Age of Steam – Expansion #3 Korea/Scandinavia: my view.
I thought this was a rather surprising combination of maps. It certainly looked very different to the previous Age of Steam expansions, so I got myself a copy.
This expansion adds a new double sided board and single page of additional rules. The board is up to the usual high standard, and thankfully rivers are back to the original blue colour (not the horrible purple/blue of the second expansion). One side of the board depicts Scandinavia. This is a very interesting board, with an uneven distribution of cities. The north east is hilly and the north west is full of rivers. The centre and south are island areas with lakes, sea, rivers and white ‘sea routes’. The distribution of coloured cities is 4 purple cities, 3 yellow and red and only 2 blue.
The other side of the board depicts Korea. This board is again quite different to previous boards. Almost the whole board is hilly or mountainous and there is a relatively even distribution of cities and towns. However, all of the cities are a neutral grey/brown colour (see gameplay below).
Overall, the components live up to the usual decent standard.
I’m assuming that the reader knows the rules of the basic game. Gameplay for Scandinavia and Korea is subtly different.
Set up: Pyongyang starts with 4 cubes. Pusan and Inchon start with 3 cubes. Other cities start with 2 cubes.
Terrain: hills cost +$3
Goods movement: goods must be moved to a city that contains a cube of the same colour. Cubes cannot move through cities containing cubes of the same colour.
Track circles: where cities are adjacent, a link can be built by placing a control marker in the white circle depicted on the board. This counts as one track tile and costs $2.
New cities: when a new city is built, the corresponding 2 goods from the goods display are immediately placed on that city, and new cubes drawn from supply to replenish the goods display. New cities are regarded as being grey, regardless of their colour.
Set up: all cities start with 2 cubes
Sea routes: a player may build a sea route depicted by a white line for a cost of $6, placing an ownership disk on it. Such a route counts as one victory point and a one link. A player may only construct one sea route per turn. The Malmo-Rostock sea route only exists once both these towns have been urbanised.
Ferry action: there is now an additional Ferry Action. This allows a player who selects this action to move a cube from one coastal city to another. This does not count as a movement link. Only one cube may be moved in this manner.
Game length: the game is one turn shorter
So What Do I Think?
I like this expansion. Both of these maps bring something new to the party. Scandinavia is quite a difficult map to build an effective network across which plenty of goods can be moved, though the ferry action helps. Certain areas such as the northern Polish/German coast can get very congested. Urbanisation plays an important role because placement of new colours can have a significant impact on how far away a destination city is (and how difficult it is to get to). Depending on where a player starts, at least one of the colours is going to be pretty difficult to get to. Long or complex networks that take in lots of colours will tend to be more difficult to create than on more open boards.
Korea is really quite chaotic. There is so much hilly terrain that building tracks is expensive. However, the fluid nature of where the cubes can go may or may not make up for this. The game is generally speaking a little more luck dependent since the appearance of new cubes can open up or close particular routes and delivery options. In the basic AoS we play a house rule for the Production action where a player takes 4 cubes at random and places 2 of them on the Goods Display. Whilst we use this for every expansion, I think it is particularly appropriate for Korea, where it allows for at least a modicum of forward planning.
Overall, another excellent expansion, though it is probably one for the more experienced AoS player because both maps are quite unusual and can be challenging. In a sense, it is therefore the natural progression from Expansion 2. Like the main game and preceding expansions, I give it an outstanding 9 out of 10. Personally, I’m particularly keen on the Scandinavia map.