by Lou Jerkich
5th Edition, Revised: 25 September 2008
Railroad Nomenclature used in this article:
The various sources I've used for this article each use their own prefered nomenclature and/or abbreviations for the railroads of 1835. Since I often quote the original sources, there will thus be unavoidable inconsistancies in the choice of term or abbreviation used to identify a given company. Therefore, the following chart is provided to aid players in identifying the correct railroad being discussed. My personal preferences are to use the three-letter abbreviations for the major share companies shown in bold font below, with the MS being the single two-letter exception. The minor companies are always in the form M1, M2, etc. and the private companies are abbreviated with two letters. In the unquoted portions of the text, when I am not using the abbreviations I generally use the version shown in bold text below, which I hope will be clear to both English- and German-speaking readers.
BB = Braunschweigische Bahn =
HB = Hannoversche Bahn = Hannoverian
LD = Leipzig-Dresdner Bahn = Leipzig-Dresdner
NF = Nürnberg-Fürth
OB = Ostbayerische Bahn = Ostbayern
PF = Pfalzbahnen = Pfalzbahn
M1 = Minor #1 =
M2 = Minor #2 = Berlin-Potsdamer Bahn
M3 = Minor #3 = Magdeburger-Bahn
M4 = Minor #4 = Köln-Mindener Bahn
M5 = Minor #5 = Berlin-Stettiner Bahn
M6 = Minor #6 = Altona-Kiel Bahn
In the 1835 railroad game, the first share round involves purchasing various private and minor companies, plus the Director's certificate of the Bayerische Eisenbahn. These companies are arranged in sequence in four rows and are called the "Start-Packet." Three of the six private companies give bonus token and/or tile lays, and come with one Bayern 10% share certificate each. Another private company comes with the Director's certificate of the Sachsen share company. Of the remaining certificates in the Start-Packet (two private companies and the six Minor companies) all will eventually convert to shares in the Preußen Railway. There is a formal sequence of availability for the shares from the initial Start-Packet, such that players have a range of choices from two to at most five certificates from which to make their selection at each opportunity. This is because the players must select a certificate from row one first, then row 2, and so on through row 4, with each row having more certificates than the previous. However, players may not select from the next row down unless there is only one certificate left in their current Start-Packet "row," and even then they must only choose between the last one remaining in the current uppermost row or the left-most one in the next row down. The last player to buy from the Start-Packet will of course have only the one choice left. Players may at any time pass, however, instead of buying a certificate. In a typical four-player game, these 13 certificates plus perhaps one further share of the Bayern or Sachsen companies are all that players have the cash to buy in the first share round.
In subsequent share rounds, the major companies must be bought in sequential order from within the appropriate group. Thus, no shares of the second group of major companies (Baden, Württemberg, Hessen) may be bought until all the original Bayern and Sachsen shares have been purchased by the players. All shares of the second group must be purchased before any shares of the third group (Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Oldenburg) may be bought. Moreover, within each of the three groups, the shares are available in the order in which I have listed each company, and one cannot buy shares of the next company within the group until 50% of those of the prior company have been purchased. The one exception to the above procedures is that anytime after the Baden Director's share has been first purchased, players may buy any of the 4 purchasable shares of the Preussen company, whose startup point is consequently always variable in 1835.
Among the interesting and enjoyable features of 1835 are its extensive opportunities for track laying, the possibility of nationalizing a company, and the Minor Companies which evolve into the Preussen Railway system. These are all features which make for an interesting and potentially enjoyable game. Some players of 1835, however, have found the initial share round procedures for purchasing from the Start-Packet unsatisfying. The argument appears to be that the procedure is too rigorous and leaves some players benefiting very well while others get stuck with less desirable certificates. In particular, some players consider the fourth position in a four-player game to be so poor that that player has no hope of winning. This is because they normally expect the fourth player to get "stuck" with the Bayern company, and they believe that owning shares in the Bayern is essentially a recipe for disaster, regardless of which player gets them.
