Karl Rainer
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Age of Steam France Session Report with Images and Analysis

Session report by Karl Rainer

Played by Email, using Vassal game engine, April-June 2006.

Players: Jeremiah, Karl, Andrew, Brad

Board Setup:

The First obvious problem was that the Vassal module was missing a few things: The White city “1” is supposed to be purple coloured but shows as grey; a town is missing to the west of Paris; the turn order marker is missing; and the towns in the hilly regions should not be on hilly terrain. To indicate that city “1” was purple, we decided to mark it with a purple Ownership token.
The cube setup on the board looks fairly sparse, with few initial shipping opportunities, so Paris may end up as a crucial cube supply in the end game. Furthermore, the goods chart cubes do not look promising for long chain deliveries, making available cubes even more important.

[IMG]http://img121.imageshack.us/img121/1148/smallerboardsetup9ip... [/IMG]

Turn 1:

Everyone except Karl issues 1 extra share. Bidding was high: Brad takes Locomotive with $4, followed by Andy selecting Urbanization for $3, then Jeremiah pulls First Build and pays $1, while Karl ends up with the second Urbanization for $0. Jeremiah starts building in the south, connecting Cities “2” and “3” and setting up an initial two link shipment. Brad claims the two-linker out of Paris, setting up a potential super-shipment of two 2-linkers and aiming for a possible income of four. Andy makes an early defensive move, stomping Brad’s town and dropping a blue city there to wipe out Brad’s power move, but limiting his own maximum shipment length to one link. As a result of Andy’s move, Karl is allowed to drop the red Urbanization city and create a two-link possibility out of Paris, looping onto the blue city placed by Andy. As everything settles out, each player ships for two income, and all locomotives except Andy’s reach level two. After expenses, cash leftover shows $6 for Andy, $4 each for Karl and Jeremiah, and $1 for Brad.

Editorial comment: Brad is perplexed that Andy stomped him when he was primed for a perfect first turn, but if Andy had not done it, Karl would have had to. As things stand, Karl holds a slight edge, having one less share issued, and Andy is at a disadvantage with his locomotive at level one, but all-in-all it’s a fairly equal turn. Although it is financially smart to not issue a share here, Karl suffers badly by having no real effect on the bidding, and giving up all hope of contesting the four income possibility out of Paris. He gets extremely lucky when Andy drops city “B” on Brad’s town. Jeremiah looks to have a strong position with no major competition in the southeast corner of the board, as long as he can connect to Paris. It is also worth calculating the scores (not just income!) on every turn to see who is really in the lead and by how much.
Turn one scores show Karl at 2, Jeremiah at 1, and Brad and Andy both at -1.

[IMG]http://img241.imageshack.us/img241/5926/smallerafterturn14vz... [/IMG]

Turn 2:

Brad and Jeremiah each issue two more shares, while Andy and Karl issue one each. Bidding is fairly high again, with Brad victorious and paying $5, Jeremiah coming in at $4, Andy shelling out $1 and Karl paying nothing for fourth spot. Brad elects Urbanization, Jeremiah takes Engineer, Andy pulls locomotive, and Karl takes turn order. Brad immediately extends his line by putting a black city in the far northeast of the board where no-one else can use it. Jeremiah makes good use of engineer to connect white city “3” to white city “4”, Andy starts building south out of Paris, and Karl creates an extra 2-link track north from Paris and looping back southwest to the red city “A” he placed on turn one. Everyone increases their locomotive by one, but Andy does not ship at all while everyone else moves a cube for three income. Due to expenses, Brad must reduce income by one to four total, and Andy is crushed back to zero and only stays in the game due to the state subsidy rules of the France board. After expenses, final cash count shows $1 each for Jeremiah and Karl, and $0 for both Andy and Brad.

