While I am first and foremost a wargamer, I like to play a good Economy themed game form time to time. And what would be a better title than one of the famous 18XX’s? I am slowly but steadily getting into this system, starting with 18MS (Mississippi) and 18Chesapeake. Now, thanks to the GMT generosity I am able to travel into Australia with 1848 and replay the first years of Railway there!

The 18XX system

But, first things first, couple world about genre. 18xx – this is a series of board games that feature the creation and operation of railroad companies set in the 1800s. Many are named for a particular year that is historically significant to the game or might reflect a geographical region.

The usual play contains two dimensions – stock investments and railroad operations. Players act as investors to found railroad companies, buy and sell stock, and build their investment portfolios in hopes of collecting dividends and benefiting from rising stock values. That stock component is really what in my opinion makes the games unique and really interesting.

The 1848 game

Full explanation of 1848 base game mechanics and specific to that title

Now, let me tell you more about the game itself. This position is a semi-historical railroad game from the 18xx set, and to which the designers credit some of this games’ systems to the originator of the series – Francis Tresham. I had a chance to play already couple of small 18XX – you always have two separate series of actions repeated until the game ends, these are stock rounds and operating rounds. During stock rounds, shares in the various railroading companies are bought & sold. During operating rounds, the player/directors of those railroading companies are allowed to build track place stations, buy trains, etc.

1848 features an interesting array of differences from the base system. These include how private companies are purchased, the inclusion of The Bank Of England as a public company that extends loans and administers railroads that are in receivership, dealing with different track gauges between states and ‘The Ghan’ special train. You can check more how those work in above How to Play video.

The sessions

First attempt

In our initial game we somehow underestimated time needed to explain the title and for the gameplay itself 🙂 You need definitely more than 2-3 hours – especially with four players and all newbies. So let us say this was a more “exploratory engagement”, to see the game mechanics in work, check how the general rules work as well as how specifics of Australian – Ghan, track gauges, The Bank of England or companies in receivership interact with the rest of the game.

(you can click each and every picture to enlarge it in the new window)

In the initial game we went up to the 5/5+ turn (2/3 of the game). As you can see, the south developed nicely and we already connected Northern and Western Australia into one system. The North Eastern part was still separate. The results are rather notional, although it is really good too see that most of us quickly grasped the game mechanics.
Close-up on revenue track – the SAR company ruled as far as reve was considered – but it was CAR which had highest stock value!

Second attempt

Ok, after the initial play, much better equipped and with quite good rules knowledge we jumped to another attempt. We almost finished game (it was like maybe 2-3 more operating rounds) so the below results can be treated as more or less final ones.

I started with CAR which was developing slowly; Kuba floated Victoria Railways (only to dump on me later) and then SAR. Magda was hidden in NorthEast with Queensland Railway while Agnieszka operated in the West with – surprise, surprise! – West Australian Railways.
The final situation on the map at the game end. Me and Magda finished with two companies each, Kuba and Agnieszka were managing one each. There was still potential to connect East and West and we would play couple of more turns before definitely finishing. PS. CAR again was the most valuable stock!

The impressions

Well, it was of course only two initial plays – but remember I had chance to try other two games in the system – so the impressions will be limited, but let me share some of them right away:

  • I love the game mechanics – especially in the area of stock, ownership, dumping companies and playing with ownership!
  • 1848 has very interesting special rules, which gives its flavor – one of the largest train connections “The Ghan” or Bank of England which gives loans and takes over failing companies to name only a few
  • Each game plays differently, and depending where do you start and which companies float initially, you will have completely different challenges
  • GMT did a great job as far as components are concerned – the game is beautiful!


I will not deny it – I am enjoying 18XX games. Maybe not to play them every week, but from time to time I will definitely bring them to the table – the next occasion will be that coming weekend, where we plan to test for the first time the 3-player set-up!