Crist-Jan Mannien
Version 1.3
4th February 1997


This strategy guide to the famous Avalon Hill game is the result of over a hundred games played against human opponents, an even higher number of games against the computer and a lot of discussions with experienced players. This does not mean that it is comprehensive in any way. The number of possible tactics and strategies is almost endless and has by no means been exhausted by me or the group I play with. Furthermore, judging strategies is subjective and a matter of taste. There is no absolute truth, or even a best move, in a game with more than two players. This makes 1830 - if played by more than 2 players - fundamentally different from games like chess or draughts. It is the combination of strategies used by your opponents which makes your strategy a winning or losing one. Therefore, you must be flexible and change tactics whenever circumstances demand. If you have lost a game, never say that your strategy was wrong from the beginning. After every game, try to determine why a particular strategy led to victory and the others did not. The ideas I present here should not be copied just like that. Only by judging my advice very critically can you improve your level of play.

This guide is meant for those of you who already have some experience with the game. It does not focus extensively on track building because the only way to learn this skill is by playing the game often. For beginners, other opinions and for information about the computer game, I would recommend reading the FAQ file written by Michael Carlton http://www.mcs.net/~mcarlton/.

A few assumptions have been made. This guide initially focuses on a four player game. The five player game is then dealt with in chapter 6 and that for 3 or 6 players in chapter 7. Also, only the better strategies have been mentioned. For example, there is only a brief description of how to start up the Canadian Pacific Railroad because this is judged as a bad opening. Also, I assume that everybody will buy private companies with their corporations for as much as possible so I have skipped the other options. But keep in mind that under certain circumstances it might be wiser to buy for less, for example when you need some extra money in order to build a bridge, place a token or buy a train.

As I stated above, this guide only reflects my own personal views. However, I am very interested in the views and comments of other players, so please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions. From time to time, I will revise this guide so that a more complete guide will be created. You can contact me by e-mail: Crist-Jan Mannien.

Table of Contents

  1. General Strategies
  2. The Sale of Private Companies at the Start of the Game
  3. Opening Tactics
  4. Middle Game Tactics and Strategies
  5. End Game Tactics
  6. The 5-player Game
  7. The 3 and 6-player Game
  8. Ethics
  9. And Lastly ...

1. General strategies

The winner is the wealthiest player at the end of the game. A player's wealth accumulates mainly through owning certificates. Although this sounds very simple and clear, some players misinterpret the ultimate goal. They think that winning means having the most profitable Railroad Corporation. Naturally, this is very helpful in becoming the wealthiest player but it is not a must. It is even possible to win the game without running a corporation at all. Another misinterpretation is the tendency of players to concentrate exclusively on making money as much as possible. Under certain conditions, it can be more sensible to work against other players, e.g. by selling shares to lower the stock value, or by placing or upgrading a tile unfavourably for others.

Bearing this in mind, money can be earned by:

The second option is only available in the middle game; the last option becomes more important in the second half of the game. It is impossible to use all three options maximally, as they have a negative influence on each other. For example, selling private companies diminishes a corporation's treasury, making it more difficult to buy a large train without diverting revenues into the treasury. In drawing up a strategy plan, the most profitable option must be defined. In theory, there are two extremes:

Fast pay-off strategy
By fixing the par price of a corporation at $67, buying lots of cheap trains, and selling private companies, your earnings are highest in the beginning of the game. Of course, this strategy is very risky, as the corporation treasury is exhausted very quickly.
Long-term strategy
A high par price in combination with only one or two trains saves expenses so that the number of retaining turns are minimised. Consequently, your package of shares will only grow very slowly.

In the beginning of the game, I usually prefer a strategy leaning towards the first one so that I will be able to start up a second corporation at highest par. In a later stage of the game, I sometimes switch to a long-term strategy, for example when I have great track for a D-train or so. As Steve Thomas wrote in one of his letters, the key of success is in switching from (mainly) the fast strategy to (mainly) the long-term strategy better than the others.

