1835 Start-Packet Strategies

by Lou Jerkich

The various Start-packet Openings allow for a variety of methods to begin play of 1835, but all of this limited number of certificates will end up distributed in players' hands regardless of the method by which they are acquired.  Consequently, it is possible to express views on the merits of the various Private and Minor Companies, and on how they should be played.

1. The Minor Companies

The six "Minor" companies are of paramount importance to the play of 1835. It is extremely unlikely that the First Share Round would ever end with any of these Minor companies still remaining in the Start-Packet.  Since each of them represents an eventual 10% or 5% share in the Prussian Railroad, their value exceeds that of their natural worth as operating companies in their own right. Each is also worth an individual look to see what distinguishes it from the other companies. 

These six Minor Companies, their cost, their percent share of the Prussian railway, and their home station location are as follows:
Because players are limited in the number of certificates they may own, it is clearly more valuable under nearly all circumstances to own one 10% certificate than two 5% certificates.  Thus M2 and M4 tend to be the most desired of the Minor companies. 

M2: Berlin-Potsdamer Bahn  @170M,  10% PrE, (starts at E19 - Berlin)

M2 is normally the most desired of the Minors because of its starting location, its earning potential, and also because its owner is the de facto Director of the Prussian Railway at the moment it comes into service.  In fact, once the first "4" train has been sold, the owner of M2 may declare the Prussian railway open; he must declare it open when the first "4+4" train has been sold.  This ability to declare the Prussian Railway open, along with the guarantee of being its first Director, gives the owner of M2 a useful strategic asset in the 1835 game.

M2's starting location is Berlin, one of the two most intrinsically valuable cities in the game, since its value as a brown tile will be 60M.  Because its track line out of Berlin extends westward, the favored route for laying track is to proceed directly to Hamburg (the board's other most valuable location) via E17, D16, and D14.  The latter is a river hex, which requires the expenditure of 50M to lay track upon it.  This means that of the initial company treasury of 170M, only 120M will remain from which to purchase a train.  Thus, when the owner of the M2 wishes to connect Berlin with Hamburg for his first train run, only one train may be bought from the starting treasury lest the player find himself unable to bridge the river in D14.  The M2 may buy either a "2" train (80M) on its first operating round or wait for operating round 2 in the hopes that the "2+2" train will be available at 120M.  This latter train plus the cost of the bridge at D14 would leave M2 with no original cash, although the revenues (70M) would start accumulating on the turn the bridge was built.

It takes three turns of track lays to make the initial Hamburg connection from Berlin.  Thus, unlike all the other minor companies, the M2 must spend a second operating round with no train revenues before it makes its first revenue run on Operating Round 3 (OR3).  This means that the owner of M2 may be short of personal cash slightly longer than his competitors, although once the connection to Hamburg is made this company should eventually become the best revenue producer of all the Minor companies.  However, all other companies will exceed it in total revenues earned for Operating Rounds 2 and 3 combined, and generally not until its 6th or 7th operating round will it have exceeded the individual total revenues of every other Minor company.  By this time the nature and number of trains owned will be another factor in assessing M2's comparative success versus the competing Minors.  

Although other track routes could be established by M2 rather than going to Hamburg, no other route is as directly profitable.  Their only point might be to cooperate with track lays by another company owned by the same player, such as the Sächsische Eisenbahn or M3.  In the latter case, revenues for M2 would begin in OR2, although they would be less profitable than the Berlin-Hamburg route.  However, M3 would experience higher revenues form this arrangement.  In respect to the Sächsische Eisenbahn, until it can be floated the SxE will not be able to help lay a joint track route. Unless the Stroup Variant is being played, this could take several operating rounds.

In summation, buy M2 to gain a 10% share of the Prussian, to gain a chance at being the permanent Director of the Prussian Railway, and to gain high revenues over the long run.  But know the drawbacks: an initial outlay of 170M for this Minor, a delay in acquiring revenues, and no guarantee of retaining the directorship of the Prussian without additional purchases of Prussian or Prussian-convertible share certificates.  Expect the original purchase cost of M2 to have been returned in dividends by the 7th operating round of the game, although this could happen by the 6th Operating Round if the company starts with a "2" train and then adds a "2+2" train on the 5th Operating Round. 

