Shikoku 1889 | How to Play

August 31, 2023

Do you want to learn how to play 18xx games? This is a quick and comprehensive video that teaches you how to set up and play Shikoku 1889, which is my go-to game for introducing new players to the genre of 18xx games. The game and upgraded money cards were provided by the publisher Grand Trunk Games.


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Hi! This is Ambie from Board Game Blitz, and today I’m gonna show you how to set up and play Shikoku 1889, which I was gifted from the publisher. Note that the game comes with paper money, but for this video I’m using these upgraded money cards.

Setup [0:14]
Lay out the board on the table with the Revenue Tracker next to it, along with all the revenue tokens. Place the Round Marker on the SR spot of the Round Tracker.

Separate the track tiles by color and type into the tile trays and place them near the board.

Stack each Corporation’s stock certificates in their Initial Offering area of the board, with the President’s certificate on top. Put the stock tokens near the Stock Market and the initial offering tokens near the Par Values chart.

Place each Corporation charter by the board with its corresponding tokens nearby.

Separate the train cards by number or letter and place each group in its space of the Train Yard.

Place the Private Companies alphabetically in a column near the board with “A” at the top. In a 2 player game, only use the Private Companies A-E. In a 3 player game, use A-F, and in a 4 or more player game use all the Private Companies.

The bank starts with ¥7,000, which is all the money in the game except the 500 yen bills. From the bank, give starting capital to each player. In a 2-4 player game, each player gets ¥420, and in a 5-6 player game each player gets ¥390.

Determine seating and start player by randomly dealing out the player order markers and reseating in clockwise order. The start player is the one with the lowest number and gets the Priority Deal marker. Each player chooses a color of Auction tokens and you’re ready to begin the game.

How to Play [1:34]
The goal of the game is to become the wealthiest player by starting, operating, and investing in railroad Corporations.

Shikoku 1889 is played over multiple rounds, each consisting of a Stock Round followed by one or more Operating Rounds. In Stock Rounds, players can buy and sell shares of Corporations. In Operating Rounds, players operate Corporations by laying track, placing station tokens, buying trains, and running trains for revenue.

At the beginning of the game the Private Companies will be sold to players through a one-time auction before the first stock round. I’ll go over that auction at the end of the video, but each Private Company has a face value, pays a fixed revenue to its owner at the start of each Operating Round, and most of them have a special ability as well.

Stock Round [2:18]
After the Private Company Auction, the player with Priority Deal begins the first Stock Round. Each turn in a Stock Round, you can do one or both of the following actions in any order: Sell as many shares as you want, or purchase one certificate. If you don’t do an action, you pass. If you pass you can still have another turn if the Stock Round does not end before your next turn.

Stock Round: Purchasing Shares [2:39]
To purchase a certificate, if the Corporation hasn’t sold any shares yet, you start the Corporation by buying the President’s Certificate, worth 20% of the Corporation. You decide the par value by placing the Corporation’s Initial Offering token on a space of the Par Values chart. This value shows that all shares in the Initial Offering - ones that have never been bought - cost this much per 10%. You then pay 2 times the par value to the Bank because the President’s Certificate is worth 20%. You also place the Corporation’s stock token on the space in the Stock Market’s pink area that matches the par value. If another Corporation’s stock token is already on that space, the current one gets placed underneath it. In general, whenever a Corporation’s token moves into a space with an existing token, it goes on the bottom of all the tokens. Finally, place the Corporation’s revenue token on the Revenue per Share chart.

If you want to buy shares from a Corporation that’s already started, you can choose to buy from the Initial Offering, which has shares that have never been sold, or the Open Market, which has shares that players once owned but sold.

You pay the par value if you buy from the Initial Offering and the current stock price if you buy from the Open Market. Either way, pay the amount to the Bank and get a 10% share. If when you buy a share, you surpass the % ownership of the current President of the Corporation, the current President must give you the President’s Certificate in exchange for two 10% shares.

