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Subject: Scotland - How To Play It rss

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Jack Neal
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Alright, I played 3 games of Scotland tonight. Printed the game out on letter paper and had an annoying gap in the middle that kept sliding off the board. My problem and no one elses. :-)

The map played extremely quick (under 30 minutes) and tight. The games we played with rules generally as above and summarized briefly below (along with some other incidental changes). The map itself can be found under the file section for Age of Steam Expansion: Scotland in several formats. If you are in the U.S., you will want the file for A4 sized paper which roughly matches up to our trusty letter sized sheets.

Rules:

Note: Messed up rules are outlined in blue. I still think the game plays okay the way we did it, but, for the sake of completeness.

- Basic Game rules with no locomotive maintenance or advanced auction.
- Remove all purple cubes and town markers.
- Place 2 cubes on each city.
- Place 3 cubes on six upgrade hexes.
- Simplified Steam terrain costs (River $1, Mountain $1, River and Mountain $2). Ferry routes were $4 per hex.
- Played 8 turns (and like others, I can see the case for 7).

Blown Rules:

- $2 for mountains.
- $6 for ferries with towns built up on both sides.
- Scenario calls for putting 6 cubes of each color away. I didn't do this.

The game played very tightly for two players.

Highlights and Snap Judgments:

- Many turns I had to decide to go first and hope to get Locomotive later. Town Upgrades and City Upgrades were sought after.

- Although track tiles are numerous, there aren't many places to build and some complex track came out simply to build out to other cities after getting hemmed in.

- My first bankruptcy came off this map with my oldest essentially going bankrupt on Turn 7 of the final game.

- Scores were 0-Bankrupt (Turn 4), 13-9 (Turn 8) and 11-Forfeit (Turn 7).

- The turn tiles worked very well with this expansion and I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything in terms of tension that comes with an advanced auction.

Opinions:

I liked this map. The kids liked it but thought it was too mean. The choices were more stark and it is harder to turn a profit on this map than the relatively wide open N.E. USA and Germany maps.

Cube draws can create some dynamic tension and oddities. For example, one map had no red cubes to start and then a couple whole hexes chock full of red cubes - another game was mostly gray and 1 cube runs. I was surprised at how it went. There are some chokepoints that may or not may be exploitable regardless of how the cubes fall, but all in all, this is a well thought out map for the original AoS system that plays to what I see as Steam's strengths (auction tiles and simplified distribution mechanism).

Side Note:

So impressed am I that I am now working on a version of the map to take camping because there is no way I am taking $60 Steam into a tent for five days. The plan is to make a black and white version of the map and a generic score sheet. From there, I've got a number of cubes (1 cm) in the right colors and a cloth mouse bag to hold them all. From there, it's a matter of using different colored crayons or markers to draw the game on the map, maybe even getting some dry-erase markers on transparent sheet protectors for the map. Since we're leaving tomorrow, I'm working on converting the map now. We'll see how it goes.

Legal Stuff:

Since this Age of Steam expansion was freely available with an unrestricted license, I don't think I'm breaking any laws or betraying any intellectual property by playing it with the Steam rule set. As a self-proclaimed independent game designer, I take these matters quite seriously and if there are any infractions of any kind, please let me know and I will respond in good faith to remove this article.

Thanks and happy gaming!

-edit: Added comments from below on rule screw ups. So much for being definitive.
-edit: Clarified broken rules and added colons to headings.
-edit: Fixed the ferry.
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Pasta Batman
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Great write up. A few comments/questions ...
Raiderjakk wrote:

- Normal Steam terrain costs (River $1, Mountain $1, River and Mountain $2). Ferry routes were $4 per hex.

Mountains in Steam are normally $2. It's not clear to me what cost was originally intended for mountain & river combined - one map says 'treat as mountainous terrain as far as building costs are concerned', another says cost is '5', somebody else said '4'. Going strictly from the Steam rules, the terrain cost would be '3'.
Quote:
Cube draws can create some dynamic tension and oddities.

