1848 Australia

Initially, I wanted to start a whole new blog on 18xx games but decided it is probably too much work. I think I will just incorporate them into this main blog at the moment until I can justify a new blog by itself. The next one on line is 1861 but in this post, let’s talk about 1848 Australia.

1848 is an 18xx game set in Australia for 3 to 6 players. Designed by Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler, it was published in 2007 by Double-O Games that publishes many interesting 18xx games such as 1844 (2003), 1824 (2005) and 1880 (2010). I will talk about each of these games in future articles.

COMPONENTS

The map is not very big, containing almost 60 hexes which is just slightly smaller than the map of 18TN which has about 70 hexes. The situation for 1848 is actually much worse because many of those hexes are desert hexes and the result is that the tracks are very much concentrated on the bottom part of the map. The map comes unmounted and printed on cardboard stock just as in 1844 or 1880 which is ok although I would prefer mounted maps. The map has bright and interesting colors and it is easy to read.

The tokens are 1cm thick and feels very good. The stickers are not on the tokens yet and you will have to do it yourself. There are no instructions on how to apply those stickers but the designer has clarified in the 18xx Yahoo group and the way to do it is to apply the company sticker on one side and the Bank of England sticker on the other side. There are two sets of white tokens. One set is to mark the par price. Apply the $70 on one side and the $80 on the other side. Then the $90 on one side and the $100 on the other. The balance of the White markers are the gauge marker. There are also 20 red markers to mark loans.

 

I usually do not play with the paper money supplied in 18xx games and use poker chips instead. I find it much easier to handle poker chips and also easier to estimate the cash holding of companies and players that way. However, in 1848, the publisher supplied a set of nice play money printed on cardboard stock and with bright colors. It is very attractive and also easy to handle and does not fly around if there is wind. But it is still difficult to get a quick estimate of the cash holding and it is still harder to handle compared to poker chips. I will stick to my poker chips.

The company charters, the stock market, train roster etc. are not laminated and is quite flimsy although they are nicely printed and the color is bright. The trains are printed on the same card stock as the play money and they are also attractive. So are the company share certificates. Track tiles are also not laminated.

 

The Rulebook is okay and made the rules quite clear. Perhaps this is a second revision and they also included a FAQ at the back which was helpful.

One sometimes really appreciates the quality of production of Deep Thought Games but this 1848 is still not bad although I would like my components to be laminated just so that those greasy fingers or the accidental liquid will not spoil my game.

UNIQUE SELLING POINT

There is something unique about each 18xx variant. The uniqueness of 1848 lies in the Bank of England and its ability to give interest-free loans and take in companies in receivership. Interest-free loans + a small map + companies with many tokens = a fierce tokening battle on the board.

Companies may voluntarily take up to 5 loans of $100 each and for each loan, the share price drops two steps to the left. If in the case of a compulsory train purchase, the company can take more than one loan at a time but for each, the share price drops 3 steps to the left instead. When the company’s share price drops to the left-most column, it goes into receivership. The company pays each shareholder (except the director) the par price for each share and if the company does not have enough cash, the director will have to top up.

The Bank of England will then take over the company’s station markers and adds to it the revenue for the city that the station marker resides, on top of a fixed revenue depending on the game phase. This total revenue will then be distributed to all shareholders and the amount can be quite big. Also for each loan taken, the price of the Bank of England’s shares will increase. This price will never drop because loans do not need to be repaid.

The timing of buying shares in the Bank of England and the willful manipulation of companies into receivership is one of the interesting aspects of the game.

The other unique selling point is the availability of “The Ghan” trains. These trains are available for sale after the purchase of the first 5/5+ train and its route consists of only 2 cities/stations. It always starts at the company’s own station and always ends in Alice Spring. It can skip any cities in between but it cannot pass through cities that has been tokened out (i.e. blocked by other companies). The Ghan does not count against the company’s train limits but it also does not meet the requirement that the company must own a train. The Ghan is really useful and also not expensive. It costs only $200. The sad news is each company may only own one The Ghan.

Finally, 1848 is unique in that historically, the Australian colonies were independent before the founding of the Federal State and because of that, each made its own decisions on which track gauges to use. There are three main types and these are reflected in the map as three differently colored regions. In the game, whenever there is a track that lays across these different color borders, a white token is used to mark a gauge change and this gauge counts against the train’s limit. Therefore, a 2-Train may never run from one station in one area to another station in another area because the gauge will count practically as one zero-valued city. However, companies may purchase “+” trains which will allow the train to pass through exactly one gauge change. In our example, if the train is a 2+ train, then it can travel from one city in one area to another city in another area through one gauge change. This brings about interesting decisions on which trains to purchase given the company’s plans and strategy.

THOUGHTS

I think 1848 is a very interesting smallish game. It takes about 4-5 hours to play and offers many interesting decisions. It is one of those games that I will want to play if time does not allow me to play a longer game.

The fierce battles on the board where companies try to token each other out which the help of free loans and in the hope of getting all the K-K bonuses provides tension though out the game. The timing in purchasing the Bank of England’s shares and the possibility of engineering the receivership of your own companies adds extra layers of strategic possibilities to the game.

For more information on this game including the Rulebook, visit this site: http://www.lonny.at

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