(This article was originally published in "Games International", issue #9 (September 1989) and is reproduced here with the permission of the author)
by Steve Jones
1830 is a game for two to six players, designed by Francis Tresham and published by Avalon Hill.
Like its classic predecessor 1829 (Hartland Trefoil), 1830 is a railroad business game.
For those familiar with 1829, there are two major differences in 1830. The first is the locale: whereas 1829 covers the Railroad Era in 19th century Britain, 1830 covers the growth of the railroads in the north-eastern United States and south-eastern Canada from the early part of the 19th century to the present day. The second difference is one of emphasis. 1829 concentrates more on the mechanics of running the railroad companies for high profits and less on manipulating the stock market. In contrast, 1830 concentrates more on manipulating share prices and less on running the railroad companies; indeed, the opportunities for swindle and sharp practices are many and various for the unscrupulous investor. It is not an easy game to play. While its mechanics are fairly straightforward, there are many elements involved during play, and the interplay between them is both complex and subtle. If one were searching for an appropriate single sentence to describe 1830, it would be "This is a sharp game for sharp players".
The game consists of a sturdy fold-up board of which about one-half depicts the north-eastern United States and part of south-eastern Canada. This map has superimposed upon it a grid of 4cm hexagonal spaces; hexagonal railroad track tiles are placed in these spaces during the course of play, and a railroad network is gradually built up. Around the edge of the map are marked-out spaces for the Stock Market (where the current corporation stock prices are indicated), the
Bank Pool (for sold stock and trains), the initial stock offerings, the Par Stock Price list, the trains on offer, and various explanatory tables.
The object of the game is to make money; when the game ends, the player with the most money wins. The players achieve this by buying and selling stock in an attempt to build up a stock portfolio with a high revenue and profit potential. The value of the stock certificates in an individual portfolio is determined by two things: the revenue per certificate, and the current Stock Market price per certificate. The six private railroads pay a fixed revenue, and are not quoted on the Stock Market; they have poor long term prospects, but have considerable short term value, of which more anon. The eight railroad corporations, on the other hand, have both variable revenue and Stock Market prices. There are many subtle undercurrents associated with the valuation of the available stock certificates, which become more apparent with experience.
There are no player turns as such in the game. Instead, play proceeds in a sequence of stock rounds and operating rounds until either the Bank runs out of money or a bankruptcy occurs.
In the stock rounds, the players buy and sell stock certificates; there is one certificate per private railroad, and nine certificates per corporation (one president's certificate worth two shares, and eight single share certificates).
In the operating rounds, the private railroads earn revenue for their owners, and the president (or the largest stock holder) of each corporation performs its operations. These consist of laying a track tile, buying corporation tokens (or garrisons, as they are popularly called), conning train services (and thereby earning revenue), buying (and sometimes selling) trains, and choosing whether or not to pay a dividend to the stockholders. This last decision affects the stock price of the corporation's stock: the price rises upon payment of dividends, and falls otherwise.
A corporation earns revenue if it has at least one train and one route between two or more cities (the revenue earned is equal to the sum of the city values of the city stops on the route); this route must include at least one city occupied by the corporation's token.
The number of operating rounds between stock rounds depends upon whether the game is in Stage One, Two or Three, and is equal to the current stage number at the end of each stock round. The game starts in Stage One, and proceeds to Stages Two and Three respectively when the first type 3 and type 5 trains are purchased by any corporation.
To those readers who have played 1829, this is all familiar stuff. However, five major rules changes were introduced into 1830 which have touches of genius and fumed what would have been a good game into a great game. The first rule change is that the eight corporations can be floated at any time, and in any order. Furthermore, the player who buys the presidency certificate gets to set the par value of the shares; the allowable par values lie between $67 and $100.
The second rule change concerns the corporation garrisons. In both 1829 and 1830, garrisons enable corporations to diversify their routes. A garrison in 1829 prevents rival corporations from using the station. However, a garrison in 1830 only prevents rival corporations from passing through the station; they can still run services to the station. This difference introduces a whole new dimension to the planning of routes in 1830. Basically, short routes are relatively secure, and it is the longer routes which are in danger of being chopped.
The third rule change is connected to the dividend payments. Dividends are also paid to shares in the Bank Pool, with the payments being made into the corporation's treasury. This implies that there are times when the corporation president will feel less pressure to plough back in order to increase its treasury. This rule can be particularly helpful to the weaker companies. There are subtle implications to this rule which will become more obvious after several playings.
