Dave Moss
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Having played my first game of this the other night, I thought I would write a quick overview on the game. The overall concept is standard 18xx fare - the winner at the end of the game has the most personal wealth (cash in hand + value of shares), and during the course of the game the player with the most shares in an individual company serves as president during its operation, and accordingly makes decisions on laying track, building stations, and running / purchasing trains and dividending (or withholding) the resulting income.

However 1865 does have some new and different approaches that make it an interesting variant on the 18xx system. I am going to focus on some general points regarding the game, and highlight some of those differences. I am still fairly new to the 18xx genre of games, and so hopefully I wont highlight any points as new to this game, that occur in other games. Anyway on with the review...

Components

The game is very well produced, with good quality cardboard used for all the track / shares / trains etc... The wooden tokens used for stations and traffic chips are good as well. The board is very well designed, and in my opinon, well laid out (although I know there has been a sperate debate about the merits of the artwork), and contains areas for all the information the game requires to operate smoothly - it is also very well made - in a solid 3-piece fold out structure.

Tile laying

On each companies operation they get to lay train track, as per standard 18xx rules. For an additional cost, they can lay an additional tile, which enables the company's to expand very quickly across the small islands of Sardinia and Corsica. As there are up to 8 companies operating, it can become quite crowded quickly (however there are ways of dealing with that to be outlined later on).

As is standard in an 18xx game, tiles can be upgraded once certain milestones have been reached. Usually this involes changing the colour, which in turn opens up more connections from that tile. In 1865 you can also upgrade tiles to the same colour - as long as any current connections are persisted - but potentially thus changing the direction the track is running in - and thus one of the ways to change, and open, routes on the crowded board.

Traffic system

Instead of using trains to serve a specific number of towns, each train has a specific capacity in 1865, and a company will gain traffic tokens - which can be used to fill the trains capacity. This appears to have been implemented to address one of the factors that slows down an 18xx game - which is the optimal route planning on each company's operating round, and it works very well. It is now very quick to work out the capacity of each company's train collection, and add up the traffic tokens, and work out how much can be carried, resulting in much quicker operating rounds for train company's.

So how does a company generate the traffic tokens ? THere are 2 ways - through maritime companies and placement of station tokens either on normal land or mines. When a maritime company (which would be considered a private company in 18xx normally) is transferred from private to corporate ownership - the company that nows owns it immediately gains traffic chips. In addition to this company's that have tokens in the port that those maritime companies serve also gain traffic chips.

The more significant way of generating traffic is through placement of a company's station markers. Depending on what phase the company starts operating as a major company, then that will affect the number of stations it has available to be built - so an early starting company will have less that those later in the game. When a station is placed, then the company will recieve traffic tokens worth the cumulative value of the towns and cities it would pass through on its route from one of its own current stations. In addition to this station markers can be placed on mine locations - Once a token has been placed in the mine location on the board, then the mine will generate traffic on each operating round. Over time (and due to phase changes) the mines production levels will drop, until they ulitmately produce no further traffic, but they can provide a significant increase in traffic to a train company.

Station Markers

So the placement of station markers of station makers is quite crucial to the revenue generation engine of this game, but how does this happen ? In most 18xx games there is a fixed cost for station placement, and potentially an additional fixed cost associated with building on specific land types (mountains for example). In 1865, the president of a company building a station, will pay a cost for each type of land (normal, river, moutain, sea) they cross to get to the location they want to build in. The cost escalates depending on the terrain the company is crossing, and so for example going to a destination and having to build through a mountain range, can be very costly (to go in, and out of the moutainous land), especially early on in the game what operating capital is tight for the individual companies.

However there are also benefits to being able to choose the route taken. As previously noted, depending on the route they take to get to the location they want to build a station, a company make generate traffic chips, so this is a high cost, but ultimately high reward system for building stations.

Dragons

The dragons represent external investors in companies, who will buy, and sell shares in a company depending on how it is structured. Each company has a rank, that is based on its trains and stations, and then this rank will be displayed on a simple chart on the board. Depending on its location, a dragon may choose to either buy, sell or do nothing with any shares it has in a company. The system is balanced, and follows a set pattern of rules on stock dealing round, to determine whetehr a dragon will sell, and then buy any shares.

Given that it is a set pattern, then it is noted in the rules, that it is likely the players will learn how to 'play' the dragons and make sure that they invest in companies at the right time, to help it move forwards. It appears to be a very good way to get initial investement into a company (any shares purchased from the intial stock offering provide revenue to the company), and then in the later stages of the game, it is more likely that the players will be buying back shares form the dragons, at a premium price of course , in order to bolster their own portfolios.

