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Where Have All the Cities Gone?
1829's City Tiles Revisited

by Colin Barnhorst

Winter 1995/Vol 2, no 4

1829's city tiles differ in important ways from those in succeeding 18XX games. 1829 treats cities as functional parts of railroad systems while 1830 and its descendants treat cities only as revenue sources.

The Small Cities. These are those single and double-dot hexes that you invariably find in just the wrong places and try to work around in all the North American 18XX games. They tend to be a pain. In 1829, they play a more important role.

Junctions. These are the double-dots. They accept yellow #1 tiles (two gentle curves with dashes) and #2 tiles (sharp curve and straight line with dashes). 1829 permits #1 and #2 tiles to upgrade to #14 and #15 green tiles (the familiar "K" and "X" tiles). However, 1829's K and X tiles do not upgrade further. Analysis of the trackage that can lead into and out of these tiles suggests why.

K and X tiles represent junctions where two lines may enter from one side, meet and/or crossover, then continue beyond in their same general directions. These double-dots represent "places along the way to somewhere else." The K and X tiles serve as control points, having two tangent stations where the two companies passing through to other places may place "base markers" (station markers). They never grow beyond a value of 30 and so are not principal revenue sources.

Industrial Towns. Although it seems strange at first glance, single-dot cities can be more valuable than double-dot cities (one would think that two dots are better than one!). Single-dots accept yellow #3 tiles (sharp curve with dash) and #4 tiles (straight line with dash). #4 tiles, like #1 and #2 tiles accept only K and X green upgrades and upgrade no further. #4 tiles are therefore also "points along the way to somewhere else."
It's the #3 tiles that are handled very differently in 1829 than in the North American games. #3 tiles will accept K and X tiles and, if so upgraded, will upgrade no further. However, #3 tiles also accept #12 green tiles ("E" tiles, not available in other games). These promote to russet #38s and grey #51s, with values of 40 and 50 respectively. This is the same promotion path as for open-circle cities!

E tiles have track on three adjacent sides. They are not at all suitable for through routes. E tiles represent places where three lines meet and terminate. They are the "places where railroads are going." The other end of a line that terminates at an E tile is often a major city such as London or Birmingham. Es are the early manufacturing centers seeking markets for their goods. One characteristic of E tiles is that, as they upgrade through russets to greys, they tend to be surrounded by complex track forming "rotaries" of flyovers (#45 and #46 russets, etc.). Because these cities are destinations, as opposed to control points, E tiles provide only a single station. E tiles are designed to be exploited by a single company in the early stages of the game.

The Large Towns. These are the hexes with one open circle (the twin open circle cities are discussed under "terminals"). In most 18XX games, a large circle or major city is the only place to be. In 1829, open circles and major cities are only some of the places to be. 1829 provides both the #12 ("E") green tiles mentioned already and the #13 ("Y") green tiles to upgrade these towns. Like E tiles, Y tiles provide only one station.

Market Towns. The single, open circles on the 1829 map represent regional centers that grew to substantial cities over time. These hexes accept #5 (sharp curve with open circle) and #6 (gentle curve with open circle) tiles. Both tiles can upgrade to junctions (K and X greens), but, if so upgraded, upgrade no further. Open circles are more useful if upgraded to industrial towns (E and Y greens), since these tiles upgrade to #38 russets and #51 greys. While E tiles serve as upgrades for both single dots and single open circles, Y tiles only upgrade open circles.

The choice of green upgrades can win or lose the game in 1829. A railroad which controls E and Y tiles will ultimately control the #51s. It is better to patiently plan how a railroad will serve a region than to immediately push for through routes. In general, through routes only become practical with the russets, along with the trains which can exploit such routes.

Terminals. 1829, like many of its descendants, has hexes with two open circles. These hexes are yellow and players may not lay yellow tiles on them. During the period represented in the game by phase one, companies were growing in different regions and did not connect. The railroad map consisted of disjointed segments. The railroads built towards each other and entered cities from different directions. Instead of connecting at these cities, companies built large terminals and ended their tracks. Travelers continuing beyond a company's terminal had to use local transportation to get across town from one company's terminal to another's. This period of the growth of terminals is represented in 1829 by phase two. This also was a period when companies sometimes used different gauges of track and could not easily interconnect (nor did they want to).

The cities which were these companies' ends-of-line are represented by #10 green tiles. These are similar to the more familiar (to North Americans) #59 ("00") tiles. #10s have track entering at opposites sides (180 degrees). #59s have track entering at oblique angles (120 degrees). #59 tiles encourage through routes better than #10s, as can be seen by their respective russet upgrades. The much longer distances American railroads had to cover encouraged American companies to establish through routes more aggressively than companies in England. During the period represented by phase three (russets), these companies began pushing on through the large cities into competitors' territories beyond. They still did not connect at the larger cities. Only in phase four can these cities have "union stations" in the form of #51 tiles, representing a time when intra-urban tracks finally connected the different terminals.

