I couldn’t wait to try out the new games from Winsome this year. I am a huge Locomotive Werks fan and Dieter Danziger also designed 1830 Cardgame. I like the idea of 18XX games but they are just a little long to fit into my life and it’s hard to find enough people to play them. They also seem a wee bit tedious in the end game as you churn the routes for income. I was initially quite curious about Railroad Barons as the one of the first 18XX type cardgames and it works but just isn’t doesn’t quite have that elusive “it” factor for me.
The 1830 Cardgame comes with standard Winsome components, some cubes, some tag board cards and a couple of “boards” or really income/share information tracks.
No board with rails in this game! The goal is to have the most money at the end of the game. Income is earned by purchasing stock in companies and the shares are worth the number of stations a company has that have trains to service them.
Game play is really pretty simple, you draw a card (a choice of 3 face up cards) and do one of the 4 actions available on the cards from your hand of 4 cards.
1) Buy a share (Player pays for the share)
2) Buy a train (Does not cost the player money)
3) Build a station
4) Pay dividends
Like 1830: Railways & Robber Barons trains must be purchased in tech order and there are phase changes associated with train advancement such as rusting, limiting the number of trains each company can own and affecting the value of the shares.
The game ends when either all the shares are purchased, 12 payouts of dividends have occurred or all the 8 trains have been purchased.
So what did we think? All of us are at least familiar with 18XX games although none of us play it regularly. This is helpful with the theme and flow of the game. The game evokes the ambiance of 18XX adequately. If you are familiar with Lokomotive Werks then some of the game play of 1830 Cardgame will feel very familiar. Obviously some card luck is involved in that sometimes you get a Buy Share card at the right time and sometimes your choices are all the same. In fact it seemed like initially that one player was running away with the game as it felt like he drew more Buy Share cards. One player definitely drew less Buy Share cards and he was quite behind through most of the game although some of that was due to his choice of shares as well.
The 3 players in the lead had similar portfolios and two of us had nearly identical portfolios differing by one stock. Our totals were very close. In our session we did mess up on one thing for the first few payouts. We forgot to pay taxes after dividends were paid. We didn’t feel like it would have that much of a difference because at that time our income was fairly low so we continued with the game correctly. Late in the game, the taxes had a bigger impact and there was a lot of jockeying back and forth trying to to avoid having the most money as the richest pays 20% the next 10% and the poorest pays no taxes. This really helped the player in last place, as well as some timely play of Pay Dividend cards on his part, allowed him to be in the running at the end of the game. He caused payouts when the company the other three were invested in was between trains. The game was quite close with all 4 of us being within striking distance for the win. This game definitely has me wanting to play again. There is a lot of tension in trying to decide when to play your Buy Shares and Pay Dividends cards. The catch up mechanism of taxes does help and it definitely was something we were all trying to avoid at the end.
Next we tried Winsome’s “family Euro game” offering Thousand Islands Railway.
People may not recall that Winsome originally published that popular gateway TransAmerica. I wanted to see what this new family game would be like. First off, unlike most of the Winsome games it has a really nice looking board and holy cow! it comes with meeples!
It also comes with your standard Winsome deck of cards which correspond to the track sections on the map. Some cards are for stations.
Each player also gets cubes in their color to represent tracks on the map and use for income markers.
Game plays is pretty easy. On a player’s turn they must purchase 1 card and may purchase up to 3 of the 4 cards in the display. Then they must build one track any stations and may build up to 3 track. A player may keep 3 track cards in hand. The cost to build depends upon the track card and the connections to any existing track.
VP are earned for building stations and track. The amount varies depending on the connections to other track.
Income is earned by having the track just built inspected. This is where the meeples enter. One of the appropriate inspectors must move from their current location in either direction along the track to the newly built section. Any pre-existing track or stations the inspector crosses over also earns income. There are 3 blue inspectors for the blue track and 1 orange inspector for the orange track.
One of the interesting aspects of the game is that as certain levels of income are reached there is a cost for spending money and going below that level. This cost is in VP and as one’s income is higher, the loss of VP increases.
The games ends when no more track cards are available to be purchased. Players earn additional VP for income, and for their longest continuous track segment. VP are lost for any unplayed cards in hand. Here is our finished game.
At first glance, this game seemed like it wouldn’t be able to hold my attention but it was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. It was interesting to see if we could drive another player’s income up just enough so that they would have to lose VP when they built. This can make a big difference in the final score. Trying to build to maximize your position to earn income and potentially VP at the end while blocking the other player made for some decision making. A nice balancing act in trying to decide how much income to spread amongst your opponents when trying to make just enough income for yourself. All in all I enjoyed Thousand Islands Railway and could see it as more of a family game. Gameplay is quite simple, the only drawback is the player income sheets might look a bit intimidating at first.