M4: Köln-Mindener Bahn  @160M,  10% PrE, (starts at G5 - Dortmund)

M4 is the other 10% Prussian-convertible Minor company.  It starts in a location surrounded by small towns, making a single train run worth only 30M total.  However, because it has no need to initially cross mountains or rivers, M4's starting treasury of 160M can afford two "2" trains, thereby permitting it to run in two directions from Dortmund, thus potentially doubling its income.  It is ideally situated to cooperate with M1 in nearby Duesseldorf for developing joint track routes, including the Essen-Duisburg hex (G3).  In fact, M4 is most valuable when working cooperatively with M1, since the two companies can develop a track network that later will become very valuable to not only the Prussian Railway, but also to any share company able to place station tokens in this vicinity.  These would potentially include all share companies except perhaps the SxE or MSE, although none can be completely ruled out.  Ideally, the owner of the M4 would hope also to obtain M1 if at all possible, and might consider the directorships of the nearby HeE, BaE, or OLE companies as the most likely candidates for his later efforts.

The M4 company can expect to earn 60M of revenues from two "2" trains for at least 4 full operating rounds, provided M1 is cooperating or at least not placing unfavorable track in Essen-Duisberg (G3).  Revenues could rise to 90M thereafter if the green tiles appear and raise the value of key locations.  By the game's 6th Operating Round, the original cost of the M4 will have been regained in dividends and all future income will count as profit.  However, if M4 is unable to gain income from a run between Dortmund and hex G3 to its southwest, then it will initially only earn 30M per turn for a paltry 15M for its owner.  In this situation, it becomes the poorest revenue producer of the six Minor Companies.

A player who owns M1 should choose M4 if the opportunity arises.   When M4 is available but one doesn't own M1, one must decide to 1) take the chance that M1 will be cooperative, 2) buy M4 to prevent the M1 player from gaining a distinct advantage, or 3) either buy something else or pass.  In my experience, obtaining both M1 and M4 is easier in a four-player game than a five-player game, especially for the first player when he initially chooses M1.

In summation, buy M4 to obtain a good 10% future share of the Prussian Railway and an opportunity to help one's future share companies by building the track routes they will need.  It works very well when combined with the M1 company which allows it to provide a solid source of personal income.  If M1 is hostile and does not allow it a connection to G3, then the M4 owner will be receiving the poorest revenue of all the Minors despite the high premium paid for the company.  Neither the Sächsische Eisenbahn nor the Bayerische Eisenbahn will generally be able to make use of M4's track layout, but it has been known to happen.

M1: Bergisch-Märkische Bahn @ 80M,  5% PrE,  (starts at H2 - Düsseldorf)

M1 is ideally placed for significant track laying in 1835.  It begins at Düsseldorf on the western edge of the board.  High-revenue routes can be built in this area suitable for both the regular and the "plus" (+) trains.  The owner of M1, however, may possibly earn less direct revenue from this company than the owners of any other Minor.  Starting revenue for M1 is only 40M, which could hold steady from Operating Rounds 2 through 5, by which time M1's initial investment cost will at least have been recovered by its owner.  After that the green tiles should be present and help increase the revenue to 60M or more per Operating Round.  The longer M1 remains in operation, the more likely that its revenues will begin to rise to significant amounts due to the track network that will connect the Dortmund-Essen-Duesseldorf-Köln region with Mainz and Frankfurt.

In summation, M1 is most desirable when paired with M4, and should be used to build a track network that will benefit one or more share companies to be owned by the M1's owner. 

M3: Magdeburger-Bahn @ 80M,  5% PrE,  (starts at F14 - Magdeburg)

M3  is easily able to build a route to Braunschweig on its first turn so as to generate 40M of earnings.  If combined with M2 it can reach Berlin for higher earnings of 50M, but this means that M2 will be receiving less than its optimum income, although it will start earning one turn sooner than if it went to Hamburg.  M3 can also cooperate with the Sächsische Eisenbahn in laying routes, thereby enhancing the earning potential of the SxE.  In games using the Stroup Variant, the SxE can float immediately since it has enough cash to buy a train.  In such games, the M3's value is increased, especially when owned by the LD/SxE player, for it will considerably improve the SxE's route position over time.  Alternatively, the M3 can build through Braunschweig and Hannover to attempt a link with the M4.  Even though these two companies cannot effectively use such a link themselves due to the size limitations of the early trains, the subsequent route would be very helpful for the Prussian railway later in the game.

In summation, the M3 has respectable earnings, possibly improved if it cooperates with M2.  It can be a valuable asset for the owner of the Sächsische Eisenbahn, especially when the Stroup Variant is in use and the SxE gets an earlier start.