Some players, myself included, find that the rigid order in which the share companies must be bought is a major weakness, for it can lead to a boring game for those players who constantly find themselves unable to get a chance to buy or steal away a directorship. Also, some players call the Württemberg the "Worthless" railroad, because its chances for good development are poor, especially when the Bayern has developed north toward Dresden and Berlin rather than westward over the southern section of the map. There is also a problem for the Badische Eisenbahn, since it can't run until green tiles are available, but the Baden must be floated in order for the green tiles to appear because the previous major and minor companies have just enough room, exactly, for all the preceding 20 trains. Of course, not all players agree on what the major problems of 1835 are, thereby giving rise to quite a number of solutions in the form of variants. Nevertheless, the underlying motivation for the variants tends to be that of restoring play balance.
Chief Sources for 1835 Variant Information:
Much of the previous two editions of this article derived from information either posted by or related to me by the very helpful Bill Stoll. In his Mostly 1835 Web site, Bill Stoll lists for each PBEM game he runs what Start-Packet rules will apply. Since he has hosted sixteen games to date (through Feb. 2000), Bill's site is a rich mine of possible variations to the 1835 rules, especially in respect to starting the game. Seven of the following variants (A, C, D, F, G, H, I) are based on the posted house rules for his moderated 1835 games. After his first twelve games, the next four were named 1835 A, 1835B, 1835C, and 1835D.
After the 2nd edition of this article appeared on 14 April 2000,
was considerable discussion (on the former 18xx
list hosted by eGroups) about Start-Packet variants and concerns
the problems of the Standard Start-Packet opening as printed in the
to 1835. Out of that discussion came new information, suggestions, and
clarifications that enabled me to expand the content of this
article into a 3rd edition.
The contributions by members of the 18xx e-mail group are noted in the
relevant sections that follow. Note that currently this 18xx Group
is one of the Yahoo! Groups.
Aside from the above sources, some information on variants is listed in the 1835 variants section of the Depot Web Site, although the page on which they appear is oddly titled "1829 Variants." The Train Gamer's Gazette (Vol. 3, #3) from the winter of 1996 also has an article ("1835 Game Theory and Another Variant") which contains information on perceived 1835 game problems plus a variant titled "The Equal Footing Variant."
Whenever "Standard" rules are mentioned, the reference is to the original rules of the 1835 game.
Types of Variants:
There are essentailly three types of variants, as described below:
1. Standard Rules with Minor Variations: In this type, only slight tweaking of the rules occurs.
2. Start-Packet Variants: The proponents of these variants chiefly find fault with the standard procedures for buying items in the Start-Packet. There are many approaches used to modify the Start-Packet procedures. They fall into two major groupings: 1) variants that auction off the Start-packet items and 2) variants that modify the order in which players obtain the Start-Packet items. Nevertheless, the primary emphasis of these variants is always on some modification to the method of acquiring items from the Start-Packet, although within this group of variants there also may be some additional minor changes to other rules.
3. Comprehensive Variants: This group of variants includes changes applicable to anywhere in the rule book, which may or may not involve some Start-Packet procedures. Regardless, changing the Start-Packet procedures is never the only focus of concern, for other changes in the rules play a significant role in "fixing" the perceived problems with the game.
The fourteen variants listed below also fall into several other groupings sharing similar features. Start-Packet Variant "J" and all three of the Comprehenisive Variants include deviations from the standard order of appearance of the major companies. Some variant designers considered the Bayern to be too weak, so among other changes they modified the rules so that the Bayern tends to operate sooner. (See variants "C", "G", "L", and "M", plus variations to variants "A" and "F.") All three Start-Packet auction methods, plus Comprehensive Variants "L" and "O," and even one variation of variant "A" have modified the prices of one or more Start-packet items. Finally, some variants (B, G, and L) have made one or more modifications affecting the operation of the Minor companies in some way, although any of the other variants that have an affect on their initial price will have some impact as well. In essence, studying the rules changes in each variant will shed light on what problems in 1835 are being addressed by the variant designers. Nevertheless, the mere presence of such a wide variety of variants suggest that 1835 is a game enjoyed and valued by so many players that they will do whatever they feel necessary in order to fix the "perceived flaws" and thereby enjoy it further.
The Variants - Arranged by Type
Type 1: Standard Rules with Minor Variations
A. The Standard Opening with Slight Variations:
In the games monitored in Bill Stoll's Mostly 1835, sometimes the Standard Start-Packet rules apply, but they may also be slightly modified. For example, in Bill Stoll's Game Zwei, the LD private company pays 30M instead of 20M. In addition, the ByE floats as soon as the directorship is sold. In Game Acht, the ByE is stated to always float in the "first Share Round, regardless of whether 50% of it is sold." The starting cash is based on the actual number of shares sold. Thus, when 30% is sold, the ByE begins with 276M in cash. Bill's Game Neun and his games 1835B and 1835C do not deviate at all from the standard rules: the LD private pays 20M and the ByE floats when 50% has been sold.
