuah (below) also followed ayheng but he invested more into L&N (20%) instead of GM&O (10%). This resulted in a full subscription of GM&O shares causing its CMV (current market value) to bump up one box in the Stock Market table.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 

First OR (operating round) was rather uneventful… both L&N and GM&O didn’t take up the option of buying any one of the privates for the tile-laying privilege and they do the normal laying of two yellow tiles and then buying just one 2-train (limited to one train purchase from the bank per OR until Phase 4),.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 
GM&O with its first train purchased from the bank in the first OR.

The game is speed up by allowing each operating railroad to lay two yellow tiles per OR. If a company acquires one of the private cos in its first OR, it can even lay a 3rd yellow tile as a free action.

Note: I played this wrong by suggesting companies lay two yellow tiles only on its first OR and only one yellow tile in subsequent ORs. While the misplayed rule applied to all companies, if we’d played it with the correct rules it would have speed up the railway network on the map.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 

GM&O started in the south-west (above) while L&N started at the north. There are three key spots in the map to fight for – Memphis (to the west of GM&O), Nashville (in the centre of the map) and Chattanooga (to the south-east part of the map).

The reason is that these three cities are designated as “P” cities which meant they can take one of the special brown/gray tiles which has the highest income value for a on-map city. The “wicked” thing is that there are only two brown P cities and just one gray P cities to fit into three cities.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 

The 3rd company was soon started by ayheng – Illinois Central Railroad (IC) – at $75 par. Phuah was still in investor mode. The IC is based in-between L&N and GM&O and therefore has access to existing tracks laid by GM&O which was already driving towards Nashville.

BGC Meetup - 18TN

jack208 has good cashflow but not sufficient to start another company therefore he invested his spare funds into IC (above) as that new upstart shud be generating good capital gains in a few more rounds since it has quickly bought into a few 3-trains (below) to boost its immediate revenue.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 

When the IC came into the picture, the 3-trains were quickly bought up by the three existing railroad companies plying their business in Tennessee. jack208 quickly got GM&O to buy the first 4-trains (below) in order to rust everyone’s 2-trains. At this juncture, Lim probably began to feel his first experience of train rush. 😛

BGC Meetup - 18TN

Not much deviation from standard 18xx rules except for i) occurrence of Civil War when the second 4-train is purchased, and ii) delayed obsolescence for the 4-trains when the first 6-train is purchased.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 
The railroad network during the middle-game stage with three companies operating

In the mid-game, GM&O were ahead in the stock market (below) due to it not having to withhold any dividend. However in terms of EPS (earnings per share), L&N was tops at $31/eps. The CMV (current stock market value) is important in this game as the first company to reach the top value of $300 in CMV will end the game (similar to 18AL/18GA end-game condition).

BGC Meetup - 18TN

The mid-game also saw those companies with >3 tokens starting to place their tokens into strategic positions (below) in an attempt to block the other companies from running into the lucrative routes.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 

This game has 6 major companies so there will come a point in time when one or more players start their second major companies. In this session, two of us decided to start the 2nd company while phuah jumped from Investor mode to form his first (and the last of the 6th companies).

ayheng was the first – since he has the Priority Deal card – and formed Southern Railways (SR) which is on the eastern part of the map while his first company IC sits on the western side. He’s probably trying to make a East-West link. 😛

phuah – who’s next in turn order – started his first company in Tennessee Central Railway (TC). TC sits right on top of Nashville and would be in the thick of the actions, with a good network of railways tracks completed but could be tokened out of important (and lucrative) routes.

jack208 formed the last of the 6 majors, the Nashville, Chattanooga & St Louis Railroads (NCSL) which starts from Chattanooga and would be faced with expensive terrain-heavy builds all-around it. All three companies were floated at $90 par.

The NCSL quickly snapped up both the permanent 5-trains ($450/ea). jack208’s other company, the GM&O was still running it’s (old but trusty) 3-train and 4-train (below). 

 BGC Meetup - 18TN 

That left SR (ayheng) to purchase the first 6-train – which rusted everyone’s 3-trains – and TC (phuah) to get the last 6-train – which then caused all 4-trains to be made obsolete (but delayed for a turn).

