RAILS THROUGH THE ALPS: A TAXING PROPOSITION

An 18EU Alpine Variant by Lou Jerkich
based on a suggestion by Alan Winterrowd

Introduction
David G. D. Hecht's 18EU game is thoroughly enjoyable as designed.  After a few playings, however, one realizes that the northwest region of the board tends to be the most profitable, while the south is something of a backwater.  The high (M) mountains are a major reason for this, for they are too costly (at £120 per hex) to be crossed except occasionally at their western end (Frejus, Lötschberg, and perhaps Simplon).  Sometimes they may not be crossed at all.  Game strategies are accordingly determined with no serious expectation of any north-south crossings of the Alps occurring between  Basel and Vienna, where an extra hex of £60 rough terrain must also be crossed in addition to the £120 cost for the higher Alpine peaks.

Historically, however, the Alps were crossed in numerous places to facilitate trade between northern Italy and its neighbors to the north. This led me to consider several variant notions in order to provide incentive for players to lay track across the Alps.  In the end I settled on a small group of variant rules and play-tested them.  My original Alpine Variant was posted on July 3, 2009.  In December, after a number of suggestions, criticism and alternatives had been proposed by members of the 18xx Yahoo Group, I conceived of a new Alpine Variant which is presented here.  It originated with a question from Alan Winterrowd who wrote on December 23, 2009:

"Do we know how the tunnels were financed historically? If they were funded by government incentives, or other means other than directly by the companies themselves, it might make sense to simply remove or reduce the cost for the hexes where the tunnels historically were driven, as the cost would not be borne by the company itself."

In the course of doing some impromptu research on the answer to this question, it did in fact appear that the Alpine passes and tunnels were chiefly financed by one or more national governments, with the financial participants depending on the location of the pass and the benefits that would accrue to the nations connected by the Alpine route.

I obtained the following information chiefly from Railways, Past, Present, and Future by G. Freeman Allen, copyright 1982:
 
Europe's pioneer mountain line, the Semmering line, was inaugurated in October 1853 after six years of work. It had been built by the Austrian government. In 18EU, the Semmering pass begins the game with an existing route on the M11 Sudbahn line.
 
After the Semmering the easiest railway line to build through the Alps was the Brenner Pass route built in 1867. The Austrians had built south from Innsbruck and the Italians built north.
 
The so-called Mount Cenis tunnel (which is actually under Mount Frejus), was a joint effort by Italy and France that appears to have been directed by their governments.  The tunnel opened on 17 September 1871.  It was preceded in 1868 by a rail line over the mountain, but this was abandoned after the tunnel was built. Once started, the French were opposed to other mountain ventures which would compete with their monopoly on rail traffic to northern Italy, but after their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, they were side-lined.
 
A conference held in Bern in 1869 by representatives of governments in Switzerland, North Germany, Baden, Wurttemburg and Italy decided that a route should be built through the Gotthard Pass. Money for this project came from the various state governments, especially Italy. Due to the costs involved, it was originally built as single track with provision for double track but it wasn't until 1968 that the entire route finally became double track. The Gotthard Railway project got underway in November of 1871 and it was on 23 December 1881 that the first train passed through the Gotthard Tunnel. The main Gotthard tunnel was one of 80 tunnels in the full project from Lucerne to Chiasso, Italy.
 
The Arlberg Tunnel was next, born of a desire by Austria, Hungary and Rumania to have a route to Switzerland and France. The main Arlberg tunnel was begun in 1880 and completed in November of 1883. The Arlberg route continued with a line to Innsbruck but much of it was single track. The source doesn't discuss the financing of this route, but it was probably government-driven, chiefly by Austria.
 
In 1895 the Italian and Swiss governments agreed on "the methods of construction, subsidy, and operation" for a Simplon Pass project that was begun in 1898 and after much difficulty was completed as a single track line in May 1906. As this line soon became inadequate, the nationalized Swiss Federal Railways completed a second Simplon Tunnel in 1921.
 
In 1909 the Austrians completed the Tauern line from Salzburg south through the Tauern and Karawankan Tunnels. I'm not sure whether the state paid for this one but it does appear from my reading that these major Alpine tunnels could only be accomplished with government money.
 
The Lotschberg tunnel was financed 25% by the Canton of Bern and the remainder by the Swiss Federal government and also by French capital. This was the first Alpine main line to be electrified from its beginnings. Begun in march of 1906 it was completed and opened to traffic in July of 1913 as largely a single track line. Federal money was supposed to make it a double track route in the 1980s.
 
