RETUNING 1853 by Stuart Dagger and Steve Jones

(This is an updated version of an article that we wrote in 1990 for the magazine Games International, a magazine that only lasted for two years, but which was responsible for introducing British boardgamers to the good games that were, and still are, coming out of Germany.)

1853 was the fourth 18xx game to be published but the second to be designed. It is set in India where the railways developed under the influence of a government that wanted a system which would deliver the mail and which would transport troops to the frontier. It was a very different sort of business climate from that which existed in the United States and which provides the inspiration for 1830. Had a Jay Gould or Cornelius Vanderbilt tried in India the sort of tricks that made their fortunes in the States, they would have found themselves in jail. 1853 reflects this: it is not a game about robber barons; what it is is a game where companies compete within constraints imposed by, and in response to incentives offered by, a higher authority, in the shape of the British government.

We liked the game, and still do, but we felt that the bidding system left too much to guesswork and could leave players in the position where being outguessed at the start could leave them with a lost game before a tile had been laid. Francis's view was that the difficulty was one that the players should deal with by negotiation, but in the circles in which we played that didn't happen and so we tried to devise a modification of the bidding that did away with the need for either guesswork or negotiation. Our second aim was to rebalance the companies so as to make their attractions as starting companies more equal.

The rules given here are not quite those in the original article, one or two further modifications having been made in the intervening years.


1) The Bidding for Contracts is taken in Stages. The information available by the end of the process will be much as in the original game but you will no longer be bidding blind. In the first Stage all players secretly write down the amount of their Bid. Your Bid may be for any whole number of pounds, provided that this is enough to cover the values of the Cities that you will eventually write down. You do not need to decide at this stage just what those Cities are going to be. The minimum and maximum number of Cities for a legal Bid remain as in the standard rules. All players then reveal the amount of their Bids and the seating order is determined - first the player who has made the largest Bid, and so on down. Ties are resolved by lot and the player who has made the largest Bid takes the Elephant. Each player places his or her Bid money in an envelope. In the second Stage, beginning with the Elephant holder and continuing round, each player Bids for Cities and their associated Shares. When it is your turn you write down (secretly) the name of one of the Cities in your bid and claim (publicly) a Share associated with that City. This continues round and round the table until everyone signifies that their Bid is complete by passing. When it is your turn you may not pass if either you have not yet Contracted for the minimum number of Cities or if you have not yet Contracted for the maximum number of Cities and there is at least 40 pounds of your Bid money not yet accounted for. Players now pay for their Contracted Shares as in the standard game. The rules governing Shares that you have Contracted for but can not yet afford are unaltered. The first Share Buying Round then commences with the Elephant holder.

2) Directorships are not allocated until the end of the first Share Buying Round. At this point all those Companies entitled to a Director receive one. The person appointed is the one with the most Shares in the Company; ties are broken in favour of the player who has held Shares in the Company longest.

3) The restrictions on the Cities you may include in a Bid are increased from the present `not more than two Ganges valley Cities including Calcutta' to the following: a) in a Bid involving just three Cities a player may only include one of Cawnpore, Lucknow, Allahabad, Benares and Patna; b) in a Bid involving more than three Cities a player may not include more than two of the Ganges Cities (in other words, the above list plus Calcutta).

4) The rule which says that you may not sell Shares in a Company in the Round which sees it floated does not apply to the first Share Buying Round; in this Round you may sell such Shares, but only if they were Contracted Shares and only if you sell them at the first opportunity after flotation.

5) In the first Operating Round of a Major Company (Companies 1-4, and possibly also Company 5 - see rule 6) the Director of the Company must choose one of the following alternatives: a) the right to lay two tiles in an Operating Round does not come into effect until Phase 2. b) the right to lay two tiles in an Operating Round is gained immediately but must be paid for whenever it is used. If this option is taken, whenever the Company lays two tiles in an Operating Round it pays the Bank at the following rates: Company 1 - 50 pounds, Companies 2, 3 & 4 (and Company 5 if it is a Major) - 20 pounds.

