by Robert Jasiek

What is Crisis?
Short Information
Target Group
General Description
General Design Aims
Comparison to other Games
Blackwater Information
Historical Background

What is Crisis?

Crisis is an advanced business game. Tycoons rob and restructure combines in a social market economy. The major topics are dubious stock market machinations, companies controlling others, and major business crises. Railroading is simulated for subways in a downtown megalopolis.

Short Information

Target Group

Crisis simulates some of the most complex aspects of business in the real world: crises resulting from overextended stock markets and tycoons depleting companies and restructuring combines. So the game is extremely tough even for advanced players that appreciate deep strategy. A tiny mistake can cause chaos. Concerning the topics, you should not only like business but particularly enjoy devious manipulations. On the other hand, it is immaterial that the surface is chosen to be railroading, although good construction of flexible networks cannot be neglected in practice. 18xx-lovers will see Crisis to prefer business to railroading, variability to restriction, and invention to tradition.

General Description


On the surface the game consists of business and railways. The business part is represented by a stock market, companies, shares, and money. The stock market regulates prices of shares in the twelve companies. The railway part is simulated by tiles, trains, company tokens, and signals. Tiles form subway tracks, stations, and parks in a city. Trains run on routes along tracks. Signals influence directions of routes. A company's tokens are used to control stations, to go beyond other companies' stations, or to stop opposing routes at signals. The network of tracks in the city becomes more and more complex and flexible signals or company tokens frequently alter routes.

Traditional Concepts

Crisis has evolved from 18xx railroad business games and therefore uses some of their traditional concepts but it can be played independently of its origin. Everyone familiar with 18xx games knows that the share business is their crucial part while railways are an enjoyable means of simulating causes for the stock market prices. Each entity, whether player or company, has its own property. In the end only a player's personal cash and share values count. He is confronted with the conflict of financing his controlled companies well or profiting from paying dividends mercilessly. The shareholder holding a majority in a company is its director and solely acts on its behalf. The ruthless manager depletes companies just before disposing of his shares in them. Like in every 18xx, shareholders become optimistic if dividends are paid and the stock price increases; they become pessimistic if it decreases because income is paid to a company's treasury. If demand for shares is high, then a market price is raised, if shares are sold, then it drops quickly. Trains become more and more expensive but can visit an increasing number of stations. Early trains are scrapped while permanent electric trains double their revenue. A first train of a new generation triggers a phase change that eliminates old trains and makes available also a new generation of tiles showing more track or higher station values. Throughout the game prices and incomes inflate considerably increasing moving capital and thus unpredictability.

Innovative Concepts

Compared to 18xx games Crisis uses innovative and flexible concepts for the flow of turns, the construction of networks, and the movement of shares.

A traditional separation of operating rounds for company turns from stock rounds for player turns is replaced by the deceiptively unspectacular concept of rounds for both companies and players. However, since players take turns after their immediately controlled companies, the order of all turns dynamically depends on the companies' variable stock market prices, the players can always try to influence the order, and thus trade with shares timely. Besides the stock market with its own interdependencies intensifies dynamics of turns. Predicting and controlling their order requires careful strategic and tactical planning.

Construction of subway networks does not take place on a board or map but square tiles are laid within an imagined 6x6 chess board, called the city. The tiles' shape and their colourful appearance represent a downtown area of an American megalopolis. At first a 6x6 city seems small but with six generations of tile upgrades the dense, highly interactive competiton for space is very demanding. The virtual board allows variants of the game easily: A smaller city leads to a quicker game, a bigger one to a more peaceful construction. Why is there no historical map? It would only provide terrain restrictions. Without them construction starts fairly balanced and at the same time built networks vary greatly from game to game. Neither is a single player expelled early nor is a group of players bored upon seeing the same strategies every game. Needless to say, certain company tokens can be removed and signals change, adding a lot of excitement in the fight for the best routes.

