Age of Steam: Getting those Maps Played!
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Age of Steam Maps Yet To Play

My Age of Steam Map Collection

Age of Steam has been my favorite game for several years now. For a long time, it was my only real "10" on the BGG scale (years ago, Magic was also up there; but I don't have time to build decks any more, or interest in adding to a Magic collection of cards that just take up space on the shelf). Twilight Struggle finally made it up there as well, and I do have several almost-10s (including Steam with "Base" rules -- what a stupid name!). But Age of Steam stands out: it's a game, but really it's a game system with a core set of rules and nearly endless tweaks -- some little, some pretty huge, plenty in between. Sadly for me, I'm bitten by completionist bug. Back in the early '90s I spent thousands of dollars on Magic cards, until WotC's production schedule ramped up while my free time cranked down. Other than sporadic purchases, we stopped buying Magic cards by the case some time around ... Visions?

Age of Steam, however, has a much slower pace: expansions come out every year, but only a handful at a time; they are MUCH easier to collect! There are even print-and-play maps, many of which (apparently) work very well. Sadly, the game seems to be getting a lot less play these days. I don't have a regular weekly gaming session and we've hardly hosted any game days ourselves in quite a while. I tried to organize an Age of Steam specific group a few years ago, but stuff came up and we had not continued meeting after a few initial games. I eventually ended up playing online (PBW Steam and Age of Steam, but those groups have been largely quiet for a few years now. So all the expansions I had continued to purchase largely sat on the shelf unplayed. I even had one set of maps from last year that I thought I'd never received: I emailed Alban, one year later, to figure out what happened. Of course, later that day I found them on a shelf, still in their original mailing envelope!

So maps have continued to pile up. Enough!! We have a local convention coming up and I've decided that, rather than playing all the latest and greatest, I'm going to try getting through some of these maps! I started by resurrecting that Age of Steam group: we met twice in the weeks before TBGT -- 4 maps down, countless more to go! New maps bring up rules questions and calls for help on the forums here; a reply on one of these suggested a Geeklist ... so here is my attempt to respond -- we'll see how long I can keep this updated!

T-56 (and that's just counting the unplayed maps I actually own!)
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51. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: California Gold Rush & Underground Railroad [Average Rating:7.35 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.35 Unranked]
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Underground Railroad (2010) - November 17, 2018

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John Rice
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Pompano Beach
Florida
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Joshua Kocur
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Glendale
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San Diego
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--- Rule Summary ---
Setup
• Remove gray New Cities from the game.
• Place 1 black cube on all towns/cities marked with a white square.
• Add 2 random cubes to all cities.
Move Goods
• The half-gray cities are considered gray and the pictured color.
• Black cubes:
o may only be delivered to the half-gray cities.
o may only move over your own links.
o provide 0 income.
o are kept by the person delivering them (winning condition).
Winning the Game
• Bankrupt players are ineligible.
• Most black cubes delivered wins. Tie breakers = highest (income – shares)
----------

This was an odd game from the start. Red went early and started building out in the NW. Unfortunately, Black (with Engineer) went to the same place and did it better, not only making the city connections first but also delivering first. Blue went to the SW, which left me all alone in the middle of the board! Yes, it was through the mountains, but no competition! It didn’t last long, of course: Red popped over to the east as well when the competition got too tough in the west. But I was able to build a nice network there, securing connections to a bunch of black cubes while ramping up my income with other deliveries. Red started moving black cubes early, getting ahead of the rest of us, but got locked of more since I had built all the connections he would have needed!


END

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Fun map! Since income is merely a tie breaker, the game is ALL about the black cubes. Yes, the early game probably needs to be about building your income enough to keep your “company” running, but you have to figure out when to transition. It’s a bit like Steam, actually: you move cubes to generate income to pay for bids and builds, but you really want to end the game at 0 income (and a lot of black cubes!). But with AoS incomes being so much higher than in Steam, I think that transition point comes earlier than expected. I ended up winning 5-4-3-3 (yay me!). However, I don’t think any of us appreciated that transition point: we were all still making money at the end of the game -- we should have started moving black cubes sooner (and called the game earlier, as suggested in the rules, when it becomes obvious one player is too far ahead to lose)!