The fourth rule change concerns the purchasing of trains by corporations: if a corporation has a route and no trains, it must buy one. If it has not got sufficient funds in its treasury, the president must make up the shortfall out of his own resources. This requirement can easily break a player's financial resources, and will give any aspiring corporation president nightmares in the later stages of the game. These nightmares are partly due to the technological obsolescence built into the trains, and partly due to the fact that there is no official receiver, as in 1829.
There are six classes of trains available in the game: types 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, and the diesels. The type N trains run between N consecutive city stops along a specified route; the diesel is unique in that there is no upper limit to the number of stops along its specified route. Initially, there are only type 2 trains available. Each successive class becomes available when the previous class runs out. The catch is that when the first type 4 is sold, the type 2 Trains are removed from the game. The type 3 trains are removed when the first type 6 is sold, and the type 4 trains are removed when the first diesel is sold.
Consequently, a corporation might look healthy, with several trains and good revenue earnings, only to find itself foundering with no trains when another corporation buys a new type of train that has just become available. And if you should be so unfortunate as to find yourself running a corporation possessing no trains, you cannot just sell out. To sell out of a corporation, there must be another player with at least two shares to whom the presidency can be passed; unfortunately, this 'easy' route out is not always available. Clearly, these corporations are not limited liability companies! The good player will be aware of this, and should plan his long term strategy accordingly.
This awareness should include becoming thoroughly familiar with what happens when each new type of train comes into play, and the implications of this on long term strategy. The solution of the problems associated with this unlimited liability rule tends to dominate play in the middle and end game. Particularly critical periods requiring great care and attention occur when there is one type 3 left, and when only one type 4 remains; the former event signals the imminent demise of the type 2 trains, and the latter event signals the imminence of Stage 3 and the consequent maneuvering which occurs when the players attempt to secure the limited number of permanent trains in the end game.
The fifth rule change affects the Stock Market and its operation, which is where the game is won and lost, so it is well to discuss the Stock Market in some detail. The Stock Market, unlike the linear track found in 1829, is a two dimensional matrix of stock price slots printed on the game board. Low prices are found in the bottom left hand comer, and high prices are found in the top right hand comer. Within it both vertical and horizontal movements representing stock price changes are possible; the price increases if the movement is vertically upwards or a horizontal shift to the right, and decreases if the movement is vertically downwards or a horizontal shift to the left. The change in price associated with each movement is variable, with relatively high changes occurring at the extreme ends, and relatively small ones in the middle.
Vertical share price movement takes place during the stock rounds. Every time a player sells a share, the price marker of that corporation moves down one slot. At the end of each stock round, the share price of every fully subscribed corporation moves up one slot. Horizontal movement takes place during each operating round. When the president of a corporation declares a dividend, the share price marker of that corporation shifts one slot to the right; if he/she ploughs the money back into the company, the share price marker shifts one slot to the left.
The positions of the corporations on the Stock Market also serve one very important function: they determine the order of play in each operating round, from highest to lowest. This use of the Stock Market to determine the order of play in the operating rounds is of particularly vital importance in the middle game just before the first type 5 train comes out. The good player will deliberately buy and sell specific stock in an attempt to manipulate the order of play to his advantage; if he gets it right, he can ensure that corporations in which he has a good holding will be in the best positions to acquire the limited number of types 5 and 6 trains available.
Another important feature associated with the Stock Market is the priority deal: the possessor of this gets the first option to buy and sell in the next stock round. This can be very important, particularly when a player president has asset stripped his corporation and has somebody to dump it on. It is also important early on when the first corporations to be floated have increased their market values by a healthy amount. The player who can ditch his shares first has a double advantage: he will make a financial killing at the expense of his fellow shareholders by selling out just before the share price crashes, and he can choose which corporation to float next.
There are many other subtle features associated with the Stock Market, but there is no room to include them all in this article; players new to the game should look upon it as a challenge to pick them up in as few playings of the game as possible.
Now that you have an idea of how the game is played, how do you develop a winning strategy? One of the beauties of 1830 is that there is no single winning strategy as such. The closest thing to one is to gain control of two corporations, but the hitch is that they both need to be good, strong corporations; if you achieve that, you will be well on the way to winning. However, there are plenty of things that your opponents can do to upset your plans. Another useful strategy is gaining control of a corporation with a potentially good diesel route, and get a diesel train into it; if you can achieve this without excessive expenditure, you could be on to a winner.