Absorption

Although in our first game, we didnt absorb any companies (so I can't talk at any great length about how it works), this is clearly a mechanism for consolidating an individual players portfolio of train companies. Basically it allows a player to merge 2 of his companies together, and in effect allow one to buy out the other one (assuming they can raise the capital to complete this transaction). Once a company has been absorbed, its new parent company takes over all of its traffic, trains and stations, and operates as one single entity.

This potentially allows a company to expand into new areas of the board, that it may currently be blocked from reaching, and also removes a company from the board - potentially freeing up space on the board. However a previously absorbed company may be relaunched later from any location in the board, so it may come back into play from an entirely new location.

Summary

So to sum up my thoughts on this game, it is a really good addition to the 18xx family, which has been produced to a high standard. I found it presented a good fun, challenging, interactive and interesting experience to other 18xx titles, and we are keen to get a second session underway as soon as possible.

Given that it simplifies some of the more advanced concepts of some 18xx games, and once familiar with it, it should play in a fairly quick time (compared to some of the lengthy running 18xx), I would suggest it would make a great stepping stone for players wishing to get into the 18xx genre. Even with some of the differences to the core system, I would imagine the step from 1865 to any other 18xx titles is less challenging, that diving headlong into some of the other games.
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Gunther Schmidl
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I love the idea of the traffic tokens. I wonder if they can be adapted for other 18XX.
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Mikko Saari
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Strange that you didn't absorp anything. In our game, we all started second companies as soon as possible and everybody absorped them in their first companies. That's a nice influx of money to your personal account (paid by your company in the future, as you'll probably end up taking a loan) and more trains and traffic to your first company. There's also free money from the unused tokens. Very good, delicious system. We ended up absorping something like 6-7 companies in our game (perhaps one reason why our game took six hours).

The map gets crowded, but absorptions open up the board nicely, then new companies are started and they quickly grab all the good spots, then somebody gets absorped again...

I found it rather delightful how the board situation kept changing throughout the game, there was none of that "optimize your route a bit to get another 10 in revenue" nonsense.
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Mikko Saari
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Oh, and what comes to the components, I have little to complain about. We would've needed some more traffic chips, I'll probably have to add couple of huge 50-traffic cubes, that should help a bit.

The tokening system is great, but having to move the tiles around to calculate the price of the token was a bit annoying. That was the worst thing, really. The board does look nice.
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Matthew Barratt
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msaari wrote:
Strange that you didn't absorp anything. In our game, we all started second companies as soon as possible and everybody absorped them in their first companies. That's a nice influx of money to your personal account (paid by your company in the future, as you'll probably end up taking a loan) and more trains and traffic to your first company. There's also free money from the unused tokens. Very good, delicious system. We ended up absorping something like 6-7 companies in our game (perhaps one reason why our game took six hours).

The map gets crowded, but absorptions open up the board nicely, then new companies are started and they quickly grab all the good spots, then somebody gets absorped again...

I found it rather delightful how the board situation kept changing throughout the game, there was none of that "optimize your route a bit to get another 10 in revenue" nonsense.


Personally I absorbed my first company into my lower-priced second company, because that way I had to take out a second loan so ended with a company with about 300 in readies that it could invest in new trains or track.
 
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Greg Payne
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msaari wrote:
Oh, and what comes to the components, I have little to complain about. We would've needed some more traffic chips, I'll probably have to add couple of huge 50-traffic cubes, that should help a bit.

In the game I played at ManorCon, we just ran out of the 10 cubes as the game was ending (one company had to receive 15 as three 5s). I've added a few 25s to my copy, which should be more than enough.

Note that one of the advantages of absorbing, is that you get a lot more tokens. Not only do you get the full 7 tokens (which can usually only all be obtained by converting to major in the second half of the game), but you also get to pick up any tokens in mines (which are probably worth 0 by now). This is probably only useful if you are merging two companies with permanent trains and port privates though, otherwise the number of cubes you have is probably already over 51 (PH7 train plus two ports).
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Alessandro Lala
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If you really run out of cubes, pause the game and change the reference values of large cubes to 20.
That should work fine to complete the game.
 
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Mikko Saari
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Also, earlier in the game absorption is a good way to get more traffic, as that way you can count the same city twice for one company.
 
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stefan f.
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msaari wrote:
Strange that you didn't absorp anything. In our game, we all started second companies as soon as possible and everybody absorped them in their first companies. That's a nice influx of money to your personal account (paid by your company in the future, as you'll probably end up taking a loan) and more trains and traffic to your first company. There's also free money from the unused tokens.


And the free money of unsold shares ...
 
