18xx Belgium, 2024 spring

May 21, 2024

My 5th 18xx convention in Mechelen, Belgium was another amazing experience. I got there pretty early on Friday and met up with folks to get an early gaming start at the Holiday Inn hotel lobby :)

Friday 16:00 - 19:00, 18India with Boris, Tom, Sven-Erik

I love playing 18India and the game started out decent enough and we played by drafting certificates to make the game go faster. The game was borked right from the start when Sven-Erik only floated the WR with 3 shares leading to the company not being able to buy a 3T as all the 2Ts were gone by the time it operated. Fortunately, Boris was kind enough to sell him a 2T for all of his money minus 40₹ for a token. We continued the game for a bit and given that I had started a company in the south where all the action was things were looking ok for me. We called the game due to time limitations but both Tom and I were in contention with Tom having the lead.

Friday 19:00 - 24:00, 18India with Boris, Tom, me

We ended up playing 18India again but with a custom setup where we picked mostly eastern and central companies but funnily enough, most of the track again ended up being built in the south. I started the CGR of all things and managed to get into Kochi which then triggered everyone to come down. I pulled a very cool shenanigan by doing some route destruction in the south and dumping the CGR on Boris when he was not looking and moving all my assets over to the WR. Unfortunately for me, it was not enough to pull me the win as Tom had a piece of all the good companies and a better stock value. It was close but he ended up by winning by ~500₹.

I love the 18Africa/18India game system but I do feel that the concept of economy is a very cool one that 18India should have incorporated from 18Africa.
Saturday 09:00 - 15:00, 18USA with Koen, Gerd, Björn, Richard, me

I really enjoyed this game as it was my first time playing with Björn who plays exactly like I do. It was like playing with a mirror version of myself and we had a blast. The bidding for the privates was furious and I made a mistake where I could not make enough to start 3 companies at $106. I still ended up doing 3 but one of them was a $100 par. Many mistakes were made everyone and Björn made the least. Koen overbid on some shiny privates, Gerd played it safe but ended up starting companies in crappy locations and Richard was forced to also start next to Los Angeles to help another one of his companies build track.

In the second OR all the 2+ trains were gobbled up which was predictable but not game breaking for me. However, my mistake in OR2.2 was to try and save my $100 par by putting a 3T into it. In SR3 Björn and I shorted Richard's overvalued 5-share and I took a positional short on his second 5-share. His mistake was growing up/merging his 2-shares to make 5-shares and taking 4/5 loans to put 3Ts in them. They also had a 2+ but with the interest around $35/loan it was definitely worthwhile. Koen and Gerd stayed out of the mix to their disadvantage and in OR3.1 my biggest mistake was to buy 2x3+T giving Björn 2x4T which essentially put him on top. Everyone bought more 4Ts and the last 4T along with the 4+T exported leaving the 5Ts facing in SR4.

It was a fairly predictable flow after that, Richard was forced to merge his 5-shares into a 10-share with 4T, 3T, 3T and 10 loans. He was max shorted and he was not able to raise enough money to short the world hard enough thanks to yours truly. I made another critical error here by cross buying 2x3T out of my 2-shares thinking that they would not run, but both Koen and Richard skipped buying a 3T to put money into their 10-shares. Koen did use his American locomotive to buy a 5T before running but he was setup to do that regardless IMO. Eventually the 3T did run for the whole OR and were rusted by a 6T export. At the end of OR4.2 Richard decided to simply payout and liquidate with 10 loans and not a lot of $$$. We decided to call it in favour of Björn who was running 2 more trains than the others :).

It was really fun to play with someone who plays just like I do :).
Saturday 15:00-18:00, 1862 with Koen, Gerd, Björn, me

While we were waiting for the BBQ to start, we decided to try out the short variant of 1862 and while I had never played this variant, it was a blast. The low train count combined with the fact that 4 players started 2 companies each, resulted in us hitting the D trains in OR2.2 (which is essentially the third operating round)!. There was a small moment of respite as we made a bit of $$$ for 2 ORs. In SR4 again 3 players started chartered companies triggering another wild train rush.

