Arne Kjell Vikhagen and Pontus Nilsson – Complex Actions and Confrontation in the18xx Train Games Series

There are train games, there are stock games, but there’s nothing that quite  compares to building a company from scratch, then abandoning it in hour 3 to  unload all its debt on another player. User delbin on Reddit 


In short, this proposal responds to the following questions from the CfP: 

What is the psychological structure of gaming acts? 

We describe the actions of a specific games series that afford very complex decision spaces in games with perfect information, that are rooted in both  economic simulations and route-building. 

How should we evaluate moral norms in the context of play? We then proceed to connect these actions to the games’ confrontative  mechanisms, and how there require us to challenge moral norms to maintain  the spirit of the game rules. 


This article proposal concerns the ethical considerations of actions in 18xx  games. We propose that there are important and interesting discussions to be  had about the action systems in complex economic simulations such as the  18xx train game series. They are particularly confrontative, especially  considering the play time which is usually several hours. A well-timed  company dump will put your player to the right in bankruptcy or at the very  least in economic hardship. What motivates players to spend 4-5 hours playing  a game, just to be stomped by your friends? What lies beneath the expansion,  the route-building and the stock shenanigans? Also, we want to discuss the  resurgence of these games’ popularity, in a tabletop market that also have seen  the rise of cooperative and multiplayer solitaire games with little or no  confrontation between the players. 


Arne Kjell Vikhagen is a researcher and senior lecturer in art theory at HDK Valand, University of Gothenburg. His research mostly concerns games and  their relation to contemporary art practices, but also games and rule-breaking,  games and subversive behaviors, and our relationship to the rule-systems  afforded by games. 

Pontus Nilsson is a project manager with a master’s degree in history and a  bachelor’s degree in art history at the University of Gothenburg. He has been  active in the board gaming community for approximately two decades and has  a background as a translator for boardgame rules published by several  publishers. His 18xx game 18Uruguay is currently under development.