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Subject: Railroad Tycoon = Age of Steam, only much better rss

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Seth Jaffee
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Sadly, I did not get a playtest of my prototype Terra Prime last night at my weekly game group... and even more sadly, I DID get to try Age of Steam. There was lots of discussion on BGG when Railroad Tycoon came out, and recently we've been playing RRT a lot. Someone in our group got AoS to try it out, and there's now been discussion in our group about the two. Now that I've played both, I can say with authority that AoS is a miserable experience. RRT is clearly a streamlined, edited, and improved version of the game in just about every respect. If you are consternated about which of the two games to play or buy - I recommend Railroad Tycoon over Age of Steam. Below are SOME of my concrete reasons why RRT is the better game:

In no particular order:
1. Game length vs actions. Both games appear to take about the same amount of time. In AoS, our 6 player game took a good 2.5 hours - probably longer than normal - and lasted 6 turns. One of the players was bankrupted approximately turn 2, so it was really a 5 player game at that point.

6 turns is not a very long time. I don't see how a player can plan and execute any kind of long term strategy in only 6 turns, or even 8 or 10. In a 2.5 hour game, I would really like to play more than 6 turns. Even in a 1.5 hour game (which may be more realistic) I'd like more than 6 turns.

2. The tension in AoS is all in the wrong place! Some have said that by having to plan ahead with how many shares you want makes the game much more tense and interesting. In actual fact, it transfers much of the tension of the game from strategic action, to careful planning of money. Since the game is so unforgiving with respect to shares and income, people spend quite a bit of time deciding up front what they plan to do, how much they plan to spend, how much they might need for auctions, and therefore how much stock they can afford to take. It's important to be careful in this consideration, because a small mistake - especially in the early turns - can send you right into bankruptcy (or put you so far behind you'll never catch up anyway).

Railroad Tycoon streamlines this such that you can just do whatever you need to do, and take stock as needed, cutting down tremendously on the down time in the game and leaving the tension with the track building and deliveries where it belongs.

3. Production of goods. At the beginning of a game of AoS, everyone's on equal footing as all players can see the setup of the board, and even what goods MIGHT go to each city (eventually). The die roll mechanic in theory implies that over time all cities will probably get goods produced in them... however as we all know, the variance in rolling 1d6 is pretty high. Frankly, I'm highly put off by the production mechanic in AoS, and I much prefer the larger board with more goods in RRT - and no repopulation of goods (unless you pay for it). I'd be a little happier with AoS if the Production mechanic were based on 2d6 rather than 1d6, but even then there'd be the same complaints as with Settlers.

4. Cost of Track: In Age of Steam the cost of track of various types are increasingly expensive, and the cost of building on various terrains also increases... in railroad Tycoon the complexity of the track (cross, straight, bend, etc) doesn't matter, the only consideration is the terrain. This minor simplification streamlines the game without losing ny strategic depth whatsoever. AoS Also has some fiddley rules regarding Towns, which don't add much to the game, while RRT just has cities which all behave the same way. Another rules simplification that doesn't deteriorate the game at all, and leaves the focus on the game rather than the rules.

5. Income Reduction: The fiddley income reduction rule from AoS is greatly improved in RRT with the Income track - where income is based on, but not equal to, your score. That the income actually starts to decrease in RRT is ingenious, and is only undermined by the unclear statement in the rules about "income dropping and then rising again" after 100 points. If played with the $9 income (as must have been intended), then a player going into debt (taking out stock) to set up a moneymaking enterprise must either be more careful about how many shares he takes, or take measures to ensure the game ends before his debt comes back to haunt him.

Income Reduction in AoS seems like a crude representation of the same thing, but without the real effect at the endgame - just fiddley stuff in the middle which makes the uphill road steeper and steeper. In AoS there's not really a feeling of going into debt to set up a moneymaking enterprise, as EVERYONE must go into a lot of debt, and NOONE reallymakes any money. This comes back to the long term strategy I mentioned earlier.

6. Cosmetics: It's clear that Railroad Tycoon has nicer bits than Age of Steam. Some people are not moved by this one way or another. That being said, I think it's safe to say that more often than not people who ARE moved by that are moved in the direction of the fancy board and trains of RRT.
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Seth Jaffee
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This could have been a review and earned me a GG :/ Ah well...
 
