One of the more exciting parts of travelling to cons is getting the chance to play games you haven’t yet had a chance to. Even more exciting is when you are able to play games that almost no-one has had a chance to outside of dedicated playtest groups and personal gaming buddies of designers. Today I want to draw attention to a few games that will be available to attendees of Hattanooga this year and give a brief overview of what new/intersting about these titles. At the end, I plan to list a few honorable mentions and games of note that I think should receive some attention for varying reasons. So, with that aside, let’s dive right in!
Lonny’s new game takes place on a painfully small map with quite a lot of business going on. Lonny was kind enough to send me a handmade copy for demo leading up to and at the con this year. (I say kind, but really I think he was just tired of me whining about having to handmake 2 sided track tiles myself…) The game features many novel ideas and I have been short handing the general description of the game to local play-testers by describing it as ’18xx with light influences from Age of steam and the Marquee de Sade.’ In the picture above, you can see part of the map which includes a charter for the Ferrocarril Central which plays the role of the gov’t railway. With multiple types of companies on the map (3 types, 13 total companies) the board is tight, tile lays are often tragic and tokens litter the board quickly and inconveniently. It’s not often I find myself saying this because my focus tends to be in the money management aspect of most titles, but the track laying may be my favorite part of this title.
The minor companies are primarily concerned with the production of sugar and the Majors work in concert with them to deliver the sugar to ports. (This would be the Age of Steam analogy, despite it not being a very strong one.) Once the minors have produced sugar, the majors then run through their respective mills to collect and deliver the goods. If you lack foresight, it’s quite likely that that sugar will not be there when you run your major. Opportunities can be few and first one past the post gets the sugar. It’s important to outfit your trains with Wagons so you can haul the sugar for export, so now you also get to worry about managing a second piece of equipment for these majors. The minors also have shiny new equipment to buy in the form of Machines.
Here you see the board which stores the machines that are for purchase by the minors. Machines are available by phase (which you probably guessed by the phase similar color coding because you are clever) and serve the sole purpose of increasing the income of these companies. BUT, each minor can only own 3 total machines of any type. They also increase in cost the longer you wait to buy them, so is an earlier but lower revenue stream more important to you than an absolute banger of a machine shop later at a premium? Just one of many decisions a Railbaron is faced with in Cuba….
All the same, this is a title that has a lot of features I am quite fond of. Multiple train types and pieces of equipment, really tricky and claustrophobic track laying and a min/maxing quality that reminds me of the Harzbahn family of games. (Incremental gains bro) If you have any interest in playing this game at the con this year, we will be happy to get you going and even share a few of the pitfalls that we have stumbled into in our previous plays.
Here we have a re-imagining of Wolfram’s 18Rhl with a new map for the Lower Rhine Area. 18RHL is a title that is beloved by many 18xx’ers (considerably more than I would have guessed actually, I have first hand witnessed school-girl levels of excitement from long time 18xx’ers when I mention this prototype to them on more than one occasion.) and is seeing a resurrection in the form of new environment for lower player counts. The copy sent to me was a box with the original game as well as the components needed for the expansion all in one. I do not know if this is the going to be the final commercial available copy or if Wolfram plans to make the new map available separately for old hands with the original, but either way it is very good to know that this title will see a resurgence in circulation.
I don’t want to include any photos of this game yet, changes are still coming, but if you are familiar with the base game and what I call ‘the Marflow aesthetic’, you already have a good idea of what this looks like. (As an aside, I firmly believe that Wolframs map production of laminated maps is the best in the industry. This is a hill I will die on.)
Odds and Sods
What follows are some games in various states of design/publication that I thought should receive a bit of attention and possible playtime at the con for whatever reason. In no particular order and with as little favoritism as I am able to muster…..
18Korea has been out for a while and we have a copy with the expansion, English Rules and some translated components for ease of play. While I have not played this title yet myself, the reviews from friends in the hobby have been glowing. Praise like this, for example:
“Hey, we played 18Korea three times in one day. It is really cool. One guy, who was a guest of ours for only the morning one day, texted me that evening that he could not stop thinking about 18Korea.”
In my circles, we often talk about the ‘double header’ (two consecutive playthroughs of a title) as the highest praise, but this game got a triple header out of this group! Let that sink in…
My friend John Harres has been working on this game for a good while (Thanks very much for that by the way John, the world did not need another poorly play-tested game thrust upon it.) While I am not certain of the publication future of this design, we will have a copy available for attendees to try out. Featuring an ambitious set of variable private companies, commodities like Uranium and a new feature, ‘Development Rounds’, there is a lot to dig into here.
18WE/52 and 18EE/MAC
Karl Ernst has been hard at work producing these titles and we will have copies of all of them for showcase. Subsidies, Boons, Concessions, licenses…. These games have quite a lot to offer in terms of options and ways to play.
18ULC, 18JR, 18BF, 1866Texas
This is just a mish mash of Prototypes I know very little about other than that they have made their way to me and I have produced copies of them for play. ULC and JR are both ENORMOUS and my understanding is that BF is in the final throes of public playtest.
These two games have been published independently by their creators (albeit EUS is now in the hands of GMT), we have copies of both for you to try out and decide if you would like to get a copy for your own group to try out.
I am going to end with this title, it is currently available for Print and play and if you haven’t tried it yet, do yourself a favor. It is excellent.
In closing, this list is far from exhaustive and there are many other games worth taking a look at while at the con. Your time will be limited and the choices difficult, but in the end, these are pretty good problems to have. If you have any questions about these titles, or if you would like to set up a game for yourself at the con in advance, drop a line through the regular channels and we will get you set up. I am also taking names for a list of seats in my seven handed game of 76 that I will continue to mention in every blog post leading up tot the con because that is my secret dream. Looking forward to seeing you all in April. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go build more games… As a bonus, I will include a picture of my new Simon. He has earned the nickname ‘The Pie Man’ because reasons. He may be another of the great people you will meet when you come visit Medicine Hat.