Introducing the Time Traveller expansion for Age of Steam

Few games have spawned as many expansions as Martin Wallace's immensely successful Age of Steam. So while the release of yet another expansion could cause fans of the series to salivate, it could also cause some gentle eye-rolling in other parts of the community. Does the Age of Steam Expansion: Time Traveler expansion bring something new to the table? I think it certainly does - although it will be a matter of opinion whether or not you like the elements it introduces. Let me state from the outset that this article is primarily a review of the components, and an overview of what you get with this expansion and some of the rule changes it introduces. Not much has appeared about the game here on BGG thus far, so someone has to be the first to spread the word! So I will show you what it looks like and how it works.

Time will tell whether this expansion proves to be a success, but certainly it has to be admitted that it offers something new to the Age of Steam series, and it does that by introducing another dimension to the game: time. Unlike most other expansions, there is not just one single map or gameboard, but instead there are 6 smaller maps which together make up the gameboard and can be placed in different configurations. These maps not only represent different locations, but also different time periods, and players can travel from one map to another using time portals. Sound intriguing?

Box

The front cover features artwork that reflects the idea of new meeting old:



The reverse side introduces us to the idea of time travel that is the theme behind this expansion:
"It is late 19th century America. The first time travel device is developed by Nikola Tesla. The "Tesla Chrono Coil" is able to bend time-space but requires great speed to do so.
Receiving his funding from the B&O Railroad, Mr. Tesla outfits several of its locomotives with the Tesla Chrono Coil and employs a crew of top secret conductors to travel on the tracks of time to test his experiment. The job won't be easy, but the profits could be great.
Are you ready to be amongst the first Time Travelers from the Age of Steam?
"



Nobody expects you to take the thematic premise behind the game too seriously, and although the realists might see this as evidence that Age of Steam has finally jumped the shark, others will more charitably recognize that innovation in gaming requires risking of displeasure with traditionalists, but also comes with potential rewards. For myself, I'd see it as a positive development to see designers trying new ideas - some of these ideas will crash and burn, but it's the ones that fly high that make these pioneering efforts worthwhile. For their attempt to add a time travel concept to a tried and tested game, designers Charlie Bink and Sean Brown at the very least deserve our respect.

Components

Here's what you get inside the box:
● 6 double sided maps
● rulesheet



Because this expansion consists purely of maps, it does mean that there's a lot of empty space in the box!

Maps

The six separate maps are what this expansion is all about. The quality and artwork of the boards is on par with the components of the 3rd edition of Age of Steam - they're well mounted and look durable and attractive.



The six eras they cover are: Stone Age, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Medieval, Napoleonic, and Future.



Ever wondered what railways might have looked like in Ancient Egypt? Well check out this map:



I'm particularly fond of the Future map, which features cities named after famous sci-fi authors like Azimov, Verne, Sagan, Wells, and Clarke.



Each board is double sided with cities marked in white on one side and black on the other side (see the example of the Medieval map below) - this is to ensure that enough combinations of maps are possible without having maps that duplicate the same city numbers and colours.



Unfortunately it's not entirely clear in the pictures you see here, but some of the borders of the maps are a dark green colour rather than black. These green areas are considered the "void", and building track into these spaces allows you to make deliveries and routes across time in different maps.

Rules

The rules consist of a single sheet of paper which explain the adjustments needed to play this expansion, in both English and German.



Here's a summary of the basic concepts:

Setup: You setup the game by choosing any four maps, and placing them in a configuration so that no two maps have the same city numbers of colours.

Building track: To build into or out of the green "void" spaces costs $2. To travel to another time period (map) you need to first connect your track to the void, and then can build from any void space on another map to any other city.

Moving goods: You can deliver goods between time periods. The void doesn't count as a link when calculating distances in such instances, and you can even make a good enter more than one time period en route to its final destination. Limits as a result of engine size still apply when travelling between time periods.

Paying expenses: It's not possible to go bankrupt, and your income can't be reduced to less than zero.