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Harald Torvatn
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I do not like AoS, but I have played it enough to know that you are wrong on two things: It is possible to set up a long term strategy even in a six turn game, and those who manage to do that makes a lot of money.

You really must play a game more than once before you are able to do that, however.

 
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Chris Trimmer
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Tuesday night was my "Return to Age of Steam" after a long absence, but with much play of RRT since.

I guess AoS is great when you just want to play a brain burner with all of your monetary calculations, but RRT is just more pure fun for me.
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I strongly prefer Age of Steam over Railroad Tycoon, and I think you'd find that many of your complaints stem mainly from the fact that people were new to the game. But I will say this: I'd never (again) play Age of Steam on the basic map with 6 players. With fewer players, you'd have more turns, and more room to play.

Are you sure you rolled the right number of dice for production? It should be 1 die per player for each side of the production chart, each turn. I'd understand if you complained that there weren't enough goods on the production chart with six players, but you seem to be implying that some cities never got goods produced, something that should happen VERY rarely.

The cosmetic issue is obviously a matter of taste. I strongly prefer Age of Steam, mainly because I find the Railroad tycoon board to be too large, and I'm not crazy about the graphics of RRT, either. AoS has very simple graphics, but they work well, I think, and are more pleasant to look at than RRT. Just a matter of taste, I guess.
 
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I pretty much agree with you Seth. I have played AOS more than once and my view is that RRT is an improved, more accessible evolution of the game.

AOS invites more of a take that mentality and because of the limited actions as well as the more aggressive tiles available it's easier to bludgeon another player in AOS than it is in RRT. When you want that style of game then AOS is the clear choice.

What Wallace/Boher/Drover did with RRT was open the game up and cause it to be less predictable. You certainly can compete and diminish other player's options in RRT but that doesn't have the net effect of eliminating them as a threat, because the game is so much more wide open, there are so many other ways to score points.

The graphics and presentation are purely a matter of taste. While I wouldn't call AOS unattractive, I would never call it attractive. It's... boring to look at. The little b&w goods mats and muted tiles with no real graphics are a bit more severe than I like. RRT does have alot more visual appeal to me.

BTW, they both have the same MSRP, which demonstrates what can be done price-wise by having the strength of a strong company like Eagle behind you.

Both games stay in my arsenal, AOS for when I'm feeling mean and want to punish someone and RRT for the 98% of the time that we want to laugh, chatter and play for the experience.
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David Turner
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Some people like AoS. Some People like RRT. I like them both.
It's great that we have both games!

Can't we all get along together



 
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Seth Jaffee
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dturnerfish wrote:
It's great that we have both games!

Can't we all get along together

Sure we can... I'm just listing the reasons I'll never play AoS over RRT.
 
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Richard Irving
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RRT is Age of Steam with gigantism: Big and stupid.

The map is so huge there is (or should be--unless two people start in the same area of the map, which they should NEVER do. All that does is doom both players to last places.) no interaction on the board between players for most of the game.

The lack of interaction means the auction phase is absolutely pointless--There is no reason to bid to ensure a favorable turn to make sure you build or ship first.

The only reason to bid is when a randomly drawn card which might be useful for more than one player. This rarely happens however--More often the card has a relatively minimal effect. Occasionally when it HAS a major effect, it is only useful to one (or none) players--such as Complete a route between two cities or be the first to ship to a particular city and only the player who has previously built anywhere near the area can possibly take advantage of it. The random player who gets the windfall (because the card will not necessarily appear) gets a huge leg up on their opponents.

Add another random draw--Tycoon Cards, that actually dictate ALL of your future strategy. You can't ignore going for whatever this card dictates.

And to top it all off, shares can be taken at any time no need to plan ahead, not that you ever have any difficulty planning ahead BECAUSE THERE IS NO INTERACTION due to the monstrously large board.

I feel sorry for the original poster for two things:
- He played AOS with 6 players on the standard map. Most players would say 5 is the absolute max and 4 is preferred for the standard map.
- He appears to have played with an incorrect production rule--it is one die for each player in the game--so 6 dice are rolled for each half of the production chart. Almost all of the cubes on the Production should reach the map in an Age of Steam game.

Reviewing a game under non-optimum number of players and probably with incorrect rules is good way to write a misleading review.