Editorial Comment: Note that the cumulative bids at this point in the game are really high: Brad has paid $9, Andy and Jeremiah $5 each and …Karl has paid $0. This represents almost the entire difference in share issues in the game! Also, examine Jeremiah’s track build: even though he was using Engineer, he might have considered connecting to the blue city by using the southern hexside: this would probably have discouraged anyone else from molesting his track for several turns. Although the goods growth did not give him anything good to work with, Andy really struggles at this point. Splitting his track is almost a death sentence in Age of Steam, and he might have built northward from his existing rails. Nevertheless, on the shipping phase, he should have foregone increasing his locomotive to link level 3, keeping it at two, and shipped a cube on a shared track, earning one income for Jeremiah but at least getting one income himself: he still would have suffered income reduction, but his final income would be two rather than zero. Brad’s choice of urbanization looks good in the short term, but because there are four black cubes in Paris, he will only be able to ship a few before they get abandoned in favour of longer links. Nevertheless, it is still a reasonable choice, as many yellow and purple cubes will be showing up in Paris due to goods growth; the only downside is that to take advantage of them he is basically committing himself to taking Urbanization again a few times. The France rules make Urbanization slightly weaker, as you only get two track placements, which reduces final game scores somewhat. Jeremiah has made some fairly strong track placement, but has already issued five total shares. At this point, the capital positions (the difference between income and expenses) show us who is financially sound: Brad is at -4, Jeremiah is at -3, Andy is at -7 and Karl is at -1. Jeremiah and Karl’s $1 in hand also give a slight edge for the next bidding round, and Karl already holds the Turn Order. Things are looking good for Karl, but it remains to be seen whether auction results and track blocking allow him any profitable builds. Jeremiah has some potentially nice circular shipments set up for subsequent turns.
Turn two scores show Karl at 12, Jeremiah at 7, Brad at 1, and Andy at -1.

Note: the illustration below contains an error: Andy actually issued one more share and built both to and through the town north of city “4”.

[IMG]http://img241.imageshack.us/img241/7041/smallerafterturn21qg... [/IMG]

Turn 3:

Share issue is fairly restrained: Brad starts with one, Jeremiah issues two, Andy issues two, and Karl issues one. The bidding is also more restrained this time: Andy secures Engineer with a bid of $4, Karl gets second place using Turn Order for $0 and takes Locomotive, Jeremiah is third paying $2 for Production, and Brad selects Turn Order for fourth spot, paying $0. Andy completes his link from Paris to city “4” and begins the two endpoints connecting city “4” and city “2”, leaving only a one hex gap to be filled next turn. Karl splits his three tracks, taking the hex joining white cities “1” and “2”, and builds two tracks due south out of city “B”. Jeremiah looks to join up to city “1” eventually by building out of his town towards the waypoint town to the northeast. Brad circles back in the northwest of France, trying to create his own track loop. During the shipping phase, no-one manually upgrades their locomotives, so eight cubes get moved resulting in income of six for Brad and Karl, five for Jeremiah and four for Andy. Note that Jeremiah intentionally ships over Karl’s track to push him into the first tax bracket. Andy is walloped again by the lack of cash on hand to pay expenses, so after the dust settles, the total incomes are 10 for both Brad and Andy, 9 for Karl, 0 for Andy, and the cash on hand shows $3 for Karl, $2 each for Brad and Jeremiah, and $0 for Andy.

Editorial Comment: Ah, the first real signs of nastiness in this game. Jeremiah is forced to take an extremely expensive route to get to city “1”, and in retaliation he makes Karl literally pay, by forcing him to the higher income tax bracket. Karl’s locomotive does not really gain him much, but salvages some income flow on an otherwise cube-poor turn. Andy looks like he will have a viable shipping route now, but the financial damage from turn two seems almost overwhelming and may take several turns to right itself. Brad suffers from a severe shortage of cash, such that he can only build two tracks. Note that no-one selected urbanization this turn: Brad could have taken it, but would not have been able to create a four link path using any available cubes for shipping. At this point, the capital positions of the players are Andy at -9, Brad at +1, Karl at +1, and Jeremiah at 0. Note however, that Karl has his locomotive link up to four already while the others are at three, and his expenses are only eight while Brad and Andy have expenses of nine and Jeremiah has expenses of ten. Things look really positive for Karl, although that track spur heading south seems to be floating out in the middle of nowhere. Paris is fairly overflowing with goods waiting to be shipped but remaining track spurs are becoming rare. Jeremiah will have to decide just how badly he wants to connect to Paris.
Turn three scores show Karl at 24, Jeremiah at 19, Brad at 18, and Andy at -11.
Note that Karl is not in the Income lead but holds a sizeable score advantage!

