(this article was first published 1987 in Avalon Hill's periodical GENERAL, volume 23, issue#6 and is reproduced here with the permission of the author)
Our design staff heard the first news of 1830's existence during "Origins" in 1982. Tom Tresham, the brother of 1830 designer Francis Tresham, had come to the convention representing an English game distributor and we questioned him at length for game news from England, especially regarding his brother. By this date we had already purchased CIVILIZATION from Francis and had been playing his 1829 games about British railroads for many years. The idea of an 1829-type game about American railroads appealed to us immediately, and we told Tom to pass on the word that we were very interested in seeing 1830.
The 1830 proponents on our staff at this time were Mick Uhl, Alan Moon, Richard Hamblen, Rex Martin and myself. My own interest traced back to the first Michigan "Origins", when I stumbled across a mixed group of gamers from MIT and Penn playing the first 1829 game. I was immediately fascinated by the topic and mechanics, and quickly knew "I've got to get this game." I soon did and 1829 became regular fare at the meetings of the UVA game club to which I belonged. My future colleagues at Avalon Hill had come across 1829 on their own a couple of years before this, and although they liked it very much, they did not believe it was a sellable product in the United States.
Not being the patient sort, I wrote to Francis after the '82 Origins on behalf of Avalon Hill reiterating our interest in the 1830 project and offering to help in any way I could. Francis responded enthusiastically, beginning a long and enjoyable transatlantic correspondence. He had been hoping to sell the 1830 game to us all along, and was pleased to find strong support already in place.
In the fall of 1982, then, we were excited by the prospect of soon having an 1830 prototype in hand, and seeing it in print quickly thereafter. However, this was not to be. 1830 was not published until the early spring of 1986, almost four years after we had first heard of its existence. Over this time period the project had many ups and dawns, including the nadir in the fall of 1984 when 1830 was all but dead.
The first major delay was quite simple to understand. In the fall of 1982 the game was not finished. Although Francis had a game that was being playtested, he was not yet sufficiently satisfied to submit it. In Baltimore, we were quite anxious to get a prototype to examine, but Francis felt this would not be helpful and continued his development in England. The help we could give in this stage was mostly research on aspects of North American railroads and general encouragement. I recall sending information on possible private companies, suitable colors for the railroad pieces, and even designing a sample president's certificate. Word finally arrived that Tom and Francis were coming to Origins '83 in Detroit and were bringing an 1830 prototype to leave with us.
I don't believe I have looked forward with more excitement to any event in my gaming experience than I did to meeting Francis and seeing his 1830 prototype. By now I felt we had become good friends through our correspondence and I had the highest regard for his earlier games. Our meeting was a great thrill for me, and I think also for the entire Avalon Hill entourage, as both Tresham brothers proved to be quite charming and good company.
My first exposure to the 1830 prototype was no less a success. The map and pieces looked much as they do today. We immediately arranged a playtest for the afternoon, and thereafter played it several more times before the convention ended. For our early playings we concentrated on learning the rules and components, and we all enjoyed it very much. I enthusiastically recommended it to Tom Shaw and was backed up by others who had had a chance to play. The convention ended too quickly for me, and the Treshams could not stop in Baltimore on their way home as they (and we) had hoped. I returned home with the prototype and quickly arranged to show it to the local enthusiasts who hadn't gone to Detroit.
My memory of what this first prototype was like is a little hazy as it did not remain in its original form for long. Also, that first copy was returned to England during the game's dark days. The largest differences between this early game and what was published are as follows:
1) On the stock market there were no orange and brown zones, and the highest prices reached $1000 instead of $350 (in the same number of spaces).
2) You could not buy stock in your choice of railroads after the private companies were sold. Instead, the companies were sold in order-PRR, NYC, CP, B&O, C&O, ERIE, NYNH&H, B&M. Shares in the NYC could not be bought until all PRR shares had been bought. Shares in the CP could not be bought until all NYC shares had been bought, and so on.
3) Initial share prices were fixed-PRR ($100), NYC ($90), CP ($82), B&O ($76), C&O ($71), and all others $67. Tokens were placed on the Stock Market in a specific box marked for each railroad.
4) Private Companies could be sold to railroads for up to five times their printed value. Printed values were higher; I recall the Camden & Amboy was $210 and the B&O was $265. (Thus, the C&A could be sold to a railroad for up to $1050.)
5) The PRR and NYC had no 20% certificate, just ten 10% shares, one of which was the president's certificate. The NYNH&H had a 30% president's certificate, a 20% certificate, and five 10% certificates. The B&M had a 40% president's certificate, two 20% certificates, and two 10% certificates.
6) The map was very close to the published map, some important differences being no bypass track around the PRR home base in hex H-12 and the printed track on the New York hexagon connecting to hexes F-18 and G-17 instead of F-20 and H-18 as they do now.
Back in Baltimore we began playtesting in earnest. It took a few playings to get the rules down and get together a cadre of experienced players. As our playing continued through the summer and fall, our dissatisfaction with pans of the game increased. The wide open play of 1830 was a radical departure from the stately elegance we were familiar with from 1829. Bankruptcies were a common occurrence. To a large extent, a player's fate in the game was out of his own hands.
Our first major concern dealt with the selling of the private companies for up to five times face value. The holders of the big private companies would sell for all they could get and then buy up stock. Players not in a position to do this seemed to be at a clear disadvantage, as the others would fill their stock portfolios much earlier. I have notes on one playtest where two "3" trains had been bought. During the stock round following the purchase of those "3" trains, every remaining company in the game (#4-#8) were floated. This resulted in almost every company share selling for less than $40, and a wild scramble for trains thereafter.