But he is wrong on a key point--but it is a common misconception to new AOS players: In AOS you MUST implement a long term strategy. Two or Three turn down line ***IS*** a long time in AOS. You must plan for the long routes that you will make at the end of the game to win. If you just think about deliver 2 or 3 link routes on the last turns, you will lose to those delivering 5 or 6 link routes. Many new players don't realize this on their first game--they often look for short routes when they should be looking for long ones.

 
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I agree with your points, although I wouldn't call it a "better" game (is Scrabble "better" than a crossword puzzle?) - probably because if ever there was a more subjective adjective to use in an already subjective area, I don't want to know what it is!

What it is to me - as Chris says - is more fun. AoS is fine - indeed, hard to beat - when you want to have that "head in a vice" experience. But for most of us, what we want in a game is fun; RRT delivers more fun than AoS. Of course, for a lot of people that makes RRT a "better" game too.

If I was taking just one of them to my desert island, I'd agonisse about which one it should be - but then I'd pick RRT. Every time. Though I'd have to keep that colour-changing, peeling, warping board out of that tropical sun, mind you
 
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Never played a train game myself. If I was going to get a train game, I am more interested in the 18xx line...not sure why, historical feel I guess.

All that said, I here Age of Steam has player elmination. This is not a selling point for me. I don't like it at all. The game has to be really good and different for it to be worth playing if it has payer elimination, IMHO. Diplomacy, for example.

So, if I ever had to choose between the two, I would be thinking RRT...,
 
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Quote:
The map is so huge there is (or should be--unless two people start in the same area of the map, which they should NEVER do. All that does is doom both players to last places.)


This is incorrect. I've played RRT over 30 times, usually with 5 or 6 and it's almost impossible to start in an area alone.

Quote:

The lack of interaction means the auction phase is absolutely pointless--There is no reason to bid to ensure a favorable turn to make sure you build or ship first.


Incorrect. Our auctions are spirited and often very strategic. Failure to understand why auctions have a different impact in RRT than in AOS only lessens the reviewers grasp, not the game itself.

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The random player who gets the windfall (because the card will not necessarily appear) gets a huge leg up on their opponents.


Another myopic misunderstanding of RRT strategy. Knowing that Raliegh-Atlanta is potentially worth 8 points is a great reason to build there, but most seasoned players won't unless by doing so they are scoring other points. Duh.

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Add another random draw--Tycoon Cards, that actually dictate ALL of your future strategy. You can't ignore going for whatever this card dictates.


Totally bogus. Tycoon cards very rarely determine the winner in a game and the majority of games I've played the winner never completed his/her card.

I tend to agree with Richard's assessment of what a player must do to be competitive in AOS but it's clear he has either played very little RRT or perhaps played it against very unskilled opponents.

As I said before, both great games, just different tactics.

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I actually really like these kind of discussions, it gives a lot of insight to potential buyers. It seems both games have their strengths and weakness's and are great in their own way. From all the stuff I have read about both games I think it will be a hard decision, probably even after playing them. It seems the population is split roughly 50/50 as well, people who really want the deep competitive style go with AOS and people more after fun RRT. That isn't to say one is more fun than the other, it is just that people derive their fun in different ways. But hey, I haven't even played so what do I know . What I do want to know is, if you had to pick only one of them to play as a 2 player game which would be better?
 
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jayjonbeach wrote:
I actually really like these kind of discussions, it gives a lot of insight to potential buyers. It seems both games have their strengths and weakness's and are great in their own way. From all the stuff I have read about both games I think it will be a hard decision, probably even after playing them. It seems the population is split roughly 50/50 as well. Will either of them play better as a 2 player than the other?



I don't think there is an available 2-player map for AoS. RRT IMHO is beter with four, but it is still enjoyable for two. There are somee 2-player variants that I enjoy.

I actually also enjoy these conversations, I was just joking arround
earlier.
 
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These games are different enough that trying to say one is better than the other is silly. It's like saying coffee is better than steak.

They certainly share some similarities; building track, delivering goods, etc., but the feel of the game is comepletely different.

Personally, I think agree with the assessment that RRT is more lighthearted fun. But, I don't think that you can take it as seriously as AoS. The cards just make it too random for that.

