Played a couple new games today:
18Lilliput is a “streamlined” 18xx with a relatively short playtime (around 2-3 hours). Instead of playing on a hex board of a country or region, you lay out square cards to build rails and link to cities. This works surprisingly well, and is much easier to parse than a hex board. While the operational side of the game worked fine, I think the stock portion was a bit lacking. Instead of having set operations and stock rounds, the game uses action cards to perform actions, like an action selection euro game. This means that if all the “buy stock” cards are gone, then you can’t buy or sell stock in a round. This also means that in our three player game, only two stocks could be bought per round! As you can imagine, this makes the stock market pretty rigid and predictable. Also, classic 18xx strategies like trashing companies doesn’t really work, since there is no way to transfer ownership.
I was originally interested in 18Lilliput because I thought it would be a good way to introduce people to 18xx. It definitely has a shorter playtime than most 18xx, but I don’t really think the rules are much simpler than 1889 or 1846. More importantly, its missing the rules flexibility that makes playing new 18xx games so exciting. Some people on BGG have said it feels more like a euro game, and I can understand why. The problem is that euro game fans will probably feel like 18Lilliput feels a bit bloated. This leaves the game in a weird place, and I have a feeling its going to have trouble finding an audience.
The other game we played was The Estates, which I enjoyed immensely. In fact, I think it may be one of the best bidding games I’ve ever played. It has some of the best player interaction I’ve ever seen in a game. Since only completed columns of buildings get scored at the end, and since uncompleted columns give negative points, everyone is constantly trying to screw over everyone else construction projects. And boy, the game gives you lots of ways to do that. Yet, there is no violence or explosions or direct conflict in the game. A player may not score any points and the game and still win by disrupting everyone else, causing them to all negative scores (in our game, only one person had a positive score). Though I think it not work as well in all groups (especially those who enjoy multiplayer solitaire euros), we had a blast and were laughing the whole time.