Observations on the Playing of 18MEX

compiled by Lou  Jerkich

I. Chief Features of 18MEX

18MEX is an 18xx game designed by Mark Derrick.  It was produced with the assistance of John David Galt and John Tamplin, the latter of whom published the game under the auspices of  his Deep Thought Games, LLC.   The game has a core set of rules very similar to those of Mark's earlier productions--18GA and 18AL.  However, whereas each of those two games have only six major companies, 18MEX has eight major companies and three minor companies in addition to four private companies. The game also is played  with $9000 in the bank compared to the $8000 for its earlier sisters.  Thus 18MEX should normally be expected to take a bit longer to play than 18GA and 18AL, which are among the very shortest 18xx games.  The 18MEX game box indicates that 18MEX is expected to take 4 to 5 hours to play, although John David Galt has indicated (Yahoo! 18xx Group, 6/25/2005) that it takes about 3.5 hours to play.  I have found that with experienced players new to this game it can be completed in about 4.5 hrs.  18MEX is intended for 3 to 5 players.

Four noteworthy features in 18MEX are 1) the initial terrain costs for most of the hexes on the map, 2) three minor companies that come with built-in 2-trains and split their revenues between the company and the owning player, 3) a mail contract equivalent to the revenue value (20 to 60 pesos) of the company's home city that is always received and retained by the company before track is placed, and 4) the National Railways of Mexico (NdM).  The latter major company cannot be floated until phase 3 1/2, which occurs after the 5th of six 3-trains has been purchased.  After the first 5-train is bought, one other company may be merged into the NdM.  As with 18GA and 18AL, major companies in 18MEX can buy only one new train from the bank per turn until the first 4-train has been bought.  The train rush begins at this time with players seeking to buy bigger and better trains quickly, causing earlier trains to rust.  In common with 18AL, the 4-trains may be used one last time to generate revenue after they become obsolete.  This helps avoid bankruptcies when the train rush begins after the purchase of the first 4-train.  Finally, only 50% of the Initial Public Offering shares needs to be sold in order for a company to float.

II. Observations by the Designer and Various Players

Some thoughts and comments on 18MEX play and strategy have appeared in various emails in the Yahoo! 18xx Group.  These will be cited below in the format 18xx:name, month/day/year.  The "name" is that of the sender of the message and the date is that of the message.

Mark Derrick discussed some of his rationale for the game's train rules in a pre-publication message:

"I see the flow of trains to be the single trickiest thing about making the 18xx system work on a smaller scale.  There are a number of ways to slow down the flow of trains throughout the game such as bans on buying trains from other RRs, adjusting the price of early trains in particular, tighter train limits, etc.  The simplest remedy I found was to restrict the number of train purchases from the bank in 18GA to one per turn. It helps but does not prevent all the things players do to themselves. Eventually, I added the provision that privates cannot be bought by RRs for as much as in 1830. In 18MEX, there have been adjustments made to the cost of permanent trains, a mail contract to give a RR money directly into its treasury and added a couple of minor railroads so that there are less privates to soak into the RRs. Some might call this trying too hard to save players from themselves but I never wanted to make games where bankruptcies are very common. We've got 1841 for that!"  (18xx:Mark Derrick, 6/16/2005)

In the same message, Mark noted that without the rule limiting companies to buying one new train per turn, almost every playtest of his initial 18GA game design had resulted in bankruptcy.  So the rule works to prevent bankruptcies, and was included in his 18AL design and also the more recent 18MEX.  Commenting on the change that occurs once the first 4-train has been bought, Steve Thomas said of 18MEX:

"One characteristic it shares with the earlier designs is that initially trains come out slowly (at most one per company per round), so it seems like a nice gentle game, then there's a huge train rush once the 4-trains become available, proving that it's more of a wolf in sheep's clothing."  (18xx:Steve Thomas, 6/25/2005)

This observation would seem to have been supported by Alessandro Lala and his friends after their initial play of the  published 18MEX game.  Alessandro reported on the actions and development of this four-player game and then summed up his observations (18xx:Alessandro Lala, 9/4/2005).  His description of the key turning point was as follows:

"...with 6 companies in play, we assisted to a dramatic train rush: in the next operating round we triggered phase 3 1/2, therefore minor companies closed and MNR [NdM] certificates available.  However, very soon, the last 3train went, the 4train killed the 2s, all 4trains were sold out, someone bought the 5train. Net result: when phase 5 was triggered, the MNR resulted still unfloated cause we had no chance to play a stock round and buy certificates. Consequently none merged into the national and a couple of companies, Yucatan and FCP, were left in a bad financial position."