One of the tricks to playing 1830 is anticipating problems before they arise and taking the appropriate evasive actions; equally useful is knowing what to do to limit the damage if you find yourself in trouble. The most useful overall advice is to be flexible, and ruthless. Don't form any fond attachment to your corporations. Many players invite disaster because they let themselves become emotionally attached to the corporations) they founded. They should be viewed as a means to an end, and nothing more. If you have a corporation that is headed for the rocks and you have a chance to get out, do so. Don't stay around because you think you can rescue it; leave that dubious distinction to someone else.
There are a number of useful rules of thumb to be aware of in general play. Always be aware of who is sitting where, and take the appropriate action. For instance, don't buy more than one share of any corporation whose president is sitting to your immediate right unless it has a 'safe' train, and even then, think hard about it. The reason for this is that, in a later stock round, your chances of getting rid of the excess 'dangerous' shares before he dumps the corporation on you are virtually non-existent. Contrariwise, it is much 'safer' to purchase more than one share in a corporation if its president is sitting to your immediate left. In this case, he can only dump the corporation on you if you let him have the priority deal.
Another useful dictum is to avoid being excessively 'greedy'. The number of times are legion when players have bought that extra second share on the expectation of a quick short-term profit, only to find the corporation dumped on them later, the risk is usually not worth it.
On the question of declaring dividends, the best policy is almost invariably to declare. This applies even in the case where your corporation has a vulnerable train and a low treasury. The reason is that declarations will generally increase the values of your portfolio, and this will improve your chances of weathering a bankruptcy crisis. In addition, if your corporation is that weak, it will probably have shares in the Bank Pool, in which case the treasury will increase in value even when you declare; this reduces the pressing need to plough back. The only time in which it is cost effective to plough back is when this will gain your corporation an additional train in the end game, or will ensure that it obtains a 'safe' train. For example, you may have a type 5 train, and a plough-back will give you enough money in the treasury to purchase a type 6 train; if your corporation has the routes on which to run both trains, it can be a winning move. Equally, a plough-back which gives you enough money to trade in a type 4 train for a diesel is always worth doing.
One other general consideration worth mentioning is to try to build up as large a portfolio as possible; if you have more shares than anyone else, your chances of winning are that much better. One way of achieving this is to get one of your corporations into the yellow, orange or brown sections of the Stock Market where its shares do not count towards the share limit for each player; if you do manage to achieve this, you will have to keep the extra Shares in the yellow at least, and that is as good an excuse to go for a diesel train as any.
The good player will also become thoroughly familiar with the different types of track tiles available, and the attacking and defensive options associated with upgrades. In particular, get to know the different types of station tiles and how they can be placed to build up highly profitable routes.
One tactic with which you should become familiar is the laying of certain strategically important tiles in order to deny another player their use. Included in this category are the yellow type #57 and the green type #59 station tiles. There are only four of the former and two of the latter in the game. They are particularly important when corporations are attempting to build their first routes; removing these tiles from play can delay that first route and cripple the affected corporation.
Following on from the general considerations discussed above, I shall continue the discussion of game strategy by considering the six private railroads and the eight corporations, and finish up with some observations about the beginning, middle and end games.
Although the private railroads have a limited lifetime, they are vital because of their potential to provide a large influx of cash to the players later on in the game. This potential exists because of the rule which allows the players to sell the private railroads to the corporations for between half and double their face value; the only exception to this is the B&O private. This rule effectively allows the president of a corporation to embezzle funds from the corporation's treasury.
If he times his move correctly, a player can strip the corporation of its cash and dump it on another player possessing at least two shares in it; often, when this ploy is pulled off, the corporation possesses plenty of trains which are in danger of being made obsolete in the near future. In addition to throwing a potentially disastrous problem into someone else's lap, the large infusion into the player's cash reserves puts him in a good position to float another corporation which will be in a better position to obtain the new trains.
Let us now consider the six private companies in ascending order of price.
Schuylkill Valley Railroad & Navigation Co.
The Schuylkill Valley Railroad & Navigation Co. is a bit of a joke. Its low face value and revenue make it of little value to anyone. Even its location in a mountain hex (G15) to the west of New York possesses little strategic value apart from being an obstacle. Its one asset is a relatively high revenue for little outlet in the early stages. Don't break your neck in the lush to pick it up.
Champlain & St. Lawrence Railway
The Champlain & St Lawrence Railway is a slightly better prospect. Its main asset arises after it has been sold to a corporation: the owning corporation can then lay two tiles in one turn, its normal lay and one in the C&StL hex located at B20. This can be of particular value to the CanPac in its efforts to break through to the lucrative routes near New York; but it should be pointed out that this is a long shot, and if it is to be played at all, it should be early.