If a Corporation has sold at least 50% of the shares, or 4 certificates, from the Initial Offering, the Corporation is considered floated. When a Corporation is floated, the player with the President’s Certificate receives the charter. The company gets 10 times the par price from the bank, plus its station tokens. Corporation money is kept separate from player money. Place the Corporation’s “free” station token on its reserved city spot at the start of the next Operating Round.

You cannot hold more than 60% of a Corporation, and you cannot buy shares in a Corporation that you sold in the current round. You also cannot buy a share if you’re already at the Certificate Limit, which is shown here. Each Private Company, share, and President Certificate counts as one Certificate for the limit. The exception to these limits is if the Corporation’s stock token is ever in the yellow or orange zone of the Stock Market, then its shares don’t count toward the Certificate Limit. Furthermore, if a Corporation is in the orange zone, then you can hold more than 60% of its shares. If you’re ever above the Certificate Limit or the 60% holding limit when you’re not allowed to be, you must sell shares at the first legal opportunity until you’re at the limit or the stock token moves to a zone that makes your holdings legal.

Stock Round: Selling Shares [5:08]
To sell one or more shares, place your shares into the Open Market and receive the current stock price for each share sold. Then move the corresponding stock token down one space for each share sold. When it’s at the bottom of the market, it doesn’t move down anymore.

For example, if I sell two shares of Uwajima Railroad and one share of Tosa Electric Rail, I’d get ¥200 for the 2 shares of Uwajima and ¥60 for the Tosa Electric share. Then Uwajima would move down to 80, and Tosa Electric would not move down, since it is already at the bottom.

There can never be more than 50% of the shares of one Corporation in the Open Market, and you cannot sell your President’s Certificate to the Open Market. You also cannot sell shares in the first round, and Private Companies cannot be sold during the Stock Round.

The only way you can get rid of a President’s Certificate is if someone else controls 20% or more of the Corporation. When you sell your shares in this case, you exchange the President’s Certificate with the majority holder, or in case of a tie, the closest person clockwise from you. For example, if Alice and Bob both have 2 shares of Uwajima Railroad when I sell down to one share, since Alice is on my left, she will get the president’s share.

End of Stock Round [6:15]
Once everyone passes consecutively, the Stock Round ends. Pass the Priority Deal marker to the player to the left of the last person who passed. Any Corporations that are sold out - from the Initial Offering and Open Market - have their share price increased vertically unless they’re already at the top.

Move the Round Marker to the first Operating Round spot that matches the current phase color - yellow for Phase 2, green for Phases 3 or 4, and brown for Phases 5, 6, or D.

Operating Round [6:41]
At the beginning of each operating round, the owner of each Private Company, either a player or a Corporation, gets money from the bank equal to the Private Company’s revenue. Any Corporation that was floated in the previous Stock Round places its free station token on its reserved city spot.

During the Operating Round, all the Corporations will operate in order, from highest stock price to lowest stock price. If tied, the Corporation furthest right on the Stock Market goes first, and if they’re on the same space, the Corporation with its marker on top goes first. Corporations that have not floated will not operate.

On a Corporation’s turn, the player who has the President's Certificate of the Corporation will make all the decisions for it: you can lay or upgrade track, place a station token, run trains, distribute earnings and adjust stock price, and purchase trains, in that order. You can also purchase private companies at any point during the Corporation’s turn.

A lot of things the Corporations can do depends on connectivity - you have to have connectivity in order to place track, place a token, and run trains. A Corporation has connectivity to a place on the map if it can trace an unblocked path from one of its tokens to the destination without backtracking, reusing track, or visiting the same city or town twice. A path is blocked by a city whose spots are completely filled with tokens from other Corporations.

For example, this Corporation has connectivity here, but not here because it would backtrack across this junction.

Operating Round: Lay/Upgrade Track [8:05]
On a Corporation’s turn, you can optionally lay or upgrade one track tile for the Corporation. To lay a track, the Corporation needs to have connectivity to the new track.

