The first thing that strikes you when you open the box is that this game has a big map -- 33 inches by 26 and around 170 hexes, as opposed to the 120 of 1835 and the 90 of 1830. The good side of this, combined as it is with a system that makes all the regional majors available at the same time, is that this game is comfortable with six players, something which is not true for most of the others in the series. The drawback is that you need a big table. Mine, at six foot by four, can handle it, but with anything much smaller you will find yourself spilling over on to side tables.
The game begins, like 1835, with the sale of a `starting packet', but Leonhard has learned from the flaws in the 1835 mechanism and come up with a routine that works much better. The shares are in three columns and you always have the choice of the top shares. Moreover, the game proper cannot start until all these shares have been sold and so a complete round of passes doesn't mean the end of the share buying round; instead it means that the initial passer is offered the choice again, but this time at reduced prices.
In the starting packet are ten coal railways and seven mountain railways, five of which have attached to them a minor company of the Südbahn, a `mini-Prussian' with a base in Vienna and the rest of its operations in the Tyrol and Northern Italy. The mountain railways are old-style private companies, laying no track and paying a fixed dividend. The coal railways are minor companies of the type introduced in 1835. Where they differ from their predecessors is that each has its base at a coal mine and makes its money carrying coal from there to the cities using a special set of trains (goods trains/freight trains). Once the shares of the starting packet have been sold, the minor companies of the other two `mini-Prussians' go on offer, first those of the Vienna-based k.k-Staatsbahn and then those of the ungarische Staatsbahn, which has its headquarters in Budapest. The starting capital is such that you will probably get part way through the second of these collections before the money runs out, triggering the first operating round.
With around 20 minor companies split among the players, everybody is involved in the track laying and company operating right from the start, mini-networks sprout quickly in all parts of the board and two things become apparent. The first is the criterion to apply when making your choices of what to buy from the start packet. Miss Piggy once observed that you should never eat more than you can lift; here the rule is that you should never buy a company that you can't reach. The second is that you are doing a lot of transactions with small amounts of money -- 20 Sch. to you, 20 Sch. to the company. This is fiddly enough in 1835, but there you only have 6 minor companies, here you have over 20. The solution is to do all company accounts on paper and only to pay out money to players at the end of each operating round. This will save a lot of time and allow the banker to think about something other than the bank's shortage of 5s, 10s and 20s.
There are ten major companies. The entrance of the three `mini-Prussians' is triggered and handled in a similar manner to that of the Prussian in 1835. The other companies become available simultaneously, as soon as the last minor company is sold. All have one 20% Director's Share and eight 10% shares but in all cases bar one, one or two of these 10% shares are not for sale. They are, instead, `exchange shares' and come in to play when the companies concerned absorb the coal railways in their region. The way this works is that as soon as all the shares that are available for sale in the company have been bought, the owners of the designated coal railways are obliged to surrender ownership in return for a share in the major company. This is a clever piece of design. It introduces some interesting tactical considerations, but, more importantly, it means that this set of ten minors, which were very useful at the start in getting the network started, don't hang around long enough to become irritating. Once they are absorbed, the mines and the goods trains become part of the operations of the major company.
Once the major companies are all in play, the game plays much like most of its predecessors in the series. Unlike 1835, there are no nationalisations, but there is one innovation in the share price index. The spaces on this are hexagons rather than squares and this gives Leonhard the extra directions needed to handle the 50% payouts and one or two other refinements. And the overall verdict? Yet another worthwhile addition to the series. As with Federico Vellani's two games, this is not the place for beginners to start, but 1837 has been thoughtfully put together, we found it interesting and I would expect other 18xx enthusiasts to agree.
The components are good quality DTP and the map is colour photocopy. As is the case with the 1839 and 1850 games that I reviewed a couple of issues back, the card used is thin and I laminated everything and covered the tiles and share certificates with sticky backed plastic before cutting them out. And in answer to those who are wondering about how best to do the laminating, Prit Stick type adhesive works better than the spray-on stuff. The easternmost map sheet is an A3 sheet formed from two A4 originals and, as Iain Adams pointed out, the two component sheets are slightly out of vertical alignment. To fix the problem cut the sheet back into its two A4 parts. In the game I received, the rules were in German, but Leonhard now has a copy of my translation and so is able to supply the game with English rules. If he doesn't and you need them, contact me. They run to 17 pages and photocopying costs me 5p per sheet. So you would need to send me 85p plus a ssae. The game costs 350 Austrian Schillings plus postage. Postage is 80 Schillings for one copy, 100 for two, 155 for three, 185 for four or five and 255 for six to ten. Leonhard's address is Donaustraße 4, 2344 Südstadt, Austria. He will be on holiday from the end of July until September 11th but will deal with any orders as soon as he returns.