8/10
----------


T-35

But, after printing a couple of print-and-play maps and realizing I'd miscounted some Steam map plays as Age of Steam plays, I'm back to ...

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52. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Portugal [Average Rating:7.98 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.98 Unranked]
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Portugal (Lacerda print and play, being published soon) (2008) - April 14, 2019

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Melissa DeMorris
United States
El Paso
TX
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El Paso
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--- Rule Summary ---
Setup
• Acores and Madeira: 3 cubes
• All other cities: 2 cubes
• Don’t use columns 5/6 on Goods Display
Build Track
• Ferries: cost $6; the ones with 4 circles may have multiple players (each player has a reserved spot); count as 1 link for deliveries and VP (= 1 track?). May presumably only be built if both sides have been urbanized.
• No player may build more than 1 ferry/track connection with Lisboa in a single turn
End of Game: play 1 turn less than usual
----------

M started right in the middle, in Lisboa. We accidentally let her build 2 connections (a link to the Acores and northward), but didn’t catch it until the next turn - so we just let it ride. I decided to build there as well, but go across the board (leaving options to branch northward or south). W, however, went off by himself way to the north. In the early game I ended up building south (to get access to Madeira, which was building up a nice pile of random cubes while we left it alone). M went north and got all in W’s business — they ended up in a lot of competition for key track builds (and cubes). I eventually built convoluted track to get north a bit, and M worked her way south a little. W was mostly locked out of the south, although he did manage to build some centrally. Unfortunately M and W both had a hard time keeping a steady supply of 6-link deliveries.

Still, after accounting for share differences and track builds, it ended up being a very close game with only 2 points between 1st and 2nd!


END

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This is a pretty straightforward map with only a few simple rule changes. Despite the lower city count, we had a LOT of cubes on the board — plenty remaining right up through the final turn. So, this is probably best for new players (at least with 3). For more experienced players, almost certainly better with 4: more competition for cubes and builds, and a more interesting auction. As usual with 3, people can generally get a useful action (although we did have a few highly contested bids when 2 people needed Urbanization or Loco). It’s not really for me, though, since I prefer having more rule changes than here.

7/10
----------

The latest Viard maps arrived between these last 2 plays so ...

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53. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Vermont, New Hampshire & Central New England [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
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Vermont (2008) - April 15, 2019

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Scott Russell
United States
Clarkston
Michigan
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Paul Skrabut
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Miami
Florida
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Bob Aarhus
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Centreville
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--- Rule Summary ---
Setup
• Newport, Island Pond, Bennington: 4 cubes.
• Other cities: 3 cubes.
• Place $1 on odd-numbered spaces of the Turn Order track.
Choose Actions
• After players choose actions, add $1/player to each unchosen action.
• Players choosing actions with money on them receive the money.
Build Track
• On odd-numbered turns, all track costs $1 extra.
Move Goods
• On odd-numbered turns, each delivery gives owner of last link used an extra $1 income.

----------

Scott won the first auction and took loco. Paul won First Build went somewhere near the middle of the board, allowing Scott to build in the one spot (way in the south) that allowed hike to deliver 2 2-link cubes (for 6 income)! Bob built in the NW corner. Unfortunately for both of us, that was the only spot I saw that had some potential for Turn 2 deliveries so I built there as well. He and I got in each others’ way much of the rest of the game (although I made out better in that exchange). On Turn 1 Scott got to 6 income while the rest of us only had 2 1s (for 4 inc) or 1 2 (for 3 inc). With that early jump ahead, he was able to power through the rest of the game. I did Urb-bomb him a few times to reduce the value of some of his cubes. Unfortunately, the final production roll (penultimate turn) put 2 cubes out, both 6-link deliveries for Scott! He ended up winning this 97-91-72-47!

