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1835 Game Theory and Another Variant

by John David Galt. Variant by Bill McDonald, Marc Mathat, and John David Galt.

winter 1996/Vol. 3 No. 3

First off, I want to say that I've played a lot of three-player 1835, about half of it with this group, and I think it is a lot more playable with three than is 1830, Rail Baron, or other similar games: unlike those, the game divides well into three sides right from the beginning, and it doesn't have 1830's 60% ownership limit, which will really hose you in a three-player game.

But in this group, the games started getting too predictable. As Marc put it: "I always get the Saxon (Sachsische), and the Saxon always gets screwed by the Bavarian (Bayerische) before it even floats." There's some truth to this. In our games, the Bavarian usually uses the Nurnberg-Furth to build into Saxony right away, and if the Saxon doesn't float early, it can be hurt badly. And of course, in a three-player game, the two who didn't buy the director's share of the Saxon both own some Bavarian, so they favor this result and will not help float the Saxon ? so it will not open until the third or fourth operating round.

We brainstormed and listed some other problems with the game.

First, when played as above, the Bavarian hardly ever builds in Bavaria after the first operating round! That doesn't seem historical or reasonable. The reason it has five station markers, in my view, is so that you can put them in Augsburg, Freiburg, and/or Stuttgart, and use them for runs in Bavaria and into the Alsace-Lorraine (Elsass-Lothringen). If the Bavarian doesn't build in Bavaria, all those station markers give it too much power. This problem also hoses the Wurttemburg. The Bavarian does need to be able to connect to the rest of Germany, but not right away.

First, we have always played that, even when not playing this variant, the private companies are not exceptions to the "tile before token" rule, so the Bavarian can't build track north of Nurnberg on the first operating round. We also play that a company's home station goes down at the beginning of its first operating turn, NOT in the stock round when it floats. (Otherwise the Wurttemberg would always be at a serious disadvantage!) I have since found out that both of these are house rules.

Second, some of the building restrictions seem petty or nonsensical. For one, Ludwigshafen/Mannheim is a yellow hex, so if you float the Badische early and green tiles don't come out, it can't run! (And in fact, 20 trains precede the first "3" in the standard game, and the Bavarian, Saxon, and the six minor companies have a total starting capacity of 20 trains, so green tiles can't possibly come out until the Badische floats!) For another, it ought to be possible to bridge the lower Elbe (the river that runs through Hamburg). There are, in fact, railroad bridges there today, though I don't know if they existed during the historical period of the game.

Third, the Prussian director nearly always gets the Wurttemburg. (This is not a major problem in games with four or more players, but in a three-player game, one player usually gets at least 50% of the Prussian.)

All of this inspired us to come up with a variant which solves these problems and lets all three players start off on a roughly equal footing. (This does not mean the variant is limited to three, but we have only played it a few times with more than three.) I call it the ^L Equal Footing Variant for 1835."

1835 L Equal Footing Variant

The normal rules of 1835 apply, except as stated below.

1. The starting cash is increased to 2100M, divided among all players. Thus, in a three player game, each player starts with 700M. (In the standard game, there is just enough starting cash ? if everyone cooperates ? to buy the entire Share Starting Packet. So if you make the other changes but not this one, neither the Bavarian nor the Saxon will float for two or three operating rounds. This hands the game to whoever bought the most private and minor companies.)

2. The Nurnberg-Furth private railway no longer exists. It is replaced in the Share Starting Packet by the new Koln Private Railway (KPR). The KPR pays income of 5M just like the Nurnberg-Furth, but its build power is different: Any major company whose director owns the KPR may place a tile, once, and a station marker, once, in the Koln space ? both for free. Either or both actions are allowed even if there is no connection to the company's existing track; both are in addition to any normal tile or token placement(s) by the major company. When both actions have been taken, the KPR closes.

3. The KPR, OstBayerische, and Pfalzbahnen private railways now each come with a 10% share of either the Bavarian or the Saxon. You choose when you buy one of these.
4. The director's share of the Bavarian now comes with the Munchen Bahn, a new private railway which is identical to the Leipzig-Dresdner Bahn in every way?except, of course, that it closes when the Bavarian buys a train. The two together still cost 184M.

5. These items in the Share Starting Packet change price:

KPR ? 150M.

