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Age of Steam» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Session Report rss

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Yehuda Berlinger
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Jerusalem
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Adam 46, Binyamin 45, Gili 29, Jon 23, Brendan 22, Josh 13

Ah, Age of Steam. An excellent, excellent game. But long, especially for our group. We started explaining the rules at 7:00. That took 45 minutes. Then we played for 4 hours, until almost 11:45. Some of that was first time players and rules lookups. Some of that was our players; usually I'm the quick one, but even I had to think some things through for a few minutes. Not that it did me any good.

Still, I just love this type of game, and this particular game. One of its great things is that you don't hit a comfortable point during the game and then just play out the rest. Even toward the end of the game you are scrambling around for resources. That makes it constantly engaging. Arguably, it is noticeable that some players have much better chance of winning than other players by the last few rounds.

The game is very tight, economically. There are too many things to do that need money, and not enough money coming in. I tried to examine the money problem. Like other games, a certain "rule of squares" applies here. That is, you have (in a six player game) 12 runs to make. Each of those runs can be spent in upgrading your train so that the run can go one more link. If you don't do any upgrades, you can (in theory) make 12 runs that pay off 1 point each. If you upgrade 11 times, you can make 1 run that pays off 12 points. The rule of squares says that you should upgrade 6 times and make 6 runs paying off 36 points.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work, for many reasons. While you are planning this, other people are stealing your tracks, stealing your goods, upgrading for free, and so on. You have to make some runs early on in order to pay off your shares. Then when it comes to running your train, you end up running on other people's tracks and giving them the income. And so on. What a headache!

Which isn't to say that the game is perfect. My few complaints: I'm not enamored with the good restocking system. I don't like the push back on the scoring track mechanism; actually it makes the game better, but it's inelegant and doesn't make much sense. And the last round of the game has a few issues, such as useless roles and so on, like Power Grid. It's like the game development went only so far and then stopped.

Anyhoo ...

In our game, Binyamin took an early lead and seemed to be winning, but Adam crept up and seemed to be a strong contender. Around turn 4 (out of 6) I took quick stock of the board and realized that Adam was marginally in the lead. Meanwhile, in the back ranks, my train was too small, but I was at least somewhat ahead of the rest of the trailing pack as far as having less debt and more rails.

Gili and I were conservative in our shares. Binyamin and Josh did a lot of Urbanization, while Brendan and I concentrated on first mover. Another great aspect of the game is the various paths to victory, and it's really true in this game. Adam won by taking Locomotive 4 times. I had the opportunity once and failed to take it, which was one of my major errors.

Brendan adds:

Age of Steam is "18xx Light". Which is good, cos I think 18xx is far too long/complex/not focused on track building/not geographic enough.

"Age of Steam" has one problem that really annoys me though: it costs me VP to urbanise on the last turn. That makes no sense. All game you try to urbanise, and then on the last turn it is disadvantageous to develop a city you connect to (especially one you have a monopoly on). So much for investing in your network or developing the country. Let the peasant squat in their hovels.. no urban planning for you!

With goods production, maybe instead of randomly drawing 2 cubes and deciding which city to put them on, how about randomly rolling the city, then deciding what goods it will get?
 
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J C Lawrence
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Campbell
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Shade_Jon wrote:
Then we played for 4 hours


Ouch. 120-150 minutes is par here even with players who play AoS infrequently (most of us play AoS at least twice or more each month).

Quote:
Age of Steam is "18xx Light". Which is good, cos I think 18xx is far too long/complex/not focused on track building/not geographic enough.


Play 18XX with Limi's moderator and the game length falls rapidly through the floor. We're new to the moderator and are regularly playing games in half to a third the normal playing time (eg a recent 1870 took 140 minutes). With a little practice I expect to drop that to near a quarter the normal time. eg 1830 in 120 minutes. There are groups that regularly play faster than that, eg 1835 in 60 minutes.
 
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