Still, after accounting for share differences and track builds, it ended up being a very close game with only 2 points between 1st and 2nd!


END

----------
Really fun (and brutal) map! The map, with all those mountains and rivers, is VERY expensive! The bonus income every other turn helps you get through the early game but you have to time your builds and deliveries to really take advantage. The extra money on the unchosen actions also has the nice effect of making ALL the actions, eventually, very attractive!

Now I just need to get the big 7-8 player Central New England map played, and I can stop carrying these maps around with me!

9/10
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54. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Mississippi Steamboats / Golden Spike [Average Rating:7.18 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.18 Unranked]
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Mississippi Steamboats (2007) - April 16, 2019

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John Palagyi
United States
Hebron
Kentucky
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Paul Skrabut
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Miami
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Centreville
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--- Rule Summary ---
Setup
• Duluth, Green Bay, Lafayette: 5 cubes
• Other cities: 2 cubes
Build Track
• Town tiles are counter-limited.
• However, you may use $5 (silver) chips if you run out of town tokens.
Steamboat Building (replaces Urbanization)
• MUST choose a New City tile and place it on an empty river space adjacent to Minneapolis, St. Louis, Memphis or New Orleans.
• The direction the tile is facing is the direction the steamboat will move (North if it aligns with the cities on the map, South if it is placed upside down).
• Steamboats function as mobile cities.
Move Goods
• Goods may move to/from steamboats adjacent to cities/towns (via the brown docks) for 0 links.
• Delivering to a steamboat earns bonus $1 income.
• Goods may not move directly from steamboat to steamboat (must first pass through a town or city).
Steamboat Movement (after Goods Growth)
• In alphabetical order, roll 2d6 for each steamboat currently on the river. Move it (and any goods on it) that many spaces in the direction it is facing.
• If movement ends on an occupied space, move it to the next available empty space.
• When a steamboat reaches the end of the river, it turns around immediately.
----------

Bob started in the far north, with the first steamboat and plans to build a network around and through the river. Paul and John also built along the river, with plans to use the boats as they appeared and moved. Later in the game, Bob did build around the river and a bit south. Paul and John had more disconnected networks, working hard to find deliveries each turn. I started building centrally, on the west edge away from the river. I was able to mostly play vanilla AoS, building a network mostly in the southwest and delivering cubes on the board while largely ignoring the boats unless they happened to be in the right spot at the right time. With so many towns, I was able to have a lot of links in a small space although I did eventually extend north in search of cubes. A pretty decisive victory in the end....


END

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The big rule change here is the creation of Steamboats so naturally, everyone wants to use them. But they're a trap! The boats move so randomly that the game feels much more chaotic than most AoS maps. I think you mostly need to play a regular AoS game, but build enough connections to the river to be able to take advantage of the boats when they happen to come along.

Interesting map, but maybe more chaotic than I like? Hard to assess, though, without a repeat play where everyone knows to not depend on the boats.

7.5/10
----------

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55. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Vermont, New Hampshire & Central New England [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
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Central New England (2008) - April 16, 2019

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Scott Russell
United States
Clarkston
Michigan
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Paul Skrabut
United States
Miami
Florida
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United States
Centreville
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Ian Mackey
Canada
Kitchener
Ontario
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--- Rule Summary ---
Setup
• Vermont to the left of New Hampshire.
• 4 cubes per city.
• Production Chart is not used.
• Place $1 on odd-numbered spaces of the Turn Order track.
Choose Actions
• After players choose actions, add $1/player to each unchosen action.
• Players choosing actions with money on them receive the money.
Build Track
• On odd-numbered turns, all tack costs $1 extra.
• Anti-Competition: track between any 2 cities or 2 towns, or a city and a town, may not be built if the 2 cities/towns are already directly connected.
Urbanization
• May not urbanize a town if it results in duplicate track.
Smuggle
• Allows player to make intrastate deliveries this turn.
Move Goods
• May only deliver goods from one state to the other, unless the Smuggle action is chosen.
• May only use your own links to deliver goods.
• On odd-numbered turns, each delivery gives owner of last link used an extra $1 income.
Production, Goods Growth
• The player with Production draws 2 random cubes; place them in any ONE city.
Advance Turn Marker
• For 6-8 players, game ends after 6 turns (same as usual 6-player game).