At the beginning of the game, you can only place yellow tiles. Later phases in the game will unlock green and brown tiles, which are upgrades. When you upgrade track, return the previous tile to the supply. Yellow can be placed on the beige, brown, or blue spaces on the board, green can be placed on yellow tiles or spaces, and brown can be placed on green tiles or spaces. No tiles can be placed on gray hexes.

You have to choose the same type of tile to lay on each hex. The hexes with no cities get regular track, the ones with towns get dots, cities get circles, and hexes with letters need to keep those letters. For reference, the tile manifest on page 29 of the rulebook shows eligible tile lays and upgrades. The tile supply is limited, so if all of one tile are already on the board, you cannot use it.

When you place or upgrade a tile, at least one part of the tile placed must be an extension of an existing route that your corporation is connected to, or increase the revenue of a city that your corporation is connected to. When you upgrade to green or brown tiles, all existing track must be maintained.

Whenever you place a track, the track cannot run off the grid or end against a gray hex that doesn’t have track. You can end your track against other edges.

Some spaces have terrain costs. If you lay or upgrade where a terrain icon of a mountain, river, or dense urban area is showing, then the Corporation must pay the cost shown in order to place the tile.

Takamatsu and Ozu each have a Private Company icon on them, indicating that no track can be put on these hexes until that Private Company is owned by a Corporation or closed.

Operating Round: Place a Station Token [9:47]
If the Corporation has a remaining token on its charter, it can place one token on its turn. The starting token doesn’t count toward this limit. The Corporation pays ¥40 and then places it on an open city on the board that it has connectivity to. There can't be two tokens of the same Corporation in the same tile. You also cannot place a token on another Corporation’s reserved city spot if it would block them from placing their free starting token.

Tokens allow the city to be used as a base for the Corporation’s train routes. Also, they block other Corporations - if a city is filled with tokens of other Corporations, your Corporation will not have connectivity through it.

Operating Round: Run Trains [10:23]
If the Corporation has at least one train, it runs its trains and generates revenue. Each train must be run along a continuous route that includes two or more revenue centers, at least one of which has the Corporation’s token. Routes cannot run through cities that are completely blocked off with tokens from other Corporations, but they can start or end there. No track can be reused, even if you have multiple trains. But they can meet or cross at cities as long as you don’t use the same track.

The number on the train card shows how long of a route it can run. The length of a route is the number of revenue centers that the route hits, and you can’t skip over any on the route. For example, if my Corporation has a 5 train, I could run it through this route with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 revenue centers. The Diesel train can run an infinite length route.

The revenue earned is the sum of the amounts shown by the revenue centers that were included in the run. For the off board locations, the revenue is the first yellow number in the beginning of the game, and the second brown number after the first 5 train is bought. The third gray number is the revenue for diesel trains that run there. For example, this 5 train route would earn 60, plus 40, plus 30, plus 20, plus 40 for a total of ¥190.

Operating Round: Distribute Earnings & Adjust Stock Price [11:36]
Once you calculate the revenue, you decide whether your Corporation will pay it as dividends or withhold the entire amount in the Corporation’s treasury. When you pay dividends, divide the total revenue by 10, and each shareholder gets that much money per 10% share they hold. If there are shares in the Open Market the Corporation receives the amount for those shares in its treasury. For example, if this Corporation ran for ¥100 and the shares were distributed like this, I’d get ¥50, this player would get ¥20, the Corporation would get ¥10, and the rest would not get paid.

Whenever a Corporation pays out dividends, its stock token moves right on the stock market. If it is at the furthest right of a line, it moves up instead.
If a Corporation doesn’t pay out dividends when it operates, move its token left one space on the stock market. If it’s already in the far left, move it down instead. Once you move the token, flip it over to show that the Corporation has operated this round.

Operating Round: Purchase Trains [12:30]
After you run the trains, you can purchase trains. If your Corporation has a legal route of at least 2 connected revenue centers and does not own a train, then it must purchase one.