[IMG]http://img121.imageshack.us/img121/4194/smallerafterturn39ya... [/IMG]

Turn 4:

Now that the cash crunch has hit and people are looking for specific actions, the share issues come thick and fast. Andy and Karl issue two shares, while Jeremiah and Brad issue three each. Bidding is also very high, with final payments being $8 by Brad for Urbanization, $7 by Jeremiah for Engineer, $3 by Karl for Locomotive, and $0 by Andy for Turn Order. Brad drops the Yellow city on the remaining northwest town and connects up to red city “A” for a pretty track chain. Jeremiah connects his spur and cities “1” and “4”, essentially completing his track loop. Karl reverses his direction, connecting his southern spur through the town and then back to city “6” and also starts a small spur out of the town heading due east. Andy has to pay $4 for his complex crossing track, and lays two more tiles that connect cities “5” and “6”. This time Brad and Karl upgrade their locomotives manually, while Jeremiah and Andy stay at link level three. This puts Karl up to a link level of six, and Brad is now at link level four. The shipments total 6 income for Jeremiah and Andy, 5 for Karl and 4 for Brad, which leave Jeremiah with final income 14 and $3 on hand, Brad with final income of 12 and $6 on hand, Karl with final income of 12 and $4 on hand, and Andy with final income of 3 with $0 leftover.

Editorial Comment: Two of the players’ actions can be anticipated at the beginning of this turn. Brad needs Urbanization to create a decent shipment and is unlikely to “bomb” someone else’s existing town. Jeremiah needs to connect to city “1”, and will need to take Engineer. If these two duke it out in the bidding, then whoever gets third is likely to still have Locomotive left to choose for relatively cheap. Andy’s extra two tracks block both Karl and Brad from easy connections into city “5”, but cost him dearly in the finances department: he would have made some money had he placed only the complex track. Karl’s link level of six now gives maximum number of cube shipment possibilities at two cubes per turn for the rest of the game providing that they are available, and the cubes sitting in Paris look promising. Now Karl is at a break-even capital position of zero, with no further expenses anticipated due to locomotive increases. This strongly points to the wisdom of increasing your locomotive early and often, and carefully limiting your share issues. Andy is at -1 capital position but still needs to increase his locomotive up from four. Jeremiah is at +1 capital, but his locomotive is extremely low and is limiting further revenue growth. Andy is at -8 capital position; he would have been at -5 if he had not elected to build the extra two hexes. Karl is looking like he is committed to Engineer next turn, so this could hurt him in the bidding if others try to snatch it away from him, but he still has a shares advantage and can spend a fair bit of cash now to try and thwart competition, and only Brad has more cash in hand. Looking ahead to the next turn, Brad will be very constrained for his next build: he can’t go south, as all easy exits from cities “6” and “B” are taken, so he will probably exit from Paris somehow. His best move would probably be to take Locomotive and ship two red cubes from Paris to city “A”, but he could try to thwart Karl by taking Engineer. Andy needs money and will probably have to make the best of whatever action is left to him. Jeremiah is probably also looking for a way into Paris, which could set up a potential conflict with Brad and may impact on both of their bidding and action choices.
Turn four scores show Karl at 32, Jeremiah at 27, Brad at 17, and Andy at -3.
Again, Karl is two income behind Jeremiah, but has increased his lead in the game score by one point: the positions on the income track are particularly deceptive.

[IMG]http://img121.imageshack.us/img121/5243/smallerafterturn48uv... [/IMG]

Turn 5:

Share issues are restrained for the first time in the game, with Karl, ironically, issuing the most shares at two while everyone else issues one. Brad feels the squeeze in Paris, and bids high for Urbanization, taking it and paying $7. Karl pushes the bidding up for his selection of Engineer, getting it for $6. Andy takes First Build for $0, and Jeremiah is fourth with Locomotive for $0. Andy starts by building from Paris to city “B”, and this time only lays the two tiles for a total track cost of $4. Brad lays down black city “C” to the east of Paris and connects those cities. Karl extends his existing spur, but bypasses the town in the hills connecting directly to city “4” and beginning to shut the door to that city. Jeremiah connects City “C” to the town to the south, and also claims the last hexside out of city “4” going northwards. After shipping, income levels settle at 18 for Karl and Jeremiah, 14 for Brad and 8 for Andy, with cash on hand at $10 for Karl, $8 for Jeremiah, $1 for Brad, and, after his -2 income reduction, $0 for Andy. Locomotive link level is six for Karl, five for Brad, and four each for Jeremiah and Andy.