----------

Wow, this was a tough start! Even though the map is quite large, everyone (except the one Smuggler, if any) must build on the border so everyone is competing for locations almost immediately. Even the Smuggler, unless they plan on winning Smuggle every turn, has to be nearby. Fortunately there are a lot of towns and cities on the border!

Like last time, Scott took Turn 1 loco and built where he could get 2 2-link deliveries (what was that First Build player doing?!) for 6 income — off to a great start! I built just south of him, a little 3-city loop with some 2-link deliveries and potential to east (open hexes!) and west (lots of mountains). Ian built in the far north, and managed to stay up there largely by himself for several turns (keeping his share count lower than the rest of us for the entire game). Bob took the south and Paul, who’d ended up last for Turn 1, had to build immediately north of Bob to get some deliveries! Next turn, though, P split off and built completely unconnected track to get some small deliveries. He wasn’t able to connect the 2 networks for a few turns, limiting his ability to make longer deliveries. He and Bob ended up fighting each other for track and cubes much of the game. Scott ended up squeezed between me to his south, and Ian to the north, although in the early game (especially with the private links rule) all three of us were generally able to find good deliveries. On one key turn, though, I issued a lot of shares to make sure I could win loco, bumped my engine to 4, and made 2 4-length deliveries (for 8 income, or was it 10?) and leap into the lead. I eventually made up for the share difference between me and Ian (helped by the fact that he eventually ran dry of cubes, and also had a late game brain-fart and momentarily misunderstood the cross-state delivery rule -- scarily good play otherwise, especially after so much time since his last play!). I won (94), with Ian next (77) and the rest all in the 50s.


END

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This is a really great combination map! You'd think the map would be too big, with room for everyone (at the lower end of the player count) to have their own area, but the extra rule requiring you to cross the border gets rid of that problem: everyone is building along the border, getting in each others' way, right away! But with the no-track-sharing rule, you do get some breathing room. The high track costs are balanced by the extra money on unchosen actions. It all seems nicely balanced, although it seems like the map would be exceedingly difficult with 6 or 7 players, let alone the full 8 it supports! It's also nice having ALL the cubes on the board from the start -- so much easier than having to constantly look back and forth between the goods display and the board! And I think you need the cubes to be guaranteed out there to allow everyone, especially when playing with higher counts, to make some cube delivery plans.

8.5/10 (knocked off 0.5 just 'cause it's hard to see how the two map halves connect -- the reason why we placed those little strips of paper in the picture above!)
----------

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56. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: California Gold Rush & Underground Railroad [Average Rating:7.35 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.35 Unranked]
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California Goldrush (2010) - April 16, 2019

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Jeff Anderson
United States
Midlothian
Texas
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Ralph H. Anderson
United States
Prospect
Connecticut
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Bob Aarhus
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Centreville
VA
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New map for all of us. Ralph and Jeff haven’t played in years!


--- Rule Summary ---
Setup
• Remove the yellow New City from the game.
• Place 1 yellow cube (gold) on all marked mountain hexes.
• Altura: 3 cubes
• Other cities: 2 cubes
Move Goods
• Instead of moving a cube or bumping engine level, may mine a gold cube from a hex you have track in. Keep cube in front of you.
Winning Game
• Anyone who went bankrupt cannot win.
• After the final turn’s income reduction, each gold cube is worth 5 income.
----------