In every stock market game players may buy and sell shares. Letting companies trade shares in foreign companies is already rather uncommon in games. Here Crisis starts: Principally players and companies may buy as many shares as they like, companies are even forced to purchase foreign shares, thereby complex company hierarchies are frequently built, restructured, or destroyed, and shares may be traded within each hierarchy controlled by a player. Trading conditions depend on seller and buyer, company types, prices, volume, and distribution of shares, directorship, possibly receivership, and time and order of actions so that strategies must fit a great variety of circumstances. The real fun begins when an under-endowed company goes into receivership: Not only the director (like in any other 18xx game) but all shareholders are responsible and have to support the company. Cute shareholders are not affected while others might suffer from harsh supports repetitively!  The experienced player can try to predict this tough and complex way of financing and intentionally let pay the other shareholders. There are two additional types of share movements: donations can also include foreign shares and if a company remains in receivership because supports may not be exceeded voluntarily, then this changes some directors and moves further shares.

Major Business Crises

The mechanisms for financing a company are tough and unforgiving: Normal trades of trains or foreign shares between it and another company (or a player) require one to be the director of the other. Supports to it, however, are a nightmare. The most valuable cash or assets must be spent first. Even worse, support amounts are prescribed so that expenses remain insufficient or can be much higher than expected.

The various ways of trading shares and restructuring combines make the game so complex that easily a company is not financed efficiently but unexpectedly remains under-endowed. Then it goes into receivership and all shareholders are responsible and have to support it. Since also other companies own foreign shares, the interdependence between all players and companies is great.

A company getting insufficient support remains in receivership and its director loses his shares in it to the bank while all remaining shareholders may not sell their shares but remain responsible. A company in receivership does not operate but lives mainly from their repetitive supports until a healthy shareholder dares to end receivership by buying the director certificate from the bank and then financing the company.

Supports per se, supports higher or tougher than expected, repetitive supports, the prohibition to sell shares in companies in receivership, or shares lost as a director all increase the likelihood that more and more companies become under-endowed, go into, and remain in receivership, too. This iterative process is sometimes so powerful that a major business crisis emerges naturally. Then an investor is faced with a decision of winning by controlling the last dying company, by selling all shares first, or by stopping the crisis by temporarily sacrificing personal wealth.

Business Simulation

Unlike all other 18xx that always simulate a boom and rarely have any significant chaos, Crisis simulates stock markets of the world very convincingly without even mentioning the following in the rules. Needless to say, prices depend on market psychology. Like in a real market economy there are times with either some prices raising and others dropping, a boom, or a recession. The market is chaotical and hence hardly predictable; tiny changes can result in either a boom, a recession, or even a major business crisis.

Game Flow

The game starts peacefully balanced for all players and companies. The market economy has social elements that severely restrict the effect of negotiations. Only superior competitive skill gives an advantage, which may easily be lost during the dark and eventful middle game. In it players and companies must constantly struggle to survive as well as the market economy permits it. Succeeding allows reaching the endgame with a good position. The then highly inflated incomes lead to an exciting game end.

General Design Aims

Comparison to Other Games


1830 appeared as the first tough stock market game and is still a classic. Already 1830 included wheeling and dealing, presenting opponents with depleted complanies, and sudden game ends due to a player's bankruptcy. Crisis offers the same, however, sudden early game ends are very typical of 1830 and much less so in Crisis. Why? Now the responsibility for a bad company not only affects a single player but several players or even other companies. Furthermore, undesired expenses need not occur just once but can occur repetitively.

Only Crisis allows players and companies to own arbitrarily many shares. Frankly, companies are forced to purchase foreign shares! This results in small or complex company hierarchies, parts of which could easily change owners. Does buying arbitrarily many shares easily lead to unbalanced games? No, owning shares in foreign companies always includes the risk of having to support them! In Crisis the greater number of persons, whether players or companies, dealing in foreign shares results in more realistic market prices.

Unlike 1830, Crisis does not favour easy escapes of financial desasters. In 1830 the president pays off an under-endowed company once and that's it - in Crisis you pay, lose your shares in the company, and might still be forced to pay more to further companies in the future. Also other investors hardly do much better; they suffer from your doubtful politics as well. In 1830 you might buy a train from another player's company - in Crisis you may not even shift trains among just your own companies freely. In 1830 it is not too hard to become bankrupt because the director has to pay the full train - in Crisis a sudden game end cannot be forced so easily because the director may spend only partial supports.

