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Subject: First game for Train Game Newbies--with impressions rss

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Buz
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While I truly enjoy economic games, for some reason I have never been able to try a true "train game." With the high profile of the Steam release I was hoping to be able to try this particular title, and a trip to Overland Park's Tabletop Game and Hobby on their Thursday game nights proved the perfect time to try the game.

Shibu accompanied me, and he is relatively new to gaming but was an Engineering major in college, so I'm confident he can handle the math. Brad was kind enough to host as he had played previously. I took black, as is usual for me, with Shibu red and Brad orange.

We decided to go right into the Standard game as that is what Brad felt comfortable teaching (with big assist from Sam). We each capitalized for 3 shares ($15) and lept right into the auction. I felt that the locomotive would be vaulable in turn 1 if I could afford the track, but there was no way to build two links with just 3 tiles, so I took the Engineer. Shibu got first build by passing and Brad took the loco. Shibu built in the center (Albany) while I linked near Pennsylvania and New York. There was a shortage of yellow cubes in the goods queue with plenty of red and gray. I planned to urbanize some gray cities and use the blue cubes in the starting cities for early income.

For the next few turns, Brad always beat me in the auction and took Urbanization. This was a two-fold blow as he was able to add cities and cubes as he saw fit while I strangled my own ability to build track by spending most of my $$$ at auction. I used City Growth a few times, but I really needed to Urbanize for big income or VPs.

About turn 5, Shibu was in a world of hurt. He had not reached postive income and his track was not linked to enough cities. His loco was in first place but his future cubes were about nil. Because he was negative on income, he couldn't really compete in the auction and was usually passing and taking First Delivery to poach a cube from Brad's region, shipping across a few of Brad's links. I would say Brad got 10 links of his shipped over by Shibu, using 3 for income and 7 for VPs. Shibu really had little choice, since the goods cubes were being fought over so fiercely at auction by better funded competitors.

On turn 6, I capitalized up to $25, thinking I could intimidate Brad out of the auction and perhaps not issue any more shares. Brad didn't even try in the auction, passing after $1 whereas I had routinely bid up to 6 or 7 before bailing. As such, he was able to track over the mountains and connect even more cities heading to the West. I finally urbanized my much-needed gray city and delivered 2 gray cubes. I brought in some cubes that I could ship for 6 to New York if I ever got the loco.

The only way I could upgrade there was by forgoing a delivery, which cost me VPs. However, I really needed to do this as I didn't have enough cubes left in my connected cities to do anything else. I had also built up to Albany through several towns and had a yellow for 6 delivery coming up. Brad had exhausted the goods available for city growth and didn't care that he usually could only use one of the grouping he brought in. He definitely took advantage of his actions better than I did, and when he got up to 5 loco he shipped many of his goods; whereas my cities were all sucked dry by the end of the game he ended up with goods to spare. Shibu used Brad's track once again to ship a few times for 6, but split 4-2 with Brad.

Final scoring found Brad up at 50, me at 37, and Shibu around 20.

IMPRESSIONS

1. I didn't find the Standard game prohibitive in rules complexity. Everything was pretty intuitive, though the execution was difficult to achieve.
2. Perhaps the Base game would have been a better experience for Shibu. His first few turns really set him into a spiral of issuing shares and paying for maintenance that crippled his ability to win auctions for needed action tiles. The selection mechanism in the base game would have kept him in tighter, and the ability to issue shares whenever he needed would have saved him some $$$ as well. His track still would have been insufficient to win, but he may have enjoyed himself more.
3. Perhaps the Base game would have featured less tension, making it more like Power Grid's calculations. All you would need to calculate is your track costs, not projected auction winning costs as well.
4. Steam would have been more tense with four players. Though that is clearly an obvious fact, I think four players would have added some zip to the auctions and track building that our game lacked. That being said, I think 3 for a learning game was just fine.
5. Mayfair's goal is to introduce the Steam system widely, and they have a chance of success, IMO. The game production values are nice and the fiddliness of bits is kept to a minimum. The rules are easy to grasp but the gameplay shows great depth. I think this could really compete with Power Grid for attention in the Economic genre as its rules complexity and depth of decision compares favorably. Steam could take a clue from PG and issue a quick reference sheet for the turn phases as that would have made our first game a ton easier. It wouldn't be too hard to mock a few up, though.

Overall, I think Steam is a great game and one I look forward to playing more often. Its tension and action was just the right level for us and the ease of learning showed promise for wider exposure among my regular opponents. Nice work by Mayfair and Wallace on this game.
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Mark Crane
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Quote:
Steam could take a clue from PG and issue a quick reference sheet for the turn phases as that would have made our first game a ton easier. It wouldn't be too hard to mock a few up, though.


There is a nice looking reference card here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/44476
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Roland Wood
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buzhannon wrote:
For the next few turns, Brad always beat me in the auction and took Urbanization. This was a two-fold blow as he was able to add cities and cubes as he saw fit while I strangled my own ability to build track by spending most of my $$$ at auction.


The Base game avoids this situation entirely with its paired turn order selection. This is a good thing when playing an introductory game since when playing with new players they may not understand the importance of winning a critical auction and so not take enough capital at the start of their turn to compete well and get the actions they need.

With experienced players it creates an interesting choice. Standard Steam has a very capitalistic approach with the "tyranny of the rich" situation that you described and which can be a common occurance. One player gains significant cashflow quickly and gains practically unstoppable power to win the auctions and get the best actions over and over again.

Basic Steam guarantees that no one can pick Urbanization twice in a row unless the other players allow it. This feels like a more socialistic design that works to equalize rich and poor players.

So do you like unregulated or regulated railroading....

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