Did you remove cubes as advised on this version of the map? It says
Quote:
Remove 6 cubes of each color from the mix before play. It makes for a more normal distribution over the course of the game.
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Jack Neal
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Hmmm... amazing how this stuff gets by you.

1. Mountains were played as $1 and it seemed to work okay. Oddly enough, after 10 plays of Steam, I still missed this. Typically, I just play $1 for each weird terrain feature (town/city/river/hill). Easier to calculate.

2. I did not remove any cubes except for the purple ones.

* * * *

I'll try it out with the increased cost this weekend.

-edit: Changed session report to reflect new found knowledge above.
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Pasta Batman
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Just caught one other thing. (Sorry, not trying to pick on you, I'm just really interested in this). The ferry cost on the AoS maps is $6, with a requirement that both endpoint towns be urbanized beforehand. Urbanization in Steam base rules costs $6, so it could get a little pricey.
 
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Jack Neal
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Point taken.... I'll edit it above.
 
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Alex Yeager
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I can't begin to emphasize how much this is, indeed, NOT A PROBLEM. We designed Steam to be compatible with previous editions' maps, and cheers for making it happen.

(The actual document that will spell out how designers can produce and/or sell Steam maps is in final draft right now. We expect a release very soon...)

Alex Yeager
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jim b
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A lot of the small AoS variant rules have you remove 6 of each goods-cube 'for a more normal distribution'. It took me a while to figure out what they were getting at. Obviously, the only distribution that's affected by equally removing cubes of each color is the gray cubes, and removing 6 of all colors makes gray cubes less likely. Why does this matter?

It's this: less players means less urbanization; less urbanization means less gray cities (if any); less gray cities means less demand for gray cubes.

So, as Steam scales down from big games (6-players) to smaller games (2-player or solo variants), the usage of gray-cubes changes a lot, and eventually the default supply becomes unbalanced.

[maybe obvious to everyone else, but it wasn't to me..]

edit - clarity
 
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Pasta Batman
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jimb wrote:
A lot of the small AoS variant rules have you remove 6 of each goods-cube 'for a more normal distribution'. It took me a while to figure out what they were getting at. Obviously, the only distribution that's affected by equally removing cubes of each color is the gray cubes, and removing 6 of all colors makes gray cubes less likely. Why does this matter?

It's this: less players means less urbanization; less urbanization means less gray cities (if any); less gray cities means less demand for gray cubes. So, as Steam scales from 5-players down to 2-players (or 1), the default gray-cube distribution becomes more and more unbalanced.

[maybe obvious to everyone else, but it wasn't to me..]

I'm pretty sure the intent was just what it says there - 'a more normal distribution', in the statistical sense. Doing nothing makes it's more likely you'll see bigger deltas between the counts for each cube color in the game. Because you're drawing cubes for a smaller number of cities and goods supply spaces, it makes sense to reduce the size of the pool you are drawing from as well.
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jim b
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pastabatman wrote:

I'm pretty sure the intent was just what it says there - 'a more normal distribution', in the statistical sense. Doing nothing makes it's more likely you'll see bigger deltas between the counts for each cube color in the game. Because you're drawing cubes for a smaller number of cities and goods supply spaces, it makes sense to reduce the size of the pool you are drawing from as well.

If we had equal supplies of all cube types in the bag to start (red, yellow, etc), removing 6 of each color would make no difference in the supply frequency of each.

And, we do have equal supplies of each color, except gray: there are 16 gray cubes, and 20 red, blue, yellow, and purple.

The statistical effect is to make gray cubes less likely to be drawn.

edit - minor
 
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Pasta Batman
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jimb wrote:
pastabatman wrote:

I'm pretty sure the intent was just what it says there - 'a more normal distribution', in the statistical sense. Doing nothing makes it's more likely you'll see bigger deltas between the counts for each cube color in the game. Because you're drawing cubes for a smaller number of cities and goods supply spaces, it makes sense to reduce the size of the pool you are drawing from as well.

If we had equal supplies of all cube types in the bag to start (red, yellow, etc), removing 6 of each color would make no difference in the supply frequency of each.

But it would affect the variance (or standard deviation). Look at this way: If you have 20 cubes of each color in the bag, and you pull out a total of 50, you could conceivably pull out 20 red cubes. If you reduce the count of each color to 10, that is now the max you could pull out for any one color. Hence you reduce the chance of huge imbalances in the cube mix resulting from the random draw.
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Bill J
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I played it with equal cubes across all 5 colors (blue, purple, red, yellow and gray). Enough purple and gray came out of the bag and placed as future supply cubes that it was worth it to urbanize those colors. There was some fun things happening with this map .

1. cube poaching generating shared revenue for both players
2. attempted control of destination colors - particularly purple and gray since they are not natural to the board
3. construction of 'safe locations' particularly around the ferries

[edit]Final Score 22-16
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Pasta Batman
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I just played it with my wife. Cube reductions, base Steam rules, Steam terrain expenses, 7 rounds. Scores ranged around 20. Neither of us have played AoS before, so not quite sure what we're doing strategy-wise. Nonetheless, it was an intense game, with a good amount of serpentine track. Nobody attempted the ferries. Took over an hour. I enjoyed it, but too much of a brain-burner for my wife (even though she won). I had a great set of track, and would have overcome her had the game gone longer. I think I probably overspent on track upgrades and expensive terrain.
 
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jim b
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I got out my Scotland map to play last night, reviewed this thread carefully, made sure I reviewed the 2 main original discussions in the AoS forum about Scotland's rules, placed my map as a board-scenario to start a game ...

... and, I just couldn't bring myself to want to play it.

We've had good 2p Steam games on the main NY board (we've got a relaxed, normal, and intense scenario so far) - and it just felt too tweaky to play Scotland, by comparison.

Not because it's a poor map, it just felt old-fashioned; hopefully I'll get back to it. I absolutely believe you guys had fun with it (and it carries better on camping trips), and that it's a competitive, well-designed map for 2-players. But still, I encourage players to try some 2p scenarios on sections of the main board too, you'll have good fun with that also.

ps. pasta - thanks for the followup on goods-supply, I'll get back to that shortly.
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Pasta Batman
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jimb wrote:
I got out my Scotland map to play last night, reviewed this thread carefully, made sure I reviewed the 2 main original discussions in the AoS forum about Scotland's rules, placed my map as a board-scenario to start a game ...

... and, I just couldn't bring myself to want to play it.

I hear you. I'm not super motivated to play it again right away - it's so tight and claustrophobic, immediately confrontational. For 2-player I'm more inclined, for now, to play a section of the NE USA map, if for no other reason then to draw my wife into a more gentle game on a prettier board.
 
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Jack Neal
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Definitely more confrontational and cramped. You'd never know Scotland was such a small space.
 
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jim b
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We finally played Scotland this evening, and quite enjoyed it.

Here's how we tackled it -

- 7 game turns
- setup 2 goods on each map city (at start)
- setup 2 goods in each of 8 supply areas
- all Base actions available (random first-player at start)
- normal Steam terrain costs for rivers ($1+), mountains ($2+), etc
- 2$ for required track stub/link from Glasgow to Ayr's 'center' (see image, below [*])
- 6$ for ferry link between Stormaway & Ullapool, or Ayr & Belfast
(both ends must be urbanized, ferry counts as 1 track tile for Build)
- [removed 6 per color before distributing goods, may not next time]

Here's a couple of pictures --

Scotland - Steam scenario at game-end (forward-most tokens on VP track are final)


Scotland - Glasgow & Edinburgh area (with Aberdeen at top right)

The track play was tight and competitive; and, 7 turns was plenty. The map forces some interesting track/ferry blocking and city competition. (Unfortunately, Purple beat Natural/Wood quite handily.)

I'm looking forward to playing it again soon, and maybe have some better ideas for using the ferry isolation.

Thanks to everyone above for the tips on setup.

- jim

* Note 1: the Natural token directly joining the city tiles at Glasgow & Ayr is not an error - the Scotland variant requires a 2$ track stub/link to connect Glasgow to the 'center' of Ayr (whether town or city).

Note 2: but, there is an erroneous Natural token north of Glasgow (2 Natural tokens are marking ownership of one link, from Glasgow to Oban, above).

edit - captions, add Glasgow/Ayr note & etc
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Geoff
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jimb wrote:
inline session report


My wife and I played Scotland yesterday. We used a similar setup to yours. Our changes:

- We put extra goods on 6 spots instead of 8. We wound up with only one left at the end and were ok with that, but I think the game would have worked with 8 as well.

- We removed all the purple goods cubes and the purple new city tile. I feel like there would have been too many cubes that are too expensive to make use of in such a short game with both the purple and the gray cubes in the game. What did you think?

edit: added quote for clarity
 
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jim b
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I think 7 supply spaces would've been enough. We did use 7 - and might have used 8, had play gone differently (but that might arguably make too many avail on-board).

I didn't mind the purple goods/new-city - asymettries like that can give interesting opportunities (eg, in this case, for a purple monopoly if placed in Belfast or Ullapool Stornoway). In this game, enough urbanization happened that there wasn't a problem with any particular color; indeed, the Purple new-city got placed rather centrally, for better or worse. (We could've used a few more gray cubes in play - which was why I said I may not 'remove 6 of each color' next time.) I can see going either way on it...

 
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Jack Neal
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I like the black construction paper blocking out the rest of the map... I'll have to do that next time. As it is, I had difficulty printing out the PDF so that the hexes matched on letter paper. Is there an original image file out there that I can put in another program to crop/modify?
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jim b
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One more comment about restricting cube colors at setup - when playing 1-2p scenarios on parts of the main Steam map (NY), I usually remove all gray new-cities, and setup only 4 new-city tiles. This has worked well - making urbanization tight, and also complementing a 7x2 goods-supply setup. (Also, I like this particular approach when feasible, since it's lazy - ignore gray cubes when drawn from the bag, no counting or organizing.)

But, that NY map is everywhere spread out more (vs Scotland); and, Scotland has compelling urbanization opportunities, particularly with the requirement that both ends must be urbanized before you can build a ferry.

So, the extra new-cities and cube-colors didn't seem out of balance here; in a sense we got 'more play' out of the 7 turns, vs the 2p-main-map scenarios I've tried.
 
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jim b
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Raiderjakk wrote:
I like the black construction paper blocking out the rest of the map... I'll have to do that next time. As it is, I had difficulty printing out the PDF so that the hexes matched on letter paper. Is there an original image file out there that I can put in another program to crop/modify?

Thanks - I also want plexiglass, to hold & cover the maps during play. (It's a foamcore matting in the image.)

I had problems printing A4 Scotland too - at correct scale and with the large/A4 background, the map overran the US-letter page. Eventually, my daughter helped me crop the black background/margin directly, in the pdf. :-(

I uploaded that modified pdf, here.

- jim

edit - updated with link to Scotland pdf file for US letter
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jim b
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FYI - the geek-mods accepted the modified Scotland pdf for US letter - I updated my earlier post, above, to link to it directly.
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jim b
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Well, I'll be damned if some of you aren't using this pdf to play this with Steam - stop it!

The time when pathetic bunnies could suckle the funk from the teats of the AoS mother bull has passed !! (?!?)

You were all warned -

STOP Playing Scotland With Steam, or We'll Shoot This Dog

 
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Jack Neal
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Quote:
Stop Playing Scotland With Steam, or We'll Shoot This Dog


That poor dog is going to be so riddled full of holes.... Poor, poor critter.
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