FWIW, I enjoy both of them, but don't do particularly well in either. blush In AoS, I do well until midgame, but never seem to have the 5 and 6 deliveries at the end. Oddly, in my RRT games I am set up for the longer runs, but don't get to do them. surprise Although, I learned that we were playing RRT wrong in that there is a complete turn after the correct number of empty cities happen. We ended that turn.
 
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I have not played RRT but I can honestly say that I LOVE Age of Steam. It is one of the most fun games I've played in the last 3 months. All games have been tight (save for one b/c I made a stupid mental error) and really interesting. I think I read that Wallace considers it his masterpiece and I agree. You have to watch the # of players given the map you are using to make it a tense fight. But, I think the game is wonderful. Absolutely WONDERFUL!

RRT is on it's way. I'll be playing it with gamers that enjoy lighter games. I'm sure I'll like it. Not sure if I'll like it more than AoS or that a comparision would even be valid. But, I'll let you know.

kiss
 
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David Turner
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Quote:
The map is so huge there is (or should be--unless two people start in the same area of the map, which they should NEVER do. All that does is doom both players to last places.) no interaction on the board between players for most of the game.


With four players there is plenty of interaction. I suggest playing a variant with less then 4.

Quote:
The lack of interaction means the auction phase is absolutely pointless--There is no reason to bid to ensure a favorable turn to make sure you build or ship first.


The auction are very important for the cards and when you are competing for a link. There is interaction.

Quote:
The only reason to bid is when a randomly drawn card which might be useful for more than one player. This rarely happens however--More often the card has a relatively minimal effect. Occasionally when it HAS a major effect, it is only useful to one (or none) players--such as Complete a route between two cities or be the first to ship to a particular city and only the player who has previously built anywhere near the area can possibly take advantage of it. The random player who gets the windfall (because the card will not necessarily appear) gets a huge leg up on their opponents.


The cards have huge effects in our games.

Quote:
Add another random draw--Tycoon Cards, that actually dictate ALL of your future strategy. You can't ignore going for whatever this card dictates.


Letting the Tycoon Cards dictate your game is a good way to lose. They have an interesting effect but no more than a 5-8 delivery.

Quote:
And to top it all off, shares can be taken at any time no need to plan ahead, not that you ever have any difficulty planning ahead BECAUSE THERE IS NO INTERACTION due to the monstrously large board.


There is a need to plan ahead. Those that don't plan, take out too many shares.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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rri1 wrote:
RRT is Age of Steam with gigantism: Big and stupid.

Big, yes. Stupid? No. In fact, the larger board contributes to WHY the game is not stupid.

Quote:
The map is so huge there is no interaction on the board between players for most of the game.

I will preface this with 1 comment... RRT is not good with less than 4 players. In fact, an early 4 player game (before we knew what we were doing) was rather boring. Since we learned what we were doing, we've had some very interesting, exciting 4 player games of RRT.

That said, you're absolutely wrong about the lack of interaction in both the auctions as well as the actions in the game. It sounds as if you've played very little RRT, just as I sound as if I've played very little AoS.

Quote:
Add another random draw--Tycoon Cards, that actually dictate ALL of your future strategy. You can't ignore going for whatever this card dictates.

Absolutely incorrect. The Tycoon cards are worth 5-8 points. That can be made up with 1 delivery. In fact, it's not infrequent that in the end game you choose between meeting your tycoon card goal, or simply doing another delivery. In other cases though, your tycoon card makes all the difference in a close game.

Quote:
And to top it all off, shares can be taken at any time no need to plan ahead

This may be the main point on which we differ. When I play a board game, I am looking for a strategic experience, not a homework assignment.

Quote:
I feel sorry for the original poster for two things:
- He played AOS with 6 players on the standard map. Most players would say 5 is the absolute max and 4 is preferred for the standard map.

I think I can see how this would be better.
Quote:
- He appears to have played with an incorrect production rule--it is one die for each player in the game--so 6 dice are rolled for each half of the production chart. Almost all of the cubes on the Production should reach the map in an Age of Steam game.

We did not play with the wrong rule. We rolled 6 dice each turn (side note... when a player gets eliminated, do you continue to roll 6d6? Or do you now roll 5d6 since there are now 5 players in the game?). Most of the time we happened to roll 3 of the same number and none of another number. By the end of the game, 10 of the 12 numbers had pretty much been emptied, and 2 had not been touched. Furthermore, and this was half of my point, the game starts on even footing, but once you build track and have potential deliveries, those die rolls decide quite a bit of who gets points and who does not. Even if all the cities produce eventually, I can see early (or timely) die rolls can decide the game very easily.

