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Bruce Murphy
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Knowing that we were going to get a few more AoS maps at Essen 09, and since it's a relatively portable + flexible heavy game, we had brought along the basic Age of Steam components and some poker chips to Essen 2009, to tide us over until we could get some of the new games played. For maps, what more appropriate choice than the magic Bezier Games Essen expansion map.

This was the initial layout of cubes on the board. There was general skepticism about the lack of city placement and huge macguffin included in this map. Much puzzling over how to make this happen, and to figure out how to avoid immediately going into combat. Note that there are many towns on the board, all with cubes. They are mostly there as places for the cities to sprout.



In the previous round, without any clear idea of what made sense, most of the players ended up building from the city they'd placed, except for black and purple who decided to both dash for the red city at the top of the map. Red and Yellow (the most junior and experienced AoS players of the group) both ended up up building in their own uncontested areas.



A couple more iterations of city placement, purple and black are finding it more difficult to stand one another at such close quarters, but the strain in building connections is slightly relieved by the ease of building parallel connections between all those nicely close towns and having access to two cities per turn. Red continues to build a little star formation while yellow starts working on a whole-hall loop and heading up to grab purple's so-far ignored cubes up the right side of the board.




Strategies become clearer. Black starts to get some longer deliveries to drag his connection, Red realises that this is about the last opportunity to get several cubes as black rushes in to grab a critical town exit into red's hall. Yellow continues to work on his loop and extra building parts while Purple heads south to get some more of 'his' cubes.



Here the contention really kicks off. Red is starting to be boxed into his corner, trying to get a loop together while black finishes the connection and starts looking for five-length deliveries. Admittedly, black does some poaching as well, running a spur into purple's heartland in search of a few cubes that he can deliver more profitably (And potentially also getting access to purple's city placement)



As we approach the end of the game, black's building slows down, he could'nt maintain enough income to afford it. Red finally gets closer to his cycle placement that will give him a bunch of profitable cubes



Yellow's cycle, purple's mad dash to steal the last few cubes from yellow. Red finally getting his long deliveries, while black just moves more cubes to try and get and get points up, there aren't any affordable builds to be made. Yellow and purple fighting desperately to make the most points from those two final deliveries, both finding 5 and 6 length deliveries can be made.



And who won? Well that's the interesting thing. I cannot for the life of me remember who actually won this game, although I rather suspect it was yellow, or possibly purple. One of them might tell me. That'll teach me to write session reports so late (although I had been wanting to do something with these photos for ages)

Notes

The donut-shaped map is interesting, In a 4p game, players are mostly safe from one of their opponents, but will probably have to deal with flanking attacks from the other two.

The macguffin of the receiving cities moving around is a fascinating one. I expected it to yield an utterly chaotic unplayable mess, but the control over which city you get to place via an auction for turn order actually makes this work. The modification to the production action helps get players out of tight corners as well, but not enough to mean you don't have to play this map very very aggressively.

All in all, a far better map than we were expecting. If I'd been able to get to Essen again this year, I'd have been happy to try playing it again. In the absence of that, I'll have to find a slot in the AoS timetable here to play it some other time. I'm not sure how available this limited-edition map is, but I doubt it's harder to find than several other AoS titles.
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Juho Snellman
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thepackrat wrote:

And who won? Well that's the interesting thing. I cannot for the life of me remember who actually won this game, although I rather suspect it was yellow, or possibly purple. One of them might tell me. That'll teach me to write session reports so late :( (although I had been wanting to do something with these photos for ages)


I can't believe yellow didn't win. Looking at the photos I was shipping 6s from round 4 onwards until the end of the game, while none of you got to a 6 loco even at the end.

Quote:
All in all, a far better map than we were expecting.


Probably true, but at least my expectations were pretty much at 0. I thought there were a number of problems:

- Not a lot of incentive for track (and thus shipping) interaction: everyone pretty much stayed in their own hall. Just compare that neat and tidy final map to the usual plate of spaghetti that a map is at the end of game.
- In fact it's the reverse. If a major part of your network is in the same hall as someone else's, you need to actively fight for the urbanization order.
- Quickly getting a network that can ship 5s and 6s for a long time seemed pretty trivial.
- Positive feedback loop: once somebody was in a stable lead, they could easily afford to bid high to both get early in the Urbanization order *and* get Production (to ensure a steady supply of cubes).

 
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Gareth
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My record of the play shows it coming down to a tie for the win between Yellow and Purple with Yellow winning the tie breaker.
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Bruce Murphy
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Foolishly, I looked at your play for the map, not the base game. I guess my failure to recall was entirely justified.

B>
 
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