Koen started the wild ride by withholding with his high-valued first in order merged company to get the last D train + the first E train. Thereafter, everyone was just forced to merge/re-finance all of their assets just to keep control with the result that the H train was bought in OR4.3 triggering end-game with a cert-limit of 8! Koen was absolutely annoyed about the whole re-financing scam and while I tried to convince him that we had lost value whereas he had not, I was clearly wrong. Even with the refinancing and only holding 40% of a company running 2 permanent freights I made more $$$ than he did and ended up winning by a cool ~2,000$.

All in all, while I enjoyed the ride, I would not recommend it as the game is mostly playing the players than the other way around :).

Saturday 19:00-24:00, 18India with Koen, Emmanuel, Robbie, me

In the evening Koen and I went for 18India with two new players who required a teach. It was a very interesting start with Emmanuel playing 30% of the Bombay Railway (BR) in SR1 and Koen taking it over with 50% right away. Robbie and I both played simple games with he playing the Madras Railway (MR) and me with the Nizam State Railway (NZR). Since the BR was well funded and looking dangerous, I decided to mess with its track but ended up hurting myself equally. Moreover, Koen still focused on his company and just made it amazing.

Towards the end-game I tried to pull some shenanigans by selling down NZR and shifting assets over to the North-Western Railway (NWR) but at the same time Emmanuel pulled a really cool trick by firing up the Great-Indian-Peninsula Railway GIPR and making it beautiful. In the last SR everyone bought and converted bonds giving the GIPR a massive stock bonus. Even though I had 60% of the GIPR vs 90% for Emmanuel, he ended up winning by ~200₹!

Sunday 09:00-15:00, 18Africa with Koen, Vincent, Simon, me

This game started out wonderfully for Simon as he was able to float the Central-South-African-Railway (CSAR) in the south with nobody else around to bother him. I overpaid for some garbage in initial auction and was forced to start the Sudan Railway (SR) in SR1. I did have a few shares in the Nigerian Railway (NR) so I was able to safely build towards Lagos but my position was simply terrible. Vincent and Koen both had decent starts in the north-west and they co-operated to build some decent track for each other.

Prior to SR2, I blew up my game by paying $60 to deny Simon the Gold concession but still managed to win the cotton concession which kept my hopes up. In mid-game Simon got more lucky with some CSAR shares and along with a couple of other contributions the CSAR was fully-funded by SR3. This allowed Simon to take off into outer space and when he floated the Alexandria Railway (AR), he was able to mess with everyone's track including tokening Khartoum and screwing over the NR. Vincent played a straight-forward game and fired up 3 companies by mid-game but had to withhold here and there for some better trains. Koen focused on his companies but was also having trouble getting his companies out of the destructive track that Simon was putting down.

Eventually, with the help of the NR and Koen's CO, I managed to get to the south and lock the CSAR between Cape-town and Jo'burg but it was not enough. The CSAR simply had too many assets and despite running miserably with a 4+4+4E, Simon won by ~$1000 on CSAR stock value gains. I came second and was happy that Vincent did not pump and dump the Moroccan National (MNR) on me as he only had 50% to my 30%!

Sunday 15:00-18:00, 18India with Boris, Tom, Markus, me

This was a filler game with Markus who was a newbie and did not really know the bid values. As usual, I overpaid for a bunch of things I did not require but I got lucky in SR1 where Tom and Boris tried to bluff each other over a 20% presidency Bengal-Northern Railway (BNR) float with a 20% pre-funded in the pool, leading to the SR ending. I got off to a decent start with 6 Madras Railway (MR) shares and the first 4E train but unfortunately for me Tom had the rest as well as a very successful Eastern-Bengal Railway (EBR) which had made it to the hot-spot in the south thanks to aggressive track-laying by the BNR. Markus also had built up a successful North-Central Railway (NCR) with an 80% investment and we called the game since Boris was bored and out of it with a miserable Bombay Railway (BR).