1830 and its descendants.
1830. Small cities do not upgrade in 1830. Whatever the design constraints of 1830 in order for it to achieve its "robber baron" theme, 1830's approach to small cities can only be described as draconian. 1830 also reverses the upgrade paths for open circles and uses K and X tiles as general purpose upgrades. Way points and endpoints are all the same. An ambivalence in handling the small cities and the omnibus use of K and X tiles has plagued North American designers since. Now, few players considers dots as anything but "dinks" to build around as soon as possible. #57 yellow tiles (straight with open circle) appeared in 1830. Yellow open circle tiles in 1829 are potential destination tiles. A #57 tile could have only become a junction tile in 1829, since it cannot upgrade to a green destination tile (E or Y green) as do 1829's other open circle yellows. At the very most, a #57 would have been a redundant way to a K or X.

#58 yellow tiles (gentle curve with dash) also first appear in 1830. In the 1829 scheme, a #58 would have upgraded to a K, X, or Y. But Y tiles were reserved in 1829's tile scheme for upgrading destination cities, not junctions. The upgrade rules for tiles in 1829 are meant to be inherent in the tiles and therefore intuitive. #58 would have confused things.
I829 does not encourage an interchangeability between junctions and destinations until the russets, while 1830 would have done so in the greens had the concept survived. #58 tiles do serve to promote through routes early, but players hate having to use them since they do not upgrade. Few players willingly include in their routes dashes valued at 10 until late in the game (when they have access to diesels). That reverses the 1829 philosophy of dealing with dots in phases one and two and building on the result throughout the game. Additionally, while these tiles appear designed to upgrade into junctions, without such upgrades, they are reduced to "dinks on the way to Chicago." Clearly, any distinction between city tile functions are irrelevant in 1830. Economic growth is the only measure of an 1830 city tile's function. All open circles are future junctions which make money. This is perfectly acceptable in 1830 because of the game's theme. It is a severe and cutthroat game and can only be played that way. It is the classic of the genre because of its simplicity. The problem is that 1830, not 1829, became the standard for 18XX game design in North America.

1856. 1856 makes a valiant effort to revive player interest in small cities by permitting their upgrading to open circle cities or "paving" them out of existence late in the game. This is not a return to a differentiation of function, but a treatment of small cities as "removable dinks." Having only K and X tiles results in the same economics as 1830, although the ability to upgrade dots is a great improvement.

1870. 1870 treats small cities as dots throughout the game by providing green and russet dot upgrades which increase the value of dots from 10 to 20 and restores their functionality as junctions. Players still prefer to bypass them, especially since they provide no stations with which to control the junctions. K and X tiles remain the only upgrade paths to #63 and #170 russet tiles (1870's version of 1829's #38's). Kansas City and St. Louis have grey upgrades which are reached by way of normal yellow, green, and russet tiles and are reminiscent of 1829's #51s. 1870 does not have "00" tiles, correctly placing the period covered by the game in the era of through routes.

1832. This delightful 18XX game by Bill Dixon has been purchased by Mayfair Games and is scheduled for 1996 publication. 1832 permits four of the small single dot cities to upgrade to open circles. While similar to 1856 in this respect, the four dots are specific and upgrade much earlier. While this is better than in other games, it reveals the designer's view that the issue is economic. Again, only Ks and Xs are available as an upgrade path.

So What's Been Lost? Possibly, the best interpretation of single dots, double dots, and open circles is that they are primarily map symbols and not indicators of size. The elimination of green destination city tiles (the Es and Ys) leaves only the Ks and Xs (green junction city tiles) as upgrade paths.

The treatment of all cities as junctions misses the flavor of railroads in the 1830s and early 1840s. These railroads established cheap transportation between existing producing and consuming cities. The railroad's ability not only to find markets but also to create them did not appear until after this. This was not a period of through routes, but the North American variants have blurred this.

More importantly, the clarity of purpose in 1829's tile scheme is lost in the North American games. As long as K and X tiles are the only green upgrade tiles for cities, there will be no way for designers to utilize both open circles and dots and still feel satisfied with the result. No one seems to feel that a single or double dot should be permitted to upgrade to as large a city as an open circle (or as soon), but tiles are not available to adequately differentiate the two classes.

They were at one time.

As has been noted before, Colin Barnhorst is a train gamer of two decades and has watched the growth of 18xx variants over that time. He stands in a unique position to comment on the evolution of 1830 and its descendants and would like to invite other gamers to reply to his thoughts on their development.


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