2. The sale of Private Companies at the start of the game

Bidding for private companies.
To understand the art of bidding, you need to understand the effects of the possible outcome which becomes visible in the first Stock Round. The most important rule to remember is that at least $402 is needed to float a corporation without the help of another player. For the PRR only $335 is needed, since one share has already been issued with the C&A. So if you want to be sure of starting up a company, you must limit your expenses in this round to $198. In a five player game, this is only $78. One interesting tactic is to bid $194 on the C&A in a 4-player game. Anyone who outbids you must spend at least $199.

Another important aspect to remember is that the priority deal is determined in this round. If you get the priority deal, you have the biggest choice in starting up a company. If you are the player who bought the last private company and you have $402 left, you will probably get the opportunity to sell your private companies to the corporation you started up (see below).

The most important benefit of owning a private company is the possibility of buying it with a corporation. The idea is that corporation treasury money is shifted to your own treasury. This is very profitable because you only possess 50 or 60% of that company. Statistically speaking, you become richer by an amount of 10/6 of the selling price. As you can see, profit grows if you sell the private company for as much as possible. This factor makes the M&H and the C&A very attractive to bid for. Especially the C&A is very nicely priced, being only $50 more expensive than the M&H and giving a free share of the PRR. In my opinion, these two private companies are priced too low. This means that you must prevent any of the other players buying one of these two too cheaply. In other words, do not buy the cheapest private company too early because that increases the chance that this will happen. Therefore it is better to wait until at least two players bid for the C&A and the M&H.

When two or more players bid for the same private company, the most difficult decision must be made: how much to pay for a company? To help you make that decision I have estimated the maximum intrinsic value of the different private companies:

The lower values refer to a cut-throat competition in which all players chose a fast pay-off strategy. If your gaming group usually starts more slowly - or if you play against computer opponents - the higher values are appropriate.

These numbers must be judged in perspective. For example, if the M&H has been sold for $120, it would be unwise to pay $230 for the C&A. Also, in a five player game the intrinsic values will be lower since you will need more time to sell the private companies to a corporation. Consequently in a 3-player game the intrinsic values are a bit higher.

3. Opening Tactics

The importance of the initial stock price.
Once all the private companies have been sold, railroad stock is offered for sale by the bank. When a player buys a president's certificate, the buyer must announce the par price. I do not believe that there is a best par price for each corporation. Choosing a high or low par price depends on what strategy you like to play in the game. If you enjoy taking risks, you can try to make money as quickly as possible. Fixing a low par price to buy as many shares as possible fits into this plan. This usually means a lack of corporation treasury money later on in the game - sometimes with fatal consequences. A high par price is safer but usually means you will be one or more shares behind the others. You probably won't come horribly unstuck later on in the game, but you almost certainly won't win.

To determine the best par price, bear in mind the following tactics:

Focusing on a high corporation treasury
Only buy stock to float a corporation and fix the par price as high as possible. For example, the player who owns the B&O private company has $370 left to buy four B&O shares so that he can fix the par price at $90. He can also announce the par price at $100 but this is risky as you need the help of others to float the B&O. In a five or six player game circumstances are better for a par price of $100: some players will not be able to float a company on their own so it will be more tempting for them to buy B&O shares. In this case, the sale of only four shares is needed to float the corporation. This makes it very attractive to fix the price as high as possible. Nevertheless, this plan is also feasible with other corporations, especially when you can pay high revenues at the beginning of the game.
Focusing on owning shares
Buy as many shares as possible by fixing the par price at $67 or $71. For example, a player who owns the D&H for $70 can fix the par price of the NYNH at $67. There will be $126 left after buying 60% stock of the NYNH so that the player can buy an extra share, preferably a share priced at $67. In the first operating round, he will receive $15 revenue from the D&H, making it possible to buy another share priced $67 or $71 in the next Stock Round.
Focusing on the playing order of companies in the Operating Round
If a player owns one big or two small private companies, and if he is the last player able to make a company operational, it is very attractive to get the corporation that will be the last in order of play in the Operating Round. Under these conditions his chances of selling his private companies to the corporation will be the highest, as the 2-trains will probably be sold out. And this means that he will be able to buy some additional shares in the second Stock Round. Therefore, he has to fix the par price as low as the lowest par value of the other companies. If he is not the last player able to start up a corporation he can pass, hoping that he will be in the next turn. If he succeeds, he becomes the only player with a considerable amount of money in the second Stock Round as a result of selling his private companies. In this case, he can even consider selling two or three shares to start a second company, because the chances that one of the other players will take over his first corporation are very low.

