18xx with Ambie: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons

September 18, 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 gives an overview of the game 1830: Railways & Robber Barons.

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. You can check out the rest of my playlist for other general concepts about the games too, because I’ll be using some 18xx-specific terms here. In this video, I’m going to give an overview of the game 1830: Railways and Robber Barons.

1830 Overview [0:37]
1830 was the second ever 18xx game, and the first one to be widely available in the United States. It was designed by Francis Tresham and published by Avalon Hill in 1986. There are a couple other versions by Mayfair and Lookout Games with different art, but I have the Avalon Hill version here.

1830 has pretty basic rules for an 18xx game, and it's actually usually used as the standard for comparing rules differences across titles, so if you know how to play 1830, it will be a lot easier to learn the rules to other 18xx games. But even though the rules are relatively simple, it’s still a challenging and cutthroat game.

Stock Market [1:11]
1830 is generally considered to be more of a stock game than some other 18xx games. If you look at the stock market, you can see that the stock appreciation gets really good as the companies move to the upper right, so the stock market is pretty important in this game. Also the rules allow you to buy a share and then immediately sell it on the same turn during the stock round, which allows you to lower other players’ share values and try to keep them from getting to the valuable upper right part of the market. But there are also a lot of ledges here on the bottom of the stock market. When a corporation is at this ledge, the stock price can’t drop anymore from sold shares, so it’s safe. If you’re trying to get your stock price to go high, getting to a ledge is really nice to prevent others from hurting your shares.

1830 also has yellow, orange, and brown zones in the stock market. These zones allow you to bypass the certificate limit, own more than 60% of the corporation, and buy multiple shares of that corporation in one turn, respectively. So when people trash the shares, it can be neat to get them in the colored zones.

Another consolation of trashing shares is that 1830 is a full capitalization game, and shares in the bank pool pay out to the corporation. So when people sell the shares and they stay in the bank pool, then the dividends for those shares go into the corporation treasury and help it out. But the corporation doesn’t get any help if other players swoop in and buy up the cheap shares from the bank pool!

Map & Track [2:29]
Even though the game is more of a stock game, the track laying in 1830 can still be challenging. The track in 1830 is pretty limited, which means there’s a lot of competition for the track tiles you want, and that makes it hard to build out the perfect routes. Also, the track laying is permissive, which means other players can be mean and upgrade track that they’re not even using in order to mess with your company! There are also double town spaces on the board, and there are only five different tiles that can be laid on these spaces. These tiles never upgrade, so the initial tile lay for these is very important and holds a lot of power for how future routes of the game work!

Private Companies [3:02]
Another part of 1830 is the private companies. Unlike in some other 18xx games, the special powers of the private companies aren’t that important in 1830, except for Camden & Amboy, which gives you a share when you buy it. But the price you can sell the private companies to a corporation is important. You can sell them for up to two times their face value, so it can be really easy to loot a corporation of its money by buying a private company in. This makes it especially dangerous to buy multiple shares of someone’s corporation early on, since they can loot it and then dump it.

Many 18xx games rely on players to maintain balance, and that is especially true with the private companies in 1830. The companies have widely varying valuations, so in advanced games it’s important for players to do their best to pay a fair price. For example, even though the face value of Camden and Amboy is $160, many times people bid over $200 for it, since in addition to getting a free share, you can sell it into a corporation for up to $320! If someone is able to get it for cheap, they can get a big advantage in the game. Sometimes games can be won or lost in the initial auction, which can make this a rough game if you’re playing with people at different experience levels. 

Other [4:09]
1830 plays up to 6 players, but a 6 player game is very different since each player only starts with $400, which is just short of the $402 needed to start up a corporation. So you need to cooperate with the other players to start up a corporation together at the beginning of the game, and then later on after getting some money, the players who aren’t Presidents of corporations can sell their shares to start up new ones.

Most of the games of 1830 that I play end up in bankruptcy. Due to the full capitalization and the number of corporations, there can be a quick train rush that puts people in the position of needing to buy a diesel train but not having enough money. So then they go bankrupt, ending the game. But when you’re bankrupt you still have your remaining share value, and since shares in 1830 are relatively valuable, it’s still possible to win a game of 1830 when you’ve gone bankrupt! I haven’t seen it happen, but I want to do it someday.

Overall, 1830 is a cutthroat and mean game with plenty of stock market manipulation and track denying, and it lives up to its name of Railroads & Robber Barons. 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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