18xx is a series of games that have a railroad theme and often involve a stock market and tile laying.
I adore the 18xx series of games, I might have a slight addiction because of 18xx.games. Access to all of these fun game titles got me thinking. What commonalities do games with in the series have? Differences? Which games inspired others? As you can see above, the core of this series is 1829 – the very first 18xx game by Francis Tresham. While I tried to be as comprehensive as possible, I know I didn’t get all of the details. Leave a comment if you see anything that needs to be changed!
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18xx: A Timeline
When looking at the history of games, the first thing I like to see is a timeline. I enjoy viewing when games were released and what order everything came out in. This is one heck of a timeline because I ended up cataloguing data on 168 games. Which is a lot of games. My spreadsheet did not want to run smoothly towards the end. 😅
As a side note, any game listed as released in 2022 were games that did not have a specified year (or entry) on board game geek.
The spikes in games released surprised me. Three of the biggest years for new 18xx games were 2005, 2011, and 2021. Even without these spikes, once the 18xx train got rolling, there was no stopping it. Games have been published almost every year since the original came out!
18xx: Around the World
The nature of 18xx games is that they are located in specific areas. Whether it be a single region or an entire continent. And I was curious about what areas were favored by the 18xx community.
I can’t say that I’m totally surprised that the US was one of the most favored locations. Especially since the early games have a focus on the eastern coast of the United States. Germany and the UK were close behind in number of games. But the most surprising data was the number of games that were in Japan. It makes sense since Japan has quite the network of trains.
Because the US was popular, I decided to break down the US map even further to see what states were the most favored.
To my delight, Ohio is one of the most popular US 18xx locations. 😄 It’s always fun being able to point out Cleveland on a map and take control of my hometown. New York and Pennsylvania are also quite popular.
I was most surprised by Colorado’s popularity. I didn’t expect so many games to be centered in that one state. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York are only popular because you can cross state lines in many games.
There are many mechanics within each 18xx games that can be similar or very different from others. So I was curious and collected some data so I could make graphs. Let’s start at the beginning!
Private and Moinor Companies
The first part of almost every 18xx game is the auction for private or minor companies. And I wanted to see how many were included in each game. Some highlights include:
- 21 games with no private companies
- 36 games with 6 private companies
- 40 games that include minor companies
- 3 games with 24 minor companies each 😳
Major Companies and Trains
Each game also includes major companies and trains. The graph on trains shows how many different types of trains are included in the game. Some highlights include:
- 38 games with 8 major companies
- 1 game with 45 major companies
- 53 games with 6 types of trains
The Bank and Stock Market
The bank is key part of many games as it is one of the game end conditions. And at the end of the game, you want to have the highest share value you can. Some highlights include:
- 39 games with a bank pool of $12,000
- 21 games with an infinite bank pool
- 23 games where the highest share price is 350
- 25 games where the highest share price is 400
The map was one of the hardest data pints to collect because I was looking at the highest potential revenue center that a train could reach as well as the number of hexes that a player could interact with, Dear lord this was insane. I counted a lot of maps based off of online images so I’m not gonna say how accurate I believe this data to be. Some highlights include:
- 40 games with a high revenue center of 80
- 3 games with a high revenue center of 200
- 101 unique values of interactable hexes
- A mean of 82 interactable hexes
Game by Designers
There are a lot of designers in the 18xx world. And some are more prolific than others. The graph below was the best way I could find to show the games designed by each person.
While I was working, someone *cough* Guerric *cough* thought it would be interesting to see the designers work listed by publishing date. And so I complied. However, I did only do some of the designers that generated more games. The designers featured below are: Anthony Fryer, Bill Dixon, David G.D. Hecht, Federico Vellani, Francis Tresham, Gary Mroczka, Helmut Ohley, Ian D. Wilson, John Bohrer, Leonhard Orgler, Mark Derrick, Toryo Hojo, and Wolfram Janich.
4 thoughts on “18xx: A History”
This is a fantastic write up of the game genre. Thanks for doing this!
Did I miss it? I see 1831 on your timeline, but not in the very interesting graph at the top of the page. Curious how you would fit it in.
I might have missed it! There are so many variations!