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18CZ» Forums » Reviews

Subject: 18CZ – A Bohemian Rhapsody rss

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Ron
Austria
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This review (or maybe: preview) assumes that you are familiar with the basic concepts of the 18xx game series.

IMHO designers of 18xx games usually face two challenges: find a region which is not already covered by an 18xx game, and try to twist the existing ruleset so that you can offer something new while not diverge too much from the existing standard. And of course replace those two x’s with numbers or letters not already in use …

A fellow Austrian, Leonhard "Lonny" Orgler (who already covered Austria and Austria-Hungary in 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1854 and 1824: Austria-Hungary) looked a little to the north and developed 18CZ, an 18xx game set in Czechia, one of our neighboring countries. The geography is perfect for a 4-sheet 18xx map; the big city of Praha (Prague) in the western center of the map featuring the hex with the biggest income and to the east there’s plenty of terrain to be used as playground for the eastern companies.

The game features a fixed number of rounds to play (signified by a marker which doubles as price marker for the Local companies [which are the “private” companies in this game]) – I totally like that as I always found that the “breaking of the bank” is a very crude rule to end a game. The game comes with a simple share price table; only left and right movement is possible. This one was developed by Lonny after a couple of playtests, when we found out that a 2D table (like in 1830: Railways & Robber Barons) doesn’t work that well with this game.

But the innovation to the 18xx system here is mainly the distribution of the companies: There are three tiers of companies available (with five companies per tier); Regional companies with a 50-25-25 distribution of shares, Main companies with 40-20-20-20, and the big State companies with the usual 20-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10 share distribution. And for these, the Bigger-Fish-Eats-Smaller-Fish doctrine is in order: State companies may swallow Main and Regional companies, Main companies may swallow Regional ones and Regional ones can’t swallow anything.

The train roster is also a very interesting one: Each train card is two-sided, one side offering a normal train (as known from 1830: Railways & Robber Barons), usable by Regional companies only, the backside is a “+” train (as introduced first in 1835) and usable by Main companies only, although bigger companies may possess smaller trains to support the little train shuffling between companies) and later trains double as “E” trains for the State companies (which ignore small towns and only serve cities).

At the beginning of the game, only the Regional companies are available, and with their share distribution, they are also good money-makers. The capitalization is four times the par price, and you won’t get too many trains and assets for that little cash. So – as usual in 18xx games – you need new companies later in the game to help you saving your early cash-cows. This can be done in two ways: shuffling money into the early company by buying its trains out of it with another company, or by simply swallowing the smaller company with a couple of consequences:

When a bigger company absorbs a smaller one, it gets all its assets (although the trains of the smaller one can’t be run by a bigger company, there is an option that you may turn over the train card and pay the difference for the better train.) You also inherit all station markers of the smaller company, which is an important thing, as all companies only have three tokens – State companies even only possess two, one of which is located in a red off-board location. So in fact, they are in dire need of merging to have a network on which their “E” trains can run profitably. Although the twist is, you need to compensate the shareholders for their lost shares (usually, the main shareholder is you!). You have to compensate them with a fixed price per share, between 50% and 150% of the current share price, to be paid out of the treasure of the absorbing company.

As an alternative, a bigger company can always buy smaller trains (even if they aren't allowed to run them), which can be sold to your smaller companies. That might save the smaller company, but creates financial troubles for the bigger one ... decisions, decisions!

As State companies usually enter the game late (to act as savior for you other companies), they have the advantage of making two leaps on the share price table when paying out dividends, so they gather terrain quickly and are usually the best-priced shares at game end.
But owning a State (or even a Main) company is not mandatory: when you manage to run a Regional company until game end, you will get 75% of its income with only 2 shares – a 50% and a 25% share (in this game, you are allowed to own 50% plus one share of any company). The same is true for Main companies: the president’s share is worth 40% plus one 20%-share makes two shares for 60% ownership, while if you want to own 60% in your State company, it sucks up 5 places of your precious share spaces (which are lower than usual: e.g., 12 certificates maximum per player in a 4-player game).