This sudden acceleration of the game seemed to lead to other distortions. So many railroads would be floated so quickly that we would find ourselves purchasing "5" trains before they were really useful. In another playtest we had a situation where the trains came out so suddenly that the "4" trains operated for only one operating phase. In other cases, the player purchasing the last "4" train never got to operate it all, as his purchase was immediately followed by purchases of all the "5"s, one "6", and a Diesel.
The extremely high stock values also seemed unsatisfactory, as they made share dividends substantially less important. The smart play seemed to be a consistent payment of dividends, regardless of the amount, to drive up the stock price. Obtaining a larger train was not worth any reduction in stock price because the last couple of jumps in the price ($100 per turn as I recall) could not be made up by any increase in train size. Thus, there was too little emphasis on board play towards winning. The value of track routes and rolling stock had a much reduced relation to winning compared to stock values. Diesels were only bought as an offensive ploy, to remove all "4" trains from play and possibly force other players to buy diesels out of their pocket. We rarely saw more than three diesels purchased, and usually only one was purchased intentionally.
Our final major criticism concerned map play, including the relation of the order of the railroads and the interaction of the tiles and map. In our opinion after several playtests, incentives built into the game resulted in rail nets and operations that often bore little resemblance to historical fact. For example, the Canadian Pacific as the third railroad to operate, invariably laid track straight for Albany and placed a token there at its first opportunity. This guaranteed access to New York. With these connections the CP had little incentive ever to build track in Canada, and the later New England railroads were limited in their development. Also, the Baltimore & Ohio had access to such lucrative routes in its immediate vicinity that there was little incentive to build west. Historically, of course, the B&O was founded to connect Baltimore with the Ohio River Valley and siphon off some of the trade traveling to New York via the Erie Canal. The B&O never built past Washington, but in the game the first tile usually played by the B&O connected it to Richmond through Washington. Of all the rivers included on the map, the Ohio River was absent. We thought this was an error as the PRR, B&O, and C&O were all trying to reach this river and the important trade this would open up. Another example is the C&O railroad which begins play in Cleveland. The C&O began life as the Virginia Central, a major Confederate artery during the Civil War, and was renamed the C&O in 1868. Its headquarters was in Richmond until relocated in Cleveland by J.P. Morgan. Like the B&O, the C&O was trying to connect the eastern seaboard with the growing west. But in our game, the C&O was already west, and spent most of its time building east.
By November of 1983 we had detailed our dissatisfactions to Francis, and I believe they came as a shock to him. Our correspondence increased but we found it took at least a month for a letter to be received, considered, and answered. We looked for extraneous factors that might have influenced our different perceptions of the game. For example, in my experience with the Treshams, they played a very gentlemanly game, concentrating on having fun but not apparently driven to win. I found myself and fellow American players to be very aggressive and analytical, constantly stretching the rules looking for an advantage. Francis also always played in games of three or four players, while we usually had five or six. There was some concern that a larger number of players destabilized the game. In a smaller game every player should have a early chance to operate a railroad. In a larger game, however, some players would have to wait. Refuting my assertion that American players were aggressively trying to win, we found players without a railroad to operate would do whatever they had to do to get a presidency, regardless of the effect on their chances to win. This phenomena worked to destabilize the game, driving down stock prices and accelerating the retirement of trains.
Francis and I also found we had a different idea of how the game should play. I was looking for more of the measured pace of 1829 where the game progressed through a slow evolution of stages. Francis wanted to intentionally do something different from 1829 (he did not consider his second version of 1829 as successful as the first), and he wanted to capture some of the wide open free-for-all entrepreneurship that embodied the building of American railroads. We were both interested in having the game playable in under four hours and keeping the number of components to a minimum.
Still anxious to get the game in print, and believing we were still on the verge of making a great game, I decided to make changes to the game where I thought necessary. I thought this would help, especially considering the difficulty in communicating with England. I was hoping to actually demonstrate solutions to what we perceived to be wrong, where my arguments were not succeeding. Mick Uhl and I concentrated mainly on the map and tiles. We thought that a few changes on the map could improve the historicity of the game by providing incentives for a more historical development. Looking now at a surviving copy of the map we made at this time I see several changes of this type that were not incorporated in the final game. For example, I added the Ohio River which wandered through eight hexes of the map's southeast corner, plus several important river cities-Cincinnati, Wheeling, and others not named. The PRR base hex had no track bypass and the hex immediately to the east of the PRR base is a mountain hex. This forced most railroads wishing to go west to cross a mountain. The new cities on the Ohio, plus making Chicago a 20/100 and the Gulf a 40/80, were to hopefully provide incentive for westward expansion. Both Albany and Philadelphia were also made river hexes.
We also felt this was a good time to get some other opinions. I made up two playtest kits using Francis's rules and our map. I believe I also modified the stock market prices and possibly the order of the railroads. The games were sent to two friends, Gerald Lientz of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Steve Simmons of Woburn, Massachusettes. Gerald was a long-time member of the UVA game club and an excellent 1829 player. Steve was one of the people who had been playing 1829 when I first saw it in Michigan, and later had the pleasure of beating me twice in 1829 tournaments. I knew both Gerald and Steve had access to groups of experienced gamers, and were reliable. I was beginning to be concerned that the experiences and styles of play of the groups playing with Francis and myself were being unduly influenced by his and my personal participation. An outside playtest is normally conducted to look for bugs in a game after it is considered finished. In this case I was hopefully looking for support for our changes, and general opinions of the game. I believe I included descriptions of what had been changed as a point of reference. I was prepared for opinions in favor of Francis's ideas as well, and awaited the first reports.
The results of these playtests were mixed, and therefore did little to advance the game. Both groups enjoyed the game and played it often, but both found several parts of it unsatisfactory. I believe both were thinking like me, dominated by their experience with 1829. I was soon receiving lists of suggested changes from both, and both began playtesting using their own modifications. So, while the playtesters were generally enthusiastic, they weren't happy with either Francis's version or our modifications, and were busy designing a third and fourth version.
