A first look at a partially played learning game of 18Ruhr as experienced 18xxers gets up close & personal with MONTANS!
Gamers: Heng, Henry, Ang and CK Au.
Date/Time: 9 November 2012 (Fri) 8.30 PM – (Sat) 3:00 AM
An 18XX in Essen?
When the opportunity presented itself to acquire a copy of the English version of an 18RUHR game which was set in the Ruhr region of Germany, where a city called Essen happens to be located, you know I can’t say No. 🙂
And obviously it comes as a signed copy from both designers.
Also see previous part of this week’s sessrep on CRUDE OIL and CO2 games
If you are new to the 18xx series, you might want to read this sessrep which provides a good intro to 18xx games
18RUHR – A FIRST LOOK
Let’s unbox this game and take it for a learning testdrive.
The starting auction – Private Companies and Private Montans
There are only 4 private companies in the starting auction – with the actual number of privates dependent on player count and only BME guaranteed to be in the starting list. What we have instead are a set of 8 companies that appeared to be “minors” (re: 18Scan, 18EU) but called Private Montans (pMG) in this game.
The pMGs represent the coal and steel industries that formed the backbone of Ruhr’s economic growth & development.
As the machines became bigger and moved from water power to steam power, locally mined coal and charcoal became expensive and there was not enough of it. The Bergische industry ordered more and more coal from the new coal mining area along the Ruhr river. Impressive and expensive railways were constructed through the hilly Wupper region, to bring coal, and later steel, in from the Ruhr, and for outward transport of finished products.By 1850, there were almost 300 coal mines in operation in the Ruhr area, in and around the central cities of Duisburg, Essen, Bochum and Dortmund. (wiki)
The price you paid for each pMG gets you some development markers (important as these markers generate revenue for you much like a minor) and some starting capital (not all pMG gets you starting capital; you need to check their charter).
The starting privates and pMGs are not auctioned – not least in the traditional 18xx starting auction – but instead the active player can choose to buy any of the top 3 companies in each column (they are arranged in two columns), or pass. Usually passing is a bad choice.
The better pMGs are usually those in the lower order so by buying off the top three, you are also opening up the opportunity to acquire the better pMGs to your opponents. However there’s still the board positioning of the pMGs that may influence your decision.
2D Stock Market
The 2-dimensional stock market (below) will immediately tell an experience 18xx gamers this is not a “stock manipulation” game but more of an “efficiency” exercise.
Note: Need to also mention the stock market in 1817 looks like 18Ruhr but oh boy… that stock market is brutal! 😛
Selling of shares – except by the Director (aka President) – does not drop your market value therefore we find the stock market to be tepid. However our observation is that it may not be easy to appreciate in market value in this market.
The heart of most 18xx; the major railway companies that will build the eventual rail network and make someone a railway tycoon.
There are 7 of these in play in 18RUHR. Each of them has a different starting location on the map but one of them DGEE remains an enigma as we are still trying to see how to bring this company into play given it has a map location that’ll blocked out quickly by KWE (from the north) and BME (from the south), and only two tokens (the least among the 7 companies).
Our rule reader, rhyen, going thru the specifics of the rules.
The private Montans are meant to represent the coal & steel industries during the 18xx era of Ruhr. They are not unlike the Minors in 18Scan/18EU except they do not get to lay any tracks (so can’t work as combo with your major company) but they invest in development markers to increase their income.
Black represent Coal pMG while red is for Steel pMG. They do not differ in any way except when merging pMGs, a coal pMG obviously goes into a coal Montan.
Development markers (above) have an income indicated on them and this will be the recurring revenue the pMGs will get per OR (operating round). There are A-E markers; with their availability according to game phase (triggered as usual by new train type purchased)
– A & B, Yellow Phase, worth $20
– C & D, Green Phase, worth $30
– E, Brown Phase, worth $40
Heng took the investor strategy and focused on building up both his pMGs. His Zeche Kaiserstuhl (ZK) already has B-development markers and he soon acquired C-markers which gets the pMG more revenue (and more importantly is obsoleted later than the A- and B-markers).
A balanced start
There’s always a balanced number of Privates & pMGs in the starting package, and each player would end up owning similar number of start companies (but of different mix). In our 4-player game, there were 12 start companies so each of us bought three.
Above: The start companies I acquired; the two pMGs came with starting capital.
It’s not an obvious call to say Friedrich Wilhelms-Hutte (FWH) was a better choice since you pay only $90 and gets back $40 in working capital compared with Zeche Zollverein (ZZ) which starts with $10 capital only. FWH only gets one development marker (which starts you with $20 revenue) but ZZ gets two development market (one a B-marker) that starts you with $40 revenue and with development markers costing on average $40/ea, that’s not a bad deal.
