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Subject: Worth it without expansions? rss

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Clint DeSena
United States
Plainville
Connecticut
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I'm thinking of getting Age of Steam, but I like a game where I can purchase the core game and not have to worry about buying expansions to keep it interesting. Is there good replayability without buying any expansions?

As an aside, are the rules in AoS fiddly at all? I like complex games (Power Grid, Puerto Rico, etc.), but after playing a game of Fury of Dracula the other night I have to say that some games have too many extra rules that add NOTHING to gameplay.

Thanks for any help!

- An AoS virgin.
 
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Charles Hasegawa
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Chandler
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No more fiddly than Power Grid, but more rules, because its a bit more complex.

Are the expansions needed? No, no moreso than they are for Power Grid. There are expansions which make the game better (add another player, or fix broken rules) and expansions which make the game deiiferent or fresh. AoS expansions fall into the latter. The new maps just give you a different geography and a slight twist to the play.
 
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Alex Sorbello
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Albuquerque
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AoS is a great game in many aspects. It's one of the best (IMO the best) train game out there... People having a problem with the game are the same people that hate it when you start in debt and have to work you're way out, maybe they all came to this world as heirs....
The game has a lot of replay value. And depending on how much you play it's worth getting the expansions... Expansions add varity nothing more, some new rules are used to render the new maps. Like the engineer action would be changed.
The bottom line is: a great game and only buy the expansions if you're going to play this so often that other games will disssapate from exictance in your point of view... if not: the base game will provide a lot of replay value for many games because setup is always different and makes for a totally different game each time...
hope this helps
Cheers
Lexen
 
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Jeremiah Lee
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Alameda
California
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At one time, I didn't really like Power Grid so Ted made my piece a Power Grid piece.
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I think that the expansions to AoS are vital. My friends love the game, it's the game my friends want to play most, and we never play the Rust Belt map. Why? It's a boring map. Few mountains, which you rarely need to use, and few other obstacles other than the other players. The Rust Belt map has only come out when teaching new people to play, and that's unlikely to happen now that I have AoS expansion #4, as the France map is a good beginner map. My one friend disliked the game intensely after playing the Rust Belt map, but liked it just fine once I pushed an expansion map on him.

The expansions provide many more obstacles, more interesting decisions to make when building your track, and just a more interesting experience.
 
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PAUL OCONNOR
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Encinitas
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AoS is subtle, complex, and entirely unforgiving of mistakes. It will take several games before you really start to see everything it is doing. New players are easily victimized by the system. Succeeding in the game (let alone winning) takes real skill; doing so is among the most rewarding experiences in gaming.

It is not a casual game but it is one of my favorites, and I wish I had time and opportunity to play it more often.

You'll easily grind a dozen games or more out of the original map before it begins to feel stale. The expansions are nice to have (particularly as they are balanced for differing numbers of players, giving you some options based on the size of the group that is playing), but you can't really appreciate what the expansions are trying to do until you master the first map.

The games you have listed as favorites are pretty decent indicators that you'll enjoy Age of Steam. If you have a group of like-minded gamers, and you aren't put off by a game that can be punishing while you learn it, then you should give it a go. For the right group it is truly a great game.
 
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Karl Rainer
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Nanaimo
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No need to buy the expansions... the standard board has more than enough replayability to make this fascinating. One caveat: I got so hooked i had to buy the expansions anyway!
 
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Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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I liked it before it had expansions, I like it more now. I happen to be an 18xx junkie. Lots of similar games, but different enough that I like many of them. Each game costs $40-60. Here the base game costs that, and then each expansion (two games really) costs $20. A great deal.

Does it have a lot of variability? Yup. The setup makes each game somewhat variable. But that isn't a whole lot. If you can play 1830 over and over again, this has great variability. If you get bored after a few times, then it doesn't. Depends on what you compare it to.
 
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Richard Young
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Victoria
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I think it is in the nature of railroading games that folks like to experience the challenges posed by different maps. The better the system, the more likely new maps will be developed for it to cater to the frontier urge to drive new road-bed into unfamiliar territory.

As great as the 18XX series is, AoS derives greater replayability from a given map by the nature of the intitial seeding of goods cubes. 1830's opening moves become very scripted to veteran players, much like chess openings. AoS never feels scripted to the same degree, thus ensuring that the basic map should stand you in good stead for quite some time. That said, the lure of the unfamiliar may become strong indeed particularly if you become a "Steamer" convert!
 
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Mik Svellov
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We play the expansions when playing with regular AoS players and the original board when playing with irregular AoS players, who often dislike having to learn a new map when they hardly know the old one. And none of us "regulars" have ever been bored playing the old one. It still feels as fresh as the first time we played it.

In short: you don't need any expansions at all - they simply add a little variation to an already exellent game.
 
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I play several rail games, but Age of Steam is not just my favorite of those, but maybe my favorite game, period. The expansions not just new maps, but they always add a unique rules variation, so they distinctly change the game, and usually favor a certain number of players. That said, the game plays great without the expansions. If you love it, you will probably eventually get a few, but you don't need them. The basic map works better with more players, so if you expect to play a lot with three players, it may not be the best, but with four to six it's one of the better ones. Whenever you play the game, the resources are distributed randomly. Odds are that colors will tend to concentrate in different areas in different games, so a single map can yield plenty of variety. Also, because opponents will build and urbanize differently each game, the map changes a bit, so games just won't play alike. The cool thing about the expansions, though, is that general strategies that work well on the basic map may have to be completely abandoned on many of the expansion maps. I'd say buy the game and pick up some expansions, but if you're dead set against expansions, the basic game is wonderful.

First time through, you may find a rule or two fiddly. Fortunately, each turn has an order of phases, which make rules application pretty direct and after your first two turns of your first game, you should be an expert. You'll be thinking more about strategy than rules pretty quickly.
 
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Eric Poolman
United States
Portland
Oregon
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If you can get through the rules to Power Grid, you can handle Age of Steam.

Learning to play the basic map well will take a ton of games, and the random cube draw really does change the feel of the board from game to game. No problem playing only it (though good luck in not getting hooked and wanting others.)
 
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Clint DeSena
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Plainville
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Thank to all for the great comments! It looks like I'll be ordering this game soon!
 
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