When news of these playtests and our unhappiness reached Francis he was understandably alarmed. Instead of writing, our next communication was by phone. I can't recall exactly how our conversation went, but the essential points were that we were unhappy with the game and could not recommend it in its current form. This was a real blow for Francis I'm sure, as he had believed the game was ready for production. But everyone who had played it in the States disagreed. At this point (late fall of 1984) 1830 was just about dead. Management was not happy with me because I had spent so much time on the game with nothing to show for it. I was not happy because this was the most interesting game project I had ever been involved with, and I had been looking forward to seeing it in print. Francis's disappointment needs no description.
In November I mailed to Francis a final list of our objections. The major problems in our opinion were the selling of private companies, the retirement of trains, and the economic and geographic incentives for unhistorical development of the railroads. As discussed earlier, the ability to sell a large private company for five times its listed price worked to destabilize the game. In its early stages, players not holding one of the big three (Mohawk & Hudson, B&O, and Camden & Amboy) would try and block the others from getting control of a corporation. This was generally impossible, and certainly not fun. Instead of offensively building an empire, we were concentrating on keeping someone else from gaining a big advantage.
The problems with the retirement of trains centered on the "4" trains. For their cost they appeared to be a bad bargain, often remaining in play for only a short time. Rapid retirement of the "4" trains occurred most often when five or six people were playing, because then the presidencies were more spread out. Most players could get only one. Train problems became more acute because players didn't have the luxury of manipulating the trains of two or more corporations for their mutual benefit.
I have already discussed what we didn't like about the map. While the playtesting was going on we experimented with a few additional ideas. One I liked was adding an additional row of hexes at the map's bottom. In this row we added the city of Richmond, placing there the base of the C&O. Several hexes west of Richmond in the new row we placed a city which was actually to represent the Virginia coalfields. With this configuration all railroads in the game started east of the Appalachian Mountains except the Erie, and the only gap in the mountain range was through central New York where the Erie Canal and New York Central were historically built.
We also experimented with new geography in the upstate New York area around the Erie base hex. We had found a lot of congestion there in play. Several surviving prototype maps show a number of configurations for what became hexes D-14 and E-11. None of these experiments were found to be an improvement over Francis's design so ours were abandoned.
Francis had asked me whether the game was salvageable and at the end of my November letter I replied yes, but added that changes would have to be made to make the game fun and interesting to enough people in Baltimore to convince myself and management. I felt that 1830 should be moved closer to 1829 in style of play, and gave examples of three radical suggestions that could be tried: remove the ability to sell private companies; add more trains, money, tile variations, railroads (to give the players more options and decisions in play); or remove the train purchasing requirement for a railroad with no train. I wanted to give the players more options to ponder, and eliminate some of the jarring game conditions that were difficult to foresee and plan for. I wanted to emphasize rewards for consistent good decision making.
Back with the November letter went the original 1830 prototype left with us at the Detroit Origins. I was certainly disappointed to see it go. Francis responded in late December and again in January saying that he would try a few more playtests. If nothing worked out he was going to consider a complete new design, perhaps on the entire United States or just the western railroads. He also mentioned he had seven additional railroad games in some stage of development! (To my knowledge and regret, none of these has yet been published in England.)
Several months now passed with no additional news. Sometime in the spring we received word from Francis that he believed he had revitalized 1830 and that he would be bringing a new prototype with him to Origins '85. He did not provide any details of what had been done, so we could only wait and see. When Francis and the new prototype arrived, we were pleased to find that the new game appeared to be substantially improved. The first days of the convention were spent in playtests and discussions. By Sunday we were sufficiently convinced of the success of the prototype that we took some time off to visit the B&O Railroad Museum. Again the game was left with us, and we were to continue playtesting. Assuming no more serious faults were found, we were hoping to publish 1830 at the next opportunity in our production schedule.
1830 was saved by several simple changes, most worked out by Francis and one, I believe, from myself. Francis's critical idea was to eliminate the strict order of appearance for each railroad, and to instead allow stock to be bought in any corporation. The consecutive order of appearance rule derived from his earlier games. By discarding this rule, 1830 was dramatically opened up as a game. Instead of focusing on minor decisions such as which tile to lay where, the player now focused on the major decisions of what railroads to begin. Once the private companies were sold, stock in all of the railroad corporations was available. To me, this offered the player the options I was looking for, and the variety of combinations possible seemed to assure each game would be different.
A second change from Francis was a limit on the sale of private companies. Now they could be sold for a maximum of twice face value, and this seemed a good compromise. A sale for the maximum possible gain remained a dirty trick to the general loss of other stockholders, but it didn't necessarily wreck the buying railroad or vault the seller into a dominant position. Francis later felt even the double face value limit was too high, but we were happy with it and got our way. This new limit allowed some representation of the "sharp practice" that characterized early railroad building, but did not massively disrupt play as the old "five times" limit did.
Other changes from Francis dealt with the private companies. In the original versions only the big three companies had special features (basically the same they have now). Francis added the current features of the Champlain & St Lawrence and the Delaware & Hudson. These changes were an immediate success. We found these two private companies became attractive as they could be important assets to railroads operating in their area. The C&StL is valuable mainly to the Canadian Pacific, but the D&H can be used to materially benefit almost every railroad in the game. We found it especially helpful to the C&O, Erie, B&M, and New Haven. For some it offered a route out of the northeast toward the west, and for others it offered access into New York. The D&H became a very desirable property, and the objective of spirited bidding.
Francis also redesigned the stock market scale into its current format. We were pleased with this because we felt it brought the relative importance of stock value and cash (dividends) back into balance. It was no longer clearly more beneficial to drive up stock prices, or to ignore stock values and go for big trains and dividends. Each railroad had to be considered according to its situation. Diesels were only desirable for those corporations with good prospects for income.