Quote:
Reviewing a game under non-optimum number of players and probably with incorrect rules is good way to write a misleading review.
I agree. We were playing under the correct rules, and as an amateur game designer I am confident in my ability to observe mechanics and trends, and extrapolate how a game system may behave under more optimum conditions. Indeed, by past experience, I have generally liked games others do not because I see how they could be better more often than I've disliked a game and then found it to be better under different conditions.

Quote:
But he is wrong on a key point--but it is a common misconception to new AOS players: In AOS you MUST implement a long term strategy. Two or Three turn down line ***IS*** a long time in AOS. You must plan for the long routes that you will make at the end of the game to win. If you just think about deliver 2 or 3 link routes on the last turns, you will lose to those delivering 5 or 6 link routes. Many new players don't realize this on their first game--they often look for short routes when they should be looking for long ones.
I'd prefer to think of a "long term strategy" as something that develops over the course of the game, not the course of a turn. By definition. If you say 2 turns ***IS*** the long term, then you are arguing my point for me. Thanks.
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Absolutely incorrect. The Tycoon cards are worth 5-8 points. That can be made up with 1 delivery. In fact, it's not infrequent that in the end game you choose between meeting your tycoon card goal, or simply doing another delivery. In other cases though, your tycoon card makes all the difference in a close game.


I think this sums up the difference between the two pretty well. Five links (15 points) in AoS is huge. In 20-30 games of AoS, only a few times has the leader been farther ahead of second place than that.

In the three games of RRT that I've played, the leader was never that close to second place.

Have others had this experience, too? (AoS are almost always tight games while RRT produces runaways.) If so, why is that true?
 
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qzhdad wrote:
Quote:
Absolutely incorrect. The Tycoon cards are worth 5-8 points. That can be made up with 1 delivery. In fact, it's not infrequent that in the end game you choose between meeting your tycoon card goal, or simply doing another delivery. In other cases though, your tycoon card makes all the difference in a close game.


I think this sums up the difference between the two pretty well. Five links (15 points) in AoS is huge. In 20-30 games of AoS, only a few times has the leader been farther ahead of second place than that.

In the three games of RRT that I've played, the leader was never that close to second place.

Have others had this experience, too? (AoS are almost always tight games while RRT produces runaways.) If so, why is that true?


Railroad Tycoon can have a runaway problem. In our games, the inexperienced players are left behind, but the experienced players are usually within 8 or so.

This can be helped by eliminating the S-Cards.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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qzhdad wrote:
Have others had this experience, too? (AoS are almost always tight games while RRT produces runaways.) If so, why is that true?

No, most of the games of RRT I've played have been hotly contested. Once in a while there's a runaway, especially when we were newbies, but that never happens anymore.

Sometimes there are 2 players fighting for 1st and another 2 fighting for 3rd, but often the leader on the scoreboard for the majority of the game is not the player who winds up winning.
 
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sedjtroll wrote:
We did not play with the wrong rule. We rolled 6 dice each turn (side note... when a player gets eliminated, do you continue to roll 6d6? Or do you now roll 5d6 since there are now 5 players in the game?).


6 dice each turn or 12? it should have been 12: 6 on the left, 6 on the right.

I don't know the rule about player elimination. I don't know that I've ever finished a game when a player is eliminated. The few times that has happened, it has been a new player, usually in the first turn. At that point, we declare the game a learning game, and start over; I've never seen someone eliminated a second time in that way.
 
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Philip Thomas wrote:
All that said, I here Age of Steam has player elmination.


Age of Steam has player elimination for players who play carelessly or make too many mistakes. Don't play carelessly and don't make mistakes and players won't be eliminated from the game.
 
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Pronoblem, you are so right! I was just thinking that myself. I mean, Coffee just tastes so much better and you can have it with chocolate which I imagine wouldn't be so good with steak. Then factor in the cost of a good cup of cofeee and the cost of a good steak, and welll there you go.

Back on topic, I have been advised that AoS doesn't actually suffer from player elimination, assuming all players know what they are doing. In that light, I guess I might be scared from RRT because of Eagle Gamessauron
 
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