Railroads in the UK: 1829 Mainline

1829 Mainline

I’ve owned 1829 Mainline for a decade now. My initial motivation for buying it was to support Francis Tresham, as I had bought most of my 1825 stuff second-hand. I played Mainline once with Nooa in 2015, but it has gathered dust since.

Yesterday, we finally played the game. We had three players: me, Nooa (now nine years older and almost an adult!) and Ville from our game group. All are fast players, so I expected the game to move pretty swiftly, and we finished the game in just three and a half hours.

Francis Tresham is the father of the 18xx genre – a genre that’s 50 years old this year! – and in 1829 Mainline threw many common features out of the window. It all makes a very curious experience for an 18xx player! Here’s a brief rundown of the game:

  • Each player starts the game with a big hand of random share certificates. They, and only they, can purchase these shares during the game.
  • On stock rounds, you can purchase multiple shares on your turn, either from your hand, from the bank pool (rare), the top of the deck or the top of the discard pile.
  • There are phases. All the tiles are available from the beginning of the game.
  • Trains never rust and can be sold back. The 2 trains are essentially borrowed: they cost £180, and the bank pays £180 for all trains if you sell them back. Buying a 2 train might be a decent idea, even at the endgame.
  • Building track is weird. You can build large amounts of yellow tracks very quickly, but it’s not helpful in the early game, as a lot of that track contains small towns, which are terrible (they block your 2 trains). The tile mix is super restrictive in surprising places; you can’t upgrade a green K-shaped tile, for example.

The game has a huge bank, £20,000. I knew the companies would rake in a lot of money at the end, but it wasn’t a surprise that the game didn’t end with an empty bank (it would’ve taken one more set of ORs). The game ended with LNWR reaching the top of the SPI. That was brutal because it caused the game to end immediately, and since LNWR was the first company to act in the OR, it gave me a nice boost in the end.

I went to the final scoring expecting to win, and while that happened, the scores were fairly close. Ville was last with £10,400, Nooa was second with £11,488, and I won with £12,016. Not bad, considering we started with £700 each!

I’m looking forward to more plays of 1829 Mainline!

1829 Mainline board at the end of the game.
The final board at the end of the game. Playing with Ville’s big set of Iron Clays was nice. The station tokens are the custom tokens I made for my 1825 set – the original tiddlywinks are terrible. We almost made it to Glasgow in the end, but to my disappointment, couldn’t complete the track. LNWR would’ve had an express train run from London to Glasgow via Wolverton, Crewe, Manchester, Liverpool and York for £700.

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