From the Internet it appears that the Albula Railway opened in 1903.
 
Although it is not clearly stated in every case, this quick perusal of the history of Alpine Railway crossings does appear to suggest that the Alpine routes (or at least their major tunnels) were state-financed projects. (Nevertheless, more detailed research might well reveal that railways themselves had significant expenses in connection with Alpine routes that justify the £120 cost.)
 
In any case, if one accepts the proposition by Alan Winterrowd that the Alpine passes should have no costs to build through since the money chiefly came from the state rather than the railways, then consider using the following Alpine variant in which the transalpine hexes cost nothing to the company.
 
Rules for Rails through the Alps: A Taxing Proposition

1. At the end of the last company's turn in each Operating Round beginning with the third Operating Round of the game and continuing through the tenth Operating Round, at most, players are taxed by their "governments" so that funds can be raised in order to build tunnels and passes through the Alps.  In these variant rules, the Alps and Alpine hexes are defined as those hexes on the 18EU game map which have an initial cost of £120 and in which no track has previously been built either by a company or by using this variant procedure.  This variant procedure ends when all eight of the Alpine hexes have had track placed on them.  If companies pay out of their own treasury for track in any of the Alpine hexes, then such hexes are not subject to this procedure and the use of this variant procedure will end sooner.

2.  The tax rate varies by the number of players in the game, but the intent is to raise £120 from taxes during each one of these Operating Rounds.  Thus, the following tax rates per player apply:

2 players: £60 each
3 players: £40 each
4 players: £30 each
5 players: £24 each
6 players: £20 each

3. Should a player for any reason be unable to pay the full tax amount at the specified points in the game, no emergency money raising is conducted and no tax is paid at that time.  Instead, make a note of the total amount due by that player and at the first moment in which that player has the required sum in his or her personal cash, it is paid to the bank.  This will usually occur when dividends have been paid out to the player.   If  a player lacks sufficient cash to pay the tax or any IOUs in the last Operating Round of the game, then in that instance the full tax amount still due will be deducted from the player's cash assets, thereby giving him or her a negative cash total in determining final assets.

4. Once the tax has been collected from each player, the one having Priority Deal immediately selects an Alpine £120 hex in which the proposed tunnel and track will be built.  If there are any Alpine hexes to which track placed by a company in an adjacent hex already leads, one of those Alpine hexes must be selected for the proposed Alpine tunnel route.  Aside from this restriction, the player having Priority Deal chooses freely among the Alpine hexes which do not yet have track.

5. Next, the players (representing ministers either within the same government or from different nations) determine the orientation of the track tile that will be built that turn in the selected Alpine £120 hex.   This is a special yellow track tile lay made collectively by the players rather than by a company.  In all cases, there are only two limitations on track orientation.  First, neither end of track may lead into another Alpine hex unless the track line could continue directly onto previously built track in the adjacent Alpine hex. (This previously laid track would of necessity have to have been placed by a company paying for such track on its own.)  Second, if there is track already leading to one or more hex sides of the Alpine hex in which the track is to be laid, the newly placed yellow track must be laid so as to connect one or both ends to track in the adjacent hex or hexes.  Note that if exactly two adjacent hexes have track leading to an edge of the Alpine hex, the track orientation must connect the new track in the Alpine hex to the existing track in both of those adjacent hexes, so there will be no alternate choice of orientation possible. This holds true even if the resulting track merely loops from one city or town into the Alpine hex and back down again to the same city or town. 

6. Aside from the case in which exactly two adjacent hexes have track leading into the Alpine hex, in all other cases the players will have an opportunity to vote on the tile orientation. Keeping within the limitations stated in rules # 4 and #5 above, the next player in stock round order (after the one with Priority Deal) proposes an orientation for the track.  All players then vote on the proposed track orientation.  The proposal passes if greater than 50% of the votes are cast in favor of the proposal.  If the proposal does not pass, then the next player in stock round order (the one to the left of the player who proposed the orientation that was just voted down) determines the orientation of the track and there is no denying his choice.  (This is the Royal Prerogative.  In essence, it presumes that in the event of bickering among ministers, the head of state of the principal nation or one of the nations involved in building the Alpine route has the privilege of dictating how the track shall be laid.)   [For groups who dislike having a vote in an 18xx game, have the player who is next in sequence (after the one choosing the hex in which the track is to be located) dictate the orientation of the track in that hex, subject to the other rules that limit how track can be oriented.]

