1835: The Stroup Variant

by Lou Jerkich, 28 February 1999

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:

3. Change portions of rule XV.5 (Flotation of Share Companies) as follows: Commentary:

In January of 1999 my wife, Judy, and I played a game of 1835 with our friends Lisa and Steve Stroup. Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of the few boring 18xx games my wife and Steve ever played. Judy found herself cash-poor despite running the Bayerische Eisenbahn (ByE) and never could achieve much of consequence. Steve didn't manage to control a share company until gaining the MSE in Stock Round 9. (The game had only 10 stock rounds!) We had used the Thompson variant with the initial purchases following a 1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1-1-2-3, etc., pattern.

After the game, Steve commented that he liked 1856 best of the several 18xx games with which he was acquainted. Mention of 1856 led to contemplation of its many desirable qualities. From there, it was an easy leap to seek to improve the enjoyment of 1835 by borrowing key concepts from another 18xx game.

The chief frustration of 1835 is the fairly rigid sequence in which share companies must be started, for this can easily result in a player being unable to be the first to buy a directorship simply because he or she consistently is not sitting in the right place when the opportunity arises. We had experienced similar frustrations with 1853, the game of Indian Railways, and knew one of the solutions lay in being more flexible in starting the share companies. This alone didn't seem enough, but 1856 provided a solution.

In 1856, companies may operate whenever the number of original shares purchased is at least equal to the number of the current train type. For example, three shares must be sold to operate a company when type "3" trains are available for purchase.

This concept was borrowed for the Stroup Variant with a minor change. Because 1835 has the "+" trains, such as 2+2, 3+3, 4+4, etc., rather than match the numbers of the train type, it seemed better to require the company to start with sufficient cash to buy the most modern train type available. The result is similar to that in 1856: share companies may float and operate when they have sufficient cash to buy a train, even if only a few original share certificates have been sold.

In practice, this means that even if only the director's shares have been bought, the Sächsische Eisenbahn (SxE) will be able to operate during the first Operating Round as long as there is a type "2" or type "2+2" train available for it to purchase. Early in the game, players should be able to raise enough cash to start additional companies of their choosing even without the help of other players. By allowing players to choose from any of the remaining directorships, players can be far more flexible in their game strategies and should therefore derive more enjoyment from playing the game.

The original 1835 game rules tie the sale of the four PrE shares which players may purchase to the sale of the director's certificate of the Badische Eisenbahn (BaE). Since the BaE directorship in the Stroup Variant can now be bought at any time after the Start-Packet sales are finished, yet may also be the last share company purchased in the game, another method was necessary to trigger the availability of these PrE shares. Tying their availability to the purchase of the first "3+3" train places the PrE purchase options at the right point in the game compared to overall track, train, and stock development. It does mean, however, that when the first "4" train appears in the same set of operating rounds in which the "3+3" train first appears, the PrE may sometimes begin to operate before the stock round occurs in which the four purchaseable shares first become available. We have found that this does not detract from the playability, balance, or enjoyment of the game.

Playtest results have been quite favorable. All players have had exciting positions to play, and the winner can remain in doubt until game end. The game length is likely to be shortened by a turn or two. Track development occurs more quickly because companies tend to start two or more stock rounds earlier than when playing by the original rules. Whereas in the "boring" game described above no company ever felt it was in a position to make purchase of a "6" train desirable, the rapid development of companies in the Stroup Variant is more likely to lead to purchases of even the "6+6" trains. There also tends to be more player interaction and trading of shares. In fact, players are more likely to find opportunities to steal away the directorship of another company, simply because players will be more tempted to overextend and consequently less able to defend their under-capitalized companies from being taken over by someone with more cash and the right opportunities.

Incidentally, the original Start-Packet rules work fine with the Stroup Variant. For further discussion of the Start-Packet rules and variant openings, see my Start-Packet Variations and Other Variants discussion.

Copyright 1999 by Lou Jerkich. These variant rules may be copied for personal use provided authorship and date lines are included.

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