I’ve been writing a bunch of strategy blurbs for 18xx and am starting to combine them into a guide for beginner’s. One of my friend’s asked for some game 2 advice, so this is what I wrote.
So you’ve made it through your first game of 18Chesapeake, which was quite possibly your first game of 18xx ever. Depending on your teacher and whether or not you started with this guide or realized that you need it now, your experience of the game must have at least been net positive because you want more. And if you’ve found this strategy guide, you probably want to win. Let’s see if we can move you closer to that goal.
In game 1, the strategy for new players is to try to make it to the end of the game, and if you followed my advice from game 1, you tried to think ahead and buy enough trains to run your routes. In other words, pay attention to the game state and don’t lose. That’s a great starting point.
However, it’s rather defensive and reactive. We want to be in the conductors’ seat, not being shoveled into somebody else’s boiler. So, other than the way you may have pushed the technological advancement part of the game by buying trains and forcing phase change, you had a lot to do just to keep your crazy train from going off the rails.
Here are three areas to be thinking about in game 2:
Other than the brief overview of the privates that I provided earlier, it’s almost impossible for a new player to understand the true value of the privates on their first play. But now that you’ve seen them in action, you hopefully have an idea of their worth. Aside from the income value and the bonus benefit associated with individual privates, the main advantage of having privates is the ability to buy them into one of your companies for double the initial face value. We’ll call this buy-in value.
Buy-in value is useful because it injects money into your personal account and allows you to reinvest to build your portfolio. The higher the original face value of the private, the more money you can take out of your company, and the more you can reinvest. A word of warning, there is a bit of a goldilocks curve on this because if you take to much money out of a company and haven’t considered how it’s going to recoup funds or be bailed out, you take on some financial risk because, as the director, you are on the hook for paying the difference when your trains rust. So it’s often better to think of buy-in money as more of a loan and not as free cash.
Because of the buy-in value of privates, it is important to bid privates up. The closer someone pays to buy-in value for the private initially, the less they benefit later when they actually buy-in the private. So it’s up to the table to enforce checks and balances on individuals through bidding.
Objective: Secure one or two privates close to face value and force another player to pay at least 75% of buy-in value.
The Second Share
In the game 1 guide, I advised you to never own a second share in a company that you didn’t control for fear of the pump and dump—when a president extracts all of the capital out of a company (pumps funds from company into personal coffers) and then sells down shares so that another player then becomes the director of a company that is trainless or with a train that is about to rust (the dump).
However, owning shares above 10% can be necessary at times and so when you decide to go to that second share here are three questions to ask yourself:
- Who has priority deal? As long as you have priority deal or you will at least be acting in the next stock round before the player who’s company you are investing in, you can go above 10% because you will be able to sell back down during the next stock round should they try to pump and dump their company.
- Are there already shares in the market? It’s important to remember that there can only be 5 shares in the market at a time. So, if there isn’t room in the market, AFTER YOU BUY YOUR SHARE, for the director to sell down to 1 then you are safe. Keep a careful eye on this because if someone else buys out of the market, it might open up the ability for the president to sell down.
- If they dump, how great is the risk? This final question really boils down to risk assessment. In the early stages of a game, the risk is often low of investing in another company, especially if only a couple companies start at the beginning of the game and it takes a while to get to the three trains (3T). Once the green phase starts with the purchase of a 3T, privates can be bought in, and then the risk increases depending on the buy-in value of the privates. If the president has low-value privates or only one, chances are there will still be money in the company if they choose to dump. Therefore your risk of buying out of pocket is lower. Risk assessment is a huge part of 18xx games and learning to quickly and accurately assess risk will dramatically increase your competitiveness in these games.
Objective: Try to invest as much of your money as possible in the stock round and when necessary, strategically buy the second or even third share in another player’s company.
This may be a fairly obvious area of consideration, especially if you failed to consider the train rush in game 1. But from the very beginning of the game, you need to have a permanent train plan. Permanent trains always show up and in 95% of your games, you will most likely see a D train purchased. So now that you have a better understanding of the arc of the game, from the beginning you must be asking yourself: How am I going to get a permanent train with this company? When I get one, what will my route be? I’ll let you puzzle on this one for now. But I’ll give you a couple of hints.
- Token placement is really important in establishing and maintaining longer routes.
- Just a little reminder that you can buy trains between companies that you control for at least $1 up to any amount the company can afford. This is an important tool in 18xx.
Objective: Think long term about how the first company you run is going to survive in the late game.
Alright, I think you are ready for game 2. Have fun and remember the goal at this point in the process is to learn and to try new things. If you win, that’s just icing on the cake.