CAPEX Cards for Trains or Development Markers
Since Montans do not lay tracks nor run trains, they do not have a need to buy trains (this is where Montan differs from Minor as a Minor in 18Scan can lay tracks, acquire trains and run routes). They do have a need to continuously do capital investment to increase their production for higher revenue.
Revenues from a pMG are either kept 100% into their treasury or paid out as 50/50 split to owner/pMG.
Instead of having separate cards for Montans to purchase development markers, the designers have innovatively merged the Montans CAPEX with the Train cards… so basically, whether a Montan make a CAPEX investment for more development markers or a Company acquires another train, it’ll consume the train cards (which in most 18xx games create the train rush).
Comprised the usual train roster from Train-2 till Train-8; but there’s an unusually large number of Train-6 in this game (remember a train card also doubles up as a CAPEX card for Montans).
The 18RUHR Map
Set in the Ruhr region with the city of Essen located right in the middle of the map (I like!), the map is differentiated by expensive terrain builds in the south, and lucrative destinations in the north.
Essen appears to be the central hub which 1) most railway companies would want to pass / deliver thru, and 2) the chokepoint between East & West.
In this game, train delivery counts only cities (not towns) so it pays to build a network that runs thru as many towns as you can.
Everyone lays two tiles per OR – even when upgrading one tile, you can still lay another basic yellow – so we reckon the map development will move along quickly.. connecting the cities for high earning routes.
CME develops from the south-west corner of the map (sorry, the above picture was taken from the opposite orientation) and in our game, rhyen started with this company.
I started the PWB, which initially appears to be a not-so-desirable company coz with only one yellow tile lay available, it appears this company can be track-locked (see below) until green tiles are available in Phase 3.
My fears were unfounded as the large number of Train-2 cards were quickly consumed – mostly by pMGs as their CAPEX investment – and Train-3 came out quickly starting Phase 3 and making green tiles available. Note the lucrative cities & towns surrounding Essen (which is the green three-city tile in the middle).
Heng started with KWE at the north east section of the map. This is where KWE builds thru DGEE westward towards Essen. Unless DGEE is owned by the same person as KWE, it can be locked out pretty quickly.
Rhyen in deep-thought mode…. he started with BME (always the first company to float in 18Ruhr). BME’s largely protected in the south but it needs to expand north quickly but it’s expansion path is covered with expensive terrain builds.
Evolving into MONTANS
The eventual path of pMGs that are successful would be to upgrade themselves into a full fledged MONTAN Corporation, which comes with its own charter, and is listed in the stock market (so you get capital appreciation as well).
Above: A Private Montan (pMG) right being upgraded into a full Montan corporation (left).
It still can’t lay tracks nor run trains but it’s charter provides it with more room for CAPEX investment and potentially a huge revenue stream.
The founding of the first MONTAN in our session… a MONTAN has five share certificates available, each representing 20% of the company, which can be bought by other players.
The founder of the Montan will get 20% (for his pMG) and can easily buy another 20%, so keeping control of the Montan is relatively straightforward.
A MONTAN charter with more rooms for CAPEX growth. And also three token space at the top indicating two more pMGs can be merged into this MONTAN.
The A- and B-markers were already obsoleted by earlier phase changes. The C-markers would still be obsoleted when Train-8 is out while D- and E-markers never retire.
18RUHR – What did we learn?
Montans are a tremendous source of money. We’ve played only thru the pMG stage (and understood how much cash a pMG can generate for its owners), but we stopped the game after we reached the Montan founding/merging stage.
While we went thru the motion of founding a couple of Montans, and merging one or two pMGs into them; we have not taken the Montans for a few ORs and cannot say yet what’s the ROI coming from the Montan investment. We shall leave this discovery to our next game.
We also learnt pMG cannot stop investing in CAPEX growth.. as the early development markers can become obsolete (flipped over with no revenue generation) as the Game Phases move on. The A-markers are obsoleted when Train-4 is out.
If not planned well, this phase change can cause a sharp drop in your pMG’s revenue stream… not good. 😛
Dun ever let your pMG get into this state.. No development markers, no money. Dead company. The only positive thing I can tell you here is that there’s no “forced CAPEX investment” for pMG (but there is for Montan) 🙂
DGT Cube Timer might be useful for this type of games. J
I leave you with a partially developed rail network of the Ruhr in our game. We ended this at around 2:30 am after we’ve played thru the MONTAN formation steps.
We are planning for a full game on Tuesday (which is Deepavali public holiday here in M’sia). Stay tune for our proper sessrep on 18RUHR next week.
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