Claudio
United States
Portland
Oregon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Last night I finally got a chance to play Age of Steam and it really intrigued me. I started writing my comments this morning, but decided to post as a review. A game of this depth deserves many more plays before a review, certainly. And I always envisioned my first BGG review being of a game whose nuance I’d really explored. But this game made me want to contribute my initial thoughts, for whatever they are worth, in a more public forum.

In the first minutes of the game, you are confronted with crushingly stressful decisions: How many shares? What to bid? Where to start? And it doesn’t get better from there. I admire this game. It takes a planning and logistics backbone, shakes it up by adding the instability of the action auction, and puts the whole thing under extreme pressure through a compactness of geography that ensures cruel and unusual network interactions. All this in the almost impossibly unforgiving environment of the economic framework.

Every single moment requires that you struggle. You fight for survival in the early game like a drowning man, swimming for shore. Gagging and choking but relieved, you haul yourself up on the beach only to discover that food is in short supply and you’re not the only one that made it to the island.

Inevitably, as I think about the game this morning, I compare it to Power Grid. The relentless jockeying – both spatially and for turn order. The grinding cash planning required to survive multiple phases of a turn while accomplishing all that you need to, given the turn order and needs and opportunities of other players. The sense that there is always someone ready to ‘steal’ what is ‘yours’. We’ll see what happens with more plays, but I believe AoS wins this head-to-head. Spatially, the tactical possibilities seem richer. The asymmetrical needs of players in the action auction of AoS seem to generate more exciting situations than the ‘laggard leads’ method of PG. Cash planning in AoS seems much more unstable – and thus interesting – because of the degree to which other players decisions impact your plans (versus the ‘shopping list’ feeling I get a lot from PG). One area where I think PG wins out is in the players’ control of game length and work it to your advantage. Moreover, this variable game length gives each play its own palpable pace and character.

As much as I admire the game, however, I realize that it may never be a favorite. I’ll give it more time, certainly. And, at least for the near future, I won’t turn down a game. But ultimately, I think this game is too much of an exercise in competitive optimization for it to really shine for me. As such, it seems to be at or near best-in-class. But the heavier games that I have been drawn to (or maybe just dream about) have an emergent brilliance, a strategic ebb and flow that permeates the game, that allows leeway for artistry, for the ‘beautiful game’. So, I’ll end with a question to those that have played more than I: Played by experienced players, can a session of AoS be a work of art?

18 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Dixon
United States
Mauldin
South Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I don't know the answer to your question, having never played AoS, but I'll give you this--your review makes me want to.

Diis
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Grey
United States
Portland
Oregon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good review! And you played very well first time. Against some really smart peeps too.

My advice: Give it a few times.

First time out for me I got punished so badly I shied away from this game for like, a year. Wish I hadn't taken so long to get back to it.

Absolutely love it now.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
claudio212 wrote:
Played by experienced players, can a session of AoS be a work of art?


Yes.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Karl Rainer
Canada
Nanaimo
BC
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Oh yes, it can indeed be a work of art... to the point of pulling an unanticipated, elegant move which causes everyone, even the victim, to say... "wow".

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Flood
United States
San Francisco
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
claudio212 wrote:
Every single moment requires that you struggle. You fight for survival in the early game like a drowning man, swimming for shore. Gagging and choking but relieved, you haul yourself up on the beach only to discover that food is in short supply and you’re not the only one that made it to the island.


thumbsup

Quote:
The sense that there is always someone ready to ‘steal’ what is ‘yours’.


This should, after a few plays, be entirely predictable. You will learn what cubes you should not label as "yours" unless you beat the "stealing" player in the auction (and take First Move, which is rarely a worthwhile maneuver for one cube).

Quote:
As much as I admire the game, however, I realize that it may never be a favorite.


Why not?

Quote:
I’ll give it more time, certainly. And, at least for the near future, I won’t turn down a game. But ultimately, I think this game is too much of an exercise in competitive optimization for it to really shine for me. As such, it seems to be at or near best-in-class. But the heavier games that I have been drawn to (or maybe just dream about) have an emergent brilliance, a strategic ebb and flow that permeates the game, that allows leeway for artistry, for the ‘beautiful game’. So, I’ll end with a question to those that have played more than I: Played by experienced players, can a session of AoS be a work of art?


The question here is vague.

There is certainly more to the game than simple turn-by-turn tactics. You need to plan four turns ahead, know where that yellow cube is going, how many links it's going, and how you will get your loco up to that level, while moving intermediary cubes and working towards a profit, and not take so many shares that you'll be at a severe point disadvantage in the end. You need to look at your route possibilities, and discover about twice as many 5-6 cube deliveries than the game will let you deliver, and figure out how to get up to 5/6 without killing yourself in debt/share-taking. Some games are shorter, then the emphasis needs to lie on the 4-cube deliveries.

It also depends, as does any game, upon the players. Some players work well together, fighting well for the actions and routes and cubes that are important - then the game shines. I've had many situations where the players all bumbled around one another, and I easily came out ahead by 10-20 points (I divide by 3 of what the rules suggest, i.e. income is 1 point, track is 1/3) by knowing what they were aiming for, knowing I could avoid those things this turn.

I simply don't know what you consider a "work of art." I'm sure some games of Monopoly could be referred to as such. This has no bearing on whether or not the game is worthwhile.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Claudio
United States
Portland
Oregon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
blueatheart wrote:
Quote:
As much as I admire the game, however, I realize that it may never be a favorite.


Why not?