The game also offers another interesting feature: the Privates (here called “Locals”). 15 of these exist, in three sizes: small, medium and large (with an income of 5/10/20 respectively) and there is no auction, but a “Local Selling” pre-game phase. On your turn, you may select one of these for immediate purchase – the first one of each size is the cheapest and each one thereafter costs a little more. Usually not all of those are sold (and the unsold ones are put back into the box). Those Local railways can be sold to the other companies, but only by their matching size or smaller – meaning a Regional company can only buy a small Local, a Main company can buy a Medium or Small Local, while a State company may buy any Local. The price is between 1K (this game uses “Kronen” – or Crowns – as currency) and the current price, determined by the round marker. Each company can also sell the Local back to the bank (“closing it”) and in doing so cashing in its current price; so Locals double to act as cash-bringer for the players and for the companies, as the price raises every round. But most notably, those Locals can exert special powers, otherwise not available in this game: beside offering discounts for building track on rivers and mountains, they can upgrade green “00” tiles to brown or grey ones, they can upgrade brown cities to grey cities and they can upgrade yellow towns to green and brown towns. These special tiles feature a purple border and can only be built by companies who use the power of a Local railroad they previously have acquired.

All in all the development and playtesting of this game took nearly three years. When I now look at the finished game, I totally like what I see: a new and fresh 18xx game with very interesting twists.

I’ll rate this one a “10” on the Geek, although of course, I’m biased being a playtester and a friend of Lonny too. But the game is really good. It stays interesting from the early stages up to the end game. Money is always tight and you need to make plans about which company to keep, and which to absorb with a bigger company. You need to time those plans carefully … to early and you won’t get the full benefit of the smaller company; too late and you’ll find yourself spending your private cash and financing a train. Although doing this voluntarily might also be a good thing, if you want to keep those 50%/40%/25%/20% shares, thus increasing your personal share limit.

18CZ demands many decisions, offers a good and solid map as well as exciting new rules and concepts. A worthy new member of the 18xx family. Go, check it out. I daresay, you’ll like it meeple

Thanks for reading. meeple

Please note that the shares seen on the image above are not final design - also, the company charters will likely be changed in the distribution version.
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Tyler McLaughlin
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Thanks for taking the time to write something up about this game Ron. I am very interested in this title.
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Jim Allard
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Any thoughts on availability? Pre-orders? KickStarter? Camping out on Lonnys doorstep? whistle

JimA
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Ron
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JimA759 wrote:
Any thoughts on availability? Pre-orders? KickStarter? Camping out on Lonnys doorstep? whistle

JimA

As soon as Lonny finds a printer with reasonable prices and conditions, a crowdunding campaign will be started. Likely Kickstarter. So, a matter of months until the campaign, maybe a year until fulfillment? Hard to say.
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JR
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I have a feeling a kickstarter right now for an 18xx, especially one driven by a highly reputable designer such as Lonny, will be very well received.
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dyvim tanelorn
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Usually I hate kickstarter, half-baked games, project by companies that dump their risks on customer... but in this case, I'd absolutely like to kickstart 18CZ, prejects like this one is what Kickstarter should be used for (I already have Lonny's 1854 and Poseidon via Lookout ;) )!
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Eric Brosius
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One player in our game last night joked that, since 1835 is just to the north (PR, SX, and BY) and 1837 is just to the south (kk and Ug,) this game is clearly 1836!

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Travis Dean
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What do you feel are recommended and best player counts for this title?
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Ron
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Dolus wrote:
What do you feel are recommended and best player counts for this title?

We playtested this game in all constellations; I'd say 3 or 5 is my sweet spot here.

Not taking the new 2-player rules & map into account. meeple
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Abn Rgr1978
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By any chance are there any playtest copies available in the US?

We have a couple of 18xx conventions coming up which would be ideal to introduce the game and generate more interest on this side of the pond.

Hattanooga 18xx Convention in Medicine Hat Alberta Canada. May 19 - 22 run by Tyler McLaughlin

https://hattanooga.wordpress.com/

and

http://gesserit.net/Portland18xxTournament/2017flyer.pdf

19th Annual West Coast 18xx Tournament
June 23-25, 2017, Portland, OR

By Dave Blanchard and myself.

If Tyler got a copy in time for Hattanooga, he could send it to us (assuming I am not able to make it there).

I would then return it (as soon as I get my copy in October).

Mike Monical

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