Starting up the B&O
The president of the B&O usually does not have any other private companies. So he can't earn money by selling private companies. For this reason, many players buy three 2-trains with the idea of placing a token in the city south of Baltimore and making money as fast as possible. My group I play with has named this strategy the "Fast Buck Opening". However, it not only costs a lot of money but also leaves the B&O with only one token. Also, buying three 2-trains usually means that the first 3-train will be sold in the first operating round, so some players get the opportunity to sell their private companies. Guess what they will buy ......B&O! After the second operating round, these extra shares will be sold to float new corporations. And if they don't buy B&O shares, they might even float a second corporation immediately. In any case, the 2-trains will become obsolete after a few rounds. Therefore, I do not like this strategy.

To prevent these drawbacks, the B&O can start with only one 2-train and a sharp bend on the board, east of Baltimore. In the second operating round, the B&O can build a city tile north east of Baltimore. This strategy slows down the game. And if the first 3- train is bought in the first operating round, you can buy one or two 3-trains and run those for several rounds.

Starting up the PRR
The PRR is a marvellous company in the long run: it possesses four tokens and it will almost always connect New York and Chicago. In the first few rounds, it is difficult to make money fast because the home town is only a $10 revenue city (however, it makes a decent income once it has built into the hex north of Baltimore). So opening the PRR is only interesting if you own the C&A or the M&H. For example, if I get the opportunity to buy the C&A in a four player game, I try to open the PPR, announcing a $67 par value. As soon as the first 3-train is bought (sometimes by myself), I will sell the C&A for $320. In the following stock round, I will sell one to four PPR shares and open a second railroad. I don't care much about keeping the presidency of the PPR because it has almost no treasury money. If nobody takes over the PRR presidency , I use the second company to buy a useful train for the PRR. This is a very risky opening if the other companies buy a lot of trains, as you lack the money to do the same. I have a positive score with this opening but on one occasion I could not prevent myself going bankrupt.

Starting up the NYNH
The NYNH can be opened by anybody who has $402 left after the sale of all the private companies. Its base city NY is valued at $40, making it a very interesting company to start with. Like the B&O, the NYNH can choose between a long-term strategy or a short-term strategy. This decision must be made in the first operating round:

  1. You can build track to the north in the first round in order to connect to Albany, NYC's home city. The disadvantages of the other strategy will be prevented but the NYNH revenues will be lower at the beginning of the game. In a rather slow game it is a very promising opening strategy. In a game in which you don't have any big private companies, I strongly advice you to play this strategy.
  2. You can build a track to the north east (tile no. 1), buy two or three trains and sell your private companies. In the second operating round you can connect to Boston and place his token on the board. The revenue/share value ratio is high, especially if the par value is $ 67 or $71. As always, this strategy has some pros and cons. The NYNH will be out of cash and its 2-trains will become obsolete very soon, with sometimes fatal consequences. Another disadvantage is that the NYNH does not have any tokens left, with the risk of being trapped between NY and Boston in the middle game. Starting up the B&M as a second company is even riskier, because the B&M needs money to build mountain track. The biggest advantage is that a second company can be opened quickly. As nobody will be very interested in taking over the presidency, you can dump 4 shares into the bankpool. If you get the opportunity to open the NYC, you will have a very strong combination on the map.
Starting up the C&O
The C&O can build track to the north west, the south west and the south east. Except when it builds a track directly to Chicago, revenues will be low in the first few rounds. However, if you build that track you will have some difficulties in developing a profitable track. Also, in later phases of the game the C&O seldom earns the highest revenues, as access to New York is often blocked by other companies. So track building alone will not make the C&O a winner. On the other hand, the revenues from operating trains are usually above average. Also, the only expense for building track is the $80 tile, north west of the base city. In comparison with other companies, the C&O often ends up with more treasury money in the middle game. Consequently, the C&O shares are often priced highest at the end of the game. If you like to go for this strategy, a par price of $76 or $82 is okay.