6) Company 5 (BB&CI) may be either a Major or a Minor Company. Which it is will depend on the Contract Bid of its first Director: a) if Company 5 has a Director by the end of the first Share Buying Round, and if the Contract Bid of its Director includes both Ajmer and Bombay, the Company is deemed to be a Major one, with its second home base in north Bombay. Further, the cost of building the station at Ajmer is reduced to 70 pounds. b) in all other circumstances Company 5 is a Minor one.

7) If at least one Minor Company is floated in the first Share Buying Round, add one Metre Gauge Train of Types 2 and 3 to the Train Mix. In Phase 2, the Major Companies cannot buy a 2M train until at least one of the original Minor Companies buys one. In addition, in Phase 1, add at least one Metre Gauge Train of Type 1 to the Train Mix subject to the constraint that the sum total of 1M-trains and 2-trains is always 7. Thus, the six 2-trains can be bought as either 2-trains OR 1M-trains.  Treat them like double-sided Train cards, or remove a 2-train from the stack every time a Minor buys a 1M train and then add a 1M card.  So once a total of seven of the 1M and 2's are sold, they are gone and the 3's are available.  Once the first three sells, the 2Ms are available.  The following rules apply to 1M-trains: a) 1M-trains may only be purchased by Minor Companies and cost 180 pounds to purchase. b) 1M-trains must run through one city station (which must contain one of the company's garrisons) and may run through any number of town stations. c) 1M-trains become obsolete when the first 4-train is bought.   d. A Major Company may not buy a 1M train from a Minor Company.  [Note: The italicised sentences are the result of clarifications received from Steve Jones, the author of this variant rule, on 13 January 2008.]

8) Eight Type-58 Standard Gauge 10-value station tiles are added to the game. These may be laid under the usual rules governing yellow tiles. They may not be upgraded to 30 pound Green station tiles.

9) In the 4-player game decrease the number of Certificates that need to be sold for a Company to float from 6 to 5, and in the 6-player game decrease it from 5 to 4.

10) The 6-trains become available as soon the first 5-train is bought. When the first 5-train is bought the territorial restrictions which have applied hitherto are relaxed: Companies owning at least one 5-train or 6-train may now promote any tile and buy any station which they can reach from a home base using one of their Trains. A Company buying or promoting outside its home territory must include the affected tile in one of its routes in the operating Round when the change takes place.

11) A Company which pays a Dividend of at least 20% (and, if the option below is used, no more than 40%) of its current Share Price advances two positions, rather than one on the Share Price Chart. In addition, the players may optionally use the following rule: a Company which pays a Dividend of at least 40% (and no more than 60%) of its current Share Price advances three positions on the Share Price Chart; also a Company which pays a dividend of at least 60% of its current Share Price advances four positions on the Share Price Chart.

12) When all the Shares of those Companies contracted for in the initial Bidding Round have been bought from the Bank, Shares in the remaining Companies are available simultaneously.

13) Clarification to Rule 33 (Running Trains): The route for any train must run through at least two stations: thus a legal 1M-train route must include one Large Station and at least one Small Station.

14) OPTIONAL RULE: In the BAR's first, and only the first, Operating Round it is entitled to lay two tiles at no extra cost beyond normal terrain costs.

15) OPTIONAL RULE: For a longer game, scrap the rule whereby the game ends when a Company Share Price reaches £400, and add £6000 to the bank.  


1. This is the major change. The problems with the existing bidding mechanism stem from the lack of reliable information about other people's intentions and the enforced inflexibility in one's own bid. Our solution is to expand the bidding phase so as to give you more information on which to base your decisions. You do not get to know the cities in other players' contracts but do see which companies they involve. This removes most of the guesswork and gives you greater control over your destiny. By allowing the bond money to be any amount (within limits) we have reduced the chance of ties and thus the need for tie-breaking procedures when determining the seating order. The 40 pound rule is there because we believe there should be a correlation between the size of the bond and the difficulty of getting it back. Without this a player could bid high so as to get a favourable place in the seating order and then contract for the minimum so as to get the money back early: all the advantages with few of the drawbacks.

