18GL Variants

Compiled from various sources by Lou Jerkich

A. 18GL Retuned

This set of Variant Rules for 18GL was introduced to me by Paul Zieske who credits discussions with his gaming group in Chicago as the background to these ideas.

1. (Exception to rule 4.2.)  The order of the first two Private Companies is switched.   Thus the EJ&E becomes the first Private Company offered for purchase and the C&E becomes the second company in the list.  Their original  face values (EJ&E $40, C&E $20) remain the same. 

Rationale:
  This rule change gives players an opportunity to bid on the C&E which some players believe is rather under-valued for a company with so much control over Cleveland and the Ashtabula/Erie hex.  These two locations most definitely control the running of the NKP and the NYC.  The control of the C&E also has the potential to impact the strategies pursued by the PRR, B&O and DTI.  Placing the C&E second doesn't necessarily give all players a chance to bid on it, but it makes it more likely that some bidding will occur, thus making control of the C&E somewhat more commensurate to its relative strategic value in the game.  Moreover, the player who controls the C&E will be known before the purchase of the other Private Companies, so players can plan accordingly.

2. (Exception to rule 2.)  The order of availability of the 10H and the E-trains is reversed.  The E-trains now cost $600 and become available after the last 6H train is purchased.  The purchase of the first E-train rusts the 4H trains.  The E-trains are followed by the 10H trains at a price of $800.  The 10H trains now rust the 6H trains.  In addition, the number of 10H trains available is still dependent on the number of corporations in play per the last paragraph of rule 4.5.1.2.  All the phase changes normally triggered by the purchase of the first 10H train are now triggered by the purchase of the first E-train, and vice versa.

Rationale:  The 10H trains often can run for better revenue than the E-trains once the Diesels come out.  Moreover, in many games the E-trains never get to run for doubled revenue due to the rapid appearance of the first Diesel, which thus converts the E-trains to running to five un-doubled cities.  This variant gives the E-trains a better opportunity to run at least once for doubled revenue.


B. 18GL Houston Variant

I first learned of this variant through an 18xx Yahoo Groups email posted on January 27, 2008 by Chris Kolenda.  The "bare bones" version of these variants as given in that email have here been expanded to be more complete and cover some of the logical ramifications.

1. (Exception to rule 4.2.)  The C&E Private Company controlling Cleveland is placed at the end of bid order.  The $20 face value remains the same.  The EJ&E becomes the first private company open for purchase, and continues to cost $40.

Rationale:  This rule change gives players an opportunity to bid on the C&E which some players believe is too powerful for its price due to its control over Cleveland and the Ashtabula/Erie hex.  These two locations most definitely control the running of the NKP and the NYC.  The control of the C&E also has the potential to impact the strategies pursued by the PRR, B&O and DTI.  The placement at the end of the list of private companies means that all players should have an opportunity to bid on the C&E.  Players favoring this variant hope that the final bid on the C&E will be much closer to its actual strategic value in the game.
 
2. (Exception to rule 4.3.)  A company "place holder" is put in the bid order instead of the randomly determined Private Company (the Bridge, the Tunnel, and the Lake Terminal Railroad).  The player who wins the "place holder" gets to deliberately choose which of the three "random" companies he wants.  After the first "random" company is purchased, the other two are placed in the Open Market.  They become available for purchase at their list price once the the last Private Company (the Camden & Amboy) has been purchased.  Only one of these two "random" Private Companies in the Open Market may be purchased during a player's turn of a stock round, including the initial one, and the purchase is in place of purchasing a share in a regular corporation.  If not purchased from the Open Market before the Private Companies are closed, they too are closed and removed.

Rationale:  This rule permits all the Private Companies to come into play.  Players can choose the one "random" Private of the three that suits their current game strategy, yet the other two also remain available for purchase if desired by a player.
 
3. (Exception to rule 4.2.)  If all players pass during the Private Company bidding/purchase round, the currently available private company is sent to the Open Market.  It becomes available for purchase at its list price once the the last Private Company (the Camden & Amboy) has been purchased.  The purchase is in place of purchasing a share in a regular corporation.  If not purchased from the Open Market before the Private Companies are closed, this private Company is also closed and removed.

