Bradley Keen
United States
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Pennsylvania
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It's been 3 months since I have played Age of Steam. Now, I can happily report that I am back in the saddle and I have brought my brother with me. This will be my brother's (Jeremy) first time playing Age of Steam. We were joined by Jef, a regular in my weekly Age of Steam group.

I wanted to wean my brother into the game, so I brought out the Age of Steam Expansion: Texas, Oklahoma & New Mexico. Age of Steam Expansion: Texas, Oklahoma & New Mexico was part of the Winsome games 2008 Essen set, though I had to wait for some time before I could find a copy. After reading some reviews of the map, I figured that it would be a lighter introduction to the game than some of my other expansions.

For the most part, the basic rules of Age of Steam are left unaltered by this expansion. The major difference in the rules is introduced via the cow cubes. At the start of the game, brown cow cubes are placed onto the map. These cubes can be shipped to the six Cattle Demand Cities on the map. The Cattle Demand Cities start the game with normal goods cubes. They will not generate any additional cubes, they only accept cattle cubes, and normal cubes cannot pass through them.

The Production Action was removed from this map. Two other actions take its place. The first is the Cattle Drive action, which allows a player to move a cattle cube 1 or 2 hexes onto a hex with track or a city.

The second action is Ranching. This action allows a player to take 1 or 2 cattle cubes and place them onto empty hexes on the map.

After reviewing the expansion rules and teaching my brother the base game, we were ready to begin.

Game Commentary and Thoughts

Below is a picture of the map at the start of the game.



A look at the map suggested that this map would likely be as friendly as the reviews suggested. The cow cubes were scattered all over the map, and the Cattle Demand Cities were stocked with nice early shipments. With this in mind, I figured that the game would be won or lost over the number of issued shares. With plenty of good first turn builds, I decided that I would start of the game with only 1 issued share.

Jeremy and Jef both issued two shares on the first turn. Amazingly, neither challenged me during the auction and I was able to pick up the locomotive action for cheap. Below is a picture of the game at the end of the first turn.



I ended up building a nice circular route in the upper right corner of the board. The Cattle Demand City that I connected to was stocked with some early shipments. My goal for the rest of the game was to shoot south and pick up additional cattle shipments as my locomotive grew.

Jef started his network in the North West and Jeremy took the South East section of the map. It looked like we would stay out of each others hair for most of the game.

As the game progressed, the three of us continued to leave the others alone. For his first play, Jeremy was very conservative during the auctions. I was able to take the locomotive action quite easily for the first couple of turns, though Jef did begin to challenge me by the 4th or 5th turn. Ultimately, we all ramped up the locomotive track at about the same speed. But by this time, differences on the issued shares track were obvious. I had issued the fewest number, followed by Jeremy and then Jef.

Here is a picture of the board near the end of the game:



I was able to build a number of circuitous routes into my network. By the middle of the game, I had a large number of 6 link shipments that were adequately protected from the other players. Jef was also off to himself on the left side of the board. I suppose that Jeremy was in the worst position. He started in the East and progressed South, but he waited too long to break out of that side of the board. I also headed South with my track and ended up cutting off his path to the West and larger shipments.

Here is a picture of the board at the end of the game:



Final Scores
Brad (mb): (51 Income - 8 Shares)*3 + 44 Track = 173
Jef (mb): (48 Income - 11 Shares)*3 + 38 Track = 149
Jeremy (mb): (48 Income - 9 Shares)*3 + 26 Track = 143

At the end of the game, largely because of my lower shares count, I pulled out the win. Jeremy and Jef were equal on the income track, but Jeremy issued 2 fewer shares than Jef. I thought that this would give him second place, but Jef had enough additional track points to give him second place.

With three players, this map was very loose and user friendly. I had a good time playing it, and it was a great way to get back into the AoS system. It was also an excellent expansion to introduce a new player to the game. Most of the core rules are left intact, so it was easy to teach. And the new additions to the game were thematic enough and fun enough to make them easily comprehensible to a new player. The cattle cubes are reminiscent of Ted Alspach's St. Lucia expansion, where each hex contains a goods cube at the start of the game. I enjoy the mechanic and I found the Cattle Drive a particularly interesting way to expand the idea. Like some of the other Winsome maps, I suspect that this one would play very differently with larger player counts. With three, it was definitely an exercise in money management and track building. With more players, would be forced to deal with Cattle Scarcity and likely Cattle Thieves.

Though this map is not one of my favorite expansions, it certainly has a place in my collection. It is easy to teach and the abundance of cubes makes it very forgiving. The high city and town count also provides an excellent way to show new players how important circular routes are. I had a great time playing in the Wild West, as did the other players at the table.
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Scott Petersen
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St. Louis Park
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I was wondering where these session reports went! Glad to have them back. If you have Alban Viard's Holland map, do that one next. Breno's comments about it intrigued me.
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Bradley Keen
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I do have the Holland map, I suspect that I could make that happen!
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Bradley Keen
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I spent some additional time thinking about this map last night. The abundance of towns on the board, coupled with the removal of the urbanization action, adds to a players' ability to create crazy loop networks and a plethora of different 6 link shipment options.

Because the map contains only the basic plains terrain types, build costs do not skyrocket. Thus players can take chances with town builds and start extra stubs at the end of their build. I did this many times during the game.

With three players, these amendments really do make for a great teaching game.
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Costas
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Welcome back Brad! May I suggest a geeklist of your travels using only AoS expansions...
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Richard S
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Rensselaer
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It is interesting to me to see how far North and East your cows got. So, far group think in my plays has lead to having them all bunched in the South and West.
 
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Pierce Ostrander
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punkzter wrote:
Jeremy and Jef both issued two shares on the first turn. Amazingly, neither challenged me during the auction and I was able to pick up the locomotive action for cheap. Below is a picture of the game at the end of the first turn.


Brad - you're such a noobwacker!

You keep this up I'm gonna have to come back up there and put you back in your place...
 
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Bradley Keen
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fubar awol wrote:
Brad - you're such a noobwacker!

You keep this up I'm gonna have to come back up there and put you back in your place...


Consider yourself invited!
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