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Dave Moss
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msaari wrote:
Strange that you didn't absorp anything. In our game, we all started second companies as soon as possible and everybody absorped them in their first companies. That's a nice influx of money to your personal account (paid by your company in the future, as you'll probably end up taking a loan) and more trains and traffic to your first company. There's also free money from the unused tokens. Very good, delicious system. We ended up absorping something like 6-7 companies in our game (perhaps one reason why our game took six hours).

The map gets crowded, but absorptions open up the board nicely, then new companies are started and they quickly grab all the good spots, then somebody gets absorped again...

I found it rather delightful how the board situation kept changing throughout the game, there was none of that "optimize your route a bit to get another 10 in revenue" nonsense.


Yeah I think we were all focussed on running our initial companies and controling our own little empires and just didnt get round to exploring that area - but I can definitely see the benefits of utilising it, and certainly I am going to try and take advantage of it next time we play
 
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Giancarlo Sorrentino
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How does it compare it with 1830 in terms of duration and complexity to learn? Which one do you prefer with 3 players? And 4?
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Dave Moss
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renard wrote:
How does it compare it with 1830 in terms of duration and complexity to learn? Which one do you prefer with 3 players? And 4?


I havent played 1830 at all, so can't really compare unfortunately - I am desperately waiting for the Mayfair / Lookout reprint, so will be picking that up as soon as I can.

From my point of view it was fairly quick to learn if you are familiar with the 18xx system, the differences arent really that challenging to pick up. It played fairly quickly with 3 players - it took us about 3.5 / 4 hours the first time, but there was a lot of rule cross referencing (and we do have an AP player in our group) - now that I am familiar with the game I would expect that to come down to about 2.5 - 3 hours the next time. Certainly the traffic system speeds up OR's greatly.

Unfortunately I have also only played with 3 as well, so I can't really compare that with 4. However with 3 players the map seemed to be well spaced and there was room to develop companies and plan tactics, but not too much room. I guess with 4 it could limit the space on the map more (if more companies are operating earlier), but i am sure that increases the challenge of the game
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Brian Nygaard
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How would this play as a groups first 18xx title? I know that 1830 I'd usually the suggested starting point, but I've had a hard time convincing people to try it out. I really like the idea of the traffic tokens for reducing an amount of analysis paralysis, and the dragons for boosting development speed.
 
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Dave Moss
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Hopelesst wrote:
How would this play as a groups first 18xx title? I know that 1830 I'd usually the suggested starting point, but I've had a hard time convincing people to try it out. I really like the idea of the traffic tokens for reducing an amount of analysis paralysis, and the dragons for boosting development speed.


I've played it as an introductory game a few times, and it works quite well.

As you say the traffic tokens are a big plus for helping players get used to the system, without some of the layers of complexity. It also plays fairly quickly as well (not withstanding AP players) in around 4-5 hours.

The only drawback I've found is the 2D stock market - I found players struggled to grasp some of the concepts around movement and manipulation of stocks and shares (although I suspect that means the game is more aligned to the 1829 branch).

Ultimately it just meant we had to set another date to play something like 1830 whistle
 
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J C Lawrence
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Sardinia arrived, was played less than a handful of times and was then shelved and forgotten.
 
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Paolo Russo
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clearclaw wrote:
Sardinia arrived, was played less than a handful of times and was then shelved and forgotten.


Why JC? Why?
I feel Sardinia helps me play a 18xx in half time, when time is short...
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J C Lawrence
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I'd rather play the opening third of a more interesting 18xx and then pack it up than to play Sardinia to completion.
 
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Eugene van der Pijll
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Serpentium wrote:

I feel Sardinia helps me play a 18xx in half time, when time is short...

For what it's worth, in my limited experience with 1865 the traffic system doesn't save any time. It's a 5-hour game, longer than 1830 (4 to 4.5 hours in our group).
 
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Ben Draper
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pijll wrote:
Serpentium wrote:

I feel Sardinia helps me play a 18xx in half time, when time is short...

For what it's worth, in my limited experience with 1865 the traffic system doesn't save any time. It's a 5-hour game, longer than 1830 (4 to 4.5 hours in our group).


Is it that the traffic system doesn't save time over a traditional system, or that the other features of the game bring the game time up despite the traffic system?
 
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Eugene van der Pijll
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BennyD wrote:
pijll wrote:
Serpentium wrote:

I feel Sardinia helps me play a 18xx in half time, when time is short...

For what it's worth, in my limited experience with 1865 the traffic system doesn't save any time. It's a 5-hour game, longer than 1830 (4 to 4.5 hours in our group).


Is it that the traffic system doesn't save time over a traditional system, or that the other features of the game bring the game time up despite the traffic system?

The traffic system does save time when calculating revenues, but takes more time when placing tokens.

Another time consuming part of the game are the mergers, if I remember correctly (it's been a while since we played this). There were a lot of mergers.
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