1829 Strategy

by Thomas Butcher

    There are now a bewildering array of 18XX games being played, though I believe the “big four” for most players remain 1830, 1835, 1856, and 1870. On that account the original 18XX game, 1829, which features many ideas that have since been discarded in later games, tends to be played rather less than skillfully, at least in the U.S., where it is seldom played.

    To make sure we are on the same page, let’s first check on the map grid.  For the South map, I am using the cyberboard version, while Keith Thompson’s copyrighted map is another standard map.  In the former, Holyhead is at Q1, Hull at O17, Birmingham at T10, and Dover at Y21.  The same four hexes on Keith’s map are P4, N10, S13, and X24.  Looking at Keith’s North map, these four are the same, his South and North maps having the same grid.  Glasgow on the North map is G5, and Aberdeen B12.

    Also note that I am using the word “station” to mean a token placed on a city circle to indicate that company’s possession of that circle while Tresham uses it to mean the city circle or town dot on the map.  (The Americans and the British are two peoples separated by the use of a common language.)

    Let’s look first at the overall situation. In games featuring England, the designer must not allow the “sure-win” route of London-Birmingham-Lancashire (Liverpool/Manchester). In 1829 (Southern), this is accomplished in two ways: London has three station circles until brown (russet) tiles come into play and six for the rest of the game, and Birmingham (T10) is impossible to pass through before brown tiles appear. The tendency is therefore to aim for short but profitable runs, as evidenced by the fact that the longest train in the game is only a “7". Many games come to an end before the “7"s even go on sale, and for most of the game “3"s and “4"s are the breadwinners, and the "2"s last through most of the middle game.

    To an extent this emphasis on shorter runs is true of 1835 and 1856 as well, while in 1830 New York to Chicago is an important aim, and in 1870 for some companies this applies to St. Louis to Dallas or Kansas City to Southwest, all requiring long-range trains. In 1829, because of the importance of short runs, it is necessary to have at least two or three central stations (tokens) feeding into surrounding destination cities. The first two companies, the London & Northwestern (LNWR) and the Great Western (GWR), need careful planning in this respect since their original cities are worth only £10 each. If they are retained throughout the middle game as central feeder stations every run must contain a £10 payout among the rest. With four trains, this means a difference of at least £80 per OR (£10x4 instead of £30x4).

    The LNWR must look to Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham as possible station locations as well as R10 and S7, suitably upgraded to 12, 14, or 15 tiles, while the GWR has Bristol (W7), X8, V8, and perhaps W13, U13, or Birmingham. All this requires green tiles, meaning that these alternative central feeder stations will have to wait at first.  However, these two companies’ owners must play from the very beginning with this “base transfer” in mind.

    There are several other points differing from the "big four" to be kept in mind, particularly when the SPs (survey parties) are in play. These are required for placing new tiles or stations, but not for upgrades. As long as your SP has just vacated the hex, you need no connection to another station of yours to place a tile there. Upgrades are the same: you need no connection to upgrade any tile on the board, making a players’ second company a valuable asset both to upgrade the first company’s cities and to play upgrade tiles that thwart an opponent despite the lack of a connection.

    Another sometimes forgotten point about SPs is that they may not be converted into stations at a location being upgraded to a city that same OR. The reason is that the SP moves first, thus before the city comes into being.

    Getting back to big cities, there are four on each of the two maps, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester on both, London on the Southern, and Glasgow on the Northern, with three separate station circles in all, except that London increases to six when brown tiles appear and that Liverpool has but two circles. This is true of New York in the original version of 1830 (as opposed to Alan Moon’s variants), Berlin and Hamburg in 1835, and Toronto in 1856, though the separation of stations within a city ends at some point in mid-game. In 1829 the stations remain independent to the end, and a single run may never include more than one of the circles of a given big city. The effect is to lessen these cities’ size in payout value while retaining the cities’ value overall as separate entities.

    The treatment of towns is another distinctive featureof 1829. In the big four, they are generally to be avoided since they count the same as cities for train counts in runs but only pay $10 (10M in 1835).  Each game has its own mechanism for improving the desirability of the towns. 1830 is the worst, bringing them into their own only with diesel runs. In 1835 they are the subject of very unrealistic special trains with plus signs (e.g. 4+4) to handle towns, while in 1856 from phase 6 towns may be upgraded or eliminated–both rather artificial solutions. In 1870 alone, towns may be upgraded to paying $20 only when already upgraded to green $10 tiles. Unfortunately, by that time they are hardly worth the bother.

    In 1829, up to nine towns may be upgraded to city (£30) status using the 12, 14, and 15 tiles, of which there are three each. Since these are green tiles, this possibility occurs quite early in the game. The 12 tile has the disadvantage of being a kind of corner piece, not permitting a through route while it is green, but it comes to its own later with brown and even gray promotions. On the other hand, the 14 and 15 tiles, like their counterparts in 1835, can never be further upgraded.

    Another characteristic of towns that differs markedly from the big four is that towns may never begin or end a run. Runs must be between two cities only, realistically leaving the towns as intermediate stops between cities only.

    Perhaps the most striking distinctive rule of 1829 is the one which denies the use of any city whose token circles are completely occupied by other players’ token or tokens. In the early going this rule tends to close significant possible routes, though one learns to live with it readily enough. No other 18XX game designer has seen fit to continue this practice.

    The stock market also deserves some study. First of all, the order of launching and initial stock value are predetermined, as in the original form of 1835.  Somewhat similar to 1835 with its 2-3-2 company groups, no company’s shares, except the first, the London & Northwestern (LNWR), may be sold until the company ahead of it in the predetermined order has been launched. (The popular Thompson variant has eliminated this situation for 1835). Therefore, the order of sales of the IPO shares is fixed throughout the game. Since there is no effect of sales on prices, a player may buy shares for short-term profit and then sell them to the pool without hurting the directors involved, including your own companies’ shares.

    Also note that for a share price to rise from 58 to 82 requires six ORs with dividends paid, for an average of only £4 per OR, and from 112 to 160 it is 3 ORs for an average of £16 per OR. It is well worth your patience to push the price to over 100. Compare these figures with comparable areas of the 1856 stock price table: 70 to 90 in four ORs, average $6.67 gain per OR, and 150 to 200 in 2 ORs to average $25 per OR.

    Another feature of 1829 which no other game has picked up is the steam packets. These are shipping lines of varying cost and payouts that run from designated ports and additionally pay any railway company for a token placed in the assigned port in addition to the payout to the steam packet owner. This rule adds flavor to the game towards the end and offers a source of income in addition to the stock market late in the game, though it is marred by the fact that the steam packet lines must be bought in fixed order, as with the companies.

    1829 being the oldest of the now huge 18XX family, it is now unfortunately no longer in print, and the publishers, Hartland Trefoil of Northampton, U.K., have superseded it with a similar game called 1825, which is an excellent game in its own way though somewhat controversial in the UK.

    Also note that the two versions of 1829, Southern and Northern, use the same rules, differing only to accommodate their respective maps, in the South from the Channel to the row just north of Preston-Hull, and in the North from the line just south of Birmingham to Inverness in the Highlands.

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This page last updated on 18 January 2007.
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