18xx with Ambie: Dumping Companies & Hostile Takeovers

June 29, 2020

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 how corporations can change ownership, either through dumping companies or through hostile takeovers

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 the change of ownership of a company during a game.

A few videos ago I talked about the separation of personal money and company money. The fact that you can own shares of multiple companies that you don’t necessarily control is a huge part of 18xx games, and something that can happen because of that is that the companies can change ownership. Whoever has the most shares in the company becomes the President, so you’re not always the President of the same company throughout the whole game! There are two ways for a change of ownership to happen: when the President dumps the company on another player by selling shares, and when another player does a hostile takeover by buying up shares.

Dumping a company can be really helpful in getting out of a tough spot or putting other players into one! If another player has multiple shares in your company, you can sell down shares to have fewer than them, and then they get your Presidents certificate and become the President of the company. This means that they’re responsible for all the liabilities of that company. So if you didn’t have a train in that company, then instead of you having to worry about it, the player you dumped the company on will have to! Dumping companies also can allow you to sell all of your shares and get more cash, since otherwise you can’t sell the President’s share. But even if you have a bad company that you can’t dump, you can still sell down to just the President’s share and it’s not too bad since you aren’t invested too much.

If you don’t want a company dumped on you, there are a few things you can keep in mind. Firstly, you can only get a company dumped on you if you own enough shares to make up the President’s certificate. In most games, this is two shares, so if you only have one share then you’re safe. Also, sometimes there’s a limit to the number of shares in the bank pool, which means once that many shares have been sold, some need to be bought before more are sold. For example, if the limit is 5, and there are already two shares in the pool, then the President could only sell 3 shares at most, so you’d be safe as long as you had 3 fewer shares than them. Another thing that can keep you safe is priority in the stock round. Usually the player order for the next stock round is determined by the actions you do in the previous stock round, so you’ll know if you have priority over the President of that company. If you do, you can sell shares of the company before they get the chance to dump it on you, so you can safely invest in that company. 

So there are plenty of ways to invest safely, but as you play more you might want to take more risks and invest even when a company could get dumped on you. There are lots of things to take into account in determining the likelihood of the company getting dumped on you - like if the company has good routes, good trains, a lot of money, if the player is President of multiple companies, or what the operating order of those companies is. And it might not even be that bad to get a company dumped on you depending on what else you have, because maybe you can use it to your advantage.

And that leads me to hostile takeovers, which happen when you want to take over a company from the original President by buying up more shares than them. Being the president of many corporations is pretty powerful, since in addition to getting more share value from the president certificates, you also have more control over the routes and tokens on the map, the trains being bought, and by extension the pacing of the game. So when you have a good company, or even sometimes when it’s not so good, like when you're just holding on to the President’s share, other players may want to take it over.

But in my experience, actual hostile takeovers don’t happen very often, since it’s usually easy to prevent. If you as the President own at least 50% of the company, then no one else can get more and you’ll remain the President as long as you don’t sell any shares. But once you sell shares, you’ll want to note how much money other players have and if they’re in a position to buy more than you. Also, if you notice someone buying up shares during the stock round, since players can only buy one share per turn, you can buy shares on your turn to stay ahead of them. The danger of hostile takeover comes when you don’t have enough money to get up to 50% of the company, or if you’ve sold shares of your company in the stock round, because then you can’t buy any more that round! Then the other player can buy up as many as they want and take over the company. But even then, if a third player also invests in the company, the shares may run out while you still have majority and then the hostile takeover won’t happen!

So with both company dumping and hostile takeovers, there are ways to play it safe and ensure that it doesn’t happen to you. Most of the time what actually happens is more “friendly” takeovers and dumps - when a player is willing to take the risk of getting a company dumped on them, or the President is willing to let another player take over their company because they’re investing in something else. So if you want to play it safe you can, but if you’re willing to take some risks, there’s potential for a lot of changing of ownership of corporations in a game! 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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