My own contribution at this stage concerned the par price of railroad stock. (If this was not actually my idea, I apologize to the real originator.) In Francis' revised game, any stock could be bought, but the par price was already fixed ($100 per share for the Pennsylvania RR, $90 for the New York Central, etc.). I thought, why not let the purchaser of the president's certificate set his own price? This idea gave the players another tough decision, as the par price determined not only the per share price, but also the amount of capital the railroad would begin operating with. A player could tailor the par price to fit his objectives and his pocket book. The lower the price the easier it would be to find buyers for the stock and the quicker the railroad could begin operating. However, the lower the price the less money the new railroad would have in its beginning treasury. Higher priced stock generally made less relative share value increases over the course of the game. As I recall, this idea of variable par prices was accepted by all parties almost immediately and proved successful.
These changes were worked out during Origins and during continuing correspondence through the Fall. In this manner we arrived at the game as it now exists. Our other objections now either disappeared with the new rules or faded in importance in light of the game's success. We found it fun to play again, and the problems posed for successful play were challenging. Two old objections not specifically addressed were the retirement of the "4" trains and some of the game's geography and history. The "4" train problem still remains to some extent, but as the game appears to be much more stable than in its previous versions, we accepted this. In my experience, players anticipate problems with the last "4" train and plan accordingly. Our geographic and historic objections lost their importance once the game was found to work to our satisfaction. As long as the previous versions were not successful, we pressed for having these historical and geographical changes incorporated as well. Now there was no need for change, and we compromised our objections.
From this point the story of making 1830 is an easy ride. I was given the "go ahead" by management in late 1985. It was my job to edit the rules based on Francis' manuscript and incorporate all the last minute modifications. With the help of our artist, Charlie Kibler, Francis' original art and graphic work was converted to finished art. I selected the locomotive pictures that appear on the private company cards and train cards, and tried to find locomotives that were historically appropriate. The layout of the game board was just one of many contributions from Mick Uhl. The box cover was based on my design and painted by Jim Talbot. 1830 finally came rolling off the presses in the spring of 1986.
My personal taste in games is for those that 1) reward skill and good decision-making, 2) offer many challenges and interesting decisions, and 3) have simple mechanics allowing players to concentrate on strategy, not the rules. I believe 1830 incorporates all three of my principles. The decision making in 1830 centers on strategic problems, such as which railroad to start or invest in, and at what price. The tile play is somewhat restricted compared to Francis' earlier games, both to keep the game short and to keep the number of components down. But this is more than made up for by the strategic decisions that are required. The lurking specter of bankruptcy (absent in some earlier games) and the potential for dirty tricks add a nice element of uncertainty and danger. Various new rules for stock price movements give the stock market a large role. Stocks are continuously bought and sold, changing each player's fortunes.
Despite the difficulties we encountered in bringing 1830 about, I am very proud of having contributed in some way to its creation. I think it is an excellent game, and it remains one of my favorites. Judging from the comments of those of you who have written us concerning 1830, you agree with me. With your continued support, I hope we can bring you more interesting games of this sort in the future.
THE PRIVATE COMPANIES AND RAILROADS OF 1830
What follows is a brief discussion of each private company and railroad in 1830. These are my opinions and I would not be surprised to find that other players disagree with me. Perhaps the discussion of each will be most valuable to new players with no previous basis for opinion. I have rated the railroads for suitability in two categories: one being one of the initial railroads started; and two, operating a Diesel Train profitably. An "A" is the highest rating, "C" the lowest. I also note which other railroads make good complements when run by the same player.
Schuylkill Valley Navigation & Railroad: The SVN&RR is nothing special but is better than having no private company. I pass on this at my first opportunity and bid on something more desirable. If I'm offered it again, I usually buy it. This company pays the highest relative return and can probably be sold for $40 later in the game to one of your railroads.
Champlain & St. Lawrence: The C&SL matches up very nicely with the Canadian Pacific, but has little value to any other railroad. If you plan to run the CP buy the C&SL. Or, if you end up with the C&SL, consider trying to float the CP (get 60% of the stock bought by yourself and/or other players so it will begin operating) in the first stock round. Again, I usually pass on this company at my first opportunity in order to bid on something better. I never pass it on my second opportunity. It pays the same relative return as the SVN&RR, with the added value to a CP president, and can be sold for up to $80 with little pain to the buying railroad.
Delaware & Hudson: The D&H is perhaps the most interesting private company due to its special feature. By buying it, any railroad can set up a separate railhead in the D&H hex and should obtain access into or out of New York. This feature should be especially valuable to presidents of the C&O, Erie, B&M and New Haven. Your railroad probably won't be able to afford paying $140 for it, but $70 to $100 is possible. There are usually two or more bids for this company, and anything less than $100 is probably a fair price.
Mohawk & Hudson: The M&H is the least valuable of the big three, and possibly less valuable than the D&H. I will probably buy it if it is available but I don't recall bidding on it. The owner of the M&H has a tough decision because the development of the New York Central can't go too far without access to hex D-18. So if the owner plans on running the NYC well, he will probably have to forego the M&H revenue. I normally trade the M&H certificate for an NYC share just before I need to lay a tile in D-18, but selling the M&H has is attractions as well. Another option is to develop the NYC without incorporating hex D-18 and try and keep the revenue coming in as long as possible. Later in the game look to trade the M&H for an NYC share in the Bank Pool or any remaining in the initial offering.
Camden & Amboy: In my opinion, the C&A is the most valuable private company. Besides the fact that it pays a good revenue and can be sold for up to $320, the icing on the cake is the free share of Pennsylvania RR stock. Some day I mean to record the return value of this free share by adding up the dividends it earns plus its final value. This company is normally the object of spirited bidding so if you ever have the opportunity to buy it at face value, don't hesitate. The C&A usually goes for $175 or more in my experience, and I don't think $200 is too high, though I've never seen it sell for that much. Selling the C&A to a railroad you control for $320 and then selling out so that someone else can try and pick up the pieces is the second most nasty ploy possible in 1830. If you hold more than one share in a railroad controlled by the owner of the C&A be careful of where the priority deal card ends at the end of a stock round, or better yet, never own more than one share in this player's railroads.
