18xx with Ambie: Speeding up Play

October 4, 2018

18xx with Ambie is Ambie's video series about 18xx board games featured on The Dice Tower's YouTube channel.

In this video, Ambie goes over some tips for speeding up play.


Hi! I’m Ambie, and this is my video series about 18xx games. If you’re not sure what 18xx games are, check out my 18xx intro video. In this video, I’ll go over some tips for speeding up gameplay.

If you read the rules of 18xx games, many of them have a section in the beginning suggesting that you should be conscious of the time you’re taking on your turn. Since 18xx games require a lot of thought and there’s a lot of stuff going on, they take a good amount of time. But my group actually plays pretty quickly, so I’ll try to give you some tips for speeding up your play outside of just the accessories you use.

The first tip is useful for all board games. Since there’s a lot of stuff to think about, make sure you’re thinking on other players’ turns as well as your own. This not only speeds up your turn, but also makes you engaged in the game the entire time, and when you’re engaged, the time doesn’t seem so long!

But this takes a good amount of effort and you have to be actively paying attention to the game the whole time, since other players’ turns can affect yours. So your decisions will need to be flexible. I usually think of a few options of things I’d like to do so that if one gets blocked I can do another one. For example, when I build routes, I think of the overall goal of where I want the corporation to be running at the end of the game, so if someone blocks one way I can still be thinking of other ways to get to the same destination.

The maps in 18xx games can be pretty big and routes can get complicated, so it will be really difficult to optimize all your routes, especially when you’re new to the game. So a great way to speed up play is not to worry about optimizing for everything. As you play more, you’ll get better at calculating the best routes, but it’s usually not very fun waiting while someone is calculating ten different options to see which is the best by just ten dollars.

Also,18xx games are usually not a set number of rounds, so one way to shorten the game length is by buying trains. There are different types of trains in the games, and when you buy a higher level train, the next phase of the game starts. But usually in order to buy the higher level trains, all the lower level ones need to be bought, so buying trains advances the game forward. Trains can also be a liability since the earlier ones become obsolete. Whoever is the President of a company without trains usually needs to buy a train for it, so this can cause a chain reaction of a lot of new trains having to be bought at once. This is called a train rush. Many beginners are hesitant to buy trains because of the liabilities, but buying them quickly and having a train rush can greatly increase the pace of the game. Also, in games where bankruptcy ends the game, the train rush is what usually causes a bankruptcy, so you can try to make that happen for an even earlier end to the game!

Another thing that’s more unique to 18xx games is that the turn structure isn’t usually fixed. In operating rounds, players take turns for the corporations that they’re the President of. This means that you can have multiple turns in a round or no turns, and which player takes each turn can change in the next round after shares are exchanged during the stock round. And the turn order of the corporations change too! My husband Toby keeps things moving by keeping track of whose turn it is. Usually he’ll announce whose turn it is and then also whose turn is next so that person will have a heads up for planning. So having a Toby in your group - someone who lets people know when it’s their turn - will help!

If you don’t have a Toby, then some people like playing games using a timer. It’s sort of like Blitz Chess - where each person gets a certain amount of time per decision. This can be pretty stressful, but if you want to make sure that everyone makes their decisions relatively quickly, then a timer can be useful.

For advanced players and really long games like 18OE, which takes a whole day or two for a full game, a lot of the early routes can be built simultaneously since they don’t affect the other players. I don’t particularly enjoy playing simultaneously, but it does help with the time!

Lastly, if your group runs out of time or feels the game is dragging on, feel free to call it. Our group tends to get tired at the end game of a lot of games, so sometimes we stop the game early. Lots of times we realize that the game will last a few more rounds, and then agree not to make any changes, and we can calculate the end scores on paper as if we ran through the rounds without laying any track. Or sometimes we can tell who’s going to win and we just call the game without finishing. These are group decisions though, so make sure everyone in your group is on the same page!

Thanks for watching 18xx With Ambie! You can comment below or email me at ambie@dicetower.com with any questions, comments, or suggestions for future videos!
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