B. The Stuart Dagger Variant:
In a letter in the twelfth issue of an online
called Sumo, Stuart
Dagger has argued that the Minor Companies, especially M1, M2, M4
M5, are too powerful when they are running a second train. Stuart
that such companies running a second train can yield to their owners
close to their purchase price every turn." This concern, combined with
the fact that these same companies convert later into Preussen shares,
lead Stuart to conclude that the game can be decided by how many of
are acquired by any given player during the initial Start-Packet sales.
Consequently, Stuart proposes to limit the Minor Companies to running
one train per turn instead of two, although they can still own two
thereby keeping some flexibility for train juggling between companies.
With the dividends thus reduced from these Minor companies, the later
of the Preussen Railway is somewhat lessened because it will inherit
cash. The implication of using this is that the Bayern, and perhaps the
Sachsen company as well, are likely to be more competitive.
Type 2: Start-Packet Variants, Subdivided by Subgroups
C. Todd Vander Pluym's Auction Variant (the Normal Auction Variant):
According to Bill Stoll, this variant appeared in Vol. 1, No. 1, of the Train Gamer's Gazette, but the 1835 variant section of the Depot Web Site assigns it to Vol. 2, No. 4. This version requires the players to bid for the companies they desire, and the starting prices for some of the companies are therefore lowered to encourage more bids before those companies become over-priced. The Todd Vander Pluym Auction variant was used in Bill's games Vier and Zehn, but in the latter game Bill titles it "the Normal Auction Variant." Steve Thomas understands that this variant is much played in the United States (18xx e-group posting # 1769). Quoting from Bill Stoll with slight editing, these variant rules are as follows:
2. Each player in turn either passes or selects one of the available items; availability is as in the normal game. The player must then bid the item's price or more, starting an auction on the item; other players in turn order can either raise the bid or pass, until all except one have passed; the item is then sold to the highest bidder. All bids must be sums divisible by 5. A player can never bid more money than he has. After each auction, the next player in turn order (after the person making the selection) makes the next selection.
3. If all players pass on their turn before the entire Start-Packet is sold, an Operating Round is performed, with the purchased items operating or paying in normal fashion. The ByE operates if the president's certificate has been purchased, even if less than 50% of it is in player's hands.
Bill Stoll's 1835 pre-game survey (from which the following rules are quoted) appears to credit Rick Westerman with this variant. The start packet will be actioned off using sealed bids:
2) The certificates will be auctioned off in start packet order; e.g., NF, M1, LD, M2, M3, etc.
3) Companies will start off with their normal cash instead of their auction price. Example: M2 will always start with 170 DM even it was sold for more or less than 170 DM.
4) For each certificate each player will submit one bid. Aside from a 'no bid', the minimum bid is 1/2 of the normal value of a certificate. Example: 40 DM for M3. The maximum bid is the cash-on-hand of the player.
5) The high bidder will receive the certificate for the second highest bid price. Example, for M2 John bids the high price of 212 DM and the second highest bid is for 204 DM; John would purchase the M2 for 204 DM.
6) In the case of a tie for the highest bid, the player closest to the 'left' of the last purchaser, in terms of seating order, will be the high bidder. Example: the last certificate (the LD) was sold to Rob and the seating order is Rob, John, Bill, James, Mark, Elliott. Both John and Mark bid 212 DM for M2 with other people bidding lower than this. John is the 'high bidder' with the second high bidder being Mark. John would purchase the M2 for 212 DM.
7 If there is only one bid received for a certificate (e.g., everyone else submits a 'no bid'), then the second highest bid will be considered to be 1/2 the value of the certificate.
8) If no bids are received on a certificate then the stock round ends and the game will proceed normally from then on. This includes the sale of the remaining start packet; e.g., the certificates would no longer be sold via the auction process.
9) After the start packet has been sold via auction then the rest of the stock round will proceed as normal with the person to the 'left', in seating order, of the last purchaser becoming the holder of the locomotive.