Conclusion

So how does Age of Steam Expansion: Time Traveler play? I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that question right now, because I haven't played it yet - to be honest I'm even more interested in the time travel map that is being released for the Railways of the World series than I am in the time travel maps for Age of Steam! I only just received a copy of this expansion, and figured it was somewhat of a travesty that BGG had absolutely no images (aside from a box cover shot) or articles about this. So out of consideration to my fellow BGGers and in an effort to the helpful to the Age of Steam playing crowd in particularly, I figured I'd whip something up so as to give folks some idea of what's in the box and what this expansion is about. My impression is that this could quickly become a love/hate type of expansion - some people will love the idea of an innovation that enables travel between maps of different eras in times, while others in equal measure will cringe at the thought. If you're in the latter group, you'll obviously want to give this a miss, while those interested in giving Age of Steam a fresh coat of paint might want to give this a try. How good is it? Only time can tell how the Time Traveler will do!



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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EndersGame wrote:
So out of consideration to my fellow BGGers and in an effort to the helpful to the Age of Steam playing crowd in particularly, I figured I'd whip something up so as to give folks some idea of what's in the box and what this expansion is about.


And because Eagle Games asked you to?

Quote:
My impression is that this could quickly become a love/hate type of expansion - some people will love the idea of an innovation that enables travel between maps of different eras in times, while others in equal measure will cringe at the thought.


It's an interesting concept, but I'd hesitate to call it really "innovative" or "time travel".

Essentially, all it's doing is shrinking the distance between all cities, compressing the map.

You could play "wrap around" on a standard board and probably achieve a very similar effect.

Everything is going to be within a few hexes of everything else since the maps are so small.

Additionally, and worse, you get to choose dynamically which cities your goods go through.

One of the difficulties in "normal" Age Of Steam is putting together a long route that doesn't have your preferred destination color in the middle of it [thereby forcing the good to stop earlier than you'd like].

This sort of idea of virtual links and being able to traverse at will along them means you can build tracks going on and off the individual boards and then choose the order in which you visit each city on the route.

In other words, you'll probably be able to get five and six length deliveries very early in the game, making the game just snowball into a degenerate track-building exercise. Your opponents probably can't prevent this.
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I love the box art. The concept of those two times coming together gives me chills Some might call it a, "Jumping the Shark" moment. I called in one of the best times to, "Jump in"
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EndersGame wrote:

Nobody expects you to take the thematic premise behind the game too seriously, and although the realists might see this as evidence that Age of Steam has finally jumped the shark,

Given the fact that there are so many different groups of people working on great expansions for this game, that's hardly a relevant statement to make.
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Asur wrote:
EndersGame wrote:

Nobody expects you to take the thematic premise behind the game too seriously, and although the realists might see this as evidence that Age of Steam has finally jumped the shark,

Given the fact that there are so many different groups of people working on great expansions for this game, that's hardly a relevant statement to make.
Also, I'ld call this a preview. Maybe a review of the components.


The title is honest, and it's certainly useful for something, but it's ridiculous to be earning GG for this stuff under the guise of BGG's "Reviews" section.
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NateStraight wrote:
The title is honest, and it's certainly useful for something, but it's ridiculous to be earning GG for this stuff under the guise of BGG's "Reviews" section.


Yep, I noticed the title and edited my post (right before you commented, it seems). Of course, it's still under "reviews"... shake
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Oh well. It's a quixotic quest to be sure, but that doesn't stop me from complaining.
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This is a post better suited for BGN, not BGG Review forums...or at least, General. GeekMods would be well-advised to start rejecting these as reviews.
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"are you ready for your trains to travel through time?"

No I am not. It sounds ridiculous.
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To the original poster: Who is Azimov?


ill6 wrote:
"are you ready for your trains to travel through time?"

No I am not. It sounds ridiculous.


This variant is essentially a random map variant--Does that sound better to you?

There are effectively 9 different "maps", if I am interpreting the rules correctly. (Since any "time void" (aka green hex) connects to any others, the relative position does not matter and since the opposite sides of the map appear to only to be different in whether they have black numbers or white. (And to people who say that is a difference, you can simply swap the cubes on the goods display the same time as you swap the color of the numbers)

You can leave out any 1 out of 3 "1,2,3 maps" and any 1 out of 3 "4,5,6 maps". 9 combinations.

The main negative is the potential for confusion on routes crossing multiple boards. Not avoiding double counting routes that cross "time". (Since there will be 2 markers but only 1 link.) Not getting confused on how the connections (Since it seems any of your green connection connects to all of them.), Etc.
 
