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Games
1841v2
3-8 players
4-8 hours
F. Vellani and M. Manzini
Northern Italy
 
 
1841 is a railroad operations and share trading board game in the 18XX series, published by Chris Lawson in 1996. The game was designed by Federico Vellani with assistance from Manlio Manzini and is set in Italy. With its complicated financial rules and very steep train gradient (ie, the trains get very expensive very quickly), it emphasizes stock manipulation and funding train purchases over route building.

At the beginning of the game, only historical companies are available to be started and the president of each of these is determined by owning a concession, not by total shares held in that company. These concessions are auctioned off in the initial stock round (variant concession auction methods are commonly used instead of the method described in the rules). As the game progresses, concessions disappear and the president of a company will shift to the player who owns the most stock. In addition to historical companies, there are non-historical companies which may start later in the game in any vacant city on the map (but token costs are determined by proximity to established track).

There are two types of companies — minor companies and major companies. The difference is the number of trains and tokens available and the number of shares available (minors have 5 shares while majors have 10). Also, minor companies are restricted to the lower-valued area of the stock market and may convert to a major company if they reach the right edge of that area.

The interesting financial aspects of this game come about because companies can own stock in other companies, including the president's share. There are restrictions on how much a given player can control, whether directly or through other companies they control, and no purchase can be made that causes a circular chain of control. Companies of the same type (minor vs major) may merge together if they are connected on the map. Merging combines assets and reduces the number of trains required, so a frequently-used tactic is to start a new company at a very high stock value to generate cash, and then merge that company with a needy company. When minor companies merge, they become a major company, but when major companies merge stock is traded two-for-one, so too many mergers can dilute your stock holdings.

Another unique feature of 1841 is the way borders are handled — the borders change throughout the game reflecting actual changes in political boundaries. The game impact is that a company cannot place a token on the other side of an active border, and when the border moves it splits a certain historical company into two minors.

Version 2

Manlio Manzini completed a revision of the game which corrects perceived difficiencies in the original (the weakness of the Cuneo, the ability for the SFLP to cripple the SFMA in the early game, and the way the IRSFF splits up) and it is now available from Deep Thought Games, LLC. Components and rules are provided to play the original version if desired, and the new rulebook collects the various clarifications and amendments gathered through years of play.

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