If you own private companies, other strategies are also possible. The C&O frequently is the last corporation to be started up in the first round, making it possible to make the C&O last in play in the Operating Round. If this is the case, you can follow the strategy described in paragraph 1.1.3. If you own the D&H, you could also consider selling it to the C&O and establish a railhead on the D&H's hexagon. This usually results in an exclusive connection between New York and Chicago, which is ideal for operating a large train later on.

Starting up the B&M
The B&M has many similarities with the NYNH. It has only two city tokens and often uses the same track for operating trains as its neighbour. A major disadvantage is its base city, which is not as central on the board as the home city of the NYNH. To prevent being trapped later on, building expensive mountain track is inevitable in most games. This makes it less attractive to start up the B&M in the first round.

Starting up the NYC
If the NYNH is not cooperative the NYC will generate no revenues in its second turn. This can be avoided by persuading the NYNH that it is in its interests to cooperate or by launching the NYC after everyone else is committed to companies other than NYNH. But even if this tactic fails some people find it interesting to start up the NYC since it often becomes a very good corporation in the long run. They build track in south west direction in order to connect South New York. This results in a very nice network later on in the game. Also, it is almost certain that the PRR and the B&O will not be able to connect South New York since the NYC almost always gets an opportunity to place a station marker on the C&A tile.

In principle there is no doubt that this is a very good strategy in the long run. But if the other operational corporations go for a fast buck, I am afraid that this strategy is often outweighed by the lack of earnings in comparison with the earnings of others. Maybe purchasing a private company with the NYC can counterbalance this side-effect. I never played this strategy so I will not rush to a conclusion.

Starting up the Canadian Pacific
As the C&O, the base city of the CPR is at great distance of New York. Furthermore, the CPR has two $10 cities nearby, making it almost impossible to operate trains with high proceeds. Also, the CPR needs to build a lot of track unaided. Therefore, I would only recommend starting up the CPR in combination with the D&H to escape from isolation by building a railhead on the D&H's hexagon. Nevertheless, I am still waiting for the player who will beat me by this way.

Starting without a president's share
This strategy can be more fun than people might think. Buying shares in a company owned by someone else makes the opening more complex for others. You can usually choose the right moment to sell shares and start up a company. This is the case if that company has enough treasury money so that it is not interesting for the president to dump the president share. For example, if you own the C&A and do not have enough money to start up a company, you can buy B&O shares - usually four. After a few operating rounds the shares can be sold with great profit. Together with the dividends received, there is enough money to start up a company, sell the C&A in the next operating round for $320 and start up a second company. By the way, against computer players this is a deadly effective strategy.

You do not need a private company to play this strategy. In some cases it can be very effective when the player with no private companies does not start up a company. The other players will not have much money to start up companies. After they sell their private companies to start up a second company, they will not have much treasury money which makes it very attractive to accelerate the speed at which trains enter (and leave) the game so that the first companies will get into trouble. The biggest disadvantage is the possibility that one of the opponents will succeed in getting a very strong combination of companies (e.g. the NYNH and the NYC). Another disadvantage is the small influence on the development of the game. This usually is compensated by the possibility to buy the most interesting shares.

