Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pimp my boardgames: 18AL, looking sharp!

I've become a fan of the 18xx rail games in recent years, including building some of the games from scratch.
My interest in the series began with Mark Derrick's 18AL, which is available as a print-and-play game from his original publisher John David Galt.  I constructed the components two, and in some cases, three times. 18AL and sister-single-state-game 18GA, also by Derrick, are widely accepted to be good introductions to the series, with most of the same opportunities for devious stock manipulation as longer predecessors 1830 et al.. When I originally constructed my copy, 1830 was out of print and regularly sold for $100 or more.  Mayfair reprinted 1830 with some additional material this spring, other evergreen favorites like 1870 are still available, and a wild cacophony of variety is available to be custom-ordered from John Tamplin's Deep Thought Games (with a several-month backlog that represents the labor-intensive and high-quality nature of the construction).
Here are a couple shots, showing the fronts and backs of the 18AL company charters, trains, stock certificates, and uncut tiles. The cereal-box origins actually produce a pleasing heft:

In the shot above, in the left corner, you can see the front and back of a train tile, with the special rules for it shown on the back, so no table need be consulted during play. The private companies have been assembled in the same way.

My latest incarnation of the tiles uses Cory Williamson, a.k.a. "Koryo,"'s redone graphics. These were color laser-printed, glue-sticked to dollar-store foamboard, cut out with a utility knife, then trimmed with scissors. They're much thicker and heavier than the usual 18xx tiles, and fun to place on the map... though my map is definitely the weakest part of my copy.  We owe Mr. Derrick much appreciation in allowing Cory Williamson to try his hand at re-drawing the 18AL tiles, and Mr. Williamson much for making the attempt.

Of course, what would crafting be without a specialized tool recommendation?  There's a lot to be said for the orange half-inch circular metal punch in the picture above. Definitely one of my better purchases, it lets you get a near-perfect paper circle almost every time! It was under $5, and allows me to create sharp-looking company tokens quickly by pasting the cut-outs to 1/2" wooden plugs. I once nearly ordered 100,000 of those plugs for mass-producing my own 18IA, before doing the math and asking myself where the many, many unsold copies would go.
To learn more about 18AL, check out the BGG page.


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