Rationale:  This rule expands the second variant rule in this set to include Private Companies passed on by all.  It could conceivably cause players to change their buying habits in the Initial Stock Round and beyond.


C. 18GL Ravenna Variant

This variant combines rules #1 and #2 of the 18GL Retuned Variant with rule #2 of the 18GL Houston Variant.  --Lou Jerkich

1. (Exception to rule 4.2.)  The order of the first two Private Companies is switched.   Thus the EJ&E becomes the first Private Company offered for purchase and the C&E becomes the second company in the list.  Their original  face values (EJ&E $40, C&E $20) remain the same. 

Rationale:
  This rule change gives players an opportunity to bid on the C&E which some players believe is rather under-valued for a company with so much control over Cleveland and the Ashtabula/Erie hex.  These two locations most definitely control the running of the NKP and the NYC.  The control of the C&E also has the potential to impact the strategies pursued by the PRR, B&O and DTI.  Placing the C&E second doesn't necessarily give all players a chance to bid on it, but it makes it more likely that some bidding will occur, thus making control of the C&E somewhat more commensurate to its relative strategic value in the game.  Moreover, the player who controls the C&E will be known before the purchase of the other Private Companies, so players can plan accordingly.

2. (Exception to rule 2.)  The order of availability of the 10H and the E-trains is reversed.  The E-trains now cost $600 and become available after the last 6H train is purchased.  The purchase of the first E-train rusts the 4H trains.  The E-trains are followed by the 10H trains at a price of $800.  The 10H trains now rust the 6H trains.  In addition, the number of 10H trains available is still dependent on the number of corporations in play per the last paragraph of rule 4.5.1.2.  All the phase changes normally triggered by the purchase of the first 10H train are now triggered by the purchase of the first E-train, and vice versa.

Rationale:  The 10H trains often can run for better revenue than the E-trains once the Diesels come out.  Moreover, in many games the E-trains never get to run for doubled revenue due to the rapid appearance of the first Diesel, which thus converts the E-trains to running to five un-doubled cities.  This variant gives the E-trains a better opportunity to run at least once for doubled revenue.  The reason the price for the E-train is lowered to $600 and that of the 10H becomes $800 is that to do otherwise would make the cost of purchasing an E-train too big a jump from that of the 6H train.  Moreover, if the 10H train then costs only $600, which is much less than the E train, the 10H trains are likely to be bought up too fast, which means that diesels will probably appear sooner.  This would in effect cancel the whole point of switching the E train with the 10H, since the E trains would likely not run doubled very long, if at all.

3. (Exception to rule 4.3.)  A company place holder is put in the bid order instead of the randomly determined Private Company (the Bridge, the Tunnel, and the Lake Terminal Railroad).  The player who wins the place holder gets to deliberately choose which of the three "random" companies he wants.  After the first "random" company is purchased, the other two are placed in the Open Market.  They become available for purchase at their list price once the the last Private Company (the Camden & Amboy) has been purchased.  Only one of these two "random" Private Companies in the Open Market may be purchased during a player's turn of a stock round, including the initial one, and that purchase is in place of purchasing a share in a regular corporation.  If not purchased from the Open Market before the Private Companies are closed, they too are closed and removed.

Rationale:  This rule permits all the Private Companies to come into play.  Players can choose the one "random" Private of the three that suits their current game strategy, yet the other two also remain available for purchase if desired by a player.


Comments on the 18GL Ravenna Variant:
Variant Rules 1 and 2 come from the 18GL Retuned Variant.  Variant Rule 3 derives from the 18GL Houston Variant.  In playtesting we found these rules to work very well together.