When I use this tactic, I prefer to buy B&O shares. The B&O president seldom owns other private companies (see B&O start up) so he will try to keep at least 50% of the shares. Also, he will pay dividends because it is his only income. This means that you also get revenue and that the stock value will rise quickly. This does not mean that it is impossible to start with other shares but you must be more careful to prevent this company being dumped, leaving you with a company without treasury money and a low stock value.

4. Middle game tactics and strategies

After the first 3-train has been sold, the middle game begins. Corporations are paying dividends and private companies are sold, making it possible to buy extra shares or even open a second company.

In this game phase, players have to make lots of decisions. In this chapter I will focus on every aspect of the game, but keep in mind that all my advice is only true in certain situations. Always start evaluating your position in relation to the other players, as standard situations hardly ever exist in 1830.

2-trains will be removed after the first 4-train is bought. This usually happens when the fifth corporation becomes operational (rule of thumb).
3-trains are removed from the board when the first 6-train is sold. In most games this means that you can use them for a long time, making them relatively cheap. For some corporations it can be very attractive to buy two of them. I only do that when I am sure that I will get a second corporation operational so that I will be able to sell one 3-train and buy a better train with my first corporation.
4-trains are removed after the first D-train is bought. This usually happens earlier than you hoped and expected. For this reason I hate them. They cost $300, which is high - especially when the first D- train becomes available very quickly. See also "starting up a second corporation".
5-trains are my favourites! As they stay in the game, $450 is very cheap. Sometimes it is even possible to buy two of them. In more than 50% of all the games that this happens, the lucky owner becomes the winner! So focus on these great trains.
6-trains usually do not come in packages of two, as they are more expensive. Nevertheless they are very attractive as they are much cheaper than a D-train if you have to buy one for the full $1100.
D-trains are often overrated by players. In theory revenues of more than $600 per round are possible but this does not happen very often. On the other hand, being the player who can exchange his 4-train for a D-train is almost as satisfying as buying two 5-trains. When you can exchange your 4-train, always take into account the possibility of another player going bankrupt. Sometimes it is better to wait a turn if you are behind in cash and stock value and no one else can exchange a 4-train for a D-train before you.

Starting up a second corporation
A common strategy everybody must know is the following: start up a second corporation, buy a small train from your first corporation, leave enough money for a 5 or 6-train plus $41,- ($40,- for a home city, $1,- for a second train) and pay dividends the rest of the game. I have seen a lot of games in which this corporation ended up with the highest stock value. It is clear that a high par value implies a higher stock value and a bigger transfer of treasury money to your first corporation, so try to put the par value as high as possible.

If you are the first player starting up a second corporation, this strategy is usually not possible because the 5-trains will probably not be available at that time. In those cases you will be forced to buy a 3 or 4-train. In comparison with your opponents, you probably will have less treasury money when the first 5-train comes into play so do not get too carried away buying smaller trains. It is often a difficult task to determine when to buy a second corporation. Waiting too long often means that only the CPR is left or nothing at all. In making this decision keep in mind the following aspects:

Operating two or more corporations
The more companies you possess, the more influence you have on the board. This becomes even more important if your corporations are located near to each other. Another advantage is the possibility to transfer trains, and consequently money, from one of your corporations to another one. If you do this, always remember to leave at least one dollar in the treasury of the buying corporation. Leaving $1 behind means you can buy a second train with the corporation. If your corporation is without a train, you can add money from hand to buy a train from elsewhere.

A common strategy is to retain revenues with your first corporation and pay dividends with your second corporation. As other players usually do not own shares in your second corporation when it starts up, they will suffer the most.