Furthermore, in the final stages of the game Alessandro "observed that the 4D train were running for 400+ while companies with other permanent trains were around 300+.  Moreover the increase in stock market values in the right part of the chart is not tremendous compared with the left one, making dividends the probable differentiator for victory."

After the game, he and his fellow players found that they "disliked (or didn't understand) the use of minors and complained about the terrific train rush which left players without control of their own positions and prevented the MNR merging. On the other side, we found the game balanced and the final scores show that an additional operational round or small changes in players' moves could have led to a different ranking."

Steve Thomas reacted to this game report quickly: 

"The features linking all of Mark Derrick's games are a) a fierce train rush and b) a set of low par prices making a) potentially very painful.  I commented recently that in 1826, it's right (or at least, not very wrong) to launch companies at the lowest available par price until even quite late in the game.  I haven't played 18MEX since it underwent a major overhaul--adding the minors--but it had one of the fiercest train rushes in captivity and I don't see the changes slowing it down much.  Alessandro's description bears this out.  So launching a second company high, to rescue one's first, necessarily cheap, company, is probably the right thing to do in 18MEX.  This makes the 4-player game tricky since there aren't enough companies to go round.  Even with fewer players, raising the necessary capital can prove a strain.  That would make 18MEX strategically harder."
  (18xx:Steve Thomas, 9/4/2005)

It should be noted that when those remarks were written, Steve Thomas had not yet played the final version of 18MEX.  He did not know that the final version had 8 major companies, so that each player in a 4-player game could theoretically control two companies.

John David Galt, who played a role in the production of 18MEX and the more recent editions of 18GA and 18AL, reacted to several of Steve's remarks.  First, he observed that he had always found 18AL and 18GA to be mild in respect to the train rush.  He followed up by explaining his take on how the game design impacts the play of 18MEX:

"In the early playtest versions, the train rush was much more devastating because the trains cost more (as in 18GA), causing frequent bankruptcies.  The NdM merger was intended to be used to rescue oneself from this fate by getting rid of a company to avoid buying it a train out of pocket.  Reducing the train prices and adding the second 6 train are the most important changes made during playtesting, in my opinion.  They make the game much easier." (18xx:John David Galt, 9/4/2005)

Mr. Galt also added that "The shortage of capital in the early game is an intended feature, both for historical accuracy and to give companies time to develop the vast northwestern section of the map before phase changes make it no longer worthwhile to build new track (vs. upgrading existing cities)."

Steve Thomas did not fully agree with John David Galt with respect to the train situation in 18MEX.  He replied (18xx:Steve Thomas, 9/5/2005):

"It's true that the one train per turn rule slows down development at the start of all of these games, and that's no bad thing.  But when the brakes come off with the purchase of the first 4-train, everything changes.  All of a sudden, it changes from a nice, friendly, gentle game to a real roller-coaster ride, at least with aggressive players.  Once the first 5 comes out, the 6s will follow immediately, and often the 4Ds as well because trains become scarce."

John Tamplin pointed out that there are some 55-57 certificates in play per the regular certificate limits, but if no merger takes place, the certificate limits would go up by 1 per player to 60 total, regardless of whether three, four or 5 players are involved.  Mr. Tamplin also added that, in his experience "a merger happens about 75% of the time so usually there are only a few unpurchased shares."