M5: Berlin-Stettiner Bahn  @ 80M,  5% PrE,  (starts at E19 - Berlin)

M5 has little choice in building its initial route.  With only enough cash in hand to buy a single 2-train, it cannot even consider building to Hamburg even if the M2 doesn't take that route.  The river in D14 costs 50M which M5 won't have.  Therefore, given a choice between small stations valued at 10M or the Ostpreußen red off-board area worth 20M, the M5 will use two #8 tiles to reach the Ostpreußen area.  This route generates earnings of 50M, or 25M for the player.  About the fourth or fifth operating round, the possibility exists of using green tiles to tie into M2's Berlin-Hamburg line for revenues of 80M.  Thus, M5 can become a very solid performer for its owner, despite the limitation on initial track builds and destination.

In summation, the M5 owner will receive a very reasonable return on his investment, usually achieving earnings of 80M for several turns before the conversion to the Prussian Railway.

M6: Altona-Kiel @ 80M, 5% PrE,  (starts at C11 - Hamburg)

M6 has only one practical connection which will maximize its earnings--the Hamburg-Kiel connection.  One way to do this is to run a #9 track tile due NW from Hamburg, and then in Operating Round #2 to place yellow tile #6 in Kiel.  As an alternative, one can place tile #8 due NW out of Hamburg and heading northeast; then in Operating Round #2 place yellow tile #5 in Kiel.  The expected availability of tiles #5 and #6 are critical to the initial choice of tile #9 or tile #8, but usually the M6 player should be able to choose either.  This Hamburg-Kiel route creates a run worth 60M and also gives the owner of M6 a chance to continue laying track SE from Kiel if he wishes, either to Hamburg again or to the small towns stretching east from B12.  Because it is based in Hamburg which begins with a value of 40M itself, this Minor is the best of the 5% shares when it comes to maximizing revenue in the first six Operating Rounds.  When green tiles appear Kiel should be upgraded to tile #12 so that revenues will increase to 70M.  If track has been laid into the small towns of the B12 and B13, obtaining a "2+2" train will also increase the revenues to 90M.

In summation, despite its initial route limitations, M6 should provide 60M of early earnings, which only M4 can potentially equal.  Over time, the M6 often remains among the top three revenue performers among the Minor Companies, and occasionally has been known to top them all.

2. The Private Companies

The six Private Companies fall into three groups as follows:

A. The "Prussian" Privates - each later converts into 10% of the Preußische Eisenbahn

B. The "Bavarian" Privates - each comes with a free share of the Bayerische Eisenbahn

C. The Saxon Private - comes with the Directorship of the Sächische Eisenbahn

Players choosing to buy any of these Private Companies have some quite clear trade-offs to make.  Any player attempting to gain the Directorship of the Preussen would obviously lean toward buying one or both of the two Prussian Privates.   Since each one eventually converts to a 10% share of the Preußische Eisenbahn, each provides more share ownership than the four Minor Companies (M1, M3, M5, M6) that each only convert to a 5% share. 

The Ostbayerische and the Pfalzbahnen cost 10M less, respectively, than the Braunschweigische and Hannoversche, but they each pay 15M less than those same counterparts.  The trade-off is in the value of the free Bayersiche share that comes with each Bavarian Private Company.  One makes less income from a Bavarian Private but the dividends of the Bayerische share have the potential to make up for the shortfall in the Private's income.  Moreover, the Bayerische share will presumably grow in value over the course of the game, adding additional compensation.

This also holds true for the Nürnberg-Fürth Private as well, although that company costs only 100M and pays out only 5M.  On the other hand, one is paying 100M to get a Bayerische share worth 92M at face value, so the Nürnberg-Fürth effectively costs 8M, provides a payout of 5M per turn, and allows the owner of the Private, if he or she also directs a major company, to place a free token of that share company in the Nürnberg-Fürth hex in addition to any other token the company places that turn.  No track connection with the major share company is required.  Doing the latter will close the Nurnberg-Furth private, but usually the owner of the Bayersiche, if also owning the Nürnberg-Fürth, will find it worthwhile to do this.  This free token bonus may even prove useful to some other company other than the Bayersiche.

Along similar lines, if the owner of the Ostbayersiche Private deducts the 92M value of the "free" Bayerische share, then the 120M cost reduces to 28M for the Private company which pays 10M per turn and allows the owner of the private, if also the director of a share company, to lay up to two free tiles southeast of Nürnberg-Fürth.  They are laid at the rate of one per turn and this is in addition to the regular tile lay for the share company.  Moreover, these tracks need not connect to any existing tracks. When both hexes (M15 and M17) have been built on, then the Ostbayersiche Private is closed.  Thus this private company can pay for itself in three Operating Rounds just from its own revenues, and the use of the special powers can result in an increase of track-building tempo for the owning player.  Along with the dividends of the free Bayerische share, this may appear to be a good deal.