We had a TERRIBLE initial cube draw, with almost no red cubes on either the board or in the goods display, and no good early deliveries! Bob spent $10 for a turn 1 Urb, which seemed ridiculously high at the time but turned out to be great! He built in the NW part of the board. Jeff built in the SW corner. I was next and, seeing no good options, build next to Jeff — planning on surviving the first turn with 0 deliveries but potential for 2 3-links on the next turn to make up for it. Ralph, staying away from the mess the S was going to be, built in the NE; but in a weird configuration that would not enable multi-link deliveries early on. And it would have worked, except that on turn 2 Bob chose First Move! He was worried about his cubes being poached by Jeff (who would turn northward since I was in the S and headed E). But J had better deliveries elsewhere and R and I were nowhere near B - B’s cubes were never at risk! But without first move, I could only deliver one cube for 3 ... and started my drawn out death spiral! I advanced my engine quickly to 4 hoping to eventually make those long deliveries to catch up. Unfortunately, one set of cubes I needed didn’t show up until very late in the game (penultimate turn!) and J, with his 2-engine train, took other cubes I might have been able to deliver for more income. R, meanwhile, also ran out of cubes and cash — he and B were competing over some track builds and B, who was by himself up in the NW, was able to keep delivering cubes to earn the cash to win the auctions to beat R to the key spots on the board!

It soon turned into a struggle for R and I to merely survive. We’d maxed out our shares, run out of cash to build, and were counting on cubes coming out: we both had to drop back on the income track for most of the game! I didn’t make a profit until the final turn, when those cubes I’d been waiting on finally showed up! It wasn’t enough, of course. Jeff had managed much better, even collecting several gold cubes. Just not enough to beat Bob’s collection (plus his better in-game income)!

——————


END

----------
Very good expansion! Like others (e.g., Underground Railroad and Sahara?) where one cube color is much more valuable than others, you have to advance your income early in the game, but maybe only enough so that you can collect those valuable cubes at the end of the game. Here, with the expensive terrain and distant cities, that income management is critical (at least it was with the crappy cube distribution we had!).

It’s a keeper!

9/10
----------

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57. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Special 2008 Spiel Limited Edition – Essen Spiel & Secret Blueprints of Steam Plan #3 [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked]
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Essen Spiel (2008) - April 16, 2019

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Lucas Hedgren
United States
Dublin
Ohio
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Paul Skrabut
United States
Miami
Florida
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New map for all of us.

--- Rule Summary ---
Setup
• 3 players
o Remove cities C, D, G, H; all black cubes; and Halls 5, 9, and 10 from the game.
o Game ends 2 turns earlier than usual.
• 4 players
o Remove cities D, G, H; Halls 4 and 8 from the game.
o Game ends 1 turn earlier than usual.
• 5 players
o Remove cities D, G, H; Hall 4 from the game.
o Game ends 1 turn earlier than usual.
• 6 players: remove cities G and H from the game.
• 3 cubes (games) per town (vendors at Spiel)
Urbanization
• When action chosen, player immediately places any available city onto a town (cubes present there remain). Then other players, in turn order, place a city onto a town in any Hall currently without a city.
• If action not chosen, cities are placed (in turn order) after last player chooses their action.
Build Track
• All track: $4
• You may build across black boundaries between Halls.
Production (Goods Growth)
• Choose any 2 cubes and place on any town (not on a city).
• All cities are removed from the board (cubes remain on the board).
End of Game Scoring
• Preprinted track spurs do count towards VP.
----------


I was knocked out of contention early on, failing to bid high enough to get loco for at least the first 3 turns! It looked like Luke, who had managed to issue very few shares and yet somehow still build and deliver better than either of us, had the game in the bag. In the end, though, Paul had used the extra shares and income to build more track: he won after track points were counted, 111-108-98. Good game!

END

----------

This is a very interesting map, with a very simple and effective (it seems) way to scale for variable player counts. It makes First Build, and maybe First Move, extremely important! And also Loco: with all the towns and pre-built tracks, it's easy to build a good network quickly. You need to take advantage of that network as quickly as possible. The chaotic nature of cities popping up in different locations every turn can make it difficult to steadily bump your engine and deliver enough good cubes!

Fun!
8.5/10
----------

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