Another poster once made the distinction between strategy and analysis, claiming that games tended toward one or the other or had a good blend. For me, this game leans a bit too much toward the 'analysis' end of the spectrum to hit my sweet spot. While I love the challenge of the calculation, I feel like I am coming up with the best answer for a situation, not choosing among many good options the one that helps bring my larger plan to fruition. Of course,this perception may change with additional plays.

blueatheart wrote:
There is certainly more to the game than simple turn-by-turn tactics. You need to plan four turns ahead, know where that yellow cube is going, how many links it's going, and how you will get your loco up to that level, while moving intermediary cubes and working towards a profit, and not take so many shares that you'll be at a severe point disadvantage in the end. You need to look at your route possibilities, and discover about twice as many 5-6 cube deliveries than the game will let you deliver, and figure out how to get up to 5/6 without killing yourself in debt/share-taking.


This more or less confirms my suspicion that this will be a game that I will enjoy immensely as I tackle the challenge of each game and the challenge of getting better over time. But what you describe is seeing deeper into the position and how to take advantage of it, but not seeing more possibilities of how to control it.

blueatheart wrote:
I simply don't know what you consider a "work of art." I'm sure some games of Monopoly could be referred to as such. This has no bearing on whether or not the game is worthwhile.


Would it be trite to say: "I'll know it when I see it." I doubt any game of Monopoly could be considered a work of art. And as for whether AoS is worthwhile, I think it is VERY worthwhile. Just not likely to hit my very top ratings. Personal preference.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Claudio
United States
Portland
Oregon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
krainer wrote:
Oh yes, it can indeed be a work of art... to the point of pulling an unanticipated, elegant move which causes everyone, even the victim, to say... "wow".



'Elegant', 'victim', and 'wow.' Very encouraging!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Costas
Canada
London
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
claudio212 wrote:
can a session of AoS be a work of art?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder... goo

Every game is an exercise of strategy from the moment you see the initial cube layout. Based on the cube setup, I have to decide where I want to start building and where I want to ultimately build to by the end.

Will I get connected to that city up there by turn 4? Will my engine level be sufficient by then? Will that cube still be up there? Will that cube on the display be on the map by then? All depends on my opponents.

And where do we settle things? The auction. And what a dance that is! Where am I in the initial turn order? How many shares do I issue? If I'm first, do I start by bidding $1? $4? $6? Am I willing to sacrifice needed cash resulting in me taking an income hit at the end of the turn in order to win the auction and get locomotive or urbanization?

...all on the first turn. Repeat for every other turn.

Two hours later, I'm exhausted, but marvel at my creation. Whether I've won or lost, I want to try again.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Claudio
United States
Portland
Oregon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
rockusultimus wrote:
claudio212 wrote:
can a session of AoS be a work of art?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder... goo

Every game is an exercise of strategy from the moment you see the initial cube layout. Based on the cube setup, I have to decide where I want to start building and where I want to ultimately build to by the end.

Will I get connected to that city up there by turn 4? Will my engine level be sufficient by then? Will that cube still be up there? Will that cube on the display be on the map by then? All depends on my opponents.

And where do we settle things? The auction. And what a dance that is! Where am I in the initial turn order? How many shares do I issue? If I'm first, do I start by bidding $1? $4? $6? Am I willing to sacrifice needed cash resulting in me taking an income hit at the end of the turn in order to win the auction and get locomotive or urbanization?

...all on the first turn. Repeat for every other turn.

Two hours later, I'm exhausted, but marvel at my creation. Whether I've won or lost, I want to try again.



Okay, I'm being convinced... More plays to follow...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Young
Canada
Victoria
BC
flag msg tools
Old Ways Are Best!
badge
Check Six!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
After deciding that an AoS type experience is what you like, and looking for the "art" in a game, have a look at one of the 18XX introductory series (18GA or 18FL), enroute to 1830 or 1856. Totally non-random games where you balance running a successful railroad against maximizing your personal gain by shrewd investment in rail lines owned by you and your opponents. There are some rough edges in AoS that have been documented here and elsewhere (albeit subjective) that don't have equivalents in the 18XX experience. You might also want to try Steam: Rails to Riches, if you resonate with the criticisms of AoS, as Steam has effectively addressed most of them.

I am particularly fond of rail themed games and feel fortunate to live in a time where so many quality such games are on the market. After trying a few of them you should be able to find one (or several) that are just right for you...

edit note: as for Power Grid, while a networking game with an internal economic engine of sorts, the challenges don't strike me as being in the same order as any of the rail themed games we've been discussing - which puts it in a different category for me (but that's just me)...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Corin A. Friesen
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
blueatheart wrote:
I simply don't know what you consider a "work of art." I'm sure some games of Monopoly could be referred to as such. This has no bearing on whether or not the game is worthwhile.

He doesn't mean the artwork of the components. He means playing the game, like some people say playing a good game of Go is an art. A session of Monopoly is not a work of art, because there is no artistry in playing "well".
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Flood
United States
San Francisco
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Ambrose wrote:
blueatheart wrote:
I simply don't know what you consider a "work of art." I'm sure some games of Monopoly could be referred to as such. This has no bearing on whether or not the game is worthwhile.

He doesn't mean the artwork of the components. He means playing the game, like some people say playing a good game of Go is an art. A session of Monopoly is not a work of art, because there is no artistry in playing "well".


Thanks. I didn't get that from the context.

/sarcasm
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Claudio
United States
Portland
Oregon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Bubslug wrote:
After deciding that an AoS type experience is what you like, and looking for the "art" in a game, have a look at one of the 18XX introductory series (18GA or 18FL), enroute to 1830 or 1856.


Thanks for the recommendation. I've been looking forward to trying something in the 18XX genre for some time. Not many folks that I know play, though.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.