BGC Meetup - 18TN 
These two 6-trains didn’t last more than one OR as it was bought back-to-back
by ayheng’s SR and phuah’s TC

In this game there appears to be minimal train rush at the beginning as each company can only buy one train per OR until 4-trains are out. However the southern area of the map is terrain-heavy meaning it requires money to (first) build there (some mountainous hex costing as much as $120 to lay the first yellow tile) therefore while the train rush is soft in the beginning, company still needs to make sure it has sufficient money in its kitty for placing tokens, getting new trains and laying tiles on terrain-heavy hexes.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 

But once 4-trains are out (there’s only 3 of them) the train rush may catch you by surprise as there are only two 5-trains and two 6-trains which are permanent trains. The first 6-train will rust all 3-trains while the second 6-train will rust all 4-trains.

Can be nasty especially in this stage of the game you would probably have a few new companies forming and if they float at $90 par, they can all afford to buy one of the 6-train $600 or 8-train $700 trains forcing the obsolescence on the 4-trains.

As in our session, the two 5-trains and two 6-trains were all bought up in the same OR when three new companies were formed. This immediately rusts all 3-trains and 4-trains leaving existing companies prior to the three new companies with no trains and going into FTP (forced train purchase) mode.

4-trains have a delayed obsolescence though… ie they are still allowed to run for one more OR before being put out of commission. There was also one rule we played wrongly – one a train is designated “obsolete” even if it gets to run one more OR (delayed obsolescence) these “obsolete” trains cannot be sold to any other companies.

BGC Meetup - 18TN

Lim – it shud be noted this is his first 18xx game – were struggling to get enough cashflow into his L&N in order to get one of the permanent trains… kept withholding dividends until the share price of L&N plummeted into the yellow zone.

His L&N were hit with FTP when the three new companies – NCSL, SR and TC – bought up all the permanent 5- and 6-trains forcing him to have to sell all his existing GM&O shares (20%) and one L&N share in order to contribute enough money (as President of L&N) to buy the 8-train (below). He still retains control of L&N with 50% shares, and survived (barely) his first FTP. phew.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 

The railroad network (below) towards end-game showing Nashville winning the fight for the single gray P tile which carried a $60 revenue city – the most lucrative city on the map however belongs to Cincinnati $80 which is located just east of L&N’s base at Louisville.

BGC Meetup - 18TN

We find the game’s ending conditions – $300 top value for Stock Market or Bank Breaks – to be quite balanced. As GM&O ran towards the $300 top point in the Stock Market (it was just 3 ORs from that spot)…

BGC Meetup - 18TN 
Final position of the stock market (as the bank broke first)

… the companies were paying out a total of $1680 dividends per OR (see below) which means the bank will break soon. In our session, the bank broke before GM&O can hit the $300 top spot.

BGC Meetup - 18TN 

How does 18TN fare as a beginner’s intro 18xx game compared to 18AL and 18GA?

  • Easy auction for private which has basic tile laying capabilities (and not variety of special powers which are usually not fully understood by newbie to 18xx)
  • Minimal (almost none) variance to its rules (except for the Civil War rule which I feel is highly optional)
  • Company floats on 60% and gets full capitalization
  • No early train-rush as you only buy one train per OR until 4-trains are out. Let a newbie settle into operating the company and learning the mechanics of the game early on before slamming them towards the end-game with the late train rush
  • No diesel train (highest is Type-8) simplifies the income calculation process towards end-game
  • An easy-going map with half of it (southern part) containing expensive terrains to build on, and the other half mostly flat terrains for free build, allows newbie to get a feel of both.
  • Balanced game end; I feel the bank will either break or one of the companies will hit the $300 stock market cap without getting delayed.
  • Game shud played around the 3 hr mark since the bank has $8,000 only. Our session above took about 3.5 hrs where I think about 0.5 hr of it were spent on rules briefing.

In 18TN I think I’ve finally found the “perfect” 18xx game to be used as an introduction game for newbies to the 18xx series. The 18AL/18GA are still good introduction games but since 18TN is more readily available as a game set, this comes as a better recommendation. In any case, all three are from the same designer Mark Derrick.

To discuss this game further, pls post your thoughts on our 18TN thread.

For those wishing to get a primer on the 18xx series, you are most welcome to check out our 18xx forum

Here’s a link to Boardgamegeek that describes the flavor of the 18xx series
Subject: So You’ve Always Wanted to Know What an 18xx Game is Like

Finally to those who are asking where they can buy this game, you can get it from Deep Thought Games. Ask for John Tamplin.

BGC Meetup - 18TN

For more photos of this gaming session, visit our Flickr set.
For more gaming reports, visit our Boardgame.net Blog.
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To buy the games played in this meetup, visit our Web Store. We carry over 300+ games and provide prompt delivery to anywhere in Malaysia.

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