Tag Archives: 18xx games

Malaysia Economic Board Game Summit

The title to this post is only a proposal. But it is not impossible to pull off.

There are many types of board games in the world, from friendly games of animal husbandry to war games to very complex train games that takes 16 to 24 hours to complete. Besides Go which is the ultimate board game for me, I generally prefer board games based on the economic theme, basically involving investing in businesses, developing and building the business and reaping dividends whether in cash or victory points.

Another characteristic that I prefer is that the games has a luck element that the players can manage because in real life, luck really plays a big role but then again it is up to you how you manage the luck factor. Fans of Jim Collin’s GREAT BY CHOICE will probably be nodding their heads now. Luck can be in many ways, either by the dealing of cards, a roll of dice, drawing of player turn order or just simply by unintentional blocking moves of opponents. But ultimately, it is how you manage luck that keeps your head above water.


Of all the economic board games, my number one type are those in the 18xx series of train games, and of these I really like 1817 and the classic 1830 although 1830 can be really brutal. There are many 18xx games that are really well designed, such as 1846, 1844, 1856, 18Mex and 18TN. These are really magnificent games but they require a lot of investment both in time and also effort to learn. These games are similar to Go or Chess where the game rewards learning and improving. These are my ultimate economic board games.


After 18xx type games, my other top 5 economic themed board games are as follows:

1. Brass – I really, really, really like this game. A good balance of luck and strategy and very engaging throughout. Requires A LOT of planning ahead as well as short term tactical maneuvers. Brilliant game design.

2. Puerto Rico – This one has very little luck factor but the competition between players is huge. It requires you to look at market supply and demand as well as looking ahead of what your opponents are doing and then tweaking your strategy based on that.

3. Power Grid – In this game, you are a power tycoon where you bid for power plants, secure  resources to fire your power plant, build a grid and supply power and then make money from doing so. There is an auction mechanism for power plants and thus you need to know how much to auction, if at all and also there is a variable market for resources to fire your plant and the prices will go up or down, thus affecting your operating costs.

4. Wealth of Nations – You represent one country and builds and develop an economy where you produce resources to be supplied to the world. The market price is determined by supply and demand and the area to develop is very limited, i.e. the land where you can develop is scarce and therefore players strive to acquire these land and block other players.

5. Vinhos – This is a new addition which I really like. The mechanism is clean and there are a lot of things going on in this game, from observing which vineyard your opponents build, wineries and hiring of enologist that are in limited supply, to what wine to export or sell and which manager you hire etc. Is really a very engaging game to play.

There are a few others that I am looking forward to playing, particularly Arkwright and KanBan. I have quite high expectations of them.

Coming back to the idea of a Malaysia Economic Games Summit, it is a possibility where Malaysia hosts a 2 or 3 day event where players play nominated economic games and then through several rounds, a winner is announced. In fact, to make it funky, the first game that every participant must play is Monopoly. I wonder if such a summit will be fun or not.

Perhaps also in conjunction of the summit, we invite speakers to talk about economic games development, real world economics and etc etc. And then there will be economic design game pitching for funding and also booths to market economic games, effectively making this summit a platform to announce new games or projects.

Until then, this is still a dream.

p/s: more information on the games mentioned can be found at the Board Game Geek website, one of the best sites I know, whether concerning games or not.

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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.


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.


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.


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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