Editorial Comment: Karl is now paying out some hefty bids, but at this point in the game, cash flows far more freely than at the beginning. The money he saved in the first three rounds gains him a lot of bidding freedom now, and puts the squeeze on the other players. Andy’s choice of first build is not bad: he gets an entry into Paris after all. Unfortunately, had he selected First Move instead it would have guaranteed him a better income on this turn, as Karl ends up poaching one of his vital cubes. Because Andy’s income is so low, Karl can essentially ship cubes six links, giving himself $5 and Andy $1 without fear that he will offer Andy a chance to win, and the nature of Karl’s forking tracks allows many, many such possibilities. By bypassing the town on this build, he gives up one extra track build point, but gains access to a six-link path for purple cubes from Paris to city “1” through one of Andy’s track, essentially guaranteeing enough income to win the game at this point. Jeremiah’s track build was tactically brilliant, hampering anyone else from getting to city “C” or the town between “C” and city “4”, but it unfortunately does not allow any instant payback in the form of a long shipment. Jeremiah’s next track build poses an interesting dilemma between First Build, Urbanization and Engineer, each with defensive and offensive benefeits and liabilities: but remember that his low link level is painful right about now, and any turn without locomotive results in an income level so low that the game might be out of reach. Andy’s build will be interesting: he and Karl could vie for the remaining build west of Paris connecting cities “6” and “B”. It is unclear what would most benefeit Brad… perhaps Urbanization. Finally, Karl will have a hard time fending off all the bidders: his best bet is probably winning the auction and taking Urbanization to “bomb” one of Jeremiah’s towns and prevent someone else from dropping the last purple city on his town to the southwest of Paris and disrupting his purple shipments. Share issuing will be critical. Although there are three complete turns left in the game, the three trailing players need to immediately gang up in a concerted effort and pound, frustrate and block the leader if they are to have any hope of denying Karl the win.
Turn five scores show Karl at 47, Jeremiah at 39, Brad at 22, and Andy at 11.

[IMG]http://img241.imageshack.us/img241/1575/smallerafterturn50et... [/IMG]

Turn 6:

Issued shared are sparse: Brad and Karl issue none, Andy and Jeremiah take one. Bidding is again quite competitive; Brad starts bidding with his only remaining dollar, but eventually Karl takes first with $6, Jeremiah pays $5 for second, Andy pays $2 for third and Brad gets fourth for free. Karl snatches Urbanization, Jeremiah takes Locomotive, Andy pulls Turn Order and Brad opts for Production. Karl places black city “H” on the town between cities “2” and “3”, and builds two simple tracks connecting cities “B” and “6”. Jeremiah completes his spurs, joining up to the town between cities “4” and “C”. Andy connects city “5” to the small town to the northeast, and Brad, with $1 left, does not build. Shipping is a bit nasty, with Karl hoisting one of the red cubes in city “1” which otherwise might have scored well for Jeremiah. Expenses for all players are 17 for Jeremiah, 15 each for Brad and Andy, and 14 for Karl.