Baltimore & Ohio: I normally don't bid on the B&O, but will buy it at face value given the chance. Standard play in my experience has been to set the par price of B&O stock at $100 to discourage early investment, and then sit back collecting $30 per operating phase. The B&O Railroad is then started at your leisure, having recouped much of your investment. Unfortunately, other players often will force your hand by buying at least four shares of the stock in the first stock round. This will force you to close the private company, cutting off the revenue. The B&O has a lot of potential, so an early start is not a disaster. Since my heart is for an early start and good development of the B&O (my favorite real world railroad), but my mind says collect the revenue now and run the B&O later, I usually am content to let someone else make the decision.
PENNSYLVANIA RR (starting railroad-B, diesel-A, complements-C&O, B&O): I don't like to get the PRR running right away because its opportunities for earning revenue are less than other railroads. It is handicapped by its base with a revenue of "10", and the restricted development possible when only yellow tiles are available. However, in the middle and end games, the PRR is ideally situated to build a long and lucrative diesel route from New York to Chicago. A nice "6" Train route is also possible-Chicago, H-4, H-10, H-16, H-18, New York. You will probably need to place tokens in H-10 and H-16, and possibly H-18 if you can't negotiate to keep this tile open. Control of either the C&O or the B&O as well as the PRR can be a very strong position.
NEW YORK CENTRAL (starting railroad-B, diesel-A, complements-CP, Erie, NYNH&H): I don't buy the presidency of NYC unless I own the M&H private company; and I don't like to start the NYC right away because in my experience it earns too little revenue. However, to realize the NYC's full potential of running to Chicago an early start is very helpful. It is possible for the NYC to earn a good income early by ignoring New York and instead build to Boston along the coast of Long Island Sound. Another advantage of this route is it delays the need for access to hex D-18. The disadvantage of this development is it may preclude the western expansion necessary to support a diesel. The NYC has good prospects for later development and can reach Chicago by several routes. However, to reach Chicago the NYC will have to build a lot of track. Getting control of the Erie or CP can greatly help the NYC expand. The NYC will probably need to place tokens in New York and D-14, and possibly D-10 if headed west that way.
CANADIAN PACIFIC (starting railroad-A, diesel-B, complements-NYC, Erie): I have had a lot of success starting the CP right away, especially when I hold the C&SL private company. It is then possible to quickly get two "2" trains and a "3" train running very lucratively. I usually plan for a "5" or "6" train and content myself with running the railroad for dividends thereafter and driving the stock value to the top of the chart. The high value of the CP's base is big asset in this regard. If the NYC is late in getting started, the CP has the potential to build south to E-19. Place a token here as soon as possible and thereby gain access to New York. Not only does this help the CP, but it will hurt another railroad which would otherwise have expected to occupy that strategic position (probably the NYNH&H or B&M). A more ambitious plan for the CP is to build for Chicago north of the lakes in anticipation of running a diesel. For this to succeed you will probably need the help of second railroad. I have rarely seen CP development make a diesel worthwhile.
BALTIMORE & OHIO (starting railroad-A, diesel-A, complements-C&O, PRR): The B&O is a very solid railroad capable of earning a lot of money. It is the only railroad that may trace a route through Baltimore, an ability that gives it unique flexibility when operating a Diesel train in the Middle Atlantic area. I believe the highest revenue I have ever seen scored was for a B&O Diesel. The high value of its base (compared to the PRR for example) also gives it an advantage when just beginning. If I own the B&O private company I prefer to delay the start of the railroad and collect some private company revenue. Much of the track the B&O will be using later on will be built by the C&O and/or PRR. If I don't have the B&O private company, I'm usually willing to buy a share or two of B&O stock to get it going early and force the closing of the private company. The B&O can set up good routes for any train, but the president should be planning to run a Diesel. Successfully running the B&O requires some negotiation skill, as at least two other railroads (the C&O and PRR) will be wanting to use much of the same route. The B&O will probably want to run through H-10, H-16 and H-18, and can't place tokens in all of them.
CHESAPEAKE & OHIO (starting railroad-A, diesel-B, complements-B&O, PRR): Possibly the best railroad in the game, the C&O is almost always one of the first railroads started. It can quickly earn high dividends and with decent management can keep earning them all game. Its consistently high revenues mean its stock value should be high as it won't have to forego dividends as often as other railroads might. Compared to most other railroads, it should have relatively less trouble financing trains. Although I only rate it "B" for diesel suitability, it would rate "A" if the C&O president also controls the B&O or PRR. I rate it a "B" because it doesn't have easy access to New York from either the north or the south, and doesn't have the flexibility around Baltimore that the B&O does. Consequently I don't think it can expect to earn the revenue that the PRR and B&O may. I look to run the C&O from Chicago to New York (south), but New York (north) is a possibility through control of the D&H private company. First track is usually built towards the Gulf or Chicago, and both offer interesting possibilities. Careful negotiations will be needed to keep open C&O routes, as it will be competing with the B&O and PRR for routes and can only place two tokens outside of Cleveland.
ERIE (starting railroad-C, diesel-C, complements-NYC, CP): The Erie is seriously handicapped because it may not place any tiles until the first "3" has been bought. Because of this and the attraction of other railroads, the Erie is tough to get going. Often the president will find it necessary to buy 60% of the stock himself. I have seen the Erie end up with the most valuable share price and be the largest holding of a winning portfolio, but I don't expect that to happen often. It is possible to make the Erie work well, but it is not easy. Once started the Erie has one strong point, its base is a 40-point city. If it can be floated early, the Erie has the potential to make money and grow. It can especially benefit from owning the D&H private company and placing a token in E-16 to gain access to New York. I usually see the Erie working its way into the double city at D-10 and from there connecting to CP track to western Canada or Montreal.