Other individuals have made the following comments on 18MEX:

"I played 18MX once at ChatCon last year. I went bankrupt and caused the game to come to a crashing halt. Everyone else was irritated at me but it was a case of either dragging for several hours in dead last -- or -- taking a chance. I took the chance and, unlike a lot of Mark Derrick's games, found that going bankrupt was quite easy to do."  (18xx:Rick Westerman, 1/11/2007)

"In my experience, it is far easier to go bankrupt in 18AL or 18GA than 18Mex. I don't know that I have played 18TN enough to rank it among the others." (18xx:John Tamplin, 1/11/2007)

"I think that the difference for me is that most of my 18AL and 18GA are 3 player while the 18MEX game was five player." (18xx:Rick Westerman, 1/11/2007)

"Be careful running the company based in the Yucatan. If you get greedy and try to save your optional token for Mexico City, you might get painted into the corner with no place to go." (18xx:Chris Acreman, 1/11/2007)

"Chapter 11 is cool, but doesn't apply to 18MEX. Chapter 11 is the reorganizational bankruptcy. That sort of applies to 1841 since you can recapitalize and continue to play. Chapter 7, the liquidation bankruptcy, is your friend in 18MEX."  (18xx:Jeff Heuer, 1/11/2007)

Finally, Steve Thomas, still not having played the published version of 18MEX, wrote (18xx:Steve Thomas, 1/11/2007):

"If you play 18AL or 18GA with the mindset "I can run an extra train next round, so I'll buy a train" then it's near certain that someone will go bust. The gentle one-train-per-turn rule encourages novices in the belief that the gentle pace will last forever, so this mindset isn't wholly unreasonable for the inexperienced. I haven't played the published 18MEX yet, but even late-stage prototypes suffered from the same phenomenon. I expect 18TN to be similar, though I haven't played that since a very early prototype.

Played with more consideration for the longer term, 18MEX has an extra company, so in theory injects a little extra capital into the game, and that makes it somewhat gentler in terms of player bankruptcies, and in any event the extra company makes juggling trains easier. 18TN looks more like 18AL and 18GA, so it should have much the same rates of cash flow."

III. Observations on 18MEX by Lou Jerkich

Trains and the Train Rush

From the above comments, it appears that at least some players feel that a rapid train rush is likely after the 4-trains appear in 18MEX.  I concur that this will probably occur most of the time.  This is especially probable after the first 5-train is bought.  The consensus is that this may lead to bankruptcies, although perhaps not as often as in 18AL or 18GA.  My local group of players has seldom experienced a bankruptcy in any 18xx game, and never in seven games each of 18AL and 18GA.  Nor did it happen in our first seven 18MEX games.  I suspect that we play with just enough care to not let that happen to us, even in 18xx games in which companies are dumped on other players.  Somehow we always scrape up enough cash to help the company buy its required train.

Incidentally, train costs in 18MEX are not exorbitant:
2-train: 100
3-train: 180
4-train: 300
5-train: 450
6-train: 600
4D-train: 700

It may be that anyone who is facing the possibility of having to help buy a train for his company should seriously consider merging into the NdM to avoid this prospect.  Mark Derrick in the Game Hints on page 15 of the rules implies that the failure to do so may lead to weaker positions, but he notes that in playtests players didn't avail themselves of this opportunity very often.  But the fact that everyone in a 4-player game has the potential of owning two companies may make it a little less likely that a player will find himself without some recourse when the train rush begins.  Nevertheless, if one has invested strongly in the NdM, merging into it may be a good idea, since after a merger it is likely to have an improved route system and it also may own one more train than other companies are permitted.

While it appears preferable to have a 6-train or 4D-train rather than a 5-train, in our fourth game the winner ran two companies that each had only a 5-train.  The other three players each had to sell stock to finance a 4D train.  The player with two 5-trains not only had more cash during those rounds, but he also had more shares so that in subsequent stock rounds he reached his certificate limit quickly whereas the others saw their cash diminished as they worked to fill up their hands with shares.  All four of the players were running two companies each, but as nice as their 4D runs turned out to be, the player with the two 5-trains kept the edge.

On the other hand, in game five, the player with an apparent poor position managed to get two 4D trains into her Mexican Central railway, which was hovering around 40 to 50 in the market.  She ended up winning the game after she prevented another player's Chihuahua Pacific Railway from reaching the 200 spot on the market by dumping her one share of it, thereby costing the Chihuahua one Operating Round to reach the mark that would end the game.  That extra turn gave the MC player enough time to accumulate another $492 of dividends for herself .  She won the game by $302, essentially achieved from her cash position rather than stock assets.