In regard to our Variant Rule #1, the reason for preferring the C&E to be the second Private Company rather than the last one (as in the Houston Variant) is that knowing who controls the C&E inevitably influences players in deciding whether or not to start a company in the southeast portion of the board.   If one controls the C&E one may want some other Private Company to complement it.  If one has failed to get control of the C&E, it may induce one to follow an entirely different buying strategy.  When the C&E becomes the last Private Company whose fate is determined, players choose their other Private Companies with an important question unanswered, leading, in my opinion, to a more haphazard selection of the other Private Companies.  Were the C&E last in the list and every player had bid on it, a player choosing the Mine is halfway to giving up on his bid on the C&E.  Likewise with the Ferry.  But when the C&E is second, potentially everyone can bid on it and thus have a chance to acquire it.  Moreover, once it is known who will control it, a player can with more confidence decide whether or not to focus on the Mine, the Ferry, or some other mix of Private Companies.  For example, someone may believe that the Ferry works well with a company in Cleveland, but won't buy the Ferry unless he knows he also has the C&E in hand.  If your group has someone who never bids and always buys what is next available, then it might be preferable to move the C&E to the third or fourth slot in the list of Private Companies, but I wouldn't push it later than that or else players will have to choose to take the Mine or the Ferry before seeing whether or not they might have achieved control of the C&E. 

Our Variant Rule #2 makes more sense than the standard rules due to the speed with which Diesels usually enter play.  We were finding that the E-trains often lost their most important advantage entirely, or perhaps only one or two players had a chance to get the doubled runs, and that only once.  Although it is still possible for the E-trains to have a very limited life as providers of doubled revenues, they nevertheless have a greater chance of being able to use this advantage one or more times.

The third Variant Rule derives from the Houston Variant rule 2.  We like the idea of including all three of these Private Companies in the game.  In our opinion, including them does not have an adverse effect on the  formation of initial public corporations.  The two Private Companies that land in the Open Market are usually bought with the left-over cash (or anticipated left-over cash) that players will expect to have after they have floated a corporation.  The ability to select a particular one of the three "random" Private Companies means that players could pursue a more deliberate strategy for the game, such as determining to buy the Tunnel so as to float the B&O.  (I feel that the Tunnel is most needed by the B&O player, but if it is available on average in only one in three games, the B&O will be more often than not a less desirable company.)

The third Houston Variant Rule (which makes it possible for any Private Company to end up in the Open Market if all players pass) could be an Optional Variant Rule.  We included it in a game once but all the private Companies were bought out in the Initial Stock Round so the rule had no effect.  I don't feel that this variant is necessary.  It is possible that using it could lead to some games in which certain Private Companies never entered play and more Corporations started with higher market values.  I'm not sure that I like that approach to the game, but tastes differ.

In regard to the 18GL Chicago Variant described below, I do not believe that there is a need to eliminate the $50 charge for upgrading the Chicago hexes to brown or grey as in the 18GL Retuned Rules.  I personally believe it would unbalance the game in favor of the Chicago area companies to eliminate the costs. My experience suggests that the costs are there for legitimate play balance reasons. Moreover, Chicago is such a good area that no incentive is needed to build in the west.  Upgrading Chicago has always seemed to me to be well worth the cost.  In my experience, I find that players do eventually find upgrading Chicago to be well worth the effort, especially if it means that the company being run can place a token there too.  While the costs for upgrades at Chicago may slow the early development of the city, that is also more in keeping with the historic situation.  So we have chosen not to implement that variant in our group.

The Columbus Variant that follows could be useful among players who feel that the B&O needs a bit more incentive to be a viable starting company (or even a viable late game company).  The Ferry Extension Variant should not adversely affect play balance, and the Pere Marquette Variant may appeal to those who find lower Michigan all too often underdeveloped.  The latter may also make ferries across Lake Michigan as useful and lucrative as that across Lake Erie.


D. 18GL Columbus Variant

Created by Lou Jerkich, April 2008.

(Map board Change.)  The off-map space (J20) immediately south of Columbus becomes a playable hex with a $40 Hill terrain symbol.  Columbus (hex J18) can now be promoted to a brown #63 tile, and Dayton (I19) can have a green #14 tile.

Rationale: Even though it will be rare for a corporation to build track in this new playable hex, it does permit the Columbus hex to be promoted to a brown tile rather than having it be limited to a green city tile at best.  This ability to have Columbus upgraded to brown may give players a little more incentive to start the B&O.  It also gives the B&O a way around Columbus if blocked there since it can build into J20 and reach Dayton, which now may have a green tile #14 instead of being limited to green tile #15.  This variant can be used by players who find that the B&O is infrequently started in their games. 

E. 18GL Chicago Variant

Paul Zieske and his Chicago group of players have considered this as a possible variant, but not a compelling one.

