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Subject: Challenging but very fun variant! [[Move as many goods as you can!]] rss

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Mark Barone
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Let me preface this by saying I did not intend to create a variant. The base rules for this game are amazing and this was probably the most played board game for my group for years.

Only one problem... we weren't playing with the base rules! Due to a misinterpretation of the rules on our very first play through, we assumed we had it right and played incorrectly for a number of years. It wasn't until last night that a friend of mine was trolling through the rule book and happened to notice nothing we were doing was written in there.

To be honest, I've still never played the right way (although I intend to now, and am excited to). Here's how my friends and I have been playing for years:

All rules are as the rulebook states with a few very important differences.

1. You can only upgrade your train power if you pick up the #6 Train Power piece.
2. If you are holding the #6 Train Power piece, you are not allowed to move goods this turn.
3. During the move goods phase, you can move AS MANY GOODS AS YOU WANT. All goods are moved "at once" meaning if you are first to move goods, you can move all of your goods (instead of one at a time, in turn order).


That's it. My friends and I have played this way probably around 30 or so times. It's balanced, it's fun, and it's challenging. I can't speak to the original game but I will say what this variant emphasizes.

1. You want to upgrade train power early, usually the highest it will go is to 4, and that's usually only in a 3 player game.

2. Move goods first (2) is absolutely essential, in fact it becomes one of the most powerful choices. Since you can move any and all goods, it's incredibly easy to completely take all of an opponents potential moves. Games become cut throat, and almost absurd defenses are built to avoid losing all of the goods on a particular city.

3. Expect large swings in money. I've seen players drop down to -9 in debt, and shoot up to +8 just from one really successful turn.

4. Expect (and this is just speculation as I've never played the "right" way), a low scoring game. I believe one of the highest scoring games we've had somebody got around 60 or so points, and that was only once -- usually they're under 50.

5. Defense defense defense! Your goods are going to get stolen, elegant solutions must be found to avoid this.

6. A majority of the goods get cleared out relatively early, making the end game a mad dash for the few resources left, and the (5) and (7) cards becoming increasingly important/sought after.


Please let me know if you have any questions. I promise this way is fun (as it's one of my favorite games of all time). I'm not sure if I did a good job of explaining, but I assure you it's a great (and balanced!) variant. Although it is a bit unforgiving =)
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Jonathan C
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Sounds....wonky. But as I've never tried it, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

Quote:
Games become cut throat, and almost absurd defenses are built to avoid losing all of the goods on a particular city.


I'd argue that Steam is already cut-throat. But your point is well taken; certainly blocking becomes more valuable because the risk/reward is much greater. In the same light, I'd expect that Build 4 track would also become a stronger action, which would allow you the ability to block more effectively.

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You want to upgrade train power early, usually the highest it will go is to 4, and that's usually only in a 3 player game.


Usually a good idea in Basic or Standard Steam as well.

Quote:
5. Defense defense defense! Your goods are going to get stolen, elegant solutions must be found to avoid this.


This is a good way to plan routes in Basic or Standard Steam anyway, and not particularly unique to your variant.

Perhaps my biggest concern is that, because of the "move all the goods you can/want" rule, one player could be pretty much decimated at the beginning of the game (no fault of their own, but as a matter of turn order, etc.) with regards to income; you need to have that little bit of income stream (even if it is just a trickle) to keep your Income near or slightly above zero. Otherwise it becomes impossible to fund an ever-expanding railway network.

Edit: I think the only way this variant would be feasible is using "Standard" Steam rules, thereby having a turn-order auction every round. This way the "true" cost of going first, or taking a particular action, will be set by the market, and hopefully experienced players will ensure that the winners don't get away with a runaway cube delivery without paying dearly for it.
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Mark Barone
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looleypalooley wrote:
I'd expect that Build 4 track would also become a stronger action, which would allow you the ability to block more effectively.


That's an interesting take, it's usually one of the last picked pieces, surprisingly. I don't usually play with more than 4 players, and the big ones end to be First to Move Goods, Train Power, Resupply and Build City.

Quote:
Perhaps my biggest concern is that, because of the "move all the goods you can/want" rule, one player could be pretty much decimated at the beginning of the game (no fault of their own, but as a matter of turn order, etc.) with regards to income; you need to have that little bit of income stream (even if it is just a trickle) to keep your Income near or slightly above zero. Otherwise it becomes impossible to fund an ever-expanding railway network.


This is what I was speaking to with the swings. Typically you get very low early on, and when you have your breaking moment (ie, above 0) you shoot up to to the +8 to +10 area. Once there you never really have to worry about money for the rest of the game.

Quote:
Edit: I think the only way this variant would be feasible is using "Standard" Steam rules, thereby having a turn-order auction every round. This way the "true" cost of going first, or taking a particular action, will be set by the market, and hopefully experienced players will ensure that the winners don't get away with a runaway cube delivery without paying dearly for it.


Well I promise it's feasible as I've played many times, but you're right -- that would probably balance things out a bit more. I will admit the variant is completely unforgiving to newcomers so adding this rule would balance that. I will also admit some of the advice and things I pointed out in this variant transfer over to the regular game and aren't different at all. I'm at a bit of a disadvantage there, and maybe I posted this variant too early because I never have played it for real.

Thanks for the feedback though, my friends and I were very interested in what the community would think.
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Jonathan C
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I would be most interested in what this fellow would have to say:

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looleypalooley wrote:
I would be most interested in what this fellow would have to say:

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Well, thanks for asking!

At first blush, this seemed to be really awful! Of course, that's probably because I have only played the rules as written, many times over. I think it would be way too chaotic (swingy) for my tastes, with roles selected largely for turn order so that one could choose Loco as early in the game as possible.

However, if the OP has played it this way for years, I guess it works! But I'm not a big variants-guy anyway so I am not likely to try this any time soon.
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Mark Barone
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The thing I find interesting, is when we found out the real rules THEY seemed weird and almost game ruining.
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John B
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Quote:
The thing I find interesting, is when we found out the real rules THEY seemed weird and almost game ruining.


Says the guy who pulled off the -7 to +8 swing. whistle

I think what saves it is that it's a lot harder to upgrade your locomotive, so you don't end up depleting the cubes as quickly as you'd expect (because less people can make 2+ link moves until later than usual.)

But, in my experience of playing it this way about 3 or 4 times, you do end up with at least one person that gets into debt and then gets all their cubes stolen and basically their game is ended.

At least we're usually good at targeting someone who gets a huge early lead.
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Having poo-poo'd variants, I have to say that one of the things I love about the (Age of) Steam game is that it's really a system, where each map tweaks the basic rules a bit (or a lot). They are essentially variants! I wonder if there's a theme/map that fits with your variant?
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Don D.
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This sounds like a chaotic mess to me that I would never even try... BUT if OP enjoys it- play what you enjoy!
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