It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a heavy pounding on the door resonated throughout the victorian mansion. Sharky von Baron bolted upright in bed and called to his butler to send this unwelcome guest away and back into the wet, miserable night. The butler hurried off to do his bidding, but returned soon after with a quizzical look on his face.
“Sir, there was a package for you at the door,” said the butler solemnly.
Sharky took the small box wrapped in brown paper and hurriedly tore it open. Inside, was a little locomotive with the cutest smokestack that he had ever seen. Attached to the engine was a note that read:
“My dearest Sharky, here’s a tiny two train. It belongs to your new railroad company. I want you to hold him, and love him, and call him George. If you do so, he will bring you great success and financial domination over your opponents.” ~GinGin von Baron
Mr. Sharky immediately set the little locomotive on his table and looked at it lovingly. It really was the cutest smokestack he had ever seen. Then he swiftly turned around and ordered his butler to call the police. He was certain that his wife had been kidnapped.
How did Sharky von Baron know that his wife was in peril? Because, like him, she too was a savvy 18XX player. She understood that getting too attached to a railroad company in 18XX is a surefire way to set yourself up to make mistakes that can cost you the game.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. So many strategy games we play are about building something. In Agricola, we build a farm; in Dominion we build a deck; in Power Grid, we build a network of generators, etc., etc.. Often eurogames are about building the biggest, strongest, most efficient, most diverse, most specialized, or just plain shiniest something.
If you play 18XX with the focus of running the greatest company, then you probably will succeed at getting it to run for an enormous revenue by the end of the game or keeping your stock price going up. Your company will most likely have one or two powerful trains by the end of the game.
However, in achieving the goals of the previous paragraph, you run a great risk of making decisions that won’t win you the game. Why is that? Well, you are playing with priorities that are aligned incorrectly for the winning conditions of these games.
In 18XX, the winner isn’t determined by who has the company that generates the most revenue or that has the most valuable stock. The winner is the player with the greatest total net worth. In fact, A player can actually have a hum-drum company and still win a game handily.
Sometimes players who are trying to make the best possible company will go to great measures to rescue it. They will withold or half payout unecessarily to make sure it has money in its treasury for track building, tokens, and trains. In a stock round, they will first buy shares of their own company and will let more valuable shares become sold out before they have even considered buying them. They wouldn’t dare depart with their baby and dump it on someone even if it didn’t have a train. in addition, they will do whatever is possible to make sure no one takes it from them.
So, if you find yourself playing this way. The first thing I recommend you do is drop the modifier “my” from any company you run. Calling the companies you operate “my” companies creates a mindset of attachment to these companies. A company is just a company. It’s not “your” company. Instead, call them by their initials or their names (e.g. PRR, Erie, Grand Trunk, GRRRRRRRR, etc.).
In doing so, you will begin to detach yourself from “your” company, and you will start gaining a new perspective on the game. Once you can step back, you will find yourself on the path to making better decisions in game. You will then begin to see that winning a game is not about “your” company. It’s about you.
Take care & game on!
Conductor of the Cotton Belt Crew