Another example of the advantages of operating two corporation is the following. Suppose you control two corporations, A and B. A has one train, and is about to buy the first 5-train. B has a 3-train and another train. You know that the other 5-trains will be sold rapidly. Corporation A has some spare money. It is often good for corporation A to buy the 3-train from B, just before buying the 5-train. This will cause the 3-train to be transferred to the bank, but it will also transfer some cash to corporation B while this is still possible. Corporation B may thereby acquire enough to buy a 5- or 6- train when it is its turn, and this is ample compensation for one turn's loss of revenue from a 3-train.

If corporation B has no second train, this tactic is not always possible. Suppose corporation B has $451 after the sale of the 3- train. If the two remaining 5-trains were bought by other corporation, corporation B will not be allowed to buy a 6-train, as there is still a 3-train available.

Paying dividends or retaining revenues
In almost every game, one or two corporations will be forced to buy a train after the first 6 or D-train which will not have enough money to do so. Consequently, the owner has to pay the rest out of his own pocket. It is clear that this is not a very attractive option as you can only own 60% of that corporation and have to foot the bill for 100%. So it is wise to retain revenues when such a situation threatens. On the other hand, retaining revenues means no income and lower stock prices, which can also be very unattractive. Choosing the lesser of two evils is not my favourite job. The fact that other players struggle with the same problem is only a small comfort. If I knew what was the best move in every situation, I would win more often. To help you in making your decision keep in mind the following rule of thumb: never withhold dividends. There are a few exceptions.

  1. If you can afford a permanent train by withholding dividends.
  2. If you think the first 5-train will be bought very soon and you don't have enough money to buy a permanent train.
  3. When the situation occurs that the share value enters (or stays into) the yellow area when you retain revenues, it can be very profitable to do so, as these shares do not count in relation to the maximum number of shares that a player is allowed to own.
Again, there are some circumstances under which the above mentioned exceptions are sometimes overruled:
  1. If the stock value token reaches a special position on the stock market. For example, suppose the stock value of a certain corporation is $69. If you expect other players to dump their shares, it is wise to pay dividends so that the stock value token enters the $70 square. Consequently, the stock value will not be affected by others selling their shares.
  2. If there are only one or two shares in the initial offering or in the hands of the other players. For example, if you have 5 shares NYNH and 3 shares NYNH lie in the bank pool, you will receive 80% dividends (50% cash, 30% in the corporation treasury). The difference with retaining revenues is 20%. Compared to the effects on the stock market this is only a small sacrifice.
  3. If you will get the opportunity to dump your corporation on someone else.
Laying track
When laying track, always try to find a balance between maximising revenues for the trains you possess and the ideal track for the train you will end up with at the end game. To make the right decision, you have to know all the ins and outs of the track tiles available: learn the number and possible promotions of every tile by heart!

This is also true if you want to hold up, block or frustrate your opponents in their track construction plans. Pay special attention to tile no. 18, as in many cases this is a useful tile to prevent other companies making a connection between their track and yours.

Placing tokens
Placing your tokens on the board has big implications for the rest of the game. Comparable with laying track, you have to find a balance between placing tokens to maximise revenues for the trains you possess and securing access for a bigger train in the end game. This is demonstrated very clearly by the NYNH as this corporation can decide to place its token in the city between Boston and New York (short-term strategy) or in the home base city of the NYC (long-term strategy). In making this decision, try to imagine the consequences of every option in the future. Also, do not place tokens when revenues are not raised by this action, or when nobody is threatening to place his token first. Based on many games, I recommend you to pay special attention to the home city of the NYC and the city north east of Baltimore as these cities are essential for achieving high revenues later on in the game, especially if you are planning to exploit a D-train.

Buying extra shares
To determine which shares are the most attractive to buy, try to assess:

It is self-evident that the position on the stock market is also very important: e.g. a share for sale in the initial offering with a stock value of $142 is of course very attractive to buy (and sell immediately afterwards). Also, if a corporation will become sold out in the same round, the stock value will rise one row on the stock market.

