Strategy: The Battle of the Belge
Belge at its own Game - A
Strategy for the Chemin de Fer de Paris
[* This article appeared as an email message in the Yahoo 18xx Group on
April 20, 2005. In converting this from an email into an article,
it has been edited by Lou Jerkich in a few minor ways to enhance its
esthetic appearance and appeal. The author's content regarding
the Paris strategy remains
This is an article
about improving the success rate of the Paris,
by fighting a Belgian lockout. In the process, I hope
restore a fraction of the Paris'
tarnished honour, especially in groups where aggressive action by the Belge has
led to loud complaints that the Paris
Private is massively
over-priced in the Initial Auction.
On the face of it,
with no outside interference, the Paris
has two basic options:
(1) Connect to its
destination immediately and run two 2H trains as soon as possible.
par price is set at F110 and floated, the Paris
will have F330 cash to start with. Building over two rivers
at F40 each
and then placing the token for F60 is a total of F140,
leaving us with F190, which is F10 short of two 2Hs. So in order to
make this work we also
require the F20 Bridge-building Private.
F110 per operating round (F66 to the player, F44 to
too shabby. Also it is very easy to defend against the
Etat formation. Simply
to a major, sell some shares and buy a 4H.
You don't have much in the way of good track options after that (the Ouest
blocks you from Paris),
but with the 4Hs come green tiles and you can expand north or south as
fit. Not exciting, but not awful either. Yet we cannot
ensure that we have the Bridge
toward Lille and London.
Place a token on Lille
for F80, build one bridge for F40, and then infiltrate Belgium.
After expenses of F120, this leaves F210 in treasury,
enough for two 2Hs!
The first revenue will be a paltry F30, but the second turn
we add London-Lille for an additional F70.
Revenue: F100 per
operating round (F60 to the player, F40 to the company).
seem that the first scenario is much better, but there are much
better 4H and 6H routes up in Belgium than in the Paris area, and
if we are working with the Belge
(rather than against it), the Belge
and the Paris
will quickly become very high revenue companies. So
many players consider this to be the 'ideal' Paris
if you don't have the Bridge Private
(and so scenario #1 isn't even an option).
In addition, instead of buying two 2Hs, we could buy a single 2H,
from London to Lille
for F70, and then later purchase a 4H to run between Lille
and Paris for F80, a total of F15. This
better as either track is upgraded or the rest of Belgium
there are much greater dangers than in scenario #1.
The first is that you may be forcibly folded into the Etat if you cannot
get hold of a 4H. Once the 4Hs become available it will take at
turns to get to your destination before you can convert. If the
quietly and sedately this is not a problem.
and the Alsace
have the most to lose by being folded into the Etat, so keep an eye out
what the Alsace
is trying to do. If the Alsace
heads north, be very careful, or you may both end up in the Etat.
But far worse than that is that the Belge can lock you out. By
its double build, it can reach Lille via Mons and Amiens on the first
even token Lille to add insult to injury). The Belge will have completely locked
out the Paris, since it will
be unable to lay track into Lille, or run trains there until a
couple of turns after the green tiles become available.
(3) Expand toward Lille and London.
Get locked out by the Belge.
Total cost: F270.
over, man; game over.
While the Belge has much
better things to do (i.e. build much more profitable runs)
than to lock out the Paris,
it is this ability to remove an opponent from the
game in virtually one stroke that will perhaps tip the balance of
behaviour towards the Belge
choosing this option.
This depends on your playing group. In some groups there will
lot of social pressure applied to prevent this tactic, perhaps
based on who is doing
the giving and who is doing the receiving. (You *did* remember to bring
bag of potato chips for 'diplomatic purposes', didn't you?) But in
tournament play you should not expect to receive mercy, nor
for your competitors to do anything other than egg on the Belge, since
it hurts the Belge, and
Perhaps the only good news is that the mid-game is not one but two
minefields, and ultimately the game is so utterly dependent on how the
fall out that you may actually be able to recover from this
Sell your third share, ditch the treasury shares at earliest
opportunity and pray for a decent Etat,
for which, sadly, you will have
grossly overpaid F145 for a single share.
So, given these
choices, what do you do if the Belge
owner is hostile, you missed out on the
Bridge Private, and you got
the wrong flavour of potato chips? Give
up? Complain loudly on the 18xx forum about how the Paris Private is overpriced? All
Vive la counter-revolution!
There are a number of options available to the Paris president for fighting
against a hostile
money after bad: Don't float the Paris.
Just wait. Calmly collect the F25 per turn, and look for
opportunities elsewhere. Once all the 2H trains are gone, you can
connect to your destination, convert, and buy not one, not two, but
trains in one OR (with the aid of a loan of course). Or... if you
be boring, buy only one 4H. Either forgo the loan (by not
token on your destination), or take the early loan and keep the money
buy a 6H when it becomes available.
(5) Float low, sweet chariot.
The intention is to force the Belge
to operate before you in the first operating round. At that point
the Belge president must
choose to lock you out (without knowing what you will do), or he will
the opportunity forever. So set the par price below what you
Belge president will set the Belge price at. Even at the
price for floating (F75), you at least break even on your Paris Private
Company (F150 worth
of shares plus £F5 of revenue > F160).
Of course you do not know if the Belge
president will set the par price a little
lower than could be expected. He might even undercut you by
setting the par price below
or at F75 itself.
If the Belge president
'ups the ante', by floating at F75, just fall back on scenario
#4, and refuse
to float the Paris by
yourself. Just keep collecting that revenue from
the Paris Private, and the Belge president will have a lot
more cash tied up
will, and a much slower cash flow if
he decides to 'up the ante' yet again by not floating
the Belge. (There may
be loud booing and jeering from the luckless owner of
the Belge Private.)
(6) Set the par at F75 and
watch someone 'force' you to float
because he bought one share. In this case the company will
have a mere F225
And if we follow scenario #1, tragically our expenses of F140
will leave us a
mere F85 in the treasury--not enough for a measly 2H....
Oh, what will
That's right, take a loan and end our train problems. Grab
2 2Hs, then when 4Hs are available there'll be enough cash left over
to convert to a 10 share company and grab a 4H as well.
Total Cost: F16.
Revenue: F110 per operating round (F44 to you, F22 to
your co-floater, and F44 to treasury)
But to prevent you
from getting the loan that person might (in a fit of madness) buy the
of the Paris.
At this point you have two options: either buy the fifth share
yourself, or set
up your 'friend' to have a dead Paris
dumped on him.
(7) Fully capitalize at a par
price of F75 per share. This places F375
in the Paris' treasury.
If you go with scenario #1, you spend F140 (leaving F235) and then have
plenty left over with which to buy two
boost you've received unfortunately will not help the share price rise
at the end of each round, since five-share companies never
rise when all five shares are sold. Still, when you need to print
money for your next set
of trains you can just convert and dump shares. Alternatively,
for what it’s worth, and then dump it on your friend just before it
(8) Create a
with you having the
priority in the next share round (ahead of your 'friendly' co-investor).
This gives you the opportunity to make a play for scenario #2 - the
London-Lille 'optimum'. You only have F300 in treasury, and
expenses of F120, so its not enough to buy a second 2H. Of
course, in the
next share round, if the Belge president,
out of the kindness of his heart (or perhaps
deciding he does like that flavour of potato chip after all) hasn't
out, you can buy the last Paris
share, providing the funding required for
the second train.
If the Belge does lock
you out, well... you've got first rights on dumping
(if you don't, see scenario #7 instead). You'll have spent F160,
F£25 in Private Company payouts, and then sold out your Paris
shares for F140--a net gain of F5. In
the process, you've done massive damage to your 'friend' (who
will have paid F150 for his single
share of the Etat), done
considerable damage to the Belge
revenue... and been
paid for the privilege!
However, I have found that some people when they play the
just cannot bring themselves to set the
par price at less than F110, even in the face of a hostile Belge.
Something in them just rebels at the very thought. They see that
'losing' F70. They would rather have an asset
which starts at a high value and earns nothing and declines in value,
than the cheaper asset which pays dividends, and will soon surpass the
asset value' in capital gains. In any case the initial Paris
payouts are fairly limited, and so the Paris
will quickly hit the point at which it cannot continue to
increase in share
price. This gives the 'worse' par price time to catch up.
But, if no amount of logic will budge them, and they *must* set the
par at F110, they *still* have good options for fighting a Belgish
(9) Go North
man, but go a little slower. Set the par price at F110
as per scenarios #1 and
#2. Now we place our two tiles north west
but instead of connecting from Rouen west to our destination at Le
Havre, we exit in
another direction (northeast or east). This slows us
down one turn from reaching Lille, but it
gives us the comparative luxury of knowing that even if the Belge does lock us
out, we are still collecting revenue, and so there is no 'knockout
punch' as in the standard Belge
lockout. If the Belge
cannot kill us entirely,
Belge president may not even bother trying to lock us out at all. (Why
them?). And while it is slower by one turn to get to Lille, it is
also faster to connect to the
destination. (A simple green upgrade will do).
The northeast option looks more useful, but Belge can complete the
Lille-London route and lock you out a second time. On the other
hand, the eastward
option has the advantage that you can at least continue to lay more
track, building a track line underneath the Belge's
lockout position. This isn't great, but at
least its something to do while you wait for green tiles. It is
also only two track placements from Lille.
So if the Belge doesn't lock
you out in the first round, it won't get the
Comparison of Scenario #2
and #9 payouts with 2 2Hs (best case, no Belge lockout)
F100 F100 F230
Interestingly, this 'low risk' option is actually better for the Paris
subsequent ORs (and is only £10 behind on OR3).
Now for the worst case Scenario, with a Belge lockout.
F60 F60 F180
Hmmm.... I know which one I would choose!
If all goes well (or if the Belge
doesn't even float), you can run a 2H out
of Paris for F60, a 2H into London for F70, and a 4H
between Lille and your
destination for F80, a grand total of F210.
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This page last updated on 26 September 2005.
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