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If you were ever in the mood to play an [page scan/se=0428/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]18xx game, and did not have the usual six to eight hours of play time to invest, you went looking for your iron horse fix elsewhere. Well, now you can sate your railroading appetite in under five hours. The latest release by Federico Vellani, 1849 (The Game of Sicilian Railways from 1849 to 1922), aptly validates the saying, less is more.
This game kit, produced by Chris Lawson, comes in three varieties of component quality selection--bronze (economy), silver (midrange), and gold (deluxe). Within the gold edition I purchased, the wooden markers and station tokens, and the laminated stock certificates and corporation charters, enhance the aesthetics with durability. Since the map and market price table are only on coated cardstock, I laminated them also to complete the ensemble. All parts are very colorful, and are graphically equal to any non-kit 18xx. The map shows the entire island of Sicily containing ten major cities, with all but two of them situated on the coast. The usual kit detriment of cutting out all of the components is a major two hour undertaking which causes instant arthritis. However, the rewards are substantial and lasting.
Vellani and Lawson have meticulously provided a wealth of player aids printed on the map, the charters, and even on the backs of the private companies where their special effects are described. These astute fellows have really assessed the shortcomings of the previous 18xx's and made the game as user friendly as possible. However, the brevity of the rules, though complete, would be quite daunting to anyone uninitiated to the l8xx system. Old "rail-heads" won't have any problems. The usual Stock Round and Operating Round sequence have the following changes from the norm (if there is such a thing):
- Corporations are available in a predetermined order, and start immediately upon the purchase of the president's share. The unbought shares go to the corporation, and all tokens are purchased immediately.
- Players cannot buy more than 40 and never own more than 60
- A corporation's market value marker does not go right one space unless the awarded dividends are equal to or greater than its market price. The marker moves down one space if the corporation has any stock in the bank pool.
- Movement of trains is per hex (due to the very mountainous terrain). Pay double movement on narrow gauge. Narrow gauge trains pay double on regular track. A train can only change gauge at a city or town.
- A corporation may: Buy a token space from another corporation; Buy and sell its own stock to the bank pool; Issue itself a 500 lira loan.
- Electric trains have unlimited movement and only move on regular gauge track. (These are an option during phase 12 and are very expensive! You must first purchase a license, and then the train.)
- During phase 12, an earthquake destroys Messina, and any token or upgrade built there. The token is lost permanently, but the upgrade may be rebuilt.
The actual play of the game is very intense. Scenarios are provided for three to five players, and play begins with phase four (trains moving 4 hexes, etc.) and continues on until phase 16. For all scenarios, investment in corporations belonging to all players is crucial to advancement. Since there are only five or six (depending upon the scenario) corporations to purchase, the chances for manipulation of monies is minimal. The only detriments to 1849 that our group found are: If you fall too far behind the other players, it is very difficult to catch up; You'll need to ignore how trains are running on the wrong gauge track(!?), even at double cost; The predestined arrival of the Messina earthquake. This last problem we easily changed to our satisfaction by producing a random earthquake chart which can spice up the endgame a bit:
Messina earthquake occurs: die roll
- Phase 10: 1-2
- Phase 12: 1-4
- Phase 16: 1-5
Overall, anyone with any interest in the system cannot miss with this little gem. Not only has the time been shaved, but its quality and playability enhanced. 1849 will be our 18xx game of choice for a long time.
SWD: I didn't review this one when it came out six months ago because I had reviewed the original in Sumo when it first appeared about four years ago. Besides which, you are probably tired of me talking about l8xx, which makes it nice that you now have a new voice to listen to. The faults I noted in that first edition have been taken care of in this new one.
My group didn't mind the predictability of the destruction of Messina. In fact we found it rather amusing. Everyone knows about Mussolini's achievement in getting the trains to run on time and we liked the notion that they had now got the earthquakes to do the same. Strange sense of humour; the Brits.
You can find the cost details for this game in Counter 3. Chris Lawson's address is 7 Cornfields, Yateley, Hampshire, GU46 6YT England; e-mail [email protected]