If there are shares available in both the bank pool and the initial offering, and prices are (almost) equal, always buy from the bank pool, because this will prevent the corporation from receiving dividends. Only one exception; buy a share from the initial offering if you expect the president to only pay dividends if there are some shares left in the bank pool.

Also, don't forget the priority deal - it might be important to get it. Being the last player that bought a certificate in the Stock Round can be very unfavourable if it diminishes your chances of starting up a second or third corporation in the next round.

Selling shares
The most important motive for selling is of course to make money. If you need a lot of money, dump more than one share at once. But making money does not have to be the only motive. Dumping shares can also be attractive to diminish the value on the market or to change the order of play in the next operating round. If the latter is the case, it sometimes happens that players keep dumping shares over and over again. Consequently, this has a big impact on the stock value. So be sure that you do not become a victim of your own actions before you start such a share war.

Selling shares to dump your corporation on another player is a different matter. I find it one of the most remarkable and challenging aspects of the game. Always be aware of this possibility; try to maximise the advantages in the operating round if you are the dumping player. Likewise, if you are a potential victim, always be aware that you can become the new president. If you have enough trains in your other corporations(e.g. two 5-trains in one corporation), this might not be a problem, except when your new acquisition has no money at all and is forced to buy a train from the bank!

The importance of the priority deal
When a player gets the priority deal, he will be able to dump shares for maximum prices, have first choice in starting a new company and have the biggest chance to buy the most interesting shares in the bank pool or the initial offering. But also the player next to the first player can often benefit from his position. So always be aware of this during a Stock Round and never give away the priority deal by selling a share in order to buy a slightly better one. The priority deal is no longer very important during the last few Stock Rounds of the game.

5. End Game Tactics

The end game starts after the purchase of the first D-train. After the removal of all the 4-trains, some corporations will be left without a train and not enough money to buy a Diesel. In many cases the die is cast when all the corporations have a train and nobody has gone bankrupt. If you are the lucky one, be aware of all the possible tricks that remain. More than once, I have seen the potential winner become the owner of a corporation without a train because he had 20% of the shares. Here are some useful tips and tricks for when it is not clear who is going to win.

Pay dividends or retain revenue in order to build track or place a token
Sometimes revenues are not optimal and there is not enough money to build a bridge or to blast through mountains. It also happens that you would like to place a station marker to block trains of your opponents. Then it is very appealing to retain revenues in order to fulfil these plans. But retaining revenues means no dividends and the stock value is back two columns! This sometimes results in a loss of $400 or more. So the advantages must be very big to make such an action profitable, which is usually not the case. Only when the stock value token is in a coloured section and you want it to stay there might it be advantageous to retain revenues.

Pay dividends or retain revenue in order to purchase an extra Diesel
Although it might be very attractive to purchase an extra train, remember what I mentioned above. It always takes a few turns to recoup the loss of retaining one turn, even if the stock value is situated in the coloured section. Nevertheless, it can be very attractive if you have more than 16 certificates and your opponents have fewer. By retaining revenues the stock value token stays in the coloured section and you can maintain, or even expand, your number of certificates in the next Stock Round. Another advantage of purchasing an extra train might be the extension of the game with one extra operating round, as the bank receives an extra $1100.

Transfer a train from one corporation to another
If you have one corporation with two trains, and another with only one train, it might be interesting to move a train from one corporation to another. If the receiving company is situated lower on the stock market, there is no loss of income because the train already did its work that turn. This is not the case when the receiving company has a higher market value.

If you have two corporations, each with only one train, it is very difficult to make an exchange of trains profitable, so don't if you are not certain that it is advantageous.

6. The 5-player Game

In my opinion this game is even more complex than the 4-player game. Individual players have less influence on the board and stock market; starting up corporations is far more difficult as is predicting how the network of railways will look in the next turn etc. Players only get a few chances in every game to score a hit, and errors are punished heavily. Also, the priority deal is of even greater importance. Without a little bit of luck with the priority deal it is very tough to win. But of course it takes a lot more than just luck to win the game.