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rri1 wrote:
To the original poster: Who is Azimov?


At various times in his life, his last name was spelled Ozimov, Azimov, and then Asimov. I am curious why the spelling that he was most known by is not the one used here.
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NateStraight wrote:
The title is honest, and it's certainly useful for something, but it's ridiculous to be earning GG for this stuff under the guise of BGG's "Reviews" section.
blueatheart wrote:
This is a post better suited for BGN, not BGG Review forums...or at least, General. GeekMods would be well-advised to start rejecting these as reviews.

Hey guys, lighten up a bit. It's no fun to spend an hour or two working on a contribution, in an effort to share helpful information about a new game with others, only to get stomped on because some don't quite consider it to quite fit their personal classification categories of a review. It's not the first time it's happened, so this time I figured I'd say something. If you don't like the ideas behind this new expansion, that's fine, but there's no need to turn negativity towards the game into negativity towards a review - you can be sure that if this was the first article introducing a new title that was hot or popular, all the subsequent comments would be gushing with admiration and further speculation about the components and gameplay, rather than nitpicking about whether it should be posted as `General' or `Review'. The GeekMods approved it as a review, and if your issue is with them or if you want to debate what precisely classifies as a "review", then please post another thread about that elsewhere, or pick a more suitable target. The point about GG rewards is moot, because articles like this can be submitted for GG in the General forum as well. I was forthright about what I was doing from the outset, and I really don't want to see this thread derail into a debate that has nothing to do with the game itself, so please restrict further comments in this thread to a discussion about the game - I won't be interacting with these criticisms any further here. I've shown you pictures, I've commented on the components, I've summarized the rules, I've explained how it works (and I've seen many reviews here on BGG that do much less than all of that!), so there should be enough to talk about. Nobody asked me to write this article, I'm first of all just a fellow BGGer and game hobbyist doing it as a labour of love. Show some appreciation or at least respect for folks who are trying to make useful contributions about games would you? Now, rant over, I'll take my grumpy boots off, and let's get back to talking about the game... the comments in Nate Straight's first post should make a great starting point for further discussion.
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EndersGame wrote:
Nobody asked me to write this article, I'm first of all just a fellow BGGer and game hobbyist doing it as a labour of love. Show some appreciation or at least respect for folks who are trying to make useful contributions about games would you?


I have respect for you, but knowing FRED/Eagle/Gryphon/Funagain's business model, your history for receiving review copies, your having reviewed almost every game Eagle's ever published, and the fact that you expressed little interest in playing this expansion and used passive language concerning your acquisition of the title, it seems less than likely that the only reason you posted the review was because you "figured you'd whip up something".

It's not dishonest, and the fact that you probably received a review copy of this game is only an implicit request by the publisher that you post something about it, but it's... odd.

And, I have no problem with you earning GG for this. As I said, it's useful. I have a problem with you [or anyone] earning GG for this type of material under the BGG reviews section.

But, like I said, this is a quixotic personal quest and is pointless.
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Thanks for taking the time to post your overview, Ender. thumbsup I'm sure there are many that appreciate it.
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Futza wrote:
Thanks for taking the time to post your overview, Ender. thumbsup I'm sure there are many that appreciate it.


If they'd speak up and talk about all the great things in the review, it would make the jackasses like the rest of us considerably less interesting and considerably more foolish looking.

Really.
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Some notes, Enders:
- These articles are appreciated by many people. The number of thumbs you get are a nice indication of that.
- The fact that I'm here complaining has nothing to do with the nature of the expansion. As mentioned, it's only another one with a bizarre theme.
- This is a review, at most, of the components. It is useful, but not as useful as the articles usually under the "review" label.
- Pointing out other examples of poor reviews do not make you right.
- Basically, I'm merely making a suggestion. I realize this takes some work, I'm simply saying this would be more useful if you didn't label this as a review (although you are being honest in the title).

Cheers.
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rri1 wrote:
This variant is essentially a random map variant--Does that sound better to you?


It's really more than a random map [that already exists, by the way: Age of Steam Expansion: 20,000 Rails Under the Sea].

I still think the key thing that is different is the random and mutable distance between cities, which I doubt will be a good thing.