Delaware & Hudson Railroad
The Delaware & Hudson Railroad is starting to hit the big money. In addition to its trade in value being as high as $140, it has a potentially high strategic value in its location near to New York in hex F16. The owning corporation can lay a station tile and garrison in F16 even if this does not connect into its network. This gives corporations like the C & O, the Erie, and the CanPac the potential to set up lucrative routes to New York. This one should be watched.
Mohawk & Hudson Railroad
The Mohawk and Hudson has a potential double value. In addition to its relatively high revenue of $20 and trade in value of up to $220, it can be traded at any time for a NYC certificate. This last capability means that even if you never get the chance to use it to asset-strip a corporation, you will never lose its capital value since it can be traded in for an NYC share at any time before the first type 5 train is brought in. But don't hold on to it too long, particularly if the NYC comes out fairly early on.
Camden & Amboy Railroad
The Camden & Amboy Railroad is a potential gold mine. Worth up to $320 cash in an asset-strip, it also has attached to it a free Penn certificate. This latter feature makes it easier to float the Penn early on, and makes an asset-strip even more likely. Even if you don't get to use it to asset-strip a corporation, its location in H18 is potentially valuable in the struggle to control the approaches to south New York. Its high potential value will mean that there will be a lot of competition in the rush to acquire it; whoever gets it should be made to pay well above the asking price for it.
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is a bit of a mixture. On the plus side is its high revenue of $30 and the automatic acquisition of the B&O corporation presidency. On the negative side is the fact that it automatically closes down when the B&O corporation buys its first train. Therefore, it is not as valuable as the Camden & Amboy, and as such, it is rarely worth paying more than $S over the odds to purchase it. The most critical decision which the purchaser has to make is the par value of the B&O corporation. In most cases, it is best to set it to the maximum possible value of $100; this value ensures that the capital loss from the relatively fast disappearance of the B&O private is a minimum. The par value should only be set at a lower value if you have a partner who is willing to help buy out all the shares in the first stock round, thereby ensuring that the price rises steadily in the early stock rounds; even then the decision is marginal, and better terms might need to be set.
The eight railroad corporations are not all equal; some have better potential than others.
The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) is potentially one of the best long term corporations, partly because of its relatively close starting position near New York, and partly because of its five tokens. The latter also implies that the PRR is a good corporation to put a diesel train into, if only because all those tokens give it the capability to defend the long routes which a diesel requires to be cost effective.
The PRR is usually one of the first corporations to be floated, because only five shares need to be bought instead of the usual six; the sixth share is already owned by the owner of the C&A. The one drawback of the PRR is its low revenue growth rate; even with two trains in it, it rarely gets above $6 a share early on.
New York Central Railroad
The New York Central (NYC) is potentially the best long term corporation, better even than the PRR. This is because its home base has a better revenue and track switching potential than the PRR's. However, it also suffers from poor initial revenue growth rates, and because of this it rarely comes out early on. It usually comes out in the middle period of the game. Like the PRR, it has excellent potential as a diesel corporation, particularly if it can get through to south New York via G 17, and into the PRR network. However, its one weakness is that it needs a yellow type #57 tile to build its home base; therefore, any prospective president should make sure that there are plenty of these about when he floats the corporation.
Canadian Pacific Railroad
The Canadian Pacific (CPR) has a poor long-term potential despite its five tokens. Its starting position in Canada is isolated by river and mountain barriers from the lucrative routes in the centre of the board If we add to this the relatively poor revenue growth rate, it is not difficult to conclude that it is probably a lame duck corporation. The only chance it can have to become a good long term prospect is either through early access to New York via a garrison in the D&H hex in F16, or through outside help in route building.
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
The Baltimore & Ohio Corporation (B&O) is another potential diesel corporation. This is particularly so if it gets
staved early, and gets to H16 before the PRR; in this case, the world is its oyster. Even if it cannot break out of its comer to become a diesel corporation, it still has a good potential to be one of the strongest of the medium corporations. But its president must be prepared to make things happen. And there is no harm done if it is not floated early in the game; just sit back and rake in the revenue from the B&O private. Another advantage associated with a late flotation is that the par value of $100 ensures that there is plenty of cash in its treasury with which to buy a good Train.
Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad
The Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) is another good medium corporation with an outside chance of gaining good diesel routes. It has excellent revenue growth potential because of its close proximity to Chicago. Consequently, it is a popular choice for flotation in the first stock round Its one drawback is its relative isolation at the western edge of the board This can be partly overcome by its early flotation, which can give it the time to build up its routes.