1830 gets its balanced game start due to a combination of a tested historical map, where companies start at fixed places, and of an auction for privates. Since Crisis is too flexible and non-historical for a fixed underlying map and companies may start everywhere, balance is created by forcing the very early companies to connect to each other and by anti-syndicate laws for the stock market during the opening.

Crisis is also innovative about the player order - it is variable instead of fixed. Players take their turns in between all the operating companies. Hence you can forget about the rather unpredictable "priority deal" of 1830. It is unfair because a player is not guaranteed it even if he spends by far the most energy on receiving it. Besides a fixed player order in a stock round reduces the risk of share investments because it is less likely that a director is in a good selling position in the order of dealers. In Crisis he can influence the order of player turns.

Although the virtual Crisis map consists of 36 facets only, the 6 tile colour phases make route construction similarly demanding as in 1830 with its only 3 phases. Needless to say, Crisis offers a lot of more new features like square tiles, signals, and other company or train types. However, the game is not overloaded at all because some traditional concepts like off-board connections or terrain difficulties have been abandoned.


1830, 1841, 1898, and Crisis all lay particular emphasis on the stock market. While 1841 and 1898 still rely on a historical map and 1841 partially relies on historical companies, in Crisis the virtual map and all companies are non-historical. Historical playing material provides a certain flair while more abstract components allow the players to concentrate on complex strategies more easily.

Most of what can be said for 1830 applies to 1841 as well. The following concentrates on the 1841 specific aspects.

1841 is the variant with the quickest appearance of newer trains. The speed of technological development is frightening. Crisis is not that fast here to make sudden bankruptcies of players much less likely. Thereby the mechanism of companies repetitively suffering from lacking capital becomes the toughest because affected players stay in the game and continue to be responsible for their erroneous decisions. The speed in 1841 can eliminate some players - a frustrating experience.

In 1841 every turn of a company one is faced with a decision of merging, printing money, or doing neither. Either ruins the own stock market value, however, avoiding both risks under-endowment. These concepts and their inherent decision complexity make 1841 an attractive simulation of fusions and inflation. On the other hand, they both greatly ease the necessiety of acquiring capital. When merging only one instead of two trains must be bought; by printing money one can escape financial difficulties rather easily. Crisis does not know any such easy purchase of required capital. Instead strategic complexity lies in the great problem of financing it. Neither merging, printing money immediately, buying a train from most other companies, nor full payment at once is allowed. Furthermore, a company must also buy shares and an unworthy director might even lose the shares in his company if it remains under-endowed. To summarize, when trying to let your companies survive you are confronted with the following: a speedy boom in 1841 or tightened financial sources in Crisis. Either is very tough.

1841 allows a company to own up to 5 shares. Crisis is limitless and does not just allow such but mercilessly forces all companies to purchase shares! In consequence, company hierarchies grow much bigger, interdependencies are woven more complexly, and the risk of accidentally becoming director is greatly increased. Good shares are scarce and half the companies consist of 20% certificates only. Thus a single share can lead to directorship easily.

Blackwater Information

It follows some information in the style of the [Blackwater Station] of 18xx games. Also see the [18xx Difference List].

Game Status

Crisis is not yet in print. The rules, testing and most of the graphical design are finished, except the banknotes. The game will be published by the author.

Some General Characteristics

LOCATION abstract city underground
MAP virtual 6x6 chess board
TILE COLOURS (green) / yellow / orange / brown / blue / grey / red
BANK MONEY unlimited
Total Limit for Shares in Foreign Companies per Company unlimited
STOCK MARKET 2D (square)


2 6 0080 4 yellow 2 1,2
3 4 0200 +orange 3 1,2
4 4 0360 3 2 +brown 4 1,2
5 2 0600 3 +blue 5 1,3
E4 2 0840 2 +grey E4 1,3
E5 2 1080 4 E5 1,3
E6 11 1320 5 +red E6 1,3,4


  1. The game is played in rounds. Most players take turns after their immediately controlled companies. Companies must also own shares.
  2. Anti-syndicate Laws apply. They restrict cross-control to 40%.
  3. Signals may be replaced.
  4. The bank has an unlimited supply of E6-trains.