NEW YORK, NEW HAVEN & HARTFORD (starting railroad-A, diesel-C, complements-NYC, B&M): The NYNH&H can make money quickly by building track to Boston along the coast of Long Island Sound and placing a token in the city in hex F-22 as soon as possible. It may then operate two "2" trains and a "3" train for a good revenue. As part of this plan, I bring out the NYNH&H at a fairly low price, $67 or $71. This is enough capital to buy my trains, tokens, and cross the river in hex F-22, and the shares should sell well. If all ten shares are bought, you should have a nice gain in their value within a few turns. The high revenue means not only high dividends, but it is possible to quickly rebuild the treasury to finance future train needs. I look to run this railroad ultimately with a "5" Train and, if it starts early, it should have one of the highest stock values. A more ambitious plan for the NYNH&H is difficult to implement because of two major handicaps, its lack of tokens (only one may be placed outside New York) and the competition from other railroads in the congested northeast.
BOSTON & MAINE (starting railroad-A, diesel -C, complements-NYC, NYNH&H): Most of the above comments for the NYNH&H apply as well to the B&M with a few provisos. First, I consider the B&M the lesser railroad of the two because of its base in Boston, versus the other base in New York. New York has better long term prospects for development of a rail net than is offered by Boston, which is blocked on two sides by mountains. Second, the B&M is only an "A" as a starting railroad if the NYNH&H isn't started. I don't think that both can simultaneously pursue the same plan with success, and I would bet on the B&M being the loser. As in the real world, people's perceptions greatly influence the decision of what stocks to buy. The B&M is perceived as a weak sister to the NYNH&H, making it difficult to convince other players to buy and hold the stock. The B&M serves best as second or third presidency for a player already controlling one of the northeastern railroads. I don't recall it ever being the most valuable holding in a winning portfolio.
Elsewhere in this issue is "All Aboard" by Ed Fahrmeier, a member of the nearby game group WARTHOG (Washington Area Retinue of Tacitly Highly Organized Gamers). Along with many other achievements, Ed has been awarded the title "Dr. ChooChoo" in recognition of his skill in playing railroad games. I understand he rarely fails to win a game of 1830, an enviable record within his group of very competent game players.
I mention Ed and his record as evidence that 1830 rewards skillful play. He apparently has the ability to consistently make correct decisions about his stock purchases and railroad operations. Despite the fact that 1830 has no dice, random events, or similar mechanics (the only random element is the seating order for the players), while playing there is a tendency when things go wrong to claim bad luck. The reckless player can find himself suddenly president of a railroad with an empty treasury and nearly obsolete equipment, or have to dig deep into his own pockets to finance train purchases. Ed's consistent success is evidence that it is possible to manage and build a valuable portfolio of railroads and stocks while avoiding the disasters that can trap the unwary. In the following player's notes I have listed a number of principles to follow and tactics to employ while playing 1830. They will be most helpful to new and inexperienced players, but even old hands may find a helpful idea.
HAVE A PLAN: Many of the more important decisions you will have to make when playing 1830 are made as the game is just beginning. Specifically, you will need to decide what private companies you would like to own and how much you are willing to pay. After that, and assuming you have enough cash remaining, you will need to decide which railroad to invest in during the first stock round. Since you can't know for certain which private companies you will end up with, planners must prepare for several contingencies. Decide whether you will start the Canadian Pacific right away if you get the C&SL. Decide whether or not to start the NYC if you get the M&H. Decide where you will set the par price of the B&O if you get the B&O private company. Look upon the private companies as the starting hand you are dealt with. Before you begin play have a plan as to which railroad you would like to start, or how to otherwise invest your money, based on what "cards" you are dealt.
BUY A PRIVATE COMPANY: Always try and buy at least one private company. I rate the Private Companies in order of desirability as follows: 1)Camden & Amboy; 2) Delaware & Hudson; 3) Baltimore & Ohio; 4) Mohawk & Hudson; 5) Champlain & St Lawrence; and 6) Schuylkill Valley. The D&H is not as desirable if you don't plan to use it to help a railroad. The B&O is not as desirable if the B&O railroad is floated immediately. I generally only bid on the C&A or D&H. For their cost, any private company is a good investment and a player without one begins at a disadvantage.
WHICH RAILROAD TO START: I rate the railroads in order of preference as follows:
1) C&O; 2) B&O; 3) CP; 4) PRR; 5) NYC; 6) NYNH&H; 7) Erie; and 8) B&M. This list would change according to what railroads you already control, what railroads your opponents control, what private companies you own, and at what stage the game is in. If the game is just beginning, you don't want to try and start the Erie. If you own the C&SL, that is an incentive to start the CP. In the first stock round it will probably be easier to entice investors to buy NYNH&H stock rather than PRR or NYC stock, even though the second two railroads have better long-term prospects.
PAR PRICES: When you are about to purchase the president's certificate of a new railroad, the par price should be determined by three factors: how much cash you have and thus how many shares you can afford to buy; how much capital you think the railroad needs; and how many shares you will need other players to buy. You want to buy as many shares as you can to make it easier to keep your presidency and to make it worthwhile to run your company well. Capital requirements are difficult to assess, but as a general rule, I believe the later a railroad starts, the more capital it will need. The earlier a railroad starts, the easier it is to manage with less capital. The lower the par price, the more attractive the stock will be to other players. I generally start companies at $71-$82 in the early and middle game, and at $100 in the end game.
