Friday, 16 November 2007

What a bash with Wabash

Every time I come to write up a Tuesday night session I reflect on another week that has gone by where I have failed to take any pictures and I then have to improvise so yet again here we go…..

As I didn’t win this week I don’t know if I can be arsed to spend several hours of my life reliving the misery of losing to Matt or Jimmy. The only solace I can take is that both the games we played were new to 3 of us and Jimmy had not played el principe for a while.

Wabash Cannonball was agreed to be the more enjoyable of the two games played and despite the quality of production (which many gamers want to criticise) it did nothing to limit our group from getting the game on the table. Yes the experience may have been better if the production was higher but at the end of the day it is the playing of the game that ranks as the most important feature…and this game was on the first visit interesting, tense and enjoyable.

Wabash Cannonball has a train theme (derrr) and requires players to lay track, improve distribution (not delivery) and invest in shares. At the end of the game the player who has the most cash is the winner.

The share acquiring element of the game felt in some ways similar to acquire as investment was made often when value was unknown (players gamble with potential or try to corner the market) and it felt even more similar to Imperial for this same reason along with the concept of: ‘how much money you pay for shares becoming the pool of money available to buy improvements’. Then as a railway link / development game obvious comparisons can be drawn with other such popular fare. Though Jimmy would no doubt “Arwk Norwah” Wabash Cannonball is close to my favourite train game even after just one play. Yes Ticket to ride is good and enjoyable and ok, ok, ok I need to give ‘age of steam’ another chance but I really did enjoy this game. I know that after a few more plays my opinion may change but I would be happy to play this again very soon and what with the Essen 07 games piling up, playing a game for a second time so soon, is a big deal.

Each player starts with the same $30 and an auction takes place to purchase a single share, from one company at a time (4 starting companies). Then players take it in turn to do one of three actions. They can ‘capitalise’, nominating a company and releasing a single share to be auctioned, they can ‘develop’ a company which involves putting a purple cube on a hex (that contains a railroad) that boosts the share price of that company (or gives it $2) the benefit of this is based on which type of hex is developed. Or they can choose to ‘expand’ building some track paying the cost indicated on the hex (from the company NOT there own wealth) and placing one of the companies limited track cubes on that built hex (max 3 pieces of track per build). There are various rules about where you can or can’t build and how that influences cost, but these are relatively simple. There are potential bonuses for getting to industrial cities and a bonus dividend to any company who builds track to link to Chicago. Building on mines and connecting to cities boosts the share price making that company more appealing.

Not all company’s have the same number of shares available. So players are left not knowing which company to invest in. Do you choose red? 3 shares, so easier to control, but potentially less money to build track? Or Green? loads of shares, but does that mean cheap auctioned prices and still no money? A player can influence how valuable companies and therefore shares are but ultimately the market decides what shares are worth and you must predict and watch the trends in order to win.

There are three action lines and when a player chooses the appropriate action he progresses the cube along the line. When two of the three lines have cubes that have progressed to the end of their lines then the round is over. A dividend is paid based on the share value divided by the number of shares to each player, for each share they own (rounded up) and then a new round begins starting with the player who would have been next. There are several other minor maintenance things that happen to speed the game along such as the Detroit cube progressing one space at the end of a round, when it reaches 8 the game is over and a 5th company called Wabash is released for sale when track reaches near Chicago at the far end of the map. Thus facilitating the possible end game via lack of shares (If 3 companies have no shares remaining for sale this ends game).

The action lines for the three alternative actions are different lengths, this balances the more popular actions and makes for some interesting tactical choices. Players have to consider how there choices improve not just their own score but also others and whether or not to extend the round or end it now (more money than other players or a lack of it an important factor here). To win you will need too piggyback other players as the game moves on too quickly, with to few opportunities to influence things for a player to count on a solo victory (at least amongst competent players).

In our game there were two tiers, Jimmy won with 90 cash and I cam second with 88. We considered this incredibly tight given the nature of the game. There was little difference between 3rd and 4th place though they were some way off from the lead. Connecting to Chicago was the big payout as Jimmy had shares in the two companies that did this while I had ¾ of the shares in one company and sole ownership of a lemon (that did pay a reasonable dividend) and no shares in either of the Chicago companies. As a group we over valued most of our shares when it came to bidding and a second play may get a lot tighter and last longer.

Like I said before I enjoyed this game and it lingers in the memory which is significant when compared to so many games which lack individuality so fuse into each other. Please fight to get Wabash cannonball on the table and show those moaning production whores what wonderful games they are missing.


Mr Bond said...

This is a really excellent game. The first game I've played since Essen which I really wish I'd picked up while I was there. But alas with only 80 copies being produced and limited to pre-orders there was little chance of me geeting my hands on it anyway.

andy malcolm said...

Looks like another Kogge to me, glad I missed this one ;-)