2. This is worded as it is in order to inhibit a ``shadowing strategy'' during the bidding. In this, player A bids 20 to 30 pounds more than his rival B. After his first share nomination he copies every nomination by B. At the end of the bidding stage the two players will have the same number of shares in the disputed company. A, being earlier in the order, then takes control as soon as share dealing starts, with nothing that B can do to defend himself. We didn't want an artificial rule outlawing this parasite strategy but we did want it to be much more expensive and difficult to pull off.

3. This is part of our attempt to rebalance the attractions of the various companies at the bidding stage: it makes it a little bit harder for the directors of companies 1-3 to get their bond money back quickly.

4. This is to help maintain players' flexibility when making city bids. There are clear instances when one wishes to make a tactical bid for a share in another company, the intention being to swap it during the first share dealing round for a share in the company one wishes to float. However, the existing rules stop you doing this if the company is floated before your turn comes round. Hence this change.

5. This is another part of the rebalancing. The director of a major company must now decide whether the speediest possible return of the bond money and development of routes is worth the long-term drain on the company finances. We have tried to make it a close decision and one which depends on circumstances.

6. This was put in to make the BBCI a more attractive company to bid for. Its territory makes it look as though it ought to be a major company and so we have created the conditions under which it can become one. These include reducing the cost of getting it started by halving the cost of building its home base. Bombay as a second home base seemed logical in view of the company's name.

7. This is the "boost the minor companies" part of our rebalancing effort. It is also the main change between this version of the variant and the one in the original article. The 1M trains were an idea of Dave Thorby's and replace a more complicated notion that we had come up with. The minor companies are likely to want to go metric; this enables them to do so in phase one. If you find that there is a shortage of metre gauge track tiles, make some extra ones for yourself. Doing this does not distort the game; the rule book itself states that the number of pieces of yellow track supplied was not a design feature, but a question of deciding what ought to be enough.

8. The tile whose lack one feels when playing 1853 is this one --- the shallow curve, single small station. Its omission is due to a deliberate decision taken when Francis was designing 1829. He didn't want natural track development to result in towns which began the game as wayside halts ending it as major towns (brown or grey stations). Not supplying this tile achieves this. 1853, which is an earlier concept than 1830, inherited the restriction. We agree with the omission in 1829 but don't see the need for it in 1853, where the rule for calculating the length of routes means that one normally wishes to leave small stations as they are, thus avoiding the situation Francis wished to forestall. The most obvious place where the tile is needed is on the exit hex for company 2 from Bombay. Victorian railway engineers were cost conscious men. Having gone to the unavoidable expense of building over one mountain, they wouldn't take careful aim for another when there was a perfectly good flat piece of ground available. Worrying about being cut off at the pass is the right period but the wrong set of Indians. It as not even as though game balance demands that life should be made more difficult for company 2; it already has more terrain costs to meet than its obvious rivals. You will need either to make them yourself or to borrow them from another game.

9. 1853 has a quiet stock exchange. So player interest demands that everybody should have the option of running a company from the start. In the existing four-player game this is unlikely to happen, and in the six-player game it is impossible; hence this change. Purists should note that Francis does not approve and that in the second edition of the rule book there is an optional rule which raises the "number of shares needed to float" level throughout. Decide how your group likes to play the game; there is nothing to stop you accepting our other suggestions while omitting this.

10. This is an attempt to spice up the later stages of the game by increasing the anxiety felt by directors as to their rival's intentions. It also has the beneficial effect of making the expensive 5- and 6-trains more attractive.

11. This is an attempt to inject a bit more life into what is otherwise a somewhat processional stock market. An alternative is given in the footnote at the end of the article.

12. This replaces 21.3 in the official rule book. Its purpose is to give players more choice at the "second company" stage.

13. This is just a clarification. A route must include at least two stations. If it doesn't the passengers tend to complain.

14. The BAR is the weakest of the companies. This gives it a small boost in the form of a quicker start to its route building.