Editorial Comment: Jeremiah gambled and won Locomotive, which is his best shot at a winning score. Unfortunately, Karl drops his Urbanization on top of one of the towns Jeremiah was most connected to, eliminating three track points and blocking Jeremiah’s planned five-link black cube shipments. Karl should probably have chosen to take Locomotive to deny it to Jeremiah, as this would be the best method of assuring himself of the win assuming enough cubes could be shipped. Note that denying Locomotive is most effective on this turn rather than the next because of the opponents lower link levels. The downside would be letting Urbanization go to someone who would probably “bomb” him and simultaneously block some of his five-link shipments: Urbanization is a defensive move and he will probably contest for it again next turn. If he wins it and places the purple town, he will retain access to all of the purple cubes in Paris for five- link shipments. If he wins it and places the black town he may be able to link from city “C” back to the northernmost town on the board for a potential six-link shipment on the last turn. In any case, Karl’s greater cash on hand will make it extremely difficult for the opponents to secure an earlier turn order in the auction. Brad’s inability to build this turn is sound financially, but will hurt him in the final scores because he is adding no track points to his already low track score totals. However, his ownership of the link between Paris and “C” has gained him three extra income points this turn alone, as Jeremiah and Andy move their cubes: if the other players continue to use his track, Brad can once again challenge for the lead. The board is now almost completely stripped of cubes in the southeast, and Paris looks like the main battleground for the last few turns. Regardless of who tries to bomb Karl now, though, Karl’s build guarantees him at least 10 income points per turn for the rest of the game due to the number of cubes in Paris and the configuration of his track. The pound-the-leader moves required to catch Karl did not materialize this turn, and there may not be enough turns left to have sufficient effect on the outcome.
Turn six scores show Karl at 67, Brad at 49, Jeremiah at 48, and Andy at 25.
The other players may not realize just how far ahead Karl’s score sits at this point since Jeremiah and Brad are within one and two spaces respectively on the Income track.

[IMG]http://img121.imageshack.us/img121/6619/smallerafterturn62vf... [/IMG]

Turn 7:

As expected at this point in the game, share issue is almost negligible, and only Andy is still in financial difficulties, so he issues two shares while everyone else abstains. Karl opens with a bid of $9, and Brad decides to bid him up, eventually winning the bid at $12, while Karl pays $11. Brad takes Urbanization, Karl takes Locomotive, Andy takes Engineer, and Jeremiah takes first build, connecting cities “3” and “5”. Brad drop the purple expansion city “F” to the east of city “C”, but has no cash left to build. Karl connects “C” and “F” for $2. Andy connects “H” and “3” through the hills and starts a spur from “F” back towards “C”. Shipping is anti-climactic, with everyone pretty much using their own routes. The final statistics for the turn show Andy with 13 shares issued, 18 income, locomotive level 4, and $10 on hand; Jeremiah has 12 shares issued, 26 income, locomotive level 5 and $18 on hand; Brad has 10 shares, 27 income, locomotive level 5 and $18 on hand, and Karl has 8 shares, 28 income, locomotive level 6 and $21 on hand.