(Exception to last paragraph of rule 4.6.1.1.)   Only the Chicago green tiles cost $50 to lay.  There is no cost for the Chicago upgrades from green to brown or brown to grey.

Rationale:  When every upgrade of a Chicago hex will not have a $50 cost, Chicago may develop a bit faster.  This change is designed to give a little more incentive to players to start railroads in the West.


F. 18GL Ferry Extension Variant

This Variant was proposed by Paul Zieske on 22 April 2008.

(Exception to last paragraph of rule 4.3)   The Ferry remains throughout the game in the hands of the player who purchased it, even if it was not activated before the other Private Companies close at the beginning of Phase 10H.  However, it ceases to pay revenue to its  owner after Phase 10H begins.  Nevertheless, the Ferry owner can still activate the Ferry per the normal activation rule [4.3 (11)]  except that after Phase 10H the Corporation which has activated the Ferry must pay the same $50 fee to use the Ferry "track" that all other Corporations must pay.  All the fees to use the Ferry are paid to the bank.

Rationale:  For those who believe that the designer intended the Ferry with its various routes and tiles to be a key feature of the game, this rule extends the time in which the Ferry may be activated to the final phases of the game.  Those who find that the Ferry is too infrequently built may find that it gets more use with this rule.


G. 18GL Pere Marquette Variant

This variant rule was created by Lou Jerkich on 22 April 2008.

1. (Exception to rule 4.5)  The DTI charter, tokens and shares are now considered to represent the Pere Marquette Railway.   Instead of the DTI home base in Detroit, there is a new Pere Marquette home base in Lansing (hex H10).   Detroit is treated as having no home base.

Rationale:  In my experience, aside from Detroit and Ann Arbor with their connections to Toledo, the lower peninsula of Michigan is one of the most unused portions of the map.  This rule substitutes the Pere Marquette Railway for the Detroit, Toledo, and Ironton Railroad.  The Pere Marquette Railway was formed on January 1, 1900, by the merger of the Chicago & West Michigan Railway, the Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western Railway, and the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad.  Historically, these railroads had served Michigan's lumber industry but the removal of the forests brought about a decline which it was hoped that the consolidation would reverse.  The merger resulted in a system with tracks running up the east coast of Lake Michigan from Chicago to Traverse City, another route from Detroit westward to Grand Rapids and Muskegon, and a third major line from Monroe, just north of Toledo, to Flint and Saginaw and then across Michigan to Ludington, which was formerly called Pere Marquette.  On the game map, the location of Ludington would be in the coastal hex between Muskegon and Traverse City.  From Ludington the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad had operated ferries westward across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, Manitowac, and Kewaunee.

The lack of a major railroad operating in lower Michigan tends to leave a large portion of the map with little track.  This variant should change that since by having the Pere Marquette's home base in Lansing, the Pere Marquette will have incentive to go both east to Detroit (perhaps by way of Flint) and west to Grand Rapids, from which another track tile in Muskegon could lead to a Ferry line across to Milwaukee.  Or, a connection from Grand Rapids south and then west to Chicago may seem desirable.  In any event, the Lansing starting location should lead to more track in lower Michigan, even though Detroit will almost certainly be a destination sought by the Pere Marquette.  This variant may even spur the construction of one of the two ferries across lake Michigan since there is likely to be a network of track in lower Michigan that will make use of it.  The Bridge will also be a very desirable private Company for the player controlling the Pere Marquette.

2.  For those who have Carl Burger's 1831 game, the Pere Marquette components from that game could be used for the Pere Marquette Railway of this variant, perhaps even keeping the DT&I in play.  Note that the impact of the addition of an extra railroad while keeping the DT&I in play has not been tested in an actual game.


H. 18GL "Rails Afloat" Ferry Variant

This Variant was originally suggested by Judy Jerkich on 9 March 2011. After contributions from Lou Jerkich and Lisa and Steve Stroup, and after being named by Lisa Stroup, it was posted 11 March 2011.

