In Kiel in northern Germany I was introduced to 1830 in the late 1980s. Since then we have been able to play regularly with a changing group of players. While some of the original group left, some of us have been playing 1830 over 500 times. Because of this vast experience I felt like writing a paper to share some of our knowledge.
First of all we use one special rule that may make this text less interesting for people who stick to the original rules, but we feel that this rule enriches the gaming experience: We will always set up every player with 400$ starting cash, no matter if we play with 4, 5 or 6 players. Obviously this has a huge impact on the speed of the game, the fewer players, the slower a game will start. The reason for this rule is that the dependency on other players is higher and there is more player interaction and deals.
Another important point is the way we handle deals. Deals are a very important aspect of 1830 and deals will usually be necessary to win games. In our group everyone can make deals and break them, but breaking deals rarely ever happens. The reason is simple, we play together very often and if people know you as an "unreliable" keeper of deals they will not trust you. Because of this most of us stick to their deals even if it means bankruptcy instead of victory. But the risk of not being able to make a deal in the next game is too high.
The private companies have been covered in other papers that were written on the topic of 1830 but there is reason to cover them again. Remember that no player can open a railroad on his own given our rules unless it is the Penn (and which is a bad choice).
To sum this up, the two best private companies are the C&StL and the C&A. The M&H and the SVR are good to have while the D&H and the B&O are usually not.
The best railroad is the NY New Haven (NYNH), and it will be the reference for further discussion. Usually the NYNH is among the best earners, and it has advantages that will offset the slightly better earnings that other companies may generate. Only the CP and the Boston can make more money. The CP can make more cash early if the owner has the C&StL private company, and the Boston can make more money if it uses the same track as the NYNH but is placed behind the NYNH on the stock chart. The NYNH is better than both the other companies since it has more control over the construction around New York and can usually control if the NYC can get access to NY.
In other papers on 1830 the B&O and the C&O are named as other viable starting railroads but they will generally lose out to the NYNH. Let's consider a simple start:
B&O opens for 100 and NYNH for 76. B&O purchases 3 2" trains and the NYNH purchases 3 2" trains and a 3". The B&O then gets a 3" next round. The president of the B&O will have 3 shares and 80$ at the start and then get 30$. Now he will get the 4th share and then be able to earn 17$ and 21$ before the stock round. He will now have 4 shares worth 112$ and 162$ cash totalling 610$. Let's assume the president of the NYNH has the SVR. He will get 5 shares and earn 15$ from the SVR and earn 14$ and 16$. His shares will be worth 82$. His total assets will be 615$. At first glance both seem equal, but then someone will sell shares of both companies stock and wipe out some stock profit. The B&O suffers more from this. In games with 4 or 5 players the president of the NYNH will usually not own the SVR but have the C&StL. This is a more extreme case: Now he will not only sell his company for 40 but for 80$. Lets assume the president of NYNH has C&StL (bought for 55$) and opens for 71$. He can buy 4 shares, and keep 61$. Now he will get 10$ from the C&StL (which is just enough to buy the 5th share) and sell the C&StL for 80, giving him 6 shares and leaving him 9$. Now he earns 6x 14$ and 6x 16$, yielding a total of 189$ in addition to 6 shares worth 456$. Total value is 645$, which is way more than the president of B&O can generate and the president of NYNH is less likely to lose as much stock value as the president of B&O will.
The C&O faces a similar situation and will not generate as much revenue as NYNH. C&O can usually not run 3 2" trains into Chicago since 2" trains will in most cases be destroyed too quickly.
As a result of this most of us are very wary of the NYNH and will not help out other players who want to start it at the beginning. If the NYNH opens at the start of a game it will be hard to beat. If the NYNH opens there are only two options to start a 2nd company: Either the Boston opens and uses the same track as NYNH, or (which is more likely) we will use the true counter-move and open the C&O for a higher value and build the #1 tile in G7. This forces the NYNH to build toward E19 and buy only one 2" train. C&O can now slowly build a track and earn better money.
As a conclusion it is generally wise to wait for the potential president of NYNH to make his move. If he manages to open NYNH between 71 and 82 it should be countered by opening C&O at a higher value and using the #1 tile. If the potential owner of NYNH chooses another company (usually CP or C&O) there are less risks. C&O will not generate as much money as NYNH and CP will be less valuable in later stages of the game. CP is a nice and usually underrated alternative.
If the other players don't have enough money to open another company (in case of a 4-player game) everyone obviously needs to get as many NYNH as he can. In case of a 6-player game that has 3 companies opening everything depends on the order. If NYNH can get the #1 tile one should be invested in NYNH or Boston. If C&O can be opened at a higher slot than NYNH B&O becomes the railroad of choice since C&O and NYNH will neutralize each other to an extent and Boston will not be viable.
Erie is not a starting railroad since it needs to have green tiles to start building. NYC is not a viable starting railroad unless you are sure to be able to build the F20 tile before NYNH, which is close to never. Pennsylvania is only a viable starting railroad in games with 6 players and if you use a very special deal: Once two other companies have opened the owners of C&A and M&H can make a deal if they trust each other: They will both acquire 3 shares at the price of 90 and then the president will buy both private companies at the first opportunity for 320$ and 220$ and the owner of M&H will get the first opportunity to sell his 3 shares. This deal is incredible for both players: The owner of M&H gets a quick 220$ and doesn't have to deal with a bankrupt railroad. The owner of C&A activates his Penn stock quickly, gets 320$ but gets to deal with a bankrupt railroad which can be a problem in a quick 6-player game. Pennsylvania is bad in all other common opening strategies, the revenue is too low.
The next stage of the game should be familiar to most players. You can acquire few or multiple 2" and 3" trains, and there are too many ways for the game to unfold to discuss them all. It doesn't really matter how much money you make, but is important to make more than the other players until the point when the last but one 4" train is purchased. This one is called the poisoned 4" train since it will often kill the buyer. When it has been bought someone will usually buy the last 4" and the first 5" and then everyone scrambles to get the remaining 5" and 6" trains. When the buyer of the poisoned 4" gets his next turn there are usually only Ds left. Nobody in his sane mind will try to get a D if he doesn't have to, since many games will see a bankruptcy here. D trains are expensive and will rarely earn the money they cost. But back to the 2", 3" and the first two 4" trains.
There are a few general rules:
The deciding phase of 1830 is usually the time when the 5", 6" and first D trains are bought. During this time it is of utmost importance to understand the stock market positions and you have to find a way to get the trains you want. In our groups nobody ever tries to go for a D because we try to earn money early and usually do not have companies with that much money. The players who get 5" and 6" trains will usually win.
One thing you have to worry about is that people may dump a company on you if they are not able to buy enough trains and are in a better stock market position. Many games are decided by people dumping companies on victims just after the permanent trains are bought, usually if someone didn't manage to buy enough trains. You have to be very careful to avoid this.
One or two operating rounds after the first D was bought most players generate enough money to avoid bankruptcy, even if someone dumps a company on them, and from this point on everyone just has to generate as much money as possible by building better tracks than the other guy. This phase of 1830 is the most unspectacular.
I hope to have been of help to new and old players alike.
©2005, Arne Stanneck