10) These are closed bids although, of course, the bid can be made to the group. Only the name of the highest bidder and the first two bid prices will be revealed -- the high bid and the second, purchase, bid price.
Steve Thomas described this variant in posting #1769 of the 18xx e-group. He called it his "preferred method" of playing 1835 and indicated that he believed Dane Maslen originated this variant. The 1835 variant section of the Depot Web Site also credits Dane Maslen with this auction method.
That e-group posting #1769 by Steve Thomas is the source of the following description of this variant:
Steve Thomas has included his own suggestion for a modification to this auction variant: "It might be interesting to try a method whereby items may be sold for less than face value, and the deficiency extracted from all players. (E.g. if the Bayerische presidency is sold for 144M in a 4-player game, the winner pays 144 + (184-144)/4 = 154M, and the other three contribute 10M each.) But I've never tried this."
Modifying the Sequence for Obtaining Start-Packet Items
F. The Snake Variant:
Four of Bill Stoll's 1835 PBEM games used the Snake Variant. In this opening, the Standard Start-Packet rules apply except that the order of play follows the player sequence 1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4, etc. As Bill explains it, "This variant is intended to defuse the dreaded problem of going 4th in a 4-way game." (In his 1835 pbem pre-game survey, Bill Stoll adds the remark that perhaps "this variant is only appropriate in a 4-way game.") Note that player number 4 and player number 1 each have an occasion in which they can purchase twice in a row. This variant is found in Bill's games Eins, Elf, and Zwolf, and 1835D. In one of these--game Elf--the ByE also was allowed to float as soon as the directorship was sold.
G. The Clemens Variant:
Bill Stoll's Game Drei listed the following rules for this variant, which was originated by Dirk Clemens. (The phrasing I've used for the second rule derives from both Bill Stoll and Gregor Zeitlinger.)
Gregor Zeitlinger has commented in the 18xx e-group posting #1757 that "This makes for a well-balanced interesting game, even for the blue director." Steve Thomas added (18xx e-group posting #1764) that "There are several approaches to making 1835 a playable and balanced game, of which this is the simplest. It is not as effective as some of the more complex methods, but not bad for a simple fix."
H. The Forced Pass Variant:
This variant, used in his Game Sieben, was developed (according to Bill Stoll) in California by himself, Steve Thomas, Steven Goodman, Ron Sapolsky, and John David Galt. Steve Thomas says it was developed by himself, Tom Lehman, Steven Goodman, and a host of others (18xx e-group posting #1781). He also adds that it was "developed gradually, with more features added to keep things balanced." In this variant, players are required to pass under specific circumstances. Again these rules are quoted from Bill Stoll, who believes that this is the variant that most consistently results in an equitable distribution of the start packet.
2. Player 1 is always required to pass on his second turn; player 2 is always required to pass on his third turn; player 3 on his fourth turn; etc. until the entire start packet has been bought.
4. These required passes don't count toward ending the stock round; i.e. the stock round only ends after everybody has voluntarily passed.
5. When a player voluntarily passes, he gets a pass credit, allowing him to avoid a required pass later.
6. If the entire second row has been bought, the rows collapse, with the third row becoming the second one.
7. As soon as the last item from the start packet is bought, player order is re-randomized. The player to buy the last Start Packet item is last, and everbody else's places are randomly reassigned.
Bill Stoll credits Donald Daybell with this variant, and in his 1835 pre-game survey indicates he has more information from Donald that he could share about this variant. The start packet is divided into balanced starting positions. Each player in turn chooses one of the predefined starting positions. These positions were playtested by Donald's 18xx group. Bill has played the 3-player version in several FTF games and he found it interesting to try once or twice. However, he felt that "some variety is removed if used too often."
The positions are shown below for games of three, four, five, and six players. There is no setup for seven players, because "we couldn't concieve of a position without a minor that we felt would stand a chance of winning." For each player, the Start-Packet item is followed by its cost.