In our sixth game, the events of OR3B set the stage for the coming train rush. The player running the Mexican and the player running the Chihuahuan railways both retained their revenues to prepare for buying their next trains.  Each of those companies had two 2-trains and a 3-train.  I, running the FCP (Pacific), decided to pay out dividends so that I would have enough cash to start a second company in the immediately following SR4.  My wife, president of the MC, did likewise.  We both had one 2-train and two 3-trains in our companies. So when SR4 arrived I was able to float the UdY and my wife started the NdM.  Both were started at par $90.  The player with the Chihuahuan managed to scrape enough money together to float the SPM at par $75.  When OR5A began, the unexpected launching of the SPM created concern for my wife and me because we realized it was going to aggravate the train rush.  The MC ran followed by the new NdM which bought two 4-trains.  Next my newly-formed UdY ran.  As I sized up the situation around the table I realized that the train rush was now upon us.  I bought a 4-train and then gave the rest of the UdY's cash to my FCP for one of its two 3-trains.  The Mexican ran and again retained its earnings, buying the first 5-train.  The Chihuahuan president declined to merge, knowing he could finance the purchase of a 5-train for his Chihuahuan and a 6-train for his SPM.  It was my decision to merge next and I decided to merge my newly-formed UdY into the NdM since I at all costs had to protect my FCP which could not merge (and also had enough cash to buy a 6-train).  To not merge would have soon cost me dearly in stock and cash for the UdY since I only had $71 at that time in my personal cash holdings.  Thus the NDM ended up with three 4-trains and two 3-trains, of which the latter two were dumped into the Open Market.  In rapid succession the second 5-train and the two 6-trains were purchased by the Chi, SPM and FCP in that order.  In OR4B, my wife found that she had to buy a 4D train for her trainless MC company and to do so she had to sell off some of her shares.  The NDM then ran all three of its 4-trains and retained earnings, thereby earning just enough to finance a 4D train.  So my wife managed to keep both of her companies.  But she lagged behind everyone else in stock holdings.  Late in the game she floated the TM in order to fill her hand with certificates.  Despite having three companies each with a decent  route and a 4D train, she came in last.  The player with the Chihuahuan and SPM companies won by a comfortable margin.

The Minor Companies

The Minors rarely do more than lay a yellow tile in their own starting hex.  Terrain costs normally prevent track from being placed in their starting hexes for two or three turns, and shortly thereafter the Minors are closed down.  We have found that playing with optional rule 8(c), which allows the minor companies to operate until the beginning of the next stock round, is preferable.  I suggest that it also be optional for the player to let the company continue to run or to close it down immediately if he wishes. (Possibly the Southeastern Railway may prefer closing early if it will help the UdY have some extra cash that it will need in the coming turn.  Other players who aren't invested in the NdM might close the other two Minors (A and B) immediately to prevent the NdM from gaining some extra cash.  Having the option to close or remain open a little longer seems to us to be the best approach.)

Of the three Minors, Minor A seems to be the least desirable since it's home base is the most expensive to upgrade and in our experience it appears least likely to be reached by another company before it is closed.  Minor B can be useful in helping to build a coastal route if some company builds quickly toward Mazatlan.  In our fourth game of 18MEX, one player had her Mexican Central lay its first tile in Torreon with track heading northwest and southwest.  The second tile was placed in Durango exiting to the south.  In OR2 this line built into hex L7 and curved northwest so that the Mazatlan yellow tile could also be placed.  In the third OR, Minor A continued this line of track northwest into Culiacan and then in the following turn paid for the track into Los Mochis.  (This kind of cooperative venture works well, but it did keep the MC from getting into Queretaro before the Mexican Railway did.)  Minor C will increase its revenues by first building up Oaxaca and then completing the track line to Guatemala.  Such a route may end up benefiting the United Railways of Yucatan, but we often find that the UdY often chooses to use the route through Veracruz instead, especially if it has only one train.

