Monday, May 21, 2007

1889 - Too Close to Call!

We got in another 18xx game this past week - 1889, set in Shikoku, Japan (see mine and Eric's notes from our earlier playing for more detail). The rule-set is essentially 1830, with a few minor tweaks, and as we found last time it worked very well as a 2-player game of 18xx. While the game wasn't about horse-racing, it might as well have been, as the finish was every bit as close as the Preakness hose racing event this past weekend.

I started the game out with the thought of trying to get decent privates, and going from there - I managed this by getting the two largest privates, as well as the first private (the "speed-bump" in the initial stock auction). The downside to this is it meant I was not able to start a public company initially - so when Eric started the Kotoden Railroad (KO), based in Takamatsu in the northeastern part of the island (near Kotohira, which we both learned last time is the city that grows the largest), I bought in as much as I could with my limited funds. The upside of this was that I was able to dump the KO when I started my first railroad, the Iyo Railroad starting in Matsuyama. I had a private that I could exchange for a share of this company, which I ended up never using as Eric bought into the company as I floated it - in the mid-game, I thought it was a mistake to not have utilized the power of this particular private, but on the whole I believe the turn-by-turn revenue from the company that I held until the 5-trains arrived more than made up for this. Fairly early, I used my only token to put a station in Nuhama to ensure access to Kotohira when it grew later in the game.

At this point, counting privates, I was only a share or so behind Eric in number of shares - so from this point onward, I was working under the impression that I was under the gun and needed to do some shenanigans to catch up. This resulted in my moving in and out of several of Eric's companies - including, at one point, two that I thought were ripe targets of a strip-and-dump (and Eric had the priority at that point as well). I turned out to be overly paranoid (I think), as Eric was pretty focused on bringing the railways back to working order - but it worked out well, as I was able to move my holdings to the companies that he had started that had a better capital situation. This resulted in my holding my three companies, all of which had 5-trains or better (permanents), and two of Eric's companies, both of which also had permanents, whereas the companies I had dumped had 4-trains - not quite permanents, as if either of us were able to get the diesels out the 4's would rust.

The major late-game decision for me was to decide whether to go ahead and purchase a 6-train I knew I could afford, right then, or withhold a couple of turns in the hopes of being able to get a diesel. Getting a diesel would have seriously dinged Eric, as he had two companies that would have been left without trains, but my calculation was that withholding would hurt me more than getting the diesel would help me, so I chose to go with the 6-train (I believe it was in the Iyo, which at the end was running a 6-train AND a 4-train, for very nice dividends).

We entered what we thought would be the final set of ORs (Operating Rounds) - I was getting quite a bit better dividends than Eric, as my companies had larger trains, and the companies he had that were running for good amounts I held strong minority stakes in (including a 50% stake in the Sanuki Railroad, which was Eric's strongest railway, if my memory is correct). By this point, we had both gotten to the certificate limit (which is quite generous in this game), and had shuffled our holdings to what we thought would be the most valuable - either in stock value, dividend payouts, or both.

I new I was making a strong showing at the end, but I also thought I was a bit behind at that point, so I didn't expect to be able to pull out the win . . . but after the final 3 operating rounds, when we calculated our final net worths, mine was greater than Eric's by $14. Both of our total worths were in the $7000 (ok, probably Yen, but I'm not sure how to make a Yen symbol here), so the difference was very small in the scale we were talking about. Just to be certain, Eric re-calculated the scores using Excel - he'd done it by had initially - but with the same result! $14 separating 1st and 2nd in a two player game, with s cores in the $7000 range, is definitely too close to call - it's essentially a tie, or a rounding error.

I suspect that the major factor in allowing me to catch up was my decisions as to which of Eric's railroads to hold, and also my decision to go with purchasing the 6-train early, rather than trying to save enough to be able to buy a diesel (although it would definitely be interesting to see what would have happened had I made that decision instead). I do think Eric could have done a few things to slow me down - I pointed out after our game that he had a couple of tokens that could have put a serious damper on the Iyo Railroads payouts - but on the whole, I think we both played very solid games, with the result being that end result was, really, too close to call.

I'm not yet certain I'll be able to play this week - we're in the midst of packing up our house prior to a move back to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas . . . obviously, this may put a damper in the near term on our opportunities to play games, although we may investigate PBEM, Vassal and other things of that sort. If we manage to get a game in this week, I may be a bit late on getting my post up, as my computer will be packed and in transit most of next week . . .

No matter what, though, I just want to say that I've really enjoyed these evening games with Eric, and the opportunity to spout off about the games here.

So, as usual, happy gaming!

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