I got to play a complete game of 1846 for the first time yesterday. It is a really good game.
For those not familiar with the particular genre, players in 18xx games will control one (or more) railroad companies in a particular geographic location. Each turn will contain stock market rounds and operating rounds.
In a stock market round you deal with issues like founding companies, setting their initial stock values, and dealing in stock transactions. If you started a company you might not end up with it at the end of the game. This can happen by you dumping stocks to make someone else the majority owner. It can also happen by someone else getting a majority share of the company.
In an operating round players use the capital available to each company owned to set up rail lines from one destination to another and purchasing new and improved engines capable of collecting funds from an increasing number of stops.
In 1846 each player starts with $400. There is an initial number of smaller companies that can be purchased via a secret draft. The cost of these smaller companies are paid out and then a stock market round happens. Players then take turns either starting their own larger rail companies or buying shares in the companies of others. A company is funded when 20% of the available stocks are purchased by the President. Those funds go into the treasury. Any stocks purchased by any player will put more funds into the treasury of the corporation.
I had a really good starting position in the game. I was able to get the best of the minor companies (one that operates its own train) along with a very good companion rail company (Grand Trunk Railroad). I was building a very attractive company. However, I neglected to purchase enough of my own shares. Because of this another player was able to get a majority share of the company and take it over. In the next stock market turn I was able to force him to protect that company and in doing so I was able to obtain enough shares to take over his company. It was a good saving move, but not enough to save the game for me. I basically grasped defeat out of the jaws of victory. I had seen some criticisms online of the Grand Trunk Railroad and how it doesn’t play well for the long haul. However, if you can start it with the Michigan Southern private company I believe that is a very strong position. M.S. starts earning money immediately and you wind up with a very easy path to make an “East/West” route (something that gives you bonuses). I haven’t played the game enough to determine what the “best” starting position might be. However, with the randomness that comes with drafting private companies and who gets to start bidding, it is unlikely that a player will get the “ideal” start if it does exist.
After playing this game and 1830 once before, I look forward to playing more of these games in the future. I am hooked.