3 Player Game:
2. Minor 5 80M, Bayerische Director 184M, Nürnberg-Fürth 100M, Hannoverische Bahn 160M, Cash Remaining 76M, TOTAL 600M.
3. Minor 2 170M, Minor 3 80M, Dresdener Bahn 190M, Pfaltzbahnen 150M, Cash Remaining 10M, TOTAL 600M.
2. Minor 2 170M, Minor 6 80M, Hannoverische Bahn 160M, Cash Remaining 65M, TOTAL 475M.
3. Minor 1 80M, Bayerische Director 184M, Ostbayern 120M, Cash Remaining 91M, TOTAL 475M.
4. Minor 3 80M, Dresdener 190M, Pfalzbahnen 150M, Cash Remaining 55M, TOTAL 475M.
2. Minor 1 80M, Minor 2 170M, Braunschweiger Bahn 130M, Cash Remaining 10M, TOTAL 390M.
3. Nürnberg-Fürth 100M, Ostbayern 120M, Pfalzbahnen 150M, Cash Remaining 20M, TOTAL 390M.
4. Minor 5 80M, Minor 6 80M, Hannoverische Bahn 160M, Cash Remaining 70M, TOTAL 390M..
5. Minor 3 80M, Dresdener 190M, Cash Remaining 120, TOTAL 390M.
(Note: Bill Stoll's group felt that revenues were maximized when position 3 was made the Bayerische Director, not position 1 above. They found that this works best for both players since it maximizes the Bayerische revenues. Donald Daybell states (February 2002) by way of clarification that "I completely agree with Bill on this. In fact, that’s why I designed the start packet distribution as I did. Notice that the #3 player starts out with 30% of the BY, whereas the #1 player only starts with 20% of the BY and 46DM. Therefore, the BY will change hands immediately to the #3 player, since #3 owns more BY than #2. It seems that Bill was confused for some reason, and thought that the #1 player would somehow keep a hold of the BY directorship.")
2. Minor 2 170M, Braunschweiger Bahn 130M, Cash Remaining 40M, TOTAL 340M.
3. Minor 3 80M, Hannoversiche Bahn 160M, Cash Remaining 100M, TOTAL 340M.
4. Minor 4 160M, Ostbayern 120M, Cash Remaining 60M, TOTAL 340M.
5. Minor 5 80M, Bayerische Director 184M, Cash Remaining 76M, TOTAL 340M.
6. Minor 6 80M, Dresdener 190M, Cash Remaining 70M, TOTAL 340M.
J. The Thompson 2-3-2Variant:
A popular Start-Packet alternative, which became the typical opening in PBM/PBEM games published in Tom Butcher's Blut und Eisen magazine, is called the Thompson opening. In this variant, each player chooses in his turn any one of the items still available in the Start-Packet, regardless of rows. Admittedly this allows for more flexibility in choices, except that the first player has very much the advantage in selection, while the last player tends to have the worst chance of starting with a promising group of certificates. For example, if there were 6 players, the first three would have very good selections, but the last three would normally do less well. Then the first two players would get to pick the best of the remainder, leaving the rest with the dregs, so to speak. Tom Butcher has therefore further refined the Thompson opening by having players select in a 1-2-3-4-5-5-4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4-5-5-4-3-2-1-1,etc., pattern, which has been the norm for the Thompson opening in 1835 games in his magazine.
In addition to the Start-Packet changes, the full Thompson Variant veers away from the strict order of purchasing from the share companies. Instead, after the ByE and SxE stock have all been sold by the bank, purchases can be made from any three of the five remaining major companies (exclusive of the PrE), with shares from the last two companies unable to be purchased until all the previous shares have been bought from the bank. All four purchasable PrE shares are available as soon as the first directorship is purchased after all of the SxE's and ByE's shares have been sold by the bank. The "2-3-2" in the title of this variant relates to the manner in which the shares of the major companies (exclusive of the PrE) are made available: first two (ByE and SxE), then another three, then another two.
K. The Indianapolis Position Bid Variant:
In this variant, first described by Chris Boote in 18xx e-group posting #1795, each player uses some of his starting cash to bid for his or her starting position around the table (1, 2, 3, etc.). Usual bids in the Indianapolis Game Club that devised and used this variant were 10-20M for the 2nd position, and 1-5M for any of the others. The original Start-Packet rules are used. Further information from Chris indicates that the Indianapolis group tried this variant two ways. At first, the bids were in secret, written down on a piece of paper, with ties resolved by highest bid for any place. This proved very unsatisfactory, as there were too many ties to resolve. So, after two or three games, the group moved on to open bidding.
