If you haven’t played 18Lilliput yet then it’s a small self contained 18xx game – my review of it goes into a bit more detail on the game and how it varies from other 18xx. If you are looking for strategies for new players, here are my thoughts…
During the Game:
Dividend; Share value is a significant part of end game scoring. Dividends helps increase your share value and achieve end game scoring. However, dividends hurt your cashflow – keeping money in the company gives you more money to spend on trains. So if you dividend out the cash, you will have more cash at the player level and more share value – but if you end up having to buy more trains you will have to dig in to your own personal resources. As far as a strategy – if trains aren’t going to rust soon the you should be issuing dividends. If they are going to rust you may need to be more cautious!
Buying Shares; If your opponent is planning on dividends then you should jump in and buy his shares. Getting profits from his operations helps buy more shares or fund the train purchases you may need to make. Get in early though because by about turn 4 the impact of this is significantly reduced. If you do get this, selling the share later in the game can reduce the value of all the shares left for the other player. If your strategy is to buy early, sell late, be careful to only buy one – otherwise the investment in your opponents company is likely to be sufficient such that you are better off when they are better off!
Rust; When another player seems to move for a dividend strategy and you didn’t anticipate it (by buying a share) it may be time to retain earnings in your company and rust the trains through purchases. Be careful to ensure you can always buy more trains (perhaps through owning two companies!). Rusting out the trains of the other company may not seem like enough, but in combination with a really big final round (from the double engines) you should be able to outscore that player.
Blocking; New companies can be a way to block players – if another player is running a route through a single empty station then by founding a company you can drop a station into that location and block their route! It might mean your second company is not as effective but it could cripple your opponents income.
Greens; To avoid being blocked, you will upgrade junctions to greens and give yourself spare stations to run through. Keep these junctions open and everything running – this will keep your profit up and make it much less attractive for other players to try and block.
Train Limits; Trains are limited for each company, and as more trains are bought (and technology advances) you are required to reduce the number of trains held. Forcing others to discard trains can stop their plans, but ensuring you are positioned to make this happen can be a key part of your player strategy (especially if you are only running a small number of profitable routes anyway!).
End Game; Plan for the end game from the penultimate turn – don’t wait until the last action in case another player also needs that action card. The final turn may just be blocking, may be selling shares or just taking money. Try to minimise the reliance on this final turn.
Copy Actions; An important part of the strategy can be the copy action – be ready to use the copy actions cards (in smaller player counts) to copy your opponent AND YOUR OWN actions. Copying your own can allow quick station placement or creation of long routes.
Double Double; Earlier I mentioned that the final turn can provide a big pay out with the double engines. The double engines are also doubled again in the last round – that means a 4x return on the final turn. This is why you can get sufficient returns in this final round to make up for the rest! Building to a double engine in the final turn is a valid tactic.
Tile Blocking; Another strategy you can employ is to use the checker-board patterning to block other players. There is a rule to manage the way places are put down alternating between village / plain track. As you place pieces you will effect all the spaces around that piece – which means you can predict other players’ positions and you can block them by placing the same tile type on an edge that would touch the new piece. This is especially true early game when all players are in close proximity.