Replace the original Ferry rules 4.3(11) with the following:
1.The Ferry Private Company represents the commercial enterprise that sells the Railway Car Ferry boats to the Corporations running Ferry routes.  It is possible for all four of the Ferry routes printed on the map to be simultaneously in use during the game.  These four routes, in order, are 1) Milwaukee-Muskegon, 2) Traverse City-Escanaba, 3) Northern Ontario-Alpena-Owen Sound, and 4) Cleveland-London. 

2. The owner of the Ferry Private Company may select any one corporation of his or her choice to build a single Ferry route without any further payment.  Any other corporation wishing to build a Ferry Route must pay the owner of the Ferry Private Company $50 to buy a Railway Car Ferry boat.  The owner of the Ferry Private Company may wait until one or more other corporations have paid it the $50 for a Railway Car Ferry before it uses its special privilege of allowing one corporation to build a Ferry route without payment.  The owner of the Ferry Private Company need not ever have a Corporation build a Ferry route, but if it does the first one is built without cost to the Corporation that builds it.  During the tile placement phase, the Corporation Charter of the company getting the free Railway Car Ferry gets the "Active Ferry ($50)" token provided in the game.

3. Any Corporation during its own turn may pay the owner of the Ferry Private Company $50 for a Railway Car Ferry, provided that it has an unblocked track connection from one of its own tokens into at least one coastal city that forms part of a Ferry route.  (The token may also be in the coastal city being used to start the route.)  Players should keep a written record of which Corporations have purchased a Railway Car Ferry and for which labeled route (#1 to #4) on the board.  (There is no marker to indicate this otherwise.)  Corporations may gain control of an unclaimed Ferry route for every $50 payment that is made to the owner of the Ferry Private Company up to the limit of available routes.  Once the $50 payment has been made, the corporation can build a Ferry route across a lake.   The $50 payment must be made on the turn that the route will be activated.

4. Activating a Ferry route is in lieu of the Corporation's normal tile placement.  When the Ferry is activated, the appropriate Ferry tiles are placed on the chosen Ferry route, and if there is currently no tile on the other end of the Ferry route, that tile is placed also as part of the Ferry activation.  (Although the game lacks sufficient track tiles to cover the lake portions of all four Ferry Routes simultaneously, since the routes are pre-printed on the board it is a simple matter to keep track of viable routes and their ownership on paper, if needed.)  Once activated, a Ferry route remains in effect until the end of the game; it is treated as if it were normal track, except that the portion that is solely blue tiles can never be upgraded.

5. Any Corporation that has built a Ferry route may use its own Ferry route for free.  Any other Corporation wishing to use the same Ferry route must pay the owning corporation $20 on each turn that it makes use of the specified Ferry route.  The Ferry route's owner cannot forbid this payment nor forbid the use of its Ferry route.

6. The Ferry Private Company remains open until the end of the game.  New Ferry routes can still be established until game end and the payments are made just as indicated in the rules for this variant.  However, the Private Company ceases to collect its basic revenue listed on the card at the point at which the rules require all Private Companies  otherwise to be closed. 

Rationale:  Ferry routes appear to have limited usefulness in the game as played per the original rules.  Some players are said to even avoid buying the Ferry because it costs too much for what you get.  As we were about to start an online game of 18GL, my wife, Judy, began to wonder what it would be like if all the Ferry routes could be activated in the same game.  I came up with the notion that the Ferry Private Company could represent the entity that sold Railway Car Ferries to customers who wanted to create a Ferry route for their corporations.  The price for this would be $50.  Judy believed that the money for using routes should go to the Corporations building the various routes but we were uncertain of the amount. Steve or Lisa Stroup suggested the $20 fee for other companies to use these routes and Lisa suggested the title of the variant.  ($50 is somewhat high for a use fee on a regular basis, but the $20 fee might actually provide more income through repeated use.)  18GL variant F, above, inspired us to take these powers to the end of the game.  It fits in with our desire to have all Ferry routes potentially active in the game.

So these are the rules we have devised for the "Rails Afloat" Variant. The game that will test them for the first time is just underway.  They may be modified after further experiment.  Comments welcome.

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Comments and further Variant suggestions are welcome.



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This page created 24 April 2008 by Lou Jerkich with significant help from Paul Zieske.  A correction was made in rule 2 of the Ravenna Variant on 18 May 2008.
On 11 March 2011, Variant H was added.
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