I’ve been avoiding Ropecon for the last ten years or so, but since I missed both JunaCon and JyCon — both more interesting cons for various reasons — I decided to go for Ropecon this year. It’d be a day trip to Espoo, meaning two hours or so of driving both ways and about eight hours of playing games.
Most of those eight hours would be reserved for 18xx. Our game of choice was 1865 Sardinia, which had just arrived. We had two copies and eight players (there were more interested players, but the game only takes four players). So, we had two games running at the same time.
Our table had bunch of experienced 18xx players, which is always nice. It’s kind of stupid to make the long trip, since I could’ve just organized an 18xx game in Tampere, thus removing the four-five hours of driving. However, playing in Tampere would mean more of a newbie game. Also, in Ropecon I got Kimmo, a regular PBEM opponent of mine, sitting at the same table.
1865 Sardinia is an interesting game. It shakes many standard features of 18xx games. I wrote an entry about it back in November (see 1865: Sardinia, which for some reason is actually on top of the search results for “1865 sardinia” in Google), which summarizes many of the changes. So, how things work out in practise?
The board is small and full of rivers and mountains. Those do not hinder track-laying at all, however. The cost is in the tokening! To lay a token, you must trace a route on the map and pay all hex-side costs to lay the token. The longer the route, the more traffic you’re able to get from villages, but the higher the price. That’s very clever.
The whole traffic system is very nice and removes all the annoying route-calculation and optimization. Towns and villages produce traffic, which is collected on the company charter in the form of cubes. Trains provide coverage, and your revenue is the smaller value of your coverage and traffic.
The mergers are fun. The acquiring company must pay all the shares, sometimes with a premium included, so you get a good influx of money in your personal account. The acquiring company gets more tokens, more traffic, all the assets from the acquired company… It’s particularly great when you have a company that has more traffic than coverage and a company that has more coverage than traffic. Merge two, and things are balanced.
Mergers also open up the board in the late game, as tokens are removed from the board. The merged companies can then reappear. It’s interesting, but in our game we probably got a bit carried away with the mergers.
Our game took good six hours, more than expected. The other table was at least an hour faster and they even had some 18xx newbies. So, we played slowly. Our game stalled a bit at times and probably the mergers we did slowed down the game a bit. It didn’t drag that much, though, so it was all good. However, the length means I won’t be getting 1865 on table any time soon. Fortunately there are ps18xx files for it, so I can always play PBEM (I’ve already got a 1865 game going with Kimmo and Jeroen Doumen).
I also played South African Railroads. It’s already my third game and I must say I like this game. It’s short but charming. Valuing the shares is interesting and the building game is a nice race to block and to connect. The action selection mechanism just works.
I also got to try Colorado Midland from this year’s Essen set. The game is very baffling at first. The idea of the railroads starting on the east edge of the board and making the long and winded way to the western mines like Silverton or Telluride sounds incomprehensible at first. But guess what! The railroads did reach both of those far-away mines.
The game is actually very interesting, the timing of the mines is an interesting challenge. The game’s also pretty short (our game took just 30 minutes) and has no auctions or money involved, making it stand out from other Winsome titles. This one’s a winner.
Some guys starting a game of Eclipse:
View of the Ropecon board game hall: