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Subject: AoS: Missouri - Playtesters and help wanted rss

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Brandon Pennington
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Ok, let me preface this by saying that I am an AoS noob and I don't have very much experience with the game. If it offends you that I am already trying to create a custom map then you probably shouldn't read any further.

The first reason I am asking for playtesters for this map is the simple fact that I do not have anybody around here to help me playtest AoS. I have only played the game with some other noob AoS'ers a few times. The rest of my plays have been on Ted Alspach's solo maps. I would like to introduce AoS my normal group and I will very soon but in the mean time I want to create a map that will help pique their interest in the game by having some familiar geography and also be a fairly noob friendly map. I am going to startout with the base game map with them, and if they show any interest I would like to have this to pull out for them.

The reason for picking Missouri is obvious, and I think the state lends itself to a fairly balanced landscape and isn't terribly big. I plan on this map being mainly a 3-4 player map, however I am sure you could go up to 6 with it depending on how much you like congestion.

I have studied some other maps and based on those this is what I have come up with so far. The only rules I am thinking of now is to only have a build cost of 3 on the "mountain" since Missouri doesn't really have mountains despite their name. Another one is that to move freight between Jefferson City and Columbia, it must be done so over track which is probably a given. Lastly Springfield, St. Louis and KC start with 3 cubes.

So, is there anybody that would like to help out and tackle this? By now you might be thinking that this is already a terrible map by just looking at it, I guess I need to know that now before I get too much further. If you are interested in playtesting, obviously I will give you credit on the map but I will also provide a low color version to print out saving you some ink.

Thanks for your help and feedback.

Brandon


 
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I'd play it. It doesn't seem to have any issues at first glance, aside from it not having any rules tweaks (I've become accustomed to SOME weird rule going along with a new map), but I can't really tell that for certain until I get a chance to play it.
 
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Håkan König
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I have one suggestion. the two twin cities now needs a tile on the side to connect, and no way to go straight. If you look at, say the Korean map, you'll see that when there are two cities next to each other they have a blank circle between them where you can build a link (usually for $1) directly between the cities. That could be a good idea here also.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Some quick thoughts:

Red is weak. 7 red edges have been lost to the board edge, 2 purple, 2 blue and 1 yellow.

5 towns border the board edge for a combined 7 more potential lost edges. That fact could be important to track play in those areas.

There are 7 single track-tile connections on the board. You can reasonably expect one of the top two bidders to take FirstBuild and take 3 of them. It seems unlikely that Engineer will be taken by the other top bidder to take the other four but I wouldn't be shocked either.

I wouldn't be surprised if the first builder takes both cheap connections between Jefferson and Columbia City. The other obvious choke point is between Poplar Bluff and Port Girardeau, but given its remove is likely to be less interesting.

In fact the south east is mostly uninteresting unless Rolla or Farmington are Urbanised.

You'll need a rules change to cover urbanisation of Branson. and connectivity to Springfield.

The Brookfield/Chillicothe/Marshall area may be the most hotly contested section of the board due to the ease of loop-formation and good colour distribution and in general the north of the board is stronger than the south for the same reasons. It is however horribly subject to predatory urbanisations.

My broad sense is that the map is too dense, too many connections can be made too cheaply, loops are too easy, colours are too evenly distributed and variance in cube distribution will utterly define the game. I suspect it will tend to seemingly arbitrary games.
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Brandon Pennington
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Thanks for the quick feedback. Few things.

1. I want this to be a map that might be a little more forgiving than most. I don't have the luxury of knowing some hardcore gamers that analyze everything so I have to be careful at what I throw at them. I know that takes away from the real "spirit" of AoS but I don't want to scare new people off. That is probably being counterproductive though and is probably a bad idea from the start.

2. I could take out Branson no problem, I didn't even see that when I was designing it!

3. How about using a couple of "ferry" routes to connect the top and bottom of St. Louis to two other hexes? It is on a river and there are a ton of barges there.

4. The town density and color distribution is completely open to suggestion, that is just what I came up with and given my inexperience with the game, evenly distributing the colors was what I came up with.

5. Do you think switching the urbanization of Farmington and Poplar Bluff would help out that section of the map?
 
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J C Lawrence
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TGov wrote:
I want this to be a map that might be a little more forgiving than most.


The default Great Lakes map is a fine introductory map and is in the lower-end of difficulty levels. In all frankness I suggest you start with that if you have 4 or 5 players. If you have but 3 players then I'd start with Scandinavia or Japan. The Age of Steam Maps - by number of players geeklist is useful in this area.

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That is probably being counterproductive though and is probably a bad idea from the start.


The problem is that designing good Age of Steam maps is actually somewhat hard, even without rules-changes. Even seemingly small map changes often have large and non-obvious implications.

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3. How about using a couple of "ferry" routes to connect the top and bottom of St. Louis to two other hexes? It is on a river and there are a ton of barges there.


Having red be weak is not actually a problem, just an observation. It merely makes access to certain cities a bit more valuable than others depending on the cube distribution.

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4. The town density and color distribution is completely open to suggestion, that is just what I came up with and given my inexperience with the game, evenly distributing the colors was what I came up with.


The bigger problem is density. Things are simply too close together. The result is that FirstBuild becomes huge for the first two turns and money then enters the game too quickly. Average intra-city and intra-town distances need to be in the 3-4 track-tile range at a minimum to match the playing experience of the Great Lakes map.

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5. Do you think switching the urbanization of Farmington and Poplar Bluff would help out that section of the map?


It would make Rolla an attractive first turn Urbanisation target but has still leaves the south weak. That's not inherently a problem except that the map is so small. (Note that the west is even weaker on the Great Lakes map) With such a small map having such a large dead area makes the rest of the map effectively even more congested.
 
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Michael Webb
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clearclaw wrote:

The problem is that designing good Age of Steam maps is actually somewhat hard, even without rules-changes. Even seemingly small map changes often have large and non-obvious implications.


Seconded.

I have no problem with anyone designing maps for their own entertainment (obviously) but I think you need to tread carefully, especially if you're using homebrew maps to attract new players. I think it is much more advisable to start players out on existing AoS maps that are specifically tuned for starting players such as the Rust Belt, France, England, Southern US, the Texas/OK/NM map, and so forth.

Glancing quickly at your map, the main problem I see is the same one JC mentioned: there are too many easy connections where 3 pieces of track = a 2 link. This is a no-no in general unless you've done something to make the extra links a liability (i.e.: no Locomotive role) because it makes profitability too easy to insure. An easy fix you could institute that might or might not work is to force players to only buy 1 link per round instead of 3 pieces of track. This has been used before, and is a bit of a bludgeon, but it can work to tighten things up without any extra changes to the map. It would probably best be accompanied with something to jack the value of the track to encourage people to not just buy 1 or 2 track piece links exclusively.
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Brandon Pennington
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I have made a few modifications as per the suggestions made above. I think going back to paying 4 to build simple track on the mountains would work better. Anybody have any suggestions on a better way to distribute the colors?

I will re-iterate that I know that I am a complete noob at this so if you don't want to be bothered with helping this idiot stumble his way through this no hard feelings That being said, I REALLY appreciate the help from everyone and I hope this can be a fun process. Costas has offered to make a VASSAL extension for the map so I can playtest over PBEM. I would like to get it a little more streamlined before I subject people to that though

 
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J C Lawrence
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All of the 3-tile 2-city connections occur in the eastern. Only the Engineer and possibly the Urbaniser have a possible reasonable start location elsewhere (not necessarily a problem), and even that's tough as the Jefferson City/Urbanise/Virburnum build is awfully attractive as an instant 3-colour mix. I'd probably swap the colours of Viburnum and St Louis for that reason.

The map is also very small, 9 cities. I'd head towards a 3 player map, either a removing the Locomotive action entirely or replacing it with a Japan-style +1. If you want to go the full 10 rounds for a 3 player game you'll also need to do something so that the game doesn't run out of cubes.
 
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Brandon Pennington
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ya, I was thinking of switching Viburnum with another color, just wasn't sure what and that makes sense now that you have explained it.

3 player was what I originally intended it for, but I have seen several maps here that are around the same size and say they can play 6 so I wasn't sure.

I am not sure about how to approach the cube thing since I haven't played any maps yet that have a rule to correct that problem. Are there other maps that use something to alleviate this problem that I can research?

Thanks for the tips
 
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J C Lawrence
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Different people have strongly different tastes for player counts for different maps. They are fairly well documented on the Age of Steam Maps - by number of players geeklist. I've put my numbers against most of the entries.

The cube supply can be handled a number of ways. I use one of my favourite methods on most of my maps (eg AoS: London): Insta-production. In short each delivery adds another cube to the map. The result is a slower rate of production during the early game and a higher rate during the late game, with a total of more cubes produced over the course of the game. Without doing some formal analysis I'm not sure if that would be enough for your map, or whether you'd need to backfill it with something like AoS: Sun's constantly refilling production chart. Other possibilities of various levels of richness include having production occur when track links are completed, increasing the number of cubes per slot, putting cubes on towns, having cubes accompany town tile placements, auto-production when cities are emptied, auto-production when N connections are made to any city, etc etc etc. There are many many possible approaches.
 
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Chris Wray
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Sorry to revive this thread a decade later, but I'm very interested in printing a copy of this off and trying it!

May I suggest a rule change: thematically, Missouri's mountains aren't really mountains, and the Missouri rivers is quite difficult to cross. So maybe, for this map, make it so river cost is +2 and mountains are +1 (the reverse of the normal game).

Would that cause any foreseeable problems?
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