From the moment I first spoke with the late Carl Burger, he always enthusiastically shared with me the interesting differences between his 1831 game and most other 18xx games. After I had obtained a copy of his game, he was always ready to share strategic tips with me as well. I always took notes whenever Carl and I had a phone conversation, but unfortunately I did not write down everything he shared with me during our talks. Everyone who had similar conversations with Carl knows that what he shared regarding 1831 strategy came not just from designing the game but from avid play of it as well. For the benefit of those who may not have had a chance to benefit from his wisdom and experience, and in order to add to his legacy, I offer here those strategic tips that I have been able to glean from my conversations and correspondence with Carl. In addition, I include tips from Carl published by Tom Butcher in the Blut und Eisen (BuE) PBM/PBEM magazine issues #45 and #46. If anyone has additional strategic tips from Carl that would be appropriate to include in this Web page, I welcome them. -- Lou Jerkich
COMPANIES and SYSTEMS:
1. The LIRR has the potential to be a long-term money-maker and could be a good first Company because of its commuter runs. However, try to get it soon into a System with a Company having freight trains so there will be more flexibility should there be a temporary dearth of available passenger trains. The DL&W (Lackawanna) is a good partner for the LIRR.
2. Form Systems with Companies high in value--above 122 par.
3. Experience has shown that as many as seven Systems can be formed in a five-player game.
4. Remember that Systems have a 7 tile--5 upgrade--6 token limit. Systems are the key to high revenue.
5. Being a shareholder gives you the right to know how much cash that company has. Don't hesitate to make use of this information.
6. To win 1831, you must be running at least one system. [This is a strategic concept, not a rule.] It is very important to buy back stock into a company or system to continue funding the company or system for capital improvements. Only common stock can be bought back! The two ways to fund a company or system are through stock sales and dividends paid to the company or system from stock it has repurchased. Unsold initial offering dividends are also paid to the company or system but do not exist long in the game if the players are smart. (From BuE, issue #45, p.9.)
7. As the game goes on and tokens are placed, some areas may come to have inadequate opportunties for station or yard placement. Don't raise new companies in areas where there is no growth potential!
1. Eight to ten stock rounds is normal in a full game. Completing a game with only seven Stock Rounds rarely occurs.
2. Late in the game, sell off all your common stock and then pay out on Preferred Stock only. If opponents are left holding any of your Common Stock that they can't dump (Rule 188.8.131.52), they will be hurt by that lack of revenue.
3. In 1831, try to take over the companies held by other players. This is more valuable than dumping companies on other players.
1. In 10-player games, Carl would often invest in the Preferred Stock of other players' primary and secondary companies. A player can win without running anything. Just invest well in the right companies.
2. The Colorado Method: Start by investing on the first stock round in two Railroad Companies. The price of the first company is set low enough so all ten shares can be bought. Then in the same stock round dump as many as possible and start a second company at a larger par value. That gives the second company a better position at the early stage of the game, especially for train purchases. This strategy only works if the other players don't catch on to what you are trying to do. If they catch on, they can jump in and buy one share of your first company and then when you push the price up they can sell that share and get the profit, leaving you short of the cash you needed. (Special thanks to Dean Washburn, the originator of the "Colorado Method," for clarifying the details of this tactic.)
3. It is not a good idea to start companies late in the game! I [Carl] have given you the chance to start two weak companies at the start. If you do this you will be player n+1 in an n player game. Read the chart of company startups. This will show you how to start a takeover target and the takeover company. It lays out the funding without another player butting into your plans. If you make your target company too weak a player may make a hostile takeover of that company. If you start a strong target company, par 77 (buy 100%), and pay 200% on a run of $40 or more, you will be able to raise a $150 par takeover company in the Second Stock Round and form your system from a friendly takeover in the 3rd Operation Round. During the Second Stock Round, you will sell all the common stock in the target company to the pool. Have your company buy back 20%. Sell 20% of the preferred stock and get $659 in proceeds. This plus your 200% dividend will allow you to raise a $150 par company and fund it with at least a $750 or $916 treasury to start. Hint: the takeover company should have a 20% or greater president's share [in order to allow more certificates to be held by the player]. Make sure your two companies can share track so they can make the merger. Good luck. (From BuE #45, p. 9. This is apparently Carl's variant of the Colorado Method in which the purchase of the second company is delayed until the 2nd Stock Round and the merger occurs in the 3rd Operation Round.)