The Major Companies

In all of our games, we found ourselves creating a core line of track that would eventually be used by several railways.  In our first six games this core route ran from Juarez via Chihuahua, Torreon, Queretaro and Mexico City to Veracruz.  This line inevitably included the three small cities south of Torreon and was built by the various railways in play along this line.  For example, the Chihuahua Pacific Railway would build north toward Juarez and south to Torreon, the Mexican Central from Torreon to Queretaro, and the Mexican Railway from Veracruz to Mexico City, thereby creating this useful route.  Although the placement of opposing tokens keeps any one company from easily dominating this line along its entire length, we nevertheless found it very useful as the "mainline" route.

The chief branch on this mainline route was the Pacific (FCP) Railroad's line from Nogales to Chihuahua via Hermosillo and the Copper Canyon. Since the Mexican Central (MC) has only one station to place aside from its home base in Torreon, the MC is most likely to place its second station at Queretaro to assure access to Mexico City.  Thus the city of Chihuahua usually can receive a station of the FCP in addition to the home station of the Chihuahua Pacific.  Other railroads that are blocked at Chihuahua by these stations will upgrade track just south of Chihuahua to link to Copper Canyon for a route that eventually goes to Nogales or Baja California.

It should be noted that in our fourth game the Mexican Central built toward Mazatlan first and later placed its only extra station token in Chihuahua.  Lacking another token, it declined to build into Queretaro where the Mexican Railway already had a token.  As it turned out, the NdM was the next company to place a token in the Queretaro hex, and both it and the Mexican were controlled by the same player.  Eventually they did connect with the northern part of the "mainline" at San Luis Potosi, but shortly thereafter with the coming of brown tiles, a more profitable run was to be had from Mexico City northwest via Toluca, so the route through Queretaro became unused.  In fact, in our fourth game, a route from Mexico City, Monterrey, San Antonio, and Chihuahua became the mainline in the final phases of the game, with Veracruz, Guadalajara, or Los Mochis sometimes taking the place of Monterrey for 4D trains, or being added in for trains.

Because of their locations on or near the "mainline," the railroad companies that we normally have found to be the most promising as early starters are the Mexican Central based in Torreon, the Mexican Railway based in Veracruz, and the Chihuahua Pacific based in Chihuahua.  The Mexican Central begins in the center of the map with very promising  options for running two or three trains in the early game.  Moreover, terrain costs are minimal in every direction in which it is likely to wish to go.  The Mexican Railway has an excellent starting location in Veracruz whose port provides a nice additional income for runs that start there, especially when brown tiles appear.  It also can reach Mexico City in its first Operating Round and should often be able to place a station in Queretaro.  The Chihuahua Pacific Railway has the advantage of being able to form with only four shares purchased since one comes free to the owner of the 6th private company.  Thus it is bound to start early and will likely have one of the higher par values.  Since it can place up to three stations in addition to its home base, it is likely to be able to ensure access through Torreon and Hermosillo, and may possibly even place a station in Queretaro or Mexico City.  Moreover, Juarez is ultimately as useful a connection as Mexico City, and Nogales is also good, so with Copper Canyon in place the Chihuahua tends to have a healthy revenue stream even if it doesn't get into Mexico City until late in the game.

Since it has ready access to Nogales and Baja California, and in two or three turns usually can reach Chihuahua and Juarez as well, the Pacific Railroad (FCP) is also a very strong contender.  As with the Chihuahua Pacific, the FCP also has three stations available in addition to its home base at Nogales.  One of these is likely to be used at Chihuahua, but the other two can provide it with opportunities to gain access to Mexico City later in the game and/or to block the routes of other players.  Overall, because it has such good income sources in the north, the FCP is in some ways perhaps better than the Chihuahua.  On the plus side for the Chihuahua is that it has an advantage in getting floated early and with a strong par value.  The FCP's only real negative, however, is that it can never merge into the National Railways (NdM), but this is only a detriment if the railroad is in financial trouble in regard to buying its permanent train.  Otherwise, the FCP is a fine railroad, even as a starter.

