Stations. Tokens. These terms are often interchangeable in a game to mean the discs placed in a city to represent a company’s presence there in that city. Often in a game we get preoccupied with building a route, making sure we can get a permanent train, or waiting for the bank to run out of money that we forget to consider how to best use a company’s tokens.
In 18XX, tokening serves 5 basic purposes, which I will be discussing in this post.
1) Profitability – Every train run must include at least one token, so where you place a company’s tokens has a major impact on that company’s revenue. In every 18XX title, there is a money region. Having a token in this area allows a company to earn greater revenues in their run. Also, sometimes placing a token can improve company revenue more than upgrading a city or building an extra city into a run. Why? Having a token in a high dollar city may grant multiple trains the ability to run through or out of the city. Or that other token, even if it’s not in a high dollar city, may make a more profitable route possible for one of the company’s trains.
2) Offense – On the other hand, a company’s run is blocked by the tokens of other companies. Therefore, where you place a company’s token can impact the profitability of other companies. I’ve won games because a player left a major choke point open for the companies I had shares in. Sometimes, that player was out of tokens becuase they were placed in less effective places; sometimes, they were too nice and didn’t want to be “mean” to other players; sometimes, they just got complacent at the end of the game, and I caught up to them (other times, I got complacent and let them catch up to me.). Needless to say, 18XX is a competitive game and there is absolutely a place for cutthroat aggressive play in this game. Otherwise too many opportunities are left open for everyone, and somebody is benefitting more than others. Your job is to make sure that you are the one raking in the most from the shares in your portfolio.
3) Defense – Remember earlier when I said that a company’s route may be blocked by another company’s token? Well, sometimes you may be placing a token to protect the longevity of a run that a company has. In some 18XX titles, having a token next to the high dollar city is more effective than having a token in the money city. Using a token in this way will guarantee that you always have access to the New York/Moscow/Toronto of the game. Be careful that you don’t get so fearful of losing a run that you burn all of a company’s tokens early in the game or sacrifice another opportunity because you spent company money on a token.
4) Possibility – Sometimes running a company with unplaced tokens and ample money in its treasury is enough to influence other players’ game decisions. They might be less likely to sell shares of that company or less likely to block its runs. As a result, you’re non-tokening serves the same function as a defensive token. Also, it’s important to identify cities that carry the threat of an aggressive token being placed. You might want to build in such a way to minimize the impact the token has on your route.
5) Functionality – A Functional token is how I describe a token that serves a combination of the above uses. These tokens might be placed to improve a run, guarantee its longevity and keep other player’s companies out of a money belt. These are the best tokens. Seek out these token spots. They won’t always be in the same cities each playing of a certain title. You have to take into account the board situation to determine where these token spots exist.
I hope this helps. I’d like to hear how you’ve used this information in your tokening decisions. Let me know in the comments below.
Take care & game on!
Conductor of the Cotton Belt Crew