NAME COLOUR TYPE TOKENS Can Run Routes of Length 1 STOCK CERTIFICATES Bank Limit / Opens / Normal Limit
Triangle brown convex 3 yes 20% + 8*10% 50%
Square yellow convex 3 yes 20% + 8*10% 50%
Circle red convex 3 yes 20% + 8*10% 50%
Hexagon bright green convex 3 yes 20% + 8*10% 50%
Ellipse bright blue convex 3 yes 20% + 8*10% 50%
Diamond pink convex 3 yes 20% + 8*10% 50%
Star blue concave 4 no 5*20% 60%
Cross grey concave 4 no 5*20% 60%
Maltese wine-red concave 4 no 5*20% 60%
Flower orange concave 4 no 5*20% 60%
Clover green concave 4 no 5*20% 60%
Snow black concave 4 no 5*20% 60%

Player Numbers

NUMBER 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
START MONEY $ 720 480 360 288 240 205 180 160


Crisis is a modern game with many innovations like a virtual, generic map, no general certificate or money limits, rounds instead of operating rounds and stock rounds, structure purchases, and signals but without some traditional elements like off-board connections, terrain difficulties, small cities, empty big cities, or privates. This gives the game a new feeling already on the surface. Square tiles are used to simulate subways in a downtown megalopolis.

While once 1830 could be called the premier game of stock manipulation and 1841 is the game with the greatest speed of technological development, now Crisis is the toughest, most complex, and most unpredictable game of business strategy. Measuring complexity is hard but years of testing have produced counter-strategies for every strategy and not enabled me to foresee just one round, what is possible in 1830 or 1841.

So what makes Crisis so tough? First of all, companies can purchase unlimited numbers of foreign shares. This creates complex combines. Second, companies are forced to own more and more foreign shares, what makes good shares scarce. This is an extra duty besides buying a train. Third, foreign assets may only be bought from the or as a director. Fourth, all shareholders can be responsible for under-endowed companies while some might avoid supports and let the director lose his shares even though having supported. Fifth, other shares in such companies may not be given away and can cause more supports. Sixth, half the companies have only certificates that already allow a director change. Seventh, trading many old or new certificates quickly restructures combines, depletes companies, or inflates money. Eighth, the stock market and the round order, which involves players and companies, are particularly flexible. To conclude, dividends are paid only to owned foreign shares.

While the game has a balanced start and good route construction remains important, it becomes more and more essential to excel at wheeling and dealing. Clearly, Crisis is the game of devious business manipulations.

Historical Background

In the 19th century most early European and American stock companies were railroads because this financial system could efficiently provide the great amounts of risk capital that were required for these enterprises. Particularly in the USA the big investors were hardly interested in a healthy long-term development. Rather they let build railway tracks of poor quality along detours. Their influence on politics presented them with state supports per mile of laid tracks, permitted undue transportation fees, and allowed highly dubious stock market machinations. The great German tycoon Henry Strousberg was a victim of the 1873 stock market crisis because he could not raise cash quickly enough.

The general business crisis in 1929 hurt especially many small shareholders who could not react and sell quickly enough. Then the stock companies were in the hands of few conservative industrialists and bankers. Slowly after World War II some of them sold shares in their companies, which were led like inhereted property. Suddenly in Great Britain tycoons recognized their chance and started to take over companies and combines, split them, restructured them, forged balances, and sold their method to politicians and private shareholders as healthy reorganizations. As a consequence, many acquired shares in them and let stock market prices raise quickly. The tycoons sold their shares with incredible profit, took over further and bigger companies, depleted assets, and sold again while the general public continued to believe in a healthy boom. In reality employees lost their jobs and inflation grew. The oil crisis in 1973 burst the financial soap-bubble totally unexpectedly. Even most tycoons were caught in nets of liabilities, could not get sufficient cash, and soon were bankrupt.

In the 1980s losers among the British tycoons found scope for revenge when in the USA junk bonds financed a new era of company reorganizations. Pension funds became the crucial investors. The system was applied in Great Britain, too. Everything worked out well until the tycoons were sacrificed to calm down the excitements of massive illegal insider trades by the banks. Pension funds and banks have taken over their role, attract another generation of small shareholders, and dispel the next unforeseen crisis, which actually already occurred in 2000 when the severely overextended new market lost some two thirds during several months of an unusually slow crash.

2002-11-05 last update, 2001-08-21 first day, Robert Jasiek