18xx with Ambie: Track Laying

August 24, 2019

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

In this video, Ambie talks about laying track in 18xx games.

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’m going to talk about laying track.

A big part of 18xx games is the map and laying track for your corporations. In order to get the best revenue for the corporations, you'll want good routes that connect to the cities with the most money. But sometimes the track in 18xx games can get really complicated! And every game has different amounts and types of track, so even when you get good at track laying in one game, you may still be confused in a different one.

Most 18xx games come with a sheet called a tile manifest that tells you which tiles are in the game and what tiles can be upgraded into other tiles. If you want to really learn the tiles of a specific game, you can study the tile manifests. I personally don't use the tile manifests since I prefer looking at the tiles themselves, but if you can't have the tiles laid out on the table then it's difficult to see them all, so then the tile manifest can be helpful.

One thing that happens in a lot of games is that the number of track tiles are limited. This means that when all of this track is used up, no one else can build that specific track! This is something that you can use to your advantage, since you can purposely use up a specific tile to deny another player that piece. Usually though, if the piece isn’t upgraded completely, then you can upgrade it in order to get the piece available again.

As you play more, another thing to keep in mind is that at a certain point certain tiles might not be able to upgrade to what you want. For example, in 1830 the non-city tiles only ever use a maximum of four of the hex sides. So if you use this green upgrade, then this path can never connect through this hex, since there are no brown tiles that add a route on this hex side. Also, not all tiles have upgrades - In 1830, the double town tiles never upgrade, so you're making a really big decision that will last the whole game when you lay one! This limitation in addition to the limited number of track tiles allows you to really mess with other people's routes and make it really difficult for them to get where they want.

Another thing you might hear in regards to track laying is "restrictive" or "permissive" placement. This is in regards to upgrading tiles. In restrictive laying, when you upgrade a tile, some of the new track on the tile has to be reachable by your corporation. In contrast, with permissive laying, you can upgrade the tile as long as your corporation can trace a route to that tile. It doesn't matter what the new track is, so you can upgrade to add new track that you won't ever use. This is another thing that you can keep in mind when you want to block other corporations and mess with their routes!
As you play different titles, you might notice that there are different types of track. One major difference in track type you might notice is the difference between the traditional curvy track like in 1830 and this more sharp-edged track in games like 1817. This track is called Lawson track. Although they look similar, because of the rules of running routes, this Lawson track allows more connections than the curvy track, since you can go from here to here in the Lawson track. There are also games with different gauges of tracks, usually represented by non-solid lines. The rules for building tracks and running routes on the different gauges vary depending on the game, so you have to keep all of this in mind when you're planning out your routes.

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