The Southern Pacific Railroad of Mexico (SPM) appears to be off the mainline path and thus less promising as a starting railroad.  However, if you had hoped to start the Mexican Central and someone else beat you to it, it still can be quite viable if you can start it a higher par value than the MC.  The SPM is as far from Queretaro as the MC, so it can reach Queretaro ahead of the MC if it moves first.  In fact, until green tiles are available, it could lock the MC out of Queretaro, thereby foiling a competitor.  If it does place a station in Queretaro, it even may be able to run two very profitable lines out of Mexico City in the latter stages of the game.  A further incentive to starting the SPM over the MC is that it has two additional stations aside from its home base.  Still, I would only consider it superior to the MC if it is certain to move before the MC in the first Operating Round.  If the SPM starts later in the game, it is almost certain to need to place track in the mountains of hex N9 just northwest of Mexico City.  In the other direction, it will either tie into the "mainline" or possibly work its way up the coast to Los Mochis and beyond.  Which route is preferable may depend on whether it has a 4D train or a 5- or 6-train.

When the SPM does start in the first Stock Round, it can change the game and even shift the "mainline."  In our seventh game, I started the SPM at a par value of $80.  The Mexican played after me but also had a par of $80.  Then came the Chihuahua at $75.  The fourth player could not start a company on her own and invested in these three.  My SPM quickly made a beeline for Queretaro via San Luis Potosi, then built in the other direction to Puerto Vallarta before heading north.  Eventually it ran through Zacateca and Durango to Chihuahua, where the SPM placed a third token (after its home base and Queretaro).  The SPM's route from El Paso to Mexico City via Guadalajara and Queretaro became the mainline route for both the SPM and the Mexican.  The UdY, building west and north from Oaxaca built a route through Acapulco along the west coast which eventually was connected at Puerto Vallarta to the SPM mainline.  All companies in the game ended up using this coastal route to bypass the blocked cities of Guadalajara.  The MC was floated in SR4 but by OR4B had merged into the NdM. It built toward Tampico and to Durango, but Torreon and Tampico remained off the mainline throughout the game.  It was the SPM/Udy coastal route that served as the major source of revenues throughout the game.  To it was soon attached the subsidiary route from Mazatlan through Los Mochis to Copper Canyon and Chihuahua.  So the SPM can be viable as an early starting company.

The United Railways of Yucatan (UdY) has two disadvantages: it's home base is worth only $10 until the 5-trains appear, and it has only one additional station to place beyond it's home base.  Running the UdY requires careful token use to avoid getting boxed in at the southeast corner of the board.  Veracruz appears to be the best location for its second station since it benefits from the port there and from a city that is worth more in the early stages of the game than its own base.  However, it must wait for green tiles to be available in order to do this.  It is possible that the UdY will be found most appealing to the player who owns the Southeastern Railway Minor (C), since the latter is ultimately to be exchanged for another share of the UdY and that Minor's excess cash will also end up in the treasury of the UdY.  The UdY can develop very profitable runs if it can get into and out of Mexico City.  We've seen its president win, as well as finish last.  Of all the companies, it is the most likely one to run to Acapulco, and then only if it needs that route as an escape because it has been blocked into the corner. (In our sixth game, the SPM, with FCP help, built a loop to Acapulco near game end to garner the slight revenue increase.)

The Texas-Mexican Railway (TM) which begins in Matamoros was my first choice in my first 18MEX game.  (In that game, I finished last of four players, although only $168 separated first from last place, making for a very exciting and close game.)  As with the MC, SPM, and the Mexican, the TM can reach Queretaro in its second Operating Round.  It can alternatively (or in addition) build to San Antonio which is also a very profitable city worth $30 in the early game and $60 after the 5-trains appear.  Moreover, San Antonio can be tokened with a station, but it also can be run through from one side and out the other.  Thus it can be part of the middle of a route, unlike Juarez and Merida.  Alas for the TM, it has only one extra station, so deciding whether to use it at Queretaro or elsewhere will clearly depend on the game situation.  A viable 4D run for the TM can be Puebla-Mexico City-Queretaro-Matamoros-San Antonio for up to $420. So don't discount the TM.  Note, however, that the TM is the other company (along with FCP) that cannot be merged into the NdM, so there can be no bail-out that way if the company becomes cash-poor in a train rush.