15. This rule will hopefully encourage players to purchase the large 6- and 4M-Trains.


The EIR remains attractive despite the extra obstacles we have put in its way and the boosts we have given to its rivals. The company has the potential to be one of the most profitable from the start of the game right through to the finish. However, if you are going to bid for it at the start, you will need to construct your bid carefully. GIP can block you out from Delhi for a very long time, and that means that after the obvious Calcutta and Patna commitments you are left scratching round for city number three. If GIP does not float at the start, or if it wishes to be friendly, your problem disappears; otherwise look for an alliance with either BNR or BAR and make either Nagpur or Dacca your third choice. (Remember that passengers can change trains and cross the city at large stations and that you don't have to build the track yourself to fulfil your contract.)

GIP has been improved vis-a-vis the EIR, because of the easing of the terrain problem round Bombay. However, we would not, ourselves, include Bombay in a bid for this company. You will get your money back faster if you stick to northern cities. Delhi is the obvious second, and for the third look to see which other companies look likely to be floated. If the NWR is one, hitch a lift and make Lahore your third city; if not, extend a hand to the BNR and nominate Nagpur. Only in rare circumstances should you make life other than difficult for the EIR. Head for Delhi via Lucknow and Cawnpore, garrison Cawnpore, and when the time comes to promote it to a green station make it a single station. This is natural track development for you and blocks out your rival. If the EIR looks like trying a southern run to Delhi, build towards Nagpur and exploit the fact that in 1853 the green track tiles are more restricted than in 1829 and don't allow cross-overs. The EIR will probably get to Delhi eventually, but you can force it to go via Nagpur. Of course, if the EIR director is prepared to allow you into Calcutta,.......

The NWR has not been much affected by our changes. The financial penalties on second track lays might hurt a little, but for the rest it can continue to go its own quiet way. It has no early terrain costs to meet and can recover its director's bond money quickly. It has good early growth potential but is likely to fall behind in the middle game when the major cities climb in value and it benefits only from Delhi. Its best chance in this second stage is to build a narrow gauge network though the mountains and use the government subsidies to finance long-term growth. This should mean that the company can pay out virtually every time and so gain in capital growth what it is likely to be losing in dividends.

The BNR has a lot of building to do before it can connect three cities with its own track. This puts many people off bidding for it, as experience has shown that a fast return of one's bond money is important. However, there is no doubt that this is one of the companies likely to be paying big dividends from the middle game onwards. Control of Nagpur means that you have a good chance of being able to set up Calcutta--Bombay and Delhi--Madras runs, and there is no surer way than that of making the shareholders purr. To overcome the initial problem look for an ally with whom to cooperate over the initial bid. The EIR, GIP and BAR are all possibles, with the first of these being the best. An alliance with the EIR and a bid of Nagpur--Calcutta--Patna can result in the return of your bond money at the end of the third operating round.

The BBCI is the company most affected by the changes we have made and is now a very attractive early company, especially if it is floated as a major. You do, however, need to be careful both in the construction of your bid and in the management of your cash flow. There are a lot of early expenses, and it is easy, when nominating cities, to fall into the trap of adding one more than you can comfortably handle. Our recommendation is that you exclude Ahmadabad. A bid of Bombay--Ajmer--Jaipur can see you running two trains, paying good dividends and with your bond money returned by the end of operating round five. The company's central position and guaranteed Bombay--Delhi run assure it of long-term profitability, and if you are lucky enough to find yourself without an early rival in the Delhi region, the company is likely to dominate the game for you.

The MSM, like all the minors, is another gainer from the changes. Your bid will clearly be Madras--Bangalore--Mysore, which will return your bond money at the end of operating round three. A good way to develop the company is then to keep building the metric line from Mysore until the green tiles come in. Then upgrade Bangalore using the 91 tile, put a new company base there and build standard gauge track to Hyderabad. This should enable you to link up with the northern companies and to take advantage of the lines that they will have already built.