In Open Bidding, the first bidder was chosen randomly, and put up any 'place' for his bid, then round the table from there each player could raise the bid by any amount until only one was left in. Anyone who passed was out of the bidding process. The person to the left of the successful bidder put the next 'place' up for auction. Any positions not bid for were allocated randomly. For this purpose, the Indianapolis Game Club used the round white 'place' tokens supplied with the Hans im Glueck version of 1835 to allocate who gets first choice of 'place' to bid for. According to Chris, this system worked well enough to silence the "Oh no, I'm fourth, I've lost" players without altering the game at all for those who have won from any position and don't find the Start-Packet a problem.
Type 3: Comprehensive Variants
L. The Equal Footing Variant:
A copy of this variant, which originally appeared in the Train Gamer's Gazette, Vol. 3, No. 3, winter 1996, can still be found at the Train Gamers Association Web Site under the title 1835 Game Theory and Another Variant. In this article the design of the variant is credited to Bill McDonald, Marc Mathat, and John David Galt, although the latter is listed as the author of the article itself. Since that first posting, the article appeared in a revised form as version 2.1, dated August 2000, and again written by John David Galt. It appears under the title 1835 Equal Footing Variant. Since it is long and detailed, the content of John David Galt's article will only be summarized here. Those who desire full information on the rationale behind the variant and who want all the details on the actual rules changes should consult the above-mentioned articles, especially the more recent one dated August 2000.
Galt originally titled this variant the "1835 L Equal Footing
He indicated that it was primarily play-tested with three players,
it had been played a few times with more than three. In his later
article it is just called the "1835 Equal Footing Variant."
The key changes to the rules are as follows:
2. Replace the Nürnberg-Fürth private with the new Köln Private Railway (KPR) paying 5M. Galt says that "any major company whose director owns the the KPR may place a tile, once, and a station marker, once, in the Köln space, both for free." Neither action requires a connection to the company's existing track, and both actions are in addition to the company's normal tile and token actions. The KPR closes after using both of its new powers.
3. Players have a choice of taking a 10% share either of the Bayerische or of the Sächsische when they purchase the KPR, Ostbayerische, and Pfalzbahnen private railways. The free share comes from the Starting Packet's 5th row, mentioned in point '6' below.
4. The director's share of the Bayerische comes with the new München Bahn Private Railway, identical to the Leipzig-Dresdener Bahn in every way, including closing when the Bayerische buys its first train. It costs 184m total to buy the München Bahn and the Bayerische directorship.
5. Some Start-Packet prices are changed: the KPR costs 150M and the Pfalzbahnen costs 100M. The Leipzig-Dredener Bahn plus the Sächsische directorship cost a total of 176M, the price of two Sachsische 10% shares. Minor #2 costs 180M.
6. Add a fifth row to the Start-Packet containing enough Bayerische and Sächsische shares to float both companies. As Galt explains, "no one can buy the sixth share in either company until both are floated."
7. Reverse the purchasing order so that "the Württemburg must float before the Badische director's share can be bought."
8. The four Prussian shares are available for sale when the Württemburg director's share is bought.
9. Add two 2+2 trains.
10. Allow green tiles 14 and 15 to upgrade to brown tile #63.
11. "Braunschweig is considered a green space and may be upgraded to brown tile number 63."
12. Nürnberg-Fürth is considerd a yellow "XX" space which can only be upgraded first to green tile #14. That then upgrades only to brown tile #63 or #218.
13. For 50M, a player may bridge the Elbe west of Hamburg by placing a tile in either C9 or B10, whichever is later.
14. Whenever a major company during a phase 1 turn lays two yellow tiles (not counting special builds due to private railway powers), one of them must connect to the company's original home station.
15. "At each opportunity to convert private and minor companies to
shares, there is not just one round of 'turns' to do this; the
round' continues until everyone passes consecutively, just like a stock
16. Schwerin and Oldenberg now have payouts of 10/20/30 as in
17. (Optional) Many 1841 tiles can be added to the tile mix, but
not mountain tiles or city tiles other than those marked 'Y'.
