It's a horse. On a chair.
Last night, I decided that it would be fun to try the other half of the Age of Steam Expansion: Vermont, New Hampshire & Central New England, that Ted Alspach released last year for Essen. In enjoyed the Vermont side of things, so I figured it was time to give New Hampshire a try. Both Jef and Scott joined me for the game.
The state motto of New Hampshire is: "Live Free or Die." It is nicknamed "The Granite State," because of a legacy of self-sufficiency and because of it's mountainous geology. New Hampshire is the only state that has neither a general sales tax or a personal income tax. (Thank you wikipedia for these nifty facts.)
So how did Ted capture these facts?
First, he instituted a new rule called "Anti-Competition Track Building." Direct track links between cities and/or towns may not be duplicated. This rule may strike at the heart of the capitalistic tendencies and free enterprise philosophy of New Hampshire, but it does a great job capturing just how difficult it was for railroads to build track in the "Granite State." And, it does happen to replicate reality. Take a look at the map below:
As you can see, duplicate track were not built.
Second, players may only use their own links to deliver goods. Entitled "Anti-Revenue Sharing," this rule embodies the self-sufficiency of the state and it's inhabitants distaste for taxes.
Game Commentary and Thoughts
Here is a look at the map at the start of the game:
And, more importantly, here is the goods display:
At the start of the game, I was immediately drawn towards the large number of yellow cubes in the goods display. A glance towards the game board revealed a large number of towns and cities in close proximity of each other, and I suspected that I could turn these cubes into 6 link shipments by the end of the game.
The new rules for the map would be interesting, but they also fit well into my style of play. As Pierce would say, "Brad likes to go off on his own and build pretty track." Well, this map encourages just that. The new rules don't exactly prohibit you from getting in the other player's face, but they do impose a cost. If your network is cut in half, you are forced to find a way out that does not include using someone else's track. And it may be extra costly since you cannot duplicate links between cities and/or towns.
I was third in turn order on the first turn and I issued only 1 share to Jef and Scott's 2. I ended up choosing First Build. Jeff grabbed Urbanization, and Scott took Locomotive.
Here is the board at the end of the first turn:
I was in a good situation to build the necessary links to start my yellow shipments, but the yellow cities did not start in my network. This build gave me a nice 2 link shipment to start the game, and it promised a 3 link the following turn.
What really struck me on this turn was Scott's build. It worked out for both of us, but I was worried about the proximity of our tracks, how this would work with the new rules, and how we would have enough cubes to ship for the rest of the game. Jef, on the other hand, created a wonderful 3 link network on the first turn with his Urbanization. He also had a plethora of cubes available to him.
On the second turn, I briefly considered cutting off Scott's probably build by building from Red 2 to Purple 5. Instead, I went with my original plan and nearly completed a nice 5 link network for my yellow cubes.
This network provided me with some excellent shipments in the early game (by turn 3) that were a definite advantage in the late game. I was able to issue fewer shares than both Jef and Scott and I had a nice cash advantage.
The major problem that I faced was the relative lack of cubes (especially compared to Jef). Yellow City 4 had a large number of cubes in it, as did the other cities around it, but it was going to take some creative track building (and some incredibly inefficient shipping) to turn those into larger link shipments. But, as you can see from the following picture, I managed.
This wonderful spaghetti of track gave me solid and largely uncontested 6 link shipments for the remaining 4 or so turns of the game.
To cope with the low cube supply, Scott took an alternative approach and built his network down into Jef's cube supply. As you can see, Jef had an incredibly amount of cubes at his disposal.
Thankfully, he was not as able to turn these cubes into larger shipments.
Here is a picture of the board at the end of the game:
In the end, my low shares count came to the rescue. I only issued 13 shares. Jef issued 14, and Scott had maxed out at 15.
Brad (): 96 (Income) + 37 (Track) = 133
Scott (): 90 (Income) + 38 (Track) = 128
Jef (): 84 (Income) + 26 (Track) = 110
I probably sound like a broken record with my Age of Steam reviews, but I had an enjoyable time playing this map. The new rules, coupled with the large number of cities and towns on the map, created the cramped feeling that often shows up in Alban Viard's maps, but in a much more open map. The map forced you to think creatively about your network and your shipments. I had a great time building up my network and figuring out how to ship goods six links that had no right going that far.
I won't deny that the anti-competition rule and anti-revenue sharing do take away some of the games, well, competitive feeling. Because you cannot use other player's track, you cannot bump them up into the next income bracket. And although you could technically build a link between two locations to stop another player, this move could ultimately hurt you because you cannot use their track to ship the goods. It is also much easier to monopolize locations and ensure that the cubes in that city will stay there for your benefit.
Perhaps what the changes did was make the game slightly friendlier, but it was still a tough map that needed constant thought. I enjoyed it. And perhaps one day, when I have played all of my other maps, I will come back to it.
Great session report! I gotta give thumbs up to any report that has pics of a gameboard with my home town on it (I live in the blue city on the state's southern border).
Great session report. I specially enjoyed how you drew a parallel between the map rules and the state history. Well done!