Trains on an island: 1860

1860 board at the end game

We started the gaming year 2022 with a game of 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight. When doing my 2021 review, I noticed I didn’t play any 18xx games in 2021, which I wanted to fix in 2022. Better get started with it, then!

My game of choice was 1860 because it’s my favourite two-player 18xx game. I’ve trimmed down my collection to 1825, 1846, and 1860, and while 1825 also works well with two players, 1860 was still higher on my list.

It was a good game. Armed with a laptop running 18sh, we started, and within a couple of hours, had filled the Isle of Wight with railroad tracks and made a lot of money in the process. While we played, it seemed that Nooa would win the game, but as the dust settled and we entered the final company values to 18sh, it turned out he did win, but with a smaller margin than expected.

The final scores were £14,627 to £13,815, so a margin of just £812 or 6 %. The difference mainly was from cash in hand; the difference in our stock portfolios was a mere £300. That was somewhat surprising, but that’s primarily due to how the Nationalization process went in the end.

Laptop screen showing the end game scores and the reflection of the photographer
The final scores from 18sh (and yours truly).

There are a couple of reasons why I like 1860 a lot:

  • Despite the track-building being somewhat stereotypical – there isn’t a ton of variety in how companies like the C&N, IOW or FYN build their routes – there’s still good variety, depending on who controls which companies and how they end up helping each other.
  • It absolutely makes sense to withhold dividends and use the money to develop the companies. That can pay off later. In our game, we didn’t do this enough.
  • Companies can go insolvent (without a train and money to buy a new train), yet they can have interesting futures. Even a bankrupt company can make an exciting comeback. Players don’t have to go down with the companies, which makes me feel like a proper robber baron and a business crook.
  • The end game is a proper thriller. The classic 18xx games have a boring end game but 1860 handles that by restricting track building and removing the weakest companies, leaving the strongest companies to run longer. This is also a great reward for withholding to get two permanent trains.

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