Editorial Comment: This turn seems pretty aimless and contains several questionable moves. First, Andy issues one too many shares. He does not have any conceivable build that will cost more than $9. Second, Karl’s opening bid of $9 is really nonsense, because if everyone else passes, he will allow them to save their money for next bidding turn: he would be better to gradually raise the level and force some other players to pay out too. Furthermore, at this cost he might as well bid up to $13 and take Urbanization, as he cannot really afford to have someone bomb him for the last two turns. Third, Brad’s bid uses up all his money and does not allow him to take advantage of any possible pick except Production, which he really needs in order to get a black cube or two into city “A” in order to get a 12 income shipping round on the last turn. Not only does Brad take Urbanization instead, but he then fails to drop it on Karl’s shipping nexus points, which might have helped him creep closer for the win. Because the purple city is now dropped onto the board, there is no way to block Karl from shipping all the remaining purple cubes from Paris for five income each. Andy makes the best build with his well-selected Engineer, by securing two extra track points and virtually guaranteeing two more on the last turn, when other people will be bidding high for Engineer. Fourth, Jeremiah should have also considered Production. It would take some luck, but if he could have produced a few purple cubes from city “C”, he might have charged ahead for the win. Karl’s gaffes jeopardize his seeming iron-clad grip on the game, but at this stage there are only a few moves left and each of his opponent needs to do too many things at once: Upgrading, Engineering, Producing and/or First Building. Because he got his locomotive upgrades out of the way early, most of Karl’s efforts involve blocking and frustrating the opponents. Nevertheless, his choice of Locomotive is strange, as he would be better off with Production. Had either Brad or Jeremiah taken Production this turn, gotten lucky with the cubes and selected Locomotive next turn, they might have contested for the win. As it stands, it’s too late. An interesting point about shipping this turn: Andy elected to ship a single cube between cities “5” and “6” instead of shipping a three link black cube from “6” to “H”. While initially this may seem like a poor choice, because the final income after reduction is the same and Andy is foregoing $2 of cash on hand, in fact as long as he does not feel the need for cash, he intelligently preserves the longer shipment for the next turn when cubes will be in short supply for him.
Looking ahead to the last turn, both Brad and Jeremiah are in a tight spot. Each one needs Locomotive, plust someone needs to choose Urbanization to bomb Karl, plus the only remaining build on the board requires Engineer. Even Andy could profit from Engineer: if he gets it he could redirect his track spur and add two more to make the track between “C” and “F” worth three scoring points. Should everyone gang up on Karl, the combination of actions is till probably not going to catch him in the final scoring, so his actions will be relatively immaterial, and if he selects any one of Urbanization, Engineer or Locomotive, he will be protecting his advantage. Karl also has seven cubes that he can ship for 5 income and while only giving one income to an opponent, so he doesn’t even really need to safeguard his cubes. The cubes positioned on the board and the shortage of track builds also make the shipping for next turn fairly predictable. The maximum income each player can earn by moving cubes on their own turn are 10 for Karl, 10 for Jeremiah (with Locomotive), 9 for Brad (with Locomotive), and 7 for Andy (with Locomotive). Without Locomotive, the maximum self-derived shipments are 10 for Karl, 8 for Jeremiah, 8 for Brad, and 6 for Andy. Both Andy and Brad stand to gain at least a few extra income from other players using their track, but it will not be enough, especially if Brad or Jeremiah cannot win Locomotive in the auction. Karl should probably grab the Locomotive action, and take the hit from one opponent Urbanizing against him while the other one augments their own track score with Engineer, as the scoring penalty he applies to both of the closest opponents by limiting their income equals or exceeds the combined penalty all three opponents can inflict on him. Should he so choose, he is giving up on the necessity to build track, so he can bid as much money as he has cash-on-hand, and since he has $3 more than anyone else, he can guarantee both first place in the auction and the Locomotive action if he wants it.
Turn seven scores show Karl at 80, Jeremiah at 63, Brad at 61, and Andy at 34.
Karl’s 18-point lead has slipped to 17 points, but it still appears insurmountable.

[IMG]http://img121.imageshack.us/img121/6192/smallerafterturn79vq... [/IMG]

Turn 8:

No Shares are issued in this turn. After some preliminary bidding, Jeremiah jumps to $18 and Karl trumps that with a bid of $19. Brad comes in third and pays $4. Karl takes Locomotive, Jeremiah takes Urbanization, Brad takes First Move, and Andy gets Engineer. Karl cannot build track, and Jeremiah drops the last black city on the northernmost town on the board, eliminating two of Karl’s track. Brad drops a single spur, and Andy completes his track towards city “C”. Once the cubes start moving,

Editorial Comment: Andy gets Engineer for free, which was probably the most useful choice on the board after Locomotive! Jeremiah’s Urbanization location was marginal, as it only killed two of Karl’s track points. Instead, he could have dropped it on the town to the northeast of city “5”, which would have killed three track points. The town he chose actually creates two new black cube shipment of length six for Karl, so it’s a negative net move in the cube-blocking realm, and he realized this as soon as Karl moved for his shipment of length 6. Andy, with his Engineer, missed an opportunity to redirect his last track spur and transform it into a straight track, then add two more tiles to get to city “C”: this would have provided an extra point in the final scoring. Not a big deal at this point in the game and certainly not worth fretting over, but it’s worth pointing out as a tool that might be used by other players in a tighter future game. During the shipping, Karl opts to move one cube for 5 and one for 6, in order to make it unattractive for an opponent to push him over into the next tax bracket: in truth, he should probably just go for the two shipments of 6 each, as it at least gives him a chance to achieve the highest score. Last turn shipping provides 12 income for Karl, 9 for Brad, 9 for Jeremiah and 6 for Andy.