The Erie ('Erie') is one of the poorer corporations. It should never be floated early on because its home base can never be built until Stage 2; the only legal tile that can be placed in E11 is a green type #59 tile. Great care should also be exercised in laying its home base tile and token; it is dangerous to locate its home base on the north-west edge of E11 facing D10 because there are only two green type #59 tiles in the game, and if the second one goes into H18, the Erie will be crippled until Stage 3. These disadvantages usually lead to the Erie being one of the last corporations to be floated. It is strongest as the second corporation in a player's portfolio.
New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad
The New York, New Haven & Hartford (NYNH) is an excellent New York based corporation which possesses good revenue growth potential. While it is not common to see it floated early on, it can do well when it is. The one drawback to the corporation is its three tokens; this low number of tokens means that it is a poor choice to put a diesel train into. As one player observed, 'If the Hartford had an extra token it would be a cracking company!'
Boston & Maine Railroad
The Boston & Maine (B&M) is a corporation with mixed potential. If it is floated early on, it can do very well. It suffers from two drawbacks. The first is its geographical isolation from the bulk of the map by the Appalachian mountains and the river in F22. The second is its three tokens, which give it very little route flexibility. It is therefore hardly surprising to see it usually doing well only when it is floated early on. If it is one of the last to be floated, it will need friends if it is to do better than moderately well.
There is no ideal strategy to be pursued at the beginning of the game apart from being flexible. The one thing to keep in mind is that it is not vital to buy a presidency and float a corporation in the first stock round. However, if you are going to do so, the vital figure to keep in mind is $402; this is the amount of cash you need to float a corporation on your own. The only exception is the PRR for which you need only $335 in order to float it by yourself, because of the free share that goes with the C&A private. If you do have this amount available after all the private railroads have been sold, well and good; pick the corporation you want and get going. If you don't have the cash, you will need to strike a deal with another player in order to get his help to float a corporation The one thing to keep in mind when striking such a deal is not to be dogmatic. Certainly, try to strike the best deal that you can, but remember that the other guy should be offered something to entice him into the deal in the first place. And when you make such a deal, stick to it; as a general policy, it is counter-productive to welsh on agreed deals.
The only other thing to keep in mind in the first stock round is to make sure that the other players don't get their private railroads too cheaply. This applies particularly in the case of the C&A; it is criminal to let a player get this for $165. A useful rule of thumb to keep in mind is whether the price reduces the player's cash reserves to less than $402, or in the case of the bidder for the C&A, to less than $335.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the beginning game ends, and the middle game starts. Probably the best definition is when the second set of corporations is floated. Generally speaking, the players who are floating these corporations are doing so out of their own resources, and so it is probably a good bet that they are doing well. If a player is floating his second corporation, it is invariably a sign that he is doing very well indeed, and the other players should be thinking of ways of tripping him up. There are many ways of doing this, but the most common means involves hitting his share prices, and attempting to remove from circulation specific tiles which he may require.
Once into the middle game, you should be devoting all your efforts to ensuring that your corporation gets at least one of those valuable type 5 trains. This will usually involve keeping a close watch on the share price trends on the Stock Market, and attempting to predict which corporation is likely to be able to buy the first type 5 train. This includes taking whatever steps are required to manipulate the share prices so that the trends go the way you want them to go. The trick then is to ensure that your corporation buys the first type 5 train, or failing that, has its operating round immediately afterwards. In the former instance, you should be trying to ensure that your closest rivals do not get the good trains.
The middle game usually ends and the end game begins when the first type 5 train is brought. This usually triggers a mad rush for the type 5 and type 6 trains, and more often than not the game settles down to an uneasy period during which someone is usually saving up for a diesel train. If your corporations are 'safe' with their type 5 or type 6 train, and your prospects for a diesel are poor, you should be thinking about closing up the game, and making sure that any diesel routes are not very lucrative. On the other hand, if you are saving up for a diesel, you should be building, or have already built, your diesel route, and be taking whatever steps are required to protect it. The question of going for a diesel can be critical, especially since it will usually cost you something to get it. If you think you are already in front, it is probably not worth going for it. On the other hand, if you are coming second it is certainly worthwhile going for it; the only consideration that you might need to take into account is whether there will be enough time left once you have the diesel for its extra revenue to wear down the lead. The only other reason to go for a diesel is to force a bankruptcy, and in the ensuing share price chaos, to come out in front.
In conclusion, 1830 is an excellent business game which requires considerable thought and quickness of mind, and provides endless hours of enjoyment. I'll leave you with a final recommendation: do not play with the optional extra type 6 train; that version is for wimps!