Quote:
Since any "time void" (aka green hex) connects to any others, the relative position does not matter


Also, and more importantly, the relative order doesn't matter.
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Quote:
please restrict further comments in this thread to a discussion about the game

I am a big fan of RotW, this was the first train game I owned. I frequently play this and the Europe and Mexico map. At the time I was considering what train game to buy, AoS was on my radar, but I deemed it too difficult. Some time passed, and I really would like to try AoS to compare the gameplay. I think, the time traveller concept seems intriguing and something that can provide an interesting gameplay. I appreciate that this overview gave an idea of the components, the gameplay and an overview on the rules. As a regular visitor in the site, if I want to look up information about any games, let it be an overview, a component review or a complex review, I go to the Review section. Ender's overview gave a basic idea of the gameplay and it is a good starting point for those who are interested.
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NateStraight wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
Nobody asked me to write this article, I'm first of all just a fellow BGGer and game hobbyist doing it as a labour of love. Show some appreciation or at least respect for folks who are trying to make useful contributions about games would you?


But, like I said, this is a quixotic personal quest and is pointless.


In YOUR opinion. I actually like Enders posts and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I find it interesting that the only contribution you can think to add is bitching.
 
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ixnay66 wrote:
NateStraight wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
Nobody asked me to write this article, I'm first of all just a fellow BGGer and game hobbyist doing it as a labour of love. Show some appreciation or at least respect for folks who are trying to make useful contributions about games would you?


But, like I said, this is a quixotic personal quest and is pointless.


In YOUR opinion. I actually like Enders posts and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I find it interesting that the only contribution you can think to add is bitching.


Did you miss the part where I was one of only two posters to the thread to talk about the actual game play effects of the expansion and in about twice as much detail / depth / length as the other poster?

On the other hand, it is you who's adding nothing but bitching. Your sole reason for posting in the thread seems to be to inform people that what Nate is posting is Nate's opinion, which should be pretty clear.
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Quick! Everybody out! The thread is *flaming*! A mandatory evacuation is surely on its way!
 
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ixnay66 wrote:
In YOUR opinion. I actually like Enders posts and I'm sure I'm not the only one..

Nate is inflicting his opinion on us?? How dreadful.

Seriously, Enders has made a useful and informative post here, even though it is lame for a review. It should be in General not Reviews. That's not such a terrible thing.

But yes, it bugs me bit. Reviewers should have played the game, not once, but several times (In My Opinion). And reviewers who have a business relationship with the publisher should reveal that. Or any relationship with a publisher actually.
 
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Another convention is labelling things as previews. That's got "review" in it, too!

B>
 
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This is a pictorial overview and a component Review that belongs in the Review section of the forums. the people who will want this information are the people whio will look in the review section.

It isn't a complete game review but it doesn't claim to be and it does have a lot of the information that a complete game review would have.

The geek mods have no problem with this being a review and it is techniacally a review. It is not a gameplay review but I really feel that that is splitting hairs.

Endersgame has posted an informative component review in the review section. Why do you feel the need to complain about it?
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ixnay66 wrote:
In YOUR opinion. I actually like Enders posts and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I find it interesting that the only contribution you can think to add is bitching.

Likewise, in YOUR opinion. I got tired of his overblown non-reviews a while ago, and I'm also not the only one. So what? If you want less complaining, you can complain less. Some of us obviously would like a little more complaining, especially when we get reviews that explicitly state "I haven't played the game and I don't intend to play the game," whiny demands for "proper" appreciation notwithstanding.

As for the expansion itself, my reaction also was a moment of interest at the variation/flexibility, followed by immediately realizing that it mostly just takes the map out of the game and makes long routes trivial and uninteresting.

"Jumping the shark" seems a pointless thing to say at this point. We have zombies, infernal discos, and plasma lines on the surface of the sun. Time travel is just another meaningless gimmick to mask the raw map/gameplay. For me, it detracts (because it's nonsensical), but if the expansion were interesting, I'd ignore it, like I do with The Sun.

To be perfectly honest, I actually have enough "innovation" in AoS maps. What I'd really like are a few nice maps that don't change anything besides the terrain/layout and work well under the base rules, so I don't always have to decide between "rules changes" and "rust belt". I'd like some more places to play when we don't want rules changes.
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