RUN A RAILROAD: In order to have a chance at winning, you must be the president of at least one railroad. I have never seen a player win who wasn't. Besides the fun of operating a railroad and the control over the destiny of the railroad's stock, the president's certificate represents two shares of stock. Assume two players each hold 16 certificates, but one has three presidencies and the other holds only one. In this case one player would actually have 19 shares of stock paying dividends and increasing in value while the other had only 17 shares. Other things being equal, the player with two additional shares would be expected to beat the second player. Getting control of a railroad has the obvious additional benefit of denying the presidency to another player, especially one who stands to gain by controlling more than one railroad in a region. For example, control over any two of the B&O, C&O or PRR, is a strong position as the two can work together to build and keep open lucrative train routes. When considering the purchase of a presidency look to obtain such combinations or to deny them to others.
KEEP FULLY INVESTED: It is important to quickly get your money working. Cash in your hand does not earn interest, and can only increase your wealth by being invested in shares that grow in value and pay dividends. At the end of a typical game the cash and stock values of player holdings will be worth around $25000 to $30000. This means each $ I of the $2400 distributed to the players at the start will grow to $10 to $12. If you have enough cash on hand to buy a share of stock in an operating company, it is generally wise to buy. You can often measure how you are doing in the game by comparing the number of shares (not certificates) of operating railroads you hold to the number held by others. If you hold several shares less than another player you are probably not winning.
DIVERSIFY YOUR PORTFOLIO: Your portfolio is your holdings of stock certificates. It is a mistake to only hold stocks in railroads you run. While it may be dangerous to hold more than one share in a competitor's railroad, there is little risk in holding only one. An ideal portfolio would consist of 4-6 shares in each railroad you control and one share in each other railroad. In some cases holding more than one share will be desirable and in others you won't want any stock at all. Being able to distinguish these cases comes with experience. The strength of diversification is the spreading of risk and the fact that usually one stock or another will be paying dividends and giving you some income. If you are holding only your own shares, there may be times when you won't pay dividends and thus won't have any income. Too, holding shares in other railroads gives you stock market flexibility. Often you won't want to sell your own shares if they are overpriced since in the long run holding the presidency is so important. But you can buy and sell stock in other railroads as you see fit. Remember that selling shares reduces their market value, and moving in and out of several different railroads in one stock round drives down the value of all you sell.
AVOID UNWANTED PRESIDENCIES: You don't want to be given the presidency of a railroad with no train, or one in otherwise poor condition, because you may find yourself called upon to spend your own money to buy that railroad a train. This can cause your bankruptcy, or at least knock you down in the final standings. You can be given such a presidency when you are holding two or more shares in the railroad and the previous president sells enough shares to leave you as the current largest shareholder. There are two ways to prevent this. The easiest is to never hold more than one share ( 10 % ) of a railroad of which you are not the president. If no other player holds two or more shares, the presidency cannot be transferred.
The second way to avoid an unwanted presidency is less certain. For this method you must watch the position of the priority deal card and never allow the current president to be in a position to trade before you. As long as you will have an opportunity to buy or sell before the current president, you can sell down to only one share or less. If it looks like the priority deal card will end in a bad position, sell out your stock rather than take the risk. If the current president of the railroad you are concerned about buys immediately after you in order, then you will be safe so long as you are not the last player to buy or sell.
WATCH THE PRIORITY DEAL CARD: Ideally you want to always be the holder of the priority deal card. In this position you can never be stuck with the presidency of a crippled railroad and you have the first opportunity to buy or sell stock. You don't want to be the last person to buy or sell in a stock round if you can avoid it. It is sometimes preferable to pass on buying one more share and instead sit on your cash temporarily to keep the priority deal card in a more favorable position for the next stock round. Holding the priority deal card can be a strong temptation to pull a dirty trick and a dump a presidency. (I rarely yield to this temptation as I think every railroad in the game can be profitably managed. I have also seen players turn supposedly crippled railroads into valuable assets. If you are tempted to dump a railroad on someone else, be as certain as you can that this is a good move. Presidencies are very valuable assets and you shouldn't give one away without good reason.)
PLOY #1-SELLING TRAINS: When one player gets control of at least two presidencies, the ability to buy trains from each other often makes each railroad stronger. Such railroads are more flexible and efficient in keeping adequate trains on hand. Other players must be aware in this situation that the capability also exists to loot one railroad to the benefit of another. This is simply done by railroad A buying, say, a "4" train from the bank, and then having railroad B buy the same "4" train from A for $1. This is usually only worth considering if you plan to get out of control of a railroad and if the priority deal card is positioned such that by your stock sales you will be guaranteed to force the presidency on to another player. To my mind the nastiest ploy possible in 1830 is to buy away a railroad's only train and then force the presidency on another player when his only option is to buy a Diesel out of his own cash.
Selling trains can be useful when you are operating a "feeder line" (see #14 below) and using it to buy trains which are then bought by another of your railroads. I have also seen trains sold between railroads when a player judges that railroad A's train would be more useful with railroad B, either because railroad B has a better route, or because he has more stock in railroad B.
PLOY #2-SELLING PRIVATE COMPANIES: Selling a private company to a railroad can be beneficial to the player, the railroad, or both, depending on the price, the time of the sale and any special attribute that may accrue to the railroad. If the sale occurs soon after the purchase of the first "3" train, and if the price is reasonable (around face value), and if the railroad derives some real benefit from the acquisition (access to a certain hex, for instance), then the sale can't be considered a ploy, but rather good business. An early sale at a reasonable price means the railroad will be able to recover much of the cost before the private company is closed down. However, a late sale or a sale at a high price is a definite ploy, as the player has substantially enriched himself at the expense of other stockholders. As you play 1830 you must keep aware of the potential for yourself and other players to sell a private company. The larger the company the greater the temptation for "sharp practice. " Never put yourself in a position to suddenly be running a railroad that has just bought the Camden & Amboy for $320. I rarely find a good reason to pull off this kind of ploy, as I have found that selling a company at a fair price early derives a sufficient benefit to the player and gives the railroad time to recover most of its expense. But I like having the possibility present because it adds a nice bit of uncertainty to the game.