4. Don't raise small companies near the end of the game. It does not work unless you plan on a small permanent train transfer from a system to a company and have the assets to bail the system out of train problems.
5. Share limits are also tough. I have allowed 100% company ownership of a company or system. This may be 15 or your 18 stock limit. A clever opponent may set you up for "dumping" a company or system on him. Dumping is bad for the dumper--trust me! Stock is sold first, and then bought, in 1831. No BUY-SELL or SELL-BUY-SELL allowed! (From BuE, issue #45, p.9.)
6. In this game, try to steal companies rather than dump them.
STATIONS and YARDS:
1. Buy track and Stations/Yards as cheaply as you can. You may not lay empty cities. You must claim the city with a Station or a Yard. You may not skip cities in a run. The run is composed of Stations or Yards in a row owned either by you or by another player (trackage rights). Of course trackage rights are in a poor place in the operation order. (From BuE, issue #45, p.9.)
2. Try to give your company a good mix of Station and Yard locations early. They are cheaper to buy in the early game, and later when mixed trains are unavailable you will have viable routes for either passenger or freight trains. There's nothing worse than being forced to buy a train that you are unable to use for that company.
3. Carl's ideal track layout: 10 Stations in a row in one direction with 12 to 15 Yards in a row in another direction.
4. Of the yellow track tiles for large cities, Baltimore begins with open spaces for two Stations, Albany and Philadelphia each with one open Station and one open Yard, and all the rest begin with one Station. When upgraded, most of these large cities will have one additional space available. [Note: Cleveland, Buffalo, and New York City, by virtue of the extra token spaces on their special red city hexes, do not have the same limits as other cities.] However, Baltimore, Albany, Philadelphia and Washington do not gain an additional space when they upgrade to green tiles. Therefore, if both of the original open spaces in the first of these three cities contain tokens, and also when there is one token in Washington, these four cities can only be upgraded to green track by the corporations that already have tokens placed on those tiles. The exception would be when a player wishes to start a new company that has a logo on that tile space, for he can then place his home token despite the lack of an open token space (rule 184.108.40.206). So aside from these exceptions, the cities of Albany, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington can become barriers to through traffic. Washington, which is not the home site for any company, can especially be used as a barrier. At its maximum when it has a blue or red tile, it will only have two Stations. However, the first corporation to place a Station in Washington is the only corporation able to upgrade that tile to green. Since the other token spot on this tile isn't available until blue tiles appear, the corporation that places the first token can effectively bar Washington to through traffice for all other competitors until it has upgraded the city to green, which would thereby allow another corporation to make the upgrade to blue and place its Station token. Therefore a wily B&O or C&O or WM player who gets his token placed there first, can turn Washington into a block for his nearby competitors, as long as he doesn't upgrade from the original yellow tile.
1. The "train rush" in games with many players is severe, resulting in many receiverships. Moreover, careless players may get poor companies dumped on them.
2. Buying the "2" trains and "3" trains too early results in a faster "train rush" and is generally counter-productive. So don't buy a train that can't run yet unless doing so will deny a key train to an opponent and interfere with his ability to earn good revenue. If it causes the opponent to go into receivership, all the better.
3. Only buy a train you can't use if you have to. This will shorten the game by one or more operating rounds. Small trains last much longer than 4s, 5s, or 6s. The train rush is very fast! (From BuE, issue #45, p.9.)
4. Remember that trains run when they are purchased. The max run profit will be calculated, unless orders state that you are running for less. You must have a complete run on a train to declare less. (From BuE, issue #46, p.13.)
5. If a company or system needs a train and cannot get one--tough. Bad planning. It goes into Receivership. I made Receivership very tough on the player who mismanages his income. This game is played for the long term, and not the 1830 quick profit!
6. It is part of game strategy to buy the last train another player's company needs, thereby forcing him to buy the wrong type of train for the route he has. The lack of a suitable train will result in no revenues, thereby forcing that company's stock value to fall. As the stock value falls, the company becomes more prone to a takeover attempt. So, the player who denied a train to another company by buying it first may also end up acquiring that other company and its formerly useless train, which may not be so useless in the new system.
7. Systems should always be running their maximum train capacity each round!