The Pfalzbahnen works similarly, costing 58M for the Private company exclusive of the "free" Bayerische share.  This pays 15M per turn so it would take four Operating Rounds for the Private Company alone to pay for itself.  In this respect, the Ostbayerische may appear to be a better deal, and even the Nürnberg-Fürth which can pay for itself in two Operating Rounds.  In addition, the Pfalzbahnen, if owned by a director of a share company, may lay a free, extra tile on the Mannheim-Ludwigshafen hex, without having to connect to a base of his own company.  As a director he may also lay a free token of his company on this same hex.  The Private Company closes when both actions have been performed.  This can be a useful privilege for the director of the Badische whose home base is located in this hex. It would give that director two tile lays for the Badische on its first turn.  This again saves a turn in track building, but unless the hex will be rather useful to the director's share company, it may not be enough compensation to be worthwhile.

A player who wishes to collect free Bayerische shares and wants special track and token powers, should thus aim to buy one or more of these Bavarian Private companies.  These may be more valuable the less expensive the Private is, since the free share of the Bayerische is obtained more cheaply.  It all comes down to a player's strategy whether or not a Bavarian Private Company will appear more worthwhile than a Prussian Private Company.  There are some who say that the running the Bayerische share company is not as profitable as investing in the various Minor Companies and Prussian Private companies, but this depends on the players and their strategy.  So far we have found that the director of the Bayerische has won 25% of the time.   Deciding which way to go can be a tough decision.

There is yet one more Private to consider.  The Leipzig-Dresdener costs 190M and pays 20M.  It comes with the Directorship of the Sächische Eisenbahn, but this Private Company closes when the Sächische buys its first train.  Thus the return of 20M per Operating Round tends to be short-lived.  In some games played by the standard rules, it has been reported that the Bayerische has been able to use the Nürnberg-Fürth's special powers to reach Berlin quickly enough to stymie the development of the Sächische.  In my group we use the Stroup Variant which allows companies with less than 50% of the shares sold to float when they have sufficient cash to buy the currently available train.  Thus the Sächsische has a better chance of starting earlier in the game and it can more effectively avoid being thwarted by the Bayerische's attempts to reach Berlin.  At the same time, the Bayerische is a bit less dominating than it might be in the regular game.  On the whole, I don't necessarily see the Leipzig-Dresdener as a Private Company that I must buy, but it is worth considering.  In the games I have played, the Sächische Director has often finished first or second, so don't be afraid to buy it. 

3. Minor Companies versus Private Companies

There is yet to be considered whether the Private Companies or the Minor Companies are more valuable in the game.  The Minor Companies are generally considered more important as a group since they not only eventually convert to shares in the Preußische Eisenbahn but also are able to build track and garner income for the players that exceeds the payouts of individual private Companies.   The track they build will help other major share companies more quickly develop their routes.  Moreover, these Minor Companies can buy and sell trains.  On the other hand, the Bayerische shares that come with the Private Companies have some track and token advantages as well, so that depending on one's strategy these may be the better choice.  Moreover, there are two Private Companies that pay good revenues that will eventually become 10% shares of the Preußische.  Some players consider these more useful than some of the 5% Minors, especially if control of the Preußische is desired.

Usually a balance will be best.  While controlling the Preußische can be useful, it is not a clear path to victory.  In fact, the more its shares are distributed relatively equally among the players, the less dominating the Preußische can be.  If one person appears likely to dominate the Preußische, then it behooves the other players to obtain shares also so that the dividends and market value are spread fairly evenly, thus blocking the Preußische director from becoming too powerful.  However, when all players are getting a fair share of the Minors and Privates that must eventually convert to Preußische shares, then the players of necessity will have to buy the remaining Bavarian Privates or the Leipzig-Dresdener if they wish to maximize their revenues in the game's early phases.

Ultimately, one's options are limited when buying from the Start-Packet due to the purchases made by other players and the playing order.  One must consider one's available cash, assess the likelihood of getting other desirable shares after other players have picked over them, and choose as best one can.  It is not likely that you will get every certificate that you hope for in your initial portfolio, but with the considerations mentioned in this article you may be better able to judge which available Start-Packet item is best for you each time it is your turn.

Return to Lou's Game Corner: Railroad Game Links     Return to Lou's Game Corner    Return to Lou's 1835 game page 
This page created on 22 September 2008.  Revised on 1 November 2009.
If you have a game interest or question, you can leave a message by writing to "gamecorner".  I use earthlink.net.