18xx with Ambie: 1889: History of Shikoku Railways

November 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 gives an overview of the game 1889: History of Shikoku Railways.

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 1889: History of Shikoku Railways. This game is officially available as a free print and play, which my version here is, but there are a few published versions as well.

General Overview [0:42]
1889, which takes place on the island of Shikoku in Japan, is a game that’s commonly used for introducing the genre since the rules are pretty straightforward and similar to 1830, but the game is not just for beginners. In fact, it’s actually pretty difficult to play well even for experienced players.

1830 Comparison [0:58]
Compared to 1830, 1889 has a smaller map and smaller bank, which leads to a shorter play time than 1830. Also, the stock market is more shallow, which means there's less potential for really trashing share values by selling shares. Additionally, there are some parts where the tile roster is more forgiving than 1830. For example, there are six starting generic city tiles in 1889, but only four in 1830, so it’s less likely to run out early on in 1889. Also, there are no double town spaces on the map, which makes track laying a little easier to get into. But in other ways the tile roster is more limited. Since the game takes place on an island, there are a lot of edge spaces on the map where upgrades are limited. There are only two sharp curve tiles, so experienced players can use up these crucial tiles in order to deny them from other players. 

Map & Tokens [1:42]
There are a bunch of mountains on the map that cost money to build track on. Even though there’s a private company that allows a corporation to build track on mountain hexes for free, it’s still difficult to use it effectively, so a lot of track ends up going around the mountains. But sometimes in order to get the good payouts you’ll need to build track through the mountains, so the track cost is something you’ll need to keep in mind for your corporations in addition to train and token costs.

Speaking of tokens, there are seven corporations in the game with only 8 placeable tokens outside of the home tokens. Since both of the most valuable city spaces upgrade to have three token spots, the low number of total tokens makes it difficult to block people out of these valuable cities. This can lead to tokening off chokepoints outside of the main cities instead of the actual big cities. There’s a lot of playing around with the track you can do in order to make it very difficult for other corporations to get around the tokens and get into the big payouts. And if you’re one of the players getting blocked off, you might want to sacrifice a good end-game token and place it earlier to guarantee you can run your trains.

Trains [2:44]
Although 1889 has the same number of trains as 1830, it has one fewer corporation. This means that there are fewer train slots in the game, so it’s more difficult to buy a bunch of trains and trigger a rusting event. On the surface, this seems like it’s an easy and slow train rush, but it gets pretty challenging to play well against experienced players. In phase 5 when the train limit is 2, there are only 14 slots available and there are 12 trains between the 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s. That means that only one or two companies even have the option of buying the 6 train to advance the trains. Also, in order to force the purchase of the 6 train, someone needs to be trainless, so every company but one must own the limit of two trains! This can make the game end up so that 3 trains become permanent if the player who has the control over buying a 6 train does not want to buy it. But other games can have quick train rushes and even bankruptcies if players are more aggressive and willing to hurt themselves in order to advance the trains and hurt other players more.

Conclusion [3:41]
Overall, 1889 is an easier to learn 18xx game that is incredibly hard to play well. The game can end up with a very different feeling based on how the players play. It’s an excellent intro game, but one that you’ll want to keep coming back to as you get more and more experienced! 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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