PLOY #3-SELLING STOCK: You can improve your position in a game by judiciously selling shares in another player's railroad and driving down its value. Consider the situation where the player you consider your closest competitor holds six shares of stock in a railroad in which you also hold two shares. The share price is $275 and is marked in the top row of the Stock Market. You anticipate the game will continue only three more operating rounds so you sell your two shares for $275 each, driving the price down to $200 per share. Assuming both shares are bought by other players and the railroad pays dividends in each of the remaining three operating phases, the maximum share value the stock can reach by the game's end is $300. Without your sales (and no other sales) the share value would have reached $350. By selling you have cost your competitor $300 (or $420 if both shares are not bought by other players). You will have lost $25 per share in stock value increase ($275 to $300) plus the dividends you didn't collect. Assuming that shares in other railroads were available to buy you will recoup some, if not all, of your losses, and should have improved your chances of winning relative to the player whose stock you sold. In order to make this ploy work you must hold at least two shares of the stock you wish to drive down, and there must be other shares available to buy.
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE STOCK VALUE: A common error among new players is to overestimate the importance of earning large dividends and having Diesel trains running on as many railroads as possible. I have heard of games where all stock values are very low when the game ends, as every railroad continually passed its dividend to build up its treasury to pay for larger trains. As long as everyone in the game is thinking similarly there is nothing wrong with this strategy, but I have found that several railroads are not suited for operating a Diesel and can do very nicely with a "5" or "6" train. Once a suitable train has been purchased, let these railroads pay dividends continually instead of trying to raise additional capital for other railroads you control. A railroad whose share price is over $300 and pays a $25 dividend per operating round will do more to win the game for you than a railroad with a $100 value that finally manages to pay a dividend of $50 per share, but only for the last three operating rounds. There is only $12000 cash in the bank, and when all five Diesels are operating (plus all the "5" and "6" trains) that $12000 will be drained out of the bank in no more than six operating rounds, possibly in only three. If one or more railroads have taken a more conservative approach and have been operating with a smaller train and driving up their share prices while the others have been forcing their share prices down to finance bigger trains, the players holding a majority of the high value shares will be better off. The routes required to make a Diesel tremendously profitable are also susceptible to being blocked by tokens from competitors, undoing any advantage that may have been gained. From my experience you will need a balance of shares paying a high dividend (usually those from railroads operating a Diesel) and shares with a high value. Having a portfolio heavy in shares of one type or the other will not beat a more balanced holding.
THE FEEDER LINE: This is a name I use for a railroad whose stock price is in the Yellow zone or worse on the Stock Market. While normally not desirable, some benefits can be derived from this situation. By paying out dividends only occasionally, the share price can be kept in the colored zone, and the money paid into the treasury can be used to not only keep the railroad going, but also to place tiles in mountain or river hexes, or to buy additional trains to be bought thereafter by other railroads you control. While in the colored zones, the shares in this railroad do not count towards the limit of certificates you are allowed to hold. For example, in a four-player game where you could normally hold only 16 certificates, you could hold not only the 16 allowed, but an additional six in the feeder line (or more if the price is in the orange or brown zone). By carefully manipulating the price, the share values can be kept in a colored zone until near the end of the game. When the final operating phases are taking place, pay dividends to earn your maximum return because the position of the share price no longer matters.
I call this ploy the "feeder line" because it feeds cash or other assets into your other railroads. I would not deliberately set out to make a railroad a feeder line, but I understand that in some groups it is done regularly. The creation of a feeder line more often is the result of a ploy dumping a crippled railroad into another player's hands. Seeing no immediate way of restoring the railroad to its former value and soundness, the new president converts it to a feeder line. The value of a feeder line is diminished if you can't otherwise fill out your portfolio, or if for various reasons you can't use it to significantly benefit other railroads.
SWALLOWING THE PILL: Since I first started playing 1830, to be stuck buying a train or a substantial part of one out of your own pocket has been considered a serious, if not a terminal, setback to your chances of winning. I have since heard of several instances where players have done so deliberately and have gone on to win. Their strategy is to continually drive up their share prices and maximize the dividends they pay out. The money they lose out of pocket to pay for a train is apparently more than made up for in higher share values, and they ultimately get the larger train as well. I have never taken part in a game where this has been done successfully, but no less an authority than Francis Tresham assures me that it is quite possible and he credits one of his best playtesters with its conception. It may be that the "swallowing the pill'; strategy, like the "big train" or "feeder line' strategies, only works so long as the other players let you get away with it or give you the opportunity. I still believe in the "balanced portfolio" strategy, but will be looking at this new idea in the future. There is always something new to learn in a game as elegant as this.
KNOW YOUR COMPETITORS: This principle is not a revelation to game players, but 1830 can reward players who can accurately predict how others in the game are going to proceed. I have found that one type of player, whom I call the "empire builder," can be counted on to make one railroad he controls the jewel of his portfolio and will strive continuously to make this railroad successful. If you can identify this railroad or predict which it will be, you can safely buy as many shares of it as you wish and ride his coattails. This player would rather accept defeat than willingly admit he did a bad job and dump it. Another player I see a lot of is the "trickster." This player gets his kicks from the various plays he can pull off, and probably figures (correctly) that he has no chance in an orderly game where the premium will be on patience and planning. He attempts to create as much chaos and uncertainty as possible. Nothing makes this player happier than buying the first "4" train (usually when he has no use for it) just to force the retirement of all "2" trains. Never buy more than one share of a railroad the trickster controls, but be aware that his ploys can still affect you indirectly. Every game should have at least one trickster to add a little uncertainty.