Saxon director's share and Leipzig-Dresdner Bahn ? 176M. (We felt it was overpriced compared to the Bavarian director's share. 176M is the price of two
10% Saxon shares.)

#2 minor company ? 180M. (It all goes into the #2's treasury. Bill felt the #2 was always a little too late to get good trains starting with 170M.)

Pfalzbahnen ? 100M. (The Pfalzbahnen's build power is unchanged, but is not as useful as it is in the standard game. Because of the KPR, the area
around Ludwigshafen/Mannheim often gets built up before green tiles come out; and because of item 7, it is now common for someone other than the Pfalzbahnen owner to play a tile on Ludwigshafen/Mannheim before the Badische gets a turn.)

6. A fifth row is added to the starting packet, consisting of enough Bavarian and Saxon shares to float both companies. (In other words, no one can buy the sixth share in either company until both are floated.)

7. The Badische and Wurttemburg shares are swapped in the piles, so that the Wurttemburg must float before the Badische director's share can be bought.

8. The "Prussian shares are available" card stays in the first pile; that is, the four shares of Prussian stock that are for sale become available when the Wurttemburg director's share is bought. (In an earlier version of this variant, we put the card in the Hessian pile. That was a mistake. I think the designers intended that players should have to sink their money into the Prussian well before it starts operating, if they want to have a chance at controlling it.)

9. Two additional 2+2 trains (for a total of six) are added to the game. (In the one playtest where we increased the starting cash but didn't add extra trains, green tiles came out in the second operating round!)

10. Tile numbers 14 and 15 (the green city tiles with one city which holds two station markers) may be upgraded to brown tile number 63. (But no more 63s are added!)

11. Braunschweig is considered a green space, and may be upgraded to brown tile number 63.

12. The Nurnberg-Furth space is considered a yellow space, and is special. The first tile played there (if any) must be green tile number 14. This may be upgraded to either of two brown tiles, 63 and 218. This is an exception to the normal build rules. The space is still considered an "XX" space (so you can run a single train through both cities) until a tile is played there.

13. The Elbe river, west of Hamburg, may be crossed for a build cost of 50M. You pay when you complete the bridge by building in either hex C9 or B10, whichever is later. The 50M must be paid only once, the first time that such a bridge is completed. Building in either space without completing a bridge costs nothing. (John's simpler version: just have hex C9 cost 50M to build in. Why else would anyone build there?)

14. On any turn when a major company places two tiles (not counting builds enabled by the special power of a private railway), at least one of the two must
connect to the company's original home station.

15. At each opportunity to convert private and minor companies to Prussian shares, there is not just one round of "turns" to do this; the "conversion round" continues until everyone passes consecutively, just like a stock round.

This variant has produced an exciting game for our group. Here are some ideas of what to expect:

The most noticeable change is that there is a lot more building in the RuhrValley; but it usually is not cooperative building. (The #1 and #4 may be owned by the same player, but the KPR is always someone else, who does not hold much of the Prussian and does not want to build track that connects them all up.)

The Saxon always has a presence in the Ruhr valley, and sometimes does not bother connecting to Berlin first. If its director does not hold the KPR, the Saxon often builds track from Leipzig or Furth to Frankfurt. There is ample time to do this, because Phase 1 now lasts five or six rounds, and the Saxon
opens in the first round.

The #6 usually builds the lower Elbe bridge, but not until green tiles are out (because its starting money doesn't allow for this). The #4 may help. As a result, Bremen gets built early, and the Mecklenburg and Oldenburg tend to be very well connected to everything else when they show up.

The Wurttemburg is more worthwhile than in the standard game, because the Bavarian now builds track in Bavaria which the Wurttemburg can use, especially
if the Bavarian's director does not hold the KPR. The Wurttemburg is also more able to block the Bavarian's runs than in the standard game, so everyone wants to own it, including the director of the Bavarian.

The Badische does about as well as normal. Even though there are more trains, because the Wurttemburg now precedes the Badische, it is much less likely that the Badische will have to take an operating turn in before green tiles are available. And because the Badische has a choice of the two cities on its home tile, it cannot be totally blocked out of the Ruhr valley.

Everyone builds stations to block other people's runs, much more than in the standard game, especially in the Ruhr Valley. To deal with the blockage, bypass tracks east of Koln tend to get built.


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