Sunday 19:00-24:00, 18EUS with David, Björn, Fabian, Alex, me

Everytime I have played 18EUS, I have been disappointed. After a quick teach by Boris we got started and while I was considering taking a loan to par high and try to run my 2T one extra time, Björn decided to take 4 loans and start 2 companies. I shifted to playing the bank and had a very boring game. I had previously bid $65 on the late bloomer to keep my options open in any case. David ended up being a shark who took 3 loans in SR3 to par high and rust everyone else's 2Ts. He also had a lot of cash generating in his lead company with some privates. In the second last SR, I got lucky enough to be able to start the last company and get a 3D along with an N+2 with the late bloomer. I grew it up to a 10-share in the last SR and managed to put another 4D into it. Fabian played it very safe by never taking a loan nor buying a bank share. Alex had a funny combo where he could take a loan and pay it off before paying interest but it did not help his early 10-share. Björn had to withhold a few times but ended the game with 4 loans with was a negative $3200 to his value. I ended up losing the game to David by about ~$1000. The rest of the table was ~$10,000 behind us making the game fairly unbalanced and uninteresting.

Monday 09:00-15:00, 18Africa with Koen, Erwin, Simon, me

On Monday, I managed to convince Koen to give 18Africa another shot and he obliged. Erwin was a newbie but he had played 18India before so he knew the game system. This time I had an ok start with 3 Nederlands-Zuid (NZ), 2 Timbuktu-Oran (TO) and overbid on a lot of crap. I did however get very unlucky with no NZ popping up in the auction but I did manage to collect 3 more single shares of the TO. In SR1, I put down 50% of the TO and it was sitting in the middle of Simon's Marrakech-Fez (MF) and Erwin's Congo-Ocean (CO) which decided to build towards Lagos but fortunately did not have enough money to token it out right away.

Bidding for the concessions was furious and I was again able to keep Simon in check by messing with his bids. I overpaid for the Oil concession at 37 but eventually it turned out to be a decent deal. Things went downhill fairly quickly in SR2 however. People sold their bonds and were able to pull out quite a few paying shares which was really annoying (for me). It seems to me that buying bonds is the best payoff in SR1 since the first 2 ORs are always run in Recovery. Maybe start a company just with enough $$$ to buy a train and lay some track to get started?

Erwin's CO got a fair amount of funding in SR2 and he was off into space. It built towards cape-town, tokened there and was able to collect some Gold concession by the end of OR3.2! I got a bit lucky in SR4 where I managed to pull out 30% of the TO including the president's cert which put me at 80% and gave me a bit of hope. At this point, Erwin also decided to float the NZ with a personal 30% holding and me having bought a 10% cert. In SR4, Koen also pulled a neat trick by stripping the Ugandan Railway (UR), moving assets over to the Sudan Railway (SR) and dumping the UR onto Simon. Simon then called for a truce between the MR and the TO with regards to track shenanigans, to which I obliged.

In OR4.1 Erwin pulled a neat trick by buying out the last cert from the pool with the NZ, thereby letting the CO run in Recovery and then dumping another cert into the pool letting everyone else run in Recession. In OR4.2 he decided to withhold with the NZ to try and pump money into his CO. In SR5, I got lucky with another 10% of NZ from the deck and then literally held my breath for one round to see if he would put down 50% to guarantee his NZ ownership but he did not do so and I was able to take it from him by putting down my 30% from my initial hand.

After that, I formulated a brilliant plan since I managed to get priority going into SR6. I looted NZ and bought a recession-proof train in TO. In SR5, I dumped the NZ back onto Erwin with a 3T and some messy track in the south.At this point, everyone at the table was still withholding to get some big trains. Being the first to the big trains allowed the TO to jump ahead to first place in operating order and I managed to pick up some certs from the pool as well which would boost my value end-game.

The last shenanigan I pulled was in SR5 where I floated the Central-South-African-Railway (CSAR) and managed to control it with 3 single certs. It was enough of a threat that Erwin decided to waste money on a token instead of getting a better train in the CO. In SR6, I proceeded to dump the CSAR along with a few other privates that went into the pool making all companies with big trains running in depression/recession. Everyone collaborated as usual to buy stuff out of the pool and the TO was lucky enough to run in Boom in the last OR. Unlucky for Erwin and the CO, it dumped a $25 private into the pool to make it Recovery again :p. TO triggered the game-end in SR6.2 and I won by ~$600 :). What a wild ride!

A big thanks to the organizers for such a well-run and fun event. Many thanks to Koen for a wonderful 18Africa PnP and for all the games together. See you there next time!