7. No payment is made for placing the Alpine track since it is assumed that the taxes collected prior to the voting have paid for it.  The collected "taxes" are merely placed in the bank when the track is laid.

8. The individual companies must still pay for all £60 rough hexes on which they wish to build, including paying for upgrades to the yellow track in Alpine hexes.

Optional Historical Rules

A. Historical Rationale:  When considering the dates that most of the passes were built, we are looking at the period from 1867 (Brenner) to 1913 (Lotschberg). This suggests a time frame in which Tunnels through the Alps may be built without cost to the companies.  The 3-train is dated 1846, the 4-train is dated 1884, and the 5-train is dated 1897. These trains indicate the development of railways in Europe through historical time.

The train card dates lend themselves to a rough correspondence with the opening of the Alpine passes as follows:
2-trains (1838): pre-date Alpine tunnels and routes
3-trains (1846): Brenner (1867), Frejus (1871)
4-trains (1884): Gotthard (1881), Arlberg (1883)
5-trains (1897): Albula (1903), Simplon (1906), Tauern (1909), Lotschberg (1913)
6-trains (1930): post-date the opening of major Alpine tunnels and routes
 
B. The Optional Historical Rule:  Using the chart above, permit the various Alpine routes to be built only after the first train of the appropriate type was purchased in the game. Thus, after the first 3-train comes into play, the players could build through either the Frejus or the Brenner Passes using the collected taxes. The 4-trains would in addition to the previously listed hexes permit free routes through Gotthard and Arlberg to be built. Innsbruck becomes a useful destination in regard to two of the earlier transalpine routes. Frejus is also good from early on in the game. The Alpine hexes do not need to be built in any specific historical order other than that players must select from the historical group that is appropriate to a given train type until a later type of train appears to make more potential routes available.  The 5-trains would open up all possible routes through the eight Alpine hexes for the remainder of the game.  This optional rule would take precedence over rule #4 above in the selection of the Alpine hex in which the new track will be laid.
 
Using this rule, even if the appropriate train has not been bought to make a pass available for building a route, the procedure for taxing and then determining the route to be built is still followed in each turn.  However, the actual laying of the track is postponed to the moment immediately after the new train type first appears.  Thus it may happen that two or more Alpine routes get placed in the same Operating Round, although only for one of the Alpine passes would the selection and orientation of the track occur in such a turn.  The other routes directions and locations would have been determined in a previous turn, with only the actual track-laying being postponed.   Players can treat this as if unexpected delays (e.g., collapsing or flooding tunnels) had caused the Alpine track to be built later than planned.

C. Optional Rule Alternative:  Apply the above Optional Rule to only the "number" of new routes that can be utilized in each train-period.  Thus any two passes can be opened under the 3-trains, another two can open after the 4-trains appear, and all Alpine hexes are potential routes from the first 5-train and thereafter.  Aside from possibly having the creation of new Alpine routes slowed down due to a sluggish transition to new trains, the regular rules of this Alpine Variant would be followed.

Notes on 18EU Strategy with these Alpine Variant Rules 
Minors #5 and #10 become much more significant in this variant, since they are in excellent positions to cooperate with and link up with another Minor north of the mountains.  The bidding for these companies should become much more active, along with that for Minors # 13, #14, and #15 which will also tend to be valued more highly, since they are most likely to provide the route for the track connections that bridge the high mountains from the north and west.   Vienna also may have a more important role in Alpine traverses.

Design Note
In my experience, 18EU typically ends following the 6th pair of Operating Rounds. These variant procedures thus will generally be in effect until the natural end of the game, so the last few Alpine hexes traversed with track may not have much impact on the game.   All players are equally taxed to pay for the Alpine tunnels and routes, so no player is disadvantaged in this respect.  This process does not begin until the third operating Round, so the formation of the initial public corporations is not affected in the first regular Stock Round.  Because the corporations themselves incur no costs for the eight Alpine routes built by taxes, the companies are likely to take advantage of such routes to help their revenue prospects improve.  Although the companies will need to connect their own track to that built in the Alpine passes, the ability to make use of such Alpine routes and the progressive proliferation of potential routes should make these Alpine lines rather desirable.



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This variant created and first posted on 13 January 2010. Rule #1 was slightly revised 14 January 2010 by incorporating former rule #8.  A variation was added to rule #6 for those who prefer to have no voting.  A minor change in the introduction was made 13 November 2011.
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