Final Game Statistics

Final Income: Karl = 34, Jeremiah = 29, Brad = 30, Andy = 20
Shares Issued : Karl = 8, Jeremiah = 12, Brad = 10, Andy = 13
Locomotive Link: Karl = 6, Jeremiah = 5, Brad = 5, Andy = 4
Track Score (completed links only): Karl = 18, Jeremiah = 21, Brad = 10, Andy = 20

Final Score: Karl = 96, Jeremiah = 72, Brad = 70, Andy = 41

[IMG]http://img121.imageshack.us/img121/644/smallerendgame1zt.jpg [/IMG]

Editorial Points to Ponder:

- Karl grabs the scoring lead on turn one and never relinquishes it, yet does not suffer from too much interference at the hands of his opponents, perhaps because he never seems to be far ahead on the income track.
- Andy’s income reductions really take him out of the game the moment they occur. Players should make sure they can pay their expenses with cash, instead of backing up their hard-earned income (and the resulting score!). Andy does benefeit later from opponents shipping over his track, but because his scores are so far behind, this does not make him any kind of a threat: his track is simply the safe alternative for everyone.
- Karl is frugal with shares and bidding, yet builds about the same amount of track as anyone else, and ships for longer links earlier and more often. Avoiding early bidding payouts saves most of the money he needs to do this. There is a ratio of return on bidding costs that seems to be far lower than most people imagine during the first few turns. The total dollar amounts spent on bidding are $45 for Karl, $41 for Brad, $37 for Jeremiah, and $11 for Andy… but look more closely at the first four turns, where the totals $3 for Karl, $14 for Jeremiah, $17 for Brad, and $13 for Andy. Beware of blowing cash on bids too early in the game. Late game bidding by the leader is essentially a bullying tactic using the copious cashflow that his lead has already generated.
- The Locomotive action is particularly telling in this game: out of the first four turns, Karl selects locomotive twice, and then he also takes it in the final two turns to deny the opponents the ability to easily increase their shipping link level.
- On turn 4, Karl has achieved link level of 6, while his opponents are at link levels 4,3 and 3, but his expenses are still roughly the same as the other players. This is deceptive, as his income-generating potential for the remainder of the game is much higher due to his locomotive power.
- Brad actually plays a pretty decent game here, and is aided enormously by the opponents using his track a few times. However, his locomotive upgrades come very late, and he runs out of cubes. Had he chosen Production and gotten the correct cubes, it might have been a very tight game.
- Jeremiah makes some smart early track placement, but is badly wounded by both Karl and Andy’s track builds, and by his inability to access Paris directly. As he was the early challenger to Karl, it is unsurprising that many of Karl’s Urbanization and track building choices target Jeremiah, but in fairness, he did not get much help from anyone in attacking Karl in a cooperative effort.
- Playing Age of Steam by email is a very, very long process. We seemed to manage 6 emails a day, and when you consider a game length 8 turns involving a minimum of 4 bids, 4 action choices, 4 builds, and 8 moves on each turn, you get at least 448 emails. This makes for about 75 days, or two and a half months.
- This session report has more insight into Karl’s moves (although probably just as much criticism!) for two reasons: firstly, he won the game. Secondly, your humble narrator is Karl himself, and I have slightly better access to my own thoughts than I do to the other players’. I’d be happy to update this article with more musings and feedback from the other participants, but for now, you’ll just have to live with the reporting bias!

An enjoyable experience, thanks to all the participants.

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Brad Miller
United States
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Karl played a very tight game. The reason I took the purple city and put it out in the middle of nowhere, is that I thought you would take it and drop it into your loop chain allowing you to yank down some fives and sixes. My only hope was that I could keep on snagging fives, keeping you down to fours as the cubes ran out. You had built such a strong looped network, I had to bid all my cash, just to try to stop you from running amok. Which you did anyway...
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Jeremiah Lee
United States
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But please don't call me Jerry.
At one time, I didn't really like Power Grid so Ted made my piece a Power Grid piece.
My Urbanization on turn eight was done because I thought that was the place that helped Karl least..when I had looked at the board, I saw at least one 5 shipment if I had placed it in between 4 and 5, and I didn't see those black cubes sitting on 4. I should have placed it between 4 and 5, though, no doubt about it. My other purpose for that was, of course, to hurt Karl's VPs from track.

I've played 3 games of this board, each time starting in the South, and I won the first one and lost the last two. The one thing in common the losses share were the inability to connect to Paris. Sometimes it's hard not to get caught up building the loop in the South, I guess.

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Andrew Young
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And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
Great game guys, sorry I wasn't any good at it this time.

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