Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From Korea to Nebraska

The OCS Korea (BGG entry) game is ongoing, but this evening we took a break. Partly this was just me wanting to play something different, and partly due to the warm weather, which makes the garage a little stifling in the evening, as it takes the full blast of the afternoon/evening sun. My original thought was some Combat Commander (BGG entry) (Yes, yes, yes, I know that after the last game with Eric I said I'd never play it again, but it keeps calling to me, and I keep hoping that it will be a better gaming experience, and, on occasion, it is. It's just that it hates me.), but Eric counter-proposed some 18xx, and we settled on the recent Deep Thought release 18Neb (BGG entry), one that neither of us had played before.

18Neb is fairly straightforward for experienced 18xx players. There's an initial auction for the minors, then the regular Stock/Operating rounds. Points of interest include:

  • One private is the Credit Mobilier, which pays you $5 for each track tile laid by any player (new or upgrade).
  • In the Stock Round a Corporation President can have the Corporation sell stock to the pool or buy a certificate back from the pool or another player (with the player's agreement). In other games this happens at the end of each OR turn (e.g. 18EU). Any buy action counts as the player's buy action for that SR turn.
  • Corporations float with only the President's share. From Phase 5 onwards new Corporations that sell 5 shares become fully capitalized, with their remaining shares being placed in the pool.
  • Bidding in the 2nd and subsequent SRs is done by pass order in the previous SR. The 1st player to pass gets the 'First Pass' card, the second player gets the 'Second Pass' card, etc. At the end of the SR you swap your card for a turn order card (as used to determine initial seating order), with the 'First Pass' owner getting the 'Priority Deal card. The only issue is that as a player then buys a share after passing, you all have to pass your cards around, as the, for example, 2nd pass player now becomes 1st pass player. A trifle clumsy, perhaps, but overall a decent idea, although irrelevant in the 2-player game.
  • Local Railway Corporations have only 5 certificates, representing double shares.They are permitted to own a single train, which must be one of those already rusted.

So, some interesting aspects to the game.

I started off with the Missouri Pacific in the SW corner, planning to run to Chicago South, and along the bottom of the map. Eric opened UP, using his private, as well as the Colorado & Southern, on opposite sides of the map. However, I chopped and changed plans a couple of times, before Eric managed to dump the Chicago NW on me, through fine play on his part and carelessness on my part. The worst part of having to buy a train for CNW, which didn't cost me that much, was that it rusted the sole train on another company I had. Didn't see that one coming!

Now _that_ could have been the end, but Eric's view of the rules was that as President I could sell the company shares in the OR in order to pay for the train. Now, the rules don't explicitly state that when selling shares to pay for a train that the President isn't permitted to have the company sell its own shares to pay for the train, putting money in the company treasury and thus saving the President's stupid a$$. As it turns out, this all had a silver lining as my companies now had better trains, and were running for gobs of money. The game lasted just long enough for me to catch up, and I squeaked it by only $149, pretty much a rounding error. Here's the final map and stock positions:

I had 6 shares in Missouri Pacific, Chicago Burlington, and Chicago NW, and Eric in Colorado Southern, Denver Rio Grande, and Nebkota, with us splitting UP. Only Missouri Pacific, Chicago Burlington and UP were sold out, which helped me, I think, to seal the game. Our share values were almost identical, only $4 difference, but I had the better cash balance to the tune of $153.

Whilst 18Neb is a very interesting 18xx game, and I'd like to try it again, I'm still not sure about 2-player 18xx. Until the latter part of the game you very much seem to own your own companies, with very little cross investment in the other player's companies. There seems to be little incentive to make a company sold out if you don't have the majority position, as you help your opponent more than yourself. Although I guess if the company income is high enough, then buying that extra share can outweigh the benefit of being sold out. However, that all being said, I would still rather play 18xx 2-player than not play 18xx at all.

Now back to OCS Korea....

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