With the SIR you can try something similar, but based on a bid of Madras--Trichonopoly--Mysore. It will take an extra operating round for the return of your bond money, and you won't be quite as well placed for the development northwards, but as compensation you have that easily built and very profitable metric line joining up all those small towns in the south.

The BAR is not often going to be the subject of a player's initial bid, but it has its attractions nonetheless. It is close to Calcutta, you can play the NWR game of picking up government subsidies for building round the mountains, and you have a good chance of being able to break in to the Ganges valley routes that will have been built by the EIR. The optional rule gives it a further boost.

FOOTNOTE (by Stuart Dagger)

The reason that 1853 is not more popular is the nature of its stockmarket. Because it was designed before 1830, it still has the "flat" stockmarket of 1829. We tried to make it more responsive to player actions with rule 11 in our variant, but if you don't think that this goes far enough, you might like to try this one from a North of England scenario I designed for for my group to have fun with. It does not have the scope for aggressive play that the 1830 one does, but then, as I said earlier, imperial India was not a hunting ground for robber barons. However, it does behave more like a real life stockmarket than most if not all of those in any 18xx game I know of. The chart has four rows. Row two consists of the numbers 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 88, 96, 105, 115, 126, 138, 151, 165, 180, 197, 216, 236, 258, 283, 308, 330, 350, 370, 390. Row three has the numbers 5, 15, 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, 84, 92, 100, 110, 120, 132, 144, 158, 172, 188, 206, 226, 246, 270, 296, 320, 340, 360, 380. Row one is row three shifted one to the left. Rows four is row two shifted one to the right. To give you a check on the alignment, there is a column which reads down from the top as 100, 96, 92, 88. The starting positions for the markers for the various companies are the appropriate numbers on rows two and three. The rules governing share price movement are as follows:


When a company pays out or withholds dividends its share price moves according to the following rules: (a) if no dividend is paid, the share price marker moves back one; (b) if a dividend of less than 5% of the current share price is paid, the share price marker moves down one; (c) if a dividend of at least 5% but less than 10% of the current share price is paid, the share price marker stays where it is; (d) if a dividend of at least 10% but less than 20% of the current share price is paid, the share price marker moves forward one; (e) if a dividend of at least 20% but less than 30% of the current share price is paid, the share price marker moves forward one and then up one; (f) if a dividend of at least 30% of the current share price is paid, the share price marker moves forward two.


When shares are sold to the bank pool, the price received for them is that from the position one below that occupied by the share price marker of the company.

Every time a share is sold to the Bank Pool, the share marker is moved down one row.

Every time a share is bought from the Bank Pool by a player, the share marker is moved up one row.

At the end of the share buying round make the following adjustments to the share prices: (a) if all of a company's shares are owned by players, move the share price marker up one row; (b) if the Bank Pool contains at least three of a company's shares, the share price marker moves down one row.


If a share price marker on the top row of the chart is required to move up one row, first move the marker forward one column and down two rows so that it registers the same value but one column to the right. Then make the required value adjustment. Likewise with share markers that are required to move down from the bottom row, save that this time the initial movement is reversed (ie back one column and up two rows). (You may well find it easier to see where the companies stand relative to one another if you keep the tokens on the middle two rows and just use the top and bottom ones to make the movements easier to calculate.)


A company may own up to three of its own shares. It may only purchase such shares from the bank pool and does so at the current market price. It may subsequently sell any or all of the shares it has bought and again all deals are with the bank pool and at the current selling price. While it owns shares it receives the dividends from them.

(This article appeared under the title "Retuning 1853" in the Rail Gamer, issue #7, July-August-September 1998, pages 18-22. A few minor corrections and simplifications have been made to the section describing the alternative share price chart.)

Stuart Dagger, August 1999.

Contents of this page originally posted 20 December 2000 with permission from Stuart Dagger.
Optional Rule 15 and its rationale were originally added by Steve Jones on 2 April 1995 to an earlier version dated 12 February 1995.  This rule and rationale were added to this posted version of the Retuned Rules on 17 January 2008, along with clarifications regarding rule #7.
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