M. The Stroup Variant:
In my own experience I have played only my first three games of 1835 according to the original rules. Thereafter, I used for a time the Thompson 2-3-2 Variant, before switching inFebruary of 1999 to the Stroup Variant. I have observed that in the 1835 games with which I am acquainted, the players have won with a wide variety of combinations of certificates from the Start-Packet. There have been few intrinsically bad initial hands. (One notable case was a player who had no Minors and no other eventual shares of the Prussian!) What my group found, however, was that the game can become lopsided if a couple of players happen to fall into the wrong position around the table and find themselves never able to buy the next company directorship that is up for grabs. Even when one owns many of the "best" shares, the game can lose much of its appeal when one mostly watches other players build track, lay stations, and buy trains. Consequently, in my gaming circle, we have come up with a different solution to the 1835 game's problems. I've named it the Stroup Variant after our friends Steve and Lisa Stroup whose comments and suggestions inspired it.
Rather than try to remedy some apparent problems with the game by tampering with the Start-Packet procedures, this variant instead deals with the problem of the fixed order of purchase of the share companies. By borrowing and expanding on some concepts borrowed from 1856, the players are permitted considerable flexibility in choice of railroads to start and in deciding when to start their operations. In effect, the non-Prussian share companies will start sooner than in the original rules and in no particular order. Moreover, they will often start with less than 50% of their shares sold, with a corresponding decrease in starting capital. The Stroup Variant has created a lot of excitement, has led to more trading of shares and changed company ownership, and has provided every player with several easy opportunities to become a company director. Moreover, the Stroup Variant games have remained exciting to the end, with early front-runners sometimes faltering and seemingly mediocre positions taking a sudden upswing. In addition, the game develops more quickly and ends in one or two fewer rounds than usual.
A more detailed explanation and commentary on the Stroup Variant rules is given in a separate article, but the rules are reprinted here:
All original 1835 rules are followed except where contradicted and replaced by rules 1 through 3 below:
1. Choose the original Start-Packet rules or one of the variant Start-Packet openings.
2. Make the following changes to rule XV.2:
B. The four purchasable shares of the PrE cannot be bought by players until the first 3+3 train has been purchased by an operating company.
B. As soon as any player acquires the first certificate of a share company, that corporation's marker is placed on the Share Price Index chart. When it would be that company's turn in an operating round, the share company's director checks to see whether the company "must" be floated or "may" be floated. A non-Prussian share company that does not meet the requirements of rules C or D below, is not required to float.
C. A non-Prussian share company "must" be floated if at least 50% of the share company has been sold. (Shares acquired with private companies as part of the Start-Packet count as "shares sold.") An operating company's first act is always to lay its free home station.
D. In addition, a non-Prussian share company "must" also be floated if less than 50% of it's shares have been sold but it nevertheless has sufficient cash to buy the most modern of the currently available trains. The company must reserve enough of its initial capital to buy a train, thereby perhaps preventing other potential expenditures. Although the company must float because it can afford to buy the most modern train available, the company may still opt to buy an older train at less expense, either from another company or from the bank.
E. If less than 50% of it's shares have been sold, a non-Prussian share company which has sufficient cash to buy "any" available train, whether owned by the bank or by another company, "may" float and operate provided that it actually does buy the train. The director, however, is not required to float the company unless as noted previously (D) it has sufficient cash to buy the most modern available train.
F. A non-Prussian share company with less than 50% of its shares sold "may" also float provided that the director can ensure that the company will receive the necessary funds to buy a train. The director "may" opt to contribute to the cost of the company's first train by making up the difference between the actual train cost and the available company funds. However, the director may not sell any of his own shares in the new company in order to finance the company's train, nor may he place himself in bankruptcy to assist with such a train purchase. He can only contribute as much cash as is necessary to buy the train, and whenever this is done, the company should end the turn with no remaining cash in its treasury. The director contributing cash may choose which type of available train to purchase, regardless of whether it is the latest model or is an older one owned by the bank. However, the director may not contribute toward buying a train owned by any other operating company. Whenever the director will be contributing his own cash to buy a train, the company may first purchase an extra station or pay for terrain costs associated with track-laying provided that only company funds are used for this purpose. No cash can ever be donated by the director for these other purposes, but the director must still be able to supplement the remaining company funds (if any) with enough personally donated cash to successfully buy a train. If the director will not be able to ensure that a train is bought for the company, then the company cannot spend its own cash on one or more of its other intended expenditures.