The opening game
The opening strategies are basically the same as in a 4-player game. Nevertheless there are also some very important differences. First of all, the players start with $120 less. Only one or two players will be able to start a corporation without the help of others. The owners of the M&H and the C&A are usually not amongst them. Consequently, it will take some turns before they are able to sell these private companies. There is only one exception: if a player can buy the M&H for $145 or less and if he gets the chance to start the PRR, he has scored his first hit. So don't let this happen (unless you are the lucky one). Apart from this exception, it is often very dangerous to sell the M&H and the C&A at maximum prices later on in the game. Therefore, I guess the intrinsic value of these private companies is a little lower than in the 4-player game.

Another major difference is that there are often only three operational corporations in the first round. In four out of five cases the B&O and the PRR are among them. Especially the B&O shares seem to be very popular at this stage. Once again, the player who has the first chance to sell a few B&O shares for a price of $112 or more scores a hit. I once even saw a player buy every B&O share that was dumped by others, sell five of them when they were valued $160, start up two corporations in the same turn and win the game hands down.

7. The 3 and 6-player game

3-player game
In this type of game, every player can start a corporation. Later in the game, every player will have at least two corporations. Because of this, and of course the fact that there are only two opponents, the influence of every player on the game is much bigger. On the one hand this makes the game less complex and the players normally do not have to play on the edge. On the other hand it is very difficult to catch up when you are behind in development. Therefore I find the 3- player game less challenging. Nevertheless, I think this game can be very instructive for less experienced players.

6 player game
What I wrote about the differences between the 4 and 5-player game applies even more for the 6-player game. The priority deal becomes even more important and the chances to score a hit are even fewer in number, if they come at all. The influence on the board is limited and sometimes players will not get the opportunity to start a corporation at all. This is not the ideal setting, unless you don't consider it a problem that luck plays such an important role. If you want to play 18xx with more than 5 players, you should choose one of the games with more than 8 public companies.

8. Ethics

When it comes to ethics and fair play, I can only give you my own personal view. It is up to others to agree or disagree. There is no problem if you disagree with me, as chances are only small that we will meet each other on the board. But there might be a problem if you disagree with your opponents. A victory accompanied with a quarrel about fair play does not taste very sweet. So make sure that all the players have the same understanding of what is fair and what is not. Most important is that everyone should have the same objective.

As I described in the first chapter, the ultimate goal is to win the game. In many games, there will be a moment that a player may recognise that he has no chance of winning. Nevertheless, he continues to interact with the others. He may victimise one opponent, or he may play at random. Either way, it spoils the game for those who have a chance of winning. You can prevent this by introducing a sideline objective: maximise the difference between your own final score and the average final score. In this way the final result will be indisputable.

In my opinion, everything is allowed which is not forbidden in the rules. For example, dumping a company on somebody after you have emptied the treasury and placed the station markers in the wrong cities should be allowed. Another sensitive subject is making deals. I think it should be possible to enter into a gentleman's agreement about not placing a station marker in a certain city, for example, but it should also be possible to break such an agreement.

There is only one aspect that I do not like: prompting! There is nothing more frustrating in the game than listening to your opponents about how they can work together against you. In the group I play with, we have the tacit agreement to only advise novice players. When it comes to working together against others, a player has to tell his plans by making his move on the board and the only thing he can do is pray that the others will understand it.

9. And Lastly ...

This strategy guide would not have been possible without the help of Patricia Waller-Hogg, Julius Waller, Waldo Kaiser, Nick Wedd, Stuart Dagger, Steve Thomas, Chris Lawson.... And all the other players I met on the board. Thank you all!

I hope you enjoyed reading my guide. Should you not agree with me (which I can hardly imagine :)) please let me know.

(c)1997 Crist-Jan Mannien

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Last Updated 27th March 2000