You can buy a train from the Train Yard, Open Market, or from another Corporation. To buy from another Corporation, you and the President of that Corporation must agree on a price that is at least ¥1 and up to the amount of money in your Corporation. Your Corporation pays the other Corporation for the train.

Trains are available from the Train Yard in order of increasing rank. At the beginning of the game, you can only buy 2 trains. Once all the 2 trains are sold, you can buy 3 trains, and so on. To buy a train from the Train Yard, your Corporation pays the Bank the list amount, shown here.

A Corporation may buy as many trains as you want on its turn, as long as the number of trains it owns doesn’t exceed the train limit of the current phase. If a Corporation ever has more trains than the train limit, it must discard down to the limit. This is the only time trains can be discarded since you cannot discard trains voluntarily!

For example, this Corporation could buy another 4 train and a 5 train. When it buys the 5 train, the train limit decreases to 2, so it discards the 4 train back to the Open Market.

When the first 6 train is sold, the Diesel trains are also available. These cost either ¥1100 or ¥800 if the Corporation trades in a 4, 5, or 6 train. Traded in trains go into the Open Market.

Operating Round: Forced Train Purchase [13:54]
If a Corporation is ever in a situation where it has a legal route but does not own a train, it has to purchase one. If the Corporation does not have enough money to afford a train, then you, the President, need to contribute your personal money toward the purchase. You can only do this if you’re buying from the Train Yard or the Open Market, and you must buy the cheapest train available. This is the only time a player’s money can be used to buy a train.

When buying the train, use all of the Corporation’s money first, and then use your own cash. If you still don’t have enough, then you must sell stock that you own until you can afford the train. Stock sales happen immediately and follow the usual rules - you get the price of the stock, the token drops for each share sold, and there can’t be more than 50% of a Corporation in the Open Market. Also, you cannot sell stock if you would lose the Presidency of any Corporation. Once you can afford the train, pay the entire amount and the Corporation gets the train. If you cannot afford the train after selling everything you’re allowed to, you become bankrupt and the game ends immediately.

Operating Round: Purchase Private Companies [14:54]
During Phases 3 and 4 of the game, a Corporation can buy Private Companies from players at any time during its Operating Round. Each Private Company can be bought for an agreed upon amount from half to double its face value. Once a Private Company is bought, it no longer blocks track from being laid on the board.

End of Operating Round [15:10]
When all the floated Corporations have activated, the Operating Round ends. Then you move the Round Marker to the next space on the Round Tracker, which is either the Stock Round or another Operating Round. Flip all the tokens on the Stock Market back so they’re face up, preserving their order.

Phase Changes [15:25]
When the first train of a certain number is sold, a new phase of the game begins. The phase of the game determines a lot of rules, such as train limit, which tiles are available, and which trains rust.

At the beginning of the game, only yellow tiles are available to use. Green tiles are also available starting in Phase 3, or when a 3 train is bought, and brown are available starting in Phase 5. The train limit for a Corporation is 4 at the beginning, 3 in Phase 4, and 2 in Phase 5.

Starting with Phase 4, the new phases can start rusting older trains. When a train rusts, all trains of that number are immediately removed from the game with no compensation. For example, when this Corporation buys the first 4 train on its turn, all of the 2 trains get discarded right away. 6 trains rust 3 trains and D trains rust 4 trains. Trains numbered 5 and up never rust.

For off board location values, the yellow value is used at the beginning of the game and the brown value is used starting in Phase 5. The gray value is only used by Diesel trains.

The phases also affect how many Operating Rounds are between the Stock Rounds. At the beginning of the game, there is one Operating Round between Stock Rounds. After Phase 3 starts, the Round Tracker will move to the green section after the Stock Round, so there will be two Operating Rounds between Stock Rounds. After Phase 5, there will be three Operating Rounds after the next Stock Round.

In Phases 3 and 4, Corporations can buy Private Companies. Once a Corporation owns a Private, it cannot be sold again.