G. Once it has begun operating, a company
in operation for the reminder of the game.
the Director's Certificate of the Bayerische Eisenbahn (Bayern) has not
yet been purchased when the first operating round begins, the Bayern
does not float unless at least
one player owns two shares. In this case, the player with two (or
three) shares becomes the acting Director. The acting Director must
retain at least two single Bayern share certificates until someone else
acquires the right to be Director through normal means as outlined in
the 1835 game's rule IV.3. In the event that the Bayern Director's
certificate has not been purchased and no one owns at least two shares,
the Bayern cannot float. Later, when someone else purchases the
Bayern Director's certificate, the acting Director trades two single
shares to the purchaser of the Director's shares for that Director's
certificate, which can subsequently change hands again per the rules of
N. 1835 Minor Variant:
According to the article on 1835
Variants in the Depot Web Site, the "1835 Minor Variant" was
by Gary Norton and published in the Train Gamer's Gazette, vol. 1, #2.
Quoting from the Depot article, "It eliminates the private companies,
nine more minor companies, and changes the way major companies are
This is therefore definitely a comprehensive variant, but the details
in the original article which I have not seen.
O. Hannaford Variant:
This clearly comprehensive variant was put together by Anthony E.
Carver, Thomas Wall Hannaford Jr., Ken Soo, and James Romano. It
was described as follows on
September 1, 2008, by Thomas Wall Hannaford, Jr. in 18xx e-group
As mentioned previously, except for percieved play-balance concerns, players undoubtedly consider 1835 to be essentially a good railroad game, otherwise they would not have troubled to devise so many of the variants mentioned above. Obviously, the single greatest concern among all these variations has been that of balancing the game fairly. The many variants on the method of acquiring the certificates from the Start-Packet imply a consensus that the Start-Packet is the main problem in this game. Novices may especially have difficulty with the Start-Packet, resulting in a lopsided distribution that may leave one player far too dominant in the eventual ownership of the Prussian shares. Even Stuart Dagger's Variant, which limits the Minor Companies to running one train, arises ultimately from his belief in the crucial nature of what happens in the initial purchases made from the Start-packet. The Thompson 2-3-2 Variant goes further by changing both the Start-Packet opening as well as permitting some limited flexibility in the order in which companies operate. While all four Comprehensive Variants also make changes in the order of appearance of the major companies, the Stroup and Hannaford variants permit quite a lot of freedom, not only in the choice of which company to start but even in determining when a company is started. Thus the Thompson and the three Comprehensive variants also consider the fixed, sequential order of appearance of the major companies to be a problem.
As for the Start-Packet, I once experimented with many purchasing combinations for a four-player game using the Standard Start-Packet rules. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the standard Start-Packet rules actually work to distribute key certificates more evenly among the players. I suggested that the concern with the original Start-Packet rules may have arisen from inexperienced players making poor choices which were further compounded by the game's rigid order of buying share companies. I believed that experienced players should be able to make satisfactory purchases within the standard Start-Packet rules without problem. In fact, my experience had been that when the fourth player has some familiarity with the game, he was not truly disadvantaged in selecting from the Start-Packet. My personal game records show that even the player who selected the Nürnberg-Fürth as his first company has won his fair share of 1835 games. However, a number of very experienced players have pointed out in the 18xx e-group postings that if the fourth player is the Bayerische Director and the other players refuse to buy Bayerische shares, then the fourth player will have the least income (because his company hasn't floated) while his opponents benefit considerably from their investments in other Minor and Private companies. This ultimately brings about a late floating of the Bayerische by which time the other players will have gained considerable personal cash from their investment in the other companies. Although this wasn't a typical experience of my own games, it definitely is a play-balance concern that must be, and has been, addressed in the various variants.
This article was written in the hope that players of 1835 may be made more widely acquainted with the possible options to improving a game which has some perceived flaws but is apparently very much worth "fixing." Fortunately, a wide variety of potential solutions are available to suit the needs and tastes of each group of 1835 players. I hope that this contribution to the study of the 1835 game will assist players in deriving more enjoyment from the game by providing them with a variety of options to help them at their own particular level of play.
Copyright 2000 by Lou Jerkich for original content only. Permission granted to copy for personal use.
The original version of this article was posted 28
1999. The 2nd edition, revised, updated and amplified was posted on 14
On 3 January 2005, the 3rd edition was posted. The 4th
edition, was posted on 23 February 2008. It chiefly involved some
additions or improvements to the portions on Variants C (Todd
Vander Pluym's Auction Variant) and L (Equal Footing
Variant). This 5th edition adds variant O, the Hannaford Variant,
and makes very minor corrections throughout.