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Subject: Impressions rss

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Scott Seifert
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Little Canada
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I normally don't type up reports or reviews or all that, but Lonny was nice enough to answer some questions for me while I was assembling my kit so here's some free advertising in return. Ron did a great summary of the game so I won't go over any of that here.

Having played twice now, back to back (which would undoubtedly have become a third if humans didn't need to eat), I can say this game is fantastic.

There is a huge amount of mean.
- The tile set is limited where it counts, particularly the Y-tiles of which there are only two of in yellow (one of which starts in play!). Laying a yellow Y-tile later in the game can have deadly consequences, as one player found that he was incapable of upgrading it until a green Y was upgraded first (many rounds later).

- Speaking of upgrades, perhaps our group was herbivorous when it came to pushing the trains but it took over half the game to reach the brown tiles (where greens came out in the first or second round). If someone upgrades a tile to green in a way you cannot connect to, you will be very sad for a very long time. Even if you can go around, both a) that takes 1-2 of your 16 actions for the game and b) the checkerboard rule ensures that you're going through garbage, non-upgraded yellow cities to reach your destination.

- There are 24 station tokens between the 8 companies, with very few good places to go around. Many plans can be ruined due to the fact that new companies can just plunk their home down wherever they want. Due to this; the way the action card draft works; and the rotating starting player; it is impossible to predict when or how many companies will get to lay down tokens before yours gets its chance. The only defense is a good offense, preemptively filling the board with tokens before others do the same to you.

- As for the action cards, anyone who is a fan of tight worker placement games will enjoy this. There is always two fewer cards allowing an action than the number of people who want to do said action at any given time. Players will be tempted at every turn to use their single "copy an action" card and then cry for the rest of the game.

Things taken for granted in other 18xx games -- like purchasing shares, laying tokens, and laying track -- become far more agonizing when every small thing you do is 1/16th of your entire game.

On the less mean side of things...
- Players interested in the portfolio management and stock market shenanigans of other 18xx games will not find much here. While it is absolutely vital to predict which stocks will be good and when (even moreso than other games, as each stock purchased takes another of your 16 actions), you will not be trashing market values, you will not be moving in and out of companies, you will not be dumping companies, etc. Every share sold is another share you'll have to buy back at the cost of an entire turn, so only a handful will be sold during the game to fund your second company or near the end to replace a share with a better one. Getting your share price dumped three times (the most amount of times possible unless someone buys it back up to dump it again) isn't going to be a huge impact on your final score.

It is very much a "these are your two companies, run them well or you'll lose horribly" type of game.

- Again, our group is fairly timid when it comes to pushing the trains but the train rush in both games was fairly gentle. In the second game, the winner started his second company fairly early and thus both companies were dead broke and running on non-permanents, but the only player in a position to obsolete them would have harmed himself in the process (a mistake, it turns out, as he only lost be $3 and would have gained by kneecapping himself to kill the other guy). Future games will probably be played with the "professional gamers" variant, blowing up a train each round before the players get to run theirs instead of after.
Edit: There is an error in the draft rules - a company that withholds can purchase the next available train, not one of the scrapped trains (which tend to be a lot worse). I haven't played this way yet, but withholding to buy a shiny new train may be more tempting now.

Other thoughts.
- I'm hoping to get some 2-player games in, as it should work fairly well. The map size is directly proportional to the amount of players laying tiles and the action card drafting adds some tension that other 2-player 18xx games may lack (as an example, only one player may purchase a train each round)

Edit: I've received assurances that the train cards are not final, and will have all the information one could desire printed on them.
- I can't comment on component quality given I haven't played the real thing, but why do we live in a world where publishers still don't print when the trains rust on the trains themselves? Perhaps these are non-final or it's an aesthetic preference, but doing so would be particularly helpful in games with non-standard rusting schedules. 18CZ's trains were beautiful and functional.

- There were some quibbles with the rulebook, which I'm sure will be fixed by publishing time.
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Mark Morrise
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Thank you very much. Your description of the game is just what I needed to know. I do like tight worker placement games, so this sounds like a game I would enjoy. Only 16 actions! That is less than my favorite worker placement games.
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David
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Thanks for the review. Sounds more and more like something I'd like... pushing me closer to backing.
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Max Frank
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St Paul
Minnesota
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I think pushing the trains is particularly difficult in this, and not only because of the action costs. Withholding with non-obsolete trains just sounds bad, especially if there isn't a 5T/3D available. If your trains are obsolete, then you're probably not going to run for enough to buy a permanent, and pitching in personal money to buy one in the next action round sounds bad. Finally, 5Ts in general are just not as good as 3Ds, especially for the newly-launched companies (which tend to be who can afford them).

I think it's going to take some work (and some very late-game second companies) to break the 4Ds.
 
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Scott Seifert
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Got the chance to do a 2-er today; works as well as I expected and what I expected was good things. A lot more withholding happened; whether that's the nature of the 2-player game or because we were now playing the game correctly (withholding lets you buy a new train, not a scrapped train) I can't tell. We still weren't playing with the "professional gamers'" variant which would have made the trains really bloody.
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