In Phase 5, all Private companies are closed and removed from the game, with the exception of the Uno-Takamatsu Ferry if it is owned by a player.

End of Game [17:01]
The game can end in two ways: if a player goes bankrupt, the game ends immediately. If the Bank runs out of money, the game continues until the next Stock Round would start, and then the game ends. The Bank becomes unlimited during these last turns and you can add funds or track the amount on paper.

At the end of the game, each player counts up their total value: their cash plus the current value of their stock shares according to the market, plus the face value of any Private Companies they own. Assets that belong to Corporations do not count toward player scores. The player with the most value wins the game.

Private Company Auction [17:33]
As I mentioned earlier, at the start of the game there is a Private Company Auction where the Bank offers up the Private Companies in ascending order. In turn order, starting with the player with Priority Deal and going clockwise, each player is given the option to purchase the topmost company at face value, place a Reserve Bid for another Private Company, or pass.

If you purchase the topmost Company, you pay the face value to the Bank and receive the certificate. The player to the left is then offered the new topmost Company and can then make the same 3 choices.

If you choose to place a Reserve Bid, you must commit a bid that is at least ¥5 more than the previous highest bid or ¥5 more than the face value, whichever is higher. You place that amount next to the Company with one of your auction tokens on top. You cannot commit more money than you have.

If you pass, you can still act later in the auction. If all players pass consecutively and no one owns a Private Company, the price for Takamatsu Electric Track is reduced by ¥5 and play continues. If it does not sell even after becoming free, the first person who was offered it must purchase it for ¥0. If other Private Companies fail to sell and everyone passes, all previously bought Companies pay income to their owners and the action sequence continues.

If someone has purchased the topmost Company and the new topmost Company already has reservation bids on it, it will be sold before the next player’s action turn. If there is only one bid, the bidder receives the Private Company for the bid. If there are multiple bids, there is an auction between the players that had reservation bids on that Company. It starts with the highest current bid and goes clockwise, with players raising by at least ¥5 or passing and taking their reservation bid back. The last player remaining in the auction receives the Private Company and pays their winning bid to the Bank. After it is sold, check the new topmost Company for reservation bids and continue selling the Companies until the topmost one does not have any reservation bids. Then the play continues to the left of the person who did the last action.

For example, if Alice and Bob had bid on this company, Chris bid on this one, and Dan buys this one for ¥20, then since this company only had one person bidding on it, it goes to Chris. Then this company goes into an auction between Alice and Bob. Alice wins the auction, so Bob gets his money back. The next company has no bids on it, so play continues with the player to the left of Dan.

After all the Private Companies are sold, return the Auction tokens to the box and the first Stock Round begins, with the Priority Deal marker going to the player that would have taken the next action.

Private Company Abilities [20:00]
Here are the abilities of the Private Companies that have them.

Takamatsu Electric Track and Ehime Railroad block tile lays on Takamatsu and Ozu, respectively. When the Private Company is sold to a Corporation or closed, the tile lays are no longer blocked. Additionally, when Ehime is sold to a Corporation, the selling Player can immediately upgrade Ozu as a free action.

A player owner of Mitsubishi Ferry can put this special port tile on one of the coastal towns marked with the port icon. This tile gives 30 revenue instead of 10, and isn’t available otherwise.

A Corporation owner of Sumitomo Besshi Mine Railroad can ignore mountain terrain costs when laying track.

A player owner of Dogo Railway can close it in exchange for a 10% share of Iyo Railway from the Initial Offering.

If a player owns Uno-Takamatsu Ferry when Phase 5 begins, then instead of closing, the revenue of the Private is increased to ¥50. It can no longer be sold to a Corporation and it counts as a certificate, contributing ¥150 to the owning player’s net worth at the end of the game.

Outro [21:03]
And that’s how you play Shikoku 1889. Check the end of the rulebook for some tips for beginners plus a beginner variant, which involves dealing out the Private Companies at the beginning instead of an auction. Thanks for watching Board Game Blitz! Bye!

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