Finally, there is the National Railways of Mexico (NdM).  In order to obtain the Presidency one must buy the expensive 7th Private company; thereafter one must wait until the first stock round after phase 3 1/2 begins in order to buy additional shares.  The owners of Minors A and B will each receive 5% shares of the NdM company after the Minors close (and the NdM will get the remaining cash from those Minors).  The NdM's biggest advantage is that it has a lock on Mexico City as its home base.  Moreover, it has the most tokens, and may possibly inherit an improved route if one of the players opts to merge into the NdM after the first 5-train is bought.  In addition, the NdM can own up to three trains when other companies are limited to two apiece.  (However, acquiring a third train in the late stage of the game can be difficult and/or not financially worth the effort.)  The NdM may also find itself blocked in Mexico City until the brown upgrade of the city, and it may have to forge a route out of the city via the mountains of N9 to the northwest, or via O12 and Tampico.  Nevertheless, the NdM player can be in a strong position at game end.  Fortunately, the NdM player should be able to start some other railroad at the start of the game, knowing that he or she is likely to be able to float the NdM as a second company with only two more shares needing to be bought to float it.  (The Presidency and two 5% shares will already be in play when the time comes to buy more shares.)

While one usually likes to start a second company at a high par value, it may be a mistake in this game to wait for another stock round in order to do so.  In one of our games, the third player held back from buying a second company when the first opportunity presented itself because he couldn't yet afford a $90 par value.  By the time the next stock round occurred, the unstarted SPM had already merged into the NdM leaving only the TM left to be bought.  Players #1 and #4 already had two companies each, and player #2 was cash-poor.  However, Player #1 holding the NdM and the UdY dumped the financially strapped UdY on player #2 and used the cash from the stock sale to buy the TM, leaving player #3 no company to start.  Player #3 thus was denied opportunities to shift trains between companies and had to settle for getting the last 5-train for his company (the Mexican).  He ended up finishing third.  The 2nd player had to use a lot of personal cash to buy a 4D for the UdY, but fortunately her Chihuahua company had saved nearly enough to buy a 4D also.  She earned big bucks from those two railroads in the end game, and the dumped shares of the UdY fed enough cash into her UdY that she eventually was able to buy yet another 4D train.  Still, she finished last.  At any event, player #3 would have been much better off getting that second company at the first opportunity, even if only at $75 par.

When setting par values or contemplating buying another railroad, keep in mind the high and prevalent cost of terrain in 18MEX.  If you own a minor company, seriously consider starting a nearby major company so that the latter can benefit from the track builds of the minor company.

There are two alternate brown upgrade tiles for Mexico City.  One has room for four tokens and pays $50.  The other pays $60 but has room for only three tokens.  One of the token spots will always be occupied by the NdM company's home base station.  If one can place a station in the city when it is upgraded, upgrading to the brown $60 tile may be the best option.  If one is out of station tokens, upgrading to the brown $50 tile may help to keep Mexico City open to through traffic longer or for perhaps the rest of the game.

The Game Hints section on page 15 of the 18MEX Rules seems to suggest that Mexico City is a very desirable area to reach.  Certainly in our seven games it proved to be valuable as part of the chief run for many companies.  However, San Antonio and Juarez would appear to be equally or even more valuable, although they lack the Puebla and Toluca bonus income for the small towns.  Still, if Mexico City is only worth $50 alone, Juarez and San Antonio will be just as valuable even with Puebla added on to Mexico City.  Nogales and Baja California are worth $50 after the 5-trains come out, and like Juarez and San Antonio are each $30 in the early game.  So players should not necessarily assume that Mexico City must be the key to their success.  Some companies may have better or equally good options elsewhere in the north.  Keep an open mind and look for the best opportunities.

18MEX has proven to be an enjoyable game for my group.  Some games have been very close.  In our second game only $4 separated the winner from second place. We have not as of yet found any guaranteed winning combination of companies, nor do I expect we ever will.  It promises to entertain us even more in the future as we continue to try new combinations of companies and routes.



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This page was first created on 2 September 2007.  It was significantly revised on 3 October 2007.   Some updates were made on Oct. 27, 2007.  Small corrections  on 29 April, 2008.  Another update was added on 13 October 2008 after our fifth game was played.  Small changes were made on 26 December 2011, including aded remarks on the SPM.
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