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This highly acclaimed game of railway building and share speculation is set in Germany. In 1835, the length of the railway system throughout Germany was a respectable six kilometers (today's network consists of a good ten thousand times more).
Move by move, the players open up the country, laying tracks and building stations. The track system expands by leaps ands bounds while locomotives spout great clouds of steam. The boom begins with corporations sprouting like mushrooms. Private railway companies build, the government takes a piece of the action, and director's positions change hands. Trains are sold at give-away prices, returns on investments plunge, and new trains promise new profits.
Each player learns what it is like to be a shareholder in railroad companies and aims at being the wealthiest player at the end of the game. Players that become directors of companies can manipulate their railroads, making their companies stronger and themselves rich--two things that do not always coincide.
Like several of the games in the 18xx series, it can be difficult as a beginner. You are confused about what to do and when to do it, while the experienced players catch all the good companies, trains and shares in seemingly effortless moves.
When you try to make their life miserable, you find out that you hurt yourself as well, making the difference between you and the ones ahead of you even greater. It's definately a game where cooperating means staying ahead of the rest, and backstabbing usually hurts others as well as you.
Once you have played the game a couple of times, you realize that there isn't such a thing as a winning move or winning company, but it's more that there is a winning strategy or two and there are several principles that will help a lot if you want to win.
For experienced players the rules don't feel so much as restrictions, but more as opening points for new moves and new possibilities in the game. Every time something good ends something new turns up which can be taken advantage of if you have timed it right.
Timing and calculating what might happen in the near and far future is essential in playing this game successfully. Don't stare yourself blind on the limitations, don't count on your private company, trains and shares being there forever. Look ahead, invest in the next step, buy another company to move the trains in the private company to, buy shares in another player's company when it makes money, and sell them when you can afford your own company with the profits made from those shares.
This game can be quite a challenge in the beginning, but very rewarding once you get to know it. The only disadvantage of 1835 is that it can take from 6 to 8 hours to play it out (even more when teaching new players). Some of the other games in this series are quicker to end, but a few are taking even longer.
For the first games, just set an end time when you know you won't play it out completely. That limits the game's potential, but it might keep players interested in another game in the future, rather than barely surviving an 1835 marathon that no-one wants to play ever again.
I hope you enjoy the game as much as I do.