1880: China Overview

October 19, 2022

This is a quick overview what makes the 18xx game 1880: China unique. 1880: China is a longer title in the 18xx series with a bunch of weird rules that work together well to make a game where you're trying to make the best corporations.

Hi! This is Ambie from Board Game Blitz, and today I’m gonna tell you about 1880: China, one of my favorite 18xx games. If you’re not sure what 18xx games are, check out my 18xx intro series first, because I’ll be using some 18xx-specific terms here. Anyway, 1880: China is a longer title with a bunch of weird rules, but they work together well and make a fun game where you and your corporations can make a lot of money. Also, there’s a new printing by Lookout Games with nicer art and production, but I have the old version here.

Operating Rounds [0:28]
There are a lot of things about 1880 that make it different from other games. One thing is the operating order of corporations in the game. In most 18xx games, this is determined by position in the stock market and it changes every round. But in 1880, there’s a fixed operating order based on the price you started a Corporation at, and that never changes! There are also only four spots for each price, so once those have been taken you can’t start up a corporation at that stock price anymore.

Stock Rounds [0:53]
Additionally, the timing of stock rounds and operating rounds is unique. Instead of ending after all the corporations have gone, the operating round ends after all trains of a certain type have been bought. This means that corporations can operate multiple times in an operating round if the trains are bought slowly, or not at all if the trains go really fast! But you can’t just make operating rounds go on forever by not buying trains. If all the corporations go without any new trains being bought, then the game itself buys the entire stack of trains and then the game goes into the stock round! So the trains can go really quickly even if there’s no money for them. It’s really neat trying to plan for the timing of the stock round. If you can get it so that your corporations have paid out but no one else has had a chance to run before the stock round, then you’ll have a bunch of extra cash to use during the stock round and no one else will be able to buy anything.

Stock Market [1:41]
Speaking of the stock round, the stock market is also pretty fun and lets your company get a lot of money. There are bonus payouts that add to your dividends when the stock price goes to the right of the market, so you’ll want to pay out dividends and get the stock price to the right! But in the middle of the game, there is a communism phase when the stock market won’t move at all! This means that when you pay out dividends, the stock price won’t increase, so you want to make it to the bonus payouts before then! But the stock market not moving also means that withholding dividends won’t lower the stock price. So you can use the communism phase to get a lot of money into your corporation without the downside of reduced share price.

In addition to the stock market, the stocks themselves have some unique things. Firstly, you can own 100% of a company, which is something I like trying to do when you make a company that runs great. But also, you get to choose the value of the director share when you float the company! You can choose 20, 30, or 40% for the share. A 40% share is great for share density and getting the most from your share limit, but it’s not great early on because you lose the liquidity you can get from selling your shares. Also, there are track permits that are tied to which director share you choose. 

Track & Map [2:42]
Instead of being able to lay track whenever you want, when you float a corporation you choose a permit that allows you to lay track during specific phases of the game. If you get a 20% director share, you can lay track in 3 out of the four phases of the game, but if you get a 40% share you can only lay track during one phase! There are also some interesting decisions of what type of track to lay. On the map there are some spaces that can be towns or cities, and the first person to lay there decides what it is! Usually in a lot of games you like having cities because they’re worth more, but in 1880 there are a lot of trains, like the 3+3 and the 4+4, that get to run to a number of cities plus a number of towns, so you want to build out a route with a lot of towns in order to use those trains effectively.

Privates [3:24]
Yet another unique thing I like about 1880 is the private companies. Instead of being bought into the corporations, the player who owns the private company gets to use their powers for all the corporations they’re in charge of! One private that can be really powerful is this rocket, which you can trade in for a train. If you trade it in at the beginning of the game, your company can start with a train and run on the first turn, which means it never goes back on the stock market and will get to the bonus dividends part of the market faster than everyone else!

Foreign Investor [3:50]
In some 18xx games there are minor companies that you need to buy or auction to start them up. But in 1880, every player gets a foreign investor, which is like a mini company that can lay track and pay dividends to you. Your foreign investor will be connected to the first company you float, and when you connect up the tracks they will merge and the company can get all the money from the foreign investor! It’s fun either trying to connect up early to get early cash, or waiting until the last second to get the most cash possible!

Capitalization [4:16]
You also get “extra” money partway through because instead of incremental capitalization or full capitalization, 1880 has half capitalization. When you float, the corporation gets 50% of the full value, and doesn’t get the next half until 50% of the shares have been sold and after the 3 trains are out. This combined with the foreign investors and the communism phase makes for a lot of influxes of money into the corporations throughout the game.

There are so many unique rules in 1880, but they work together really well to make a super interesting game where it’s really fun trying to make the best corporations! If this video was helpful please hit the like button and check out my other videos! Thanks for watching Board Game Blitz! Bye.

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