Wednesday games: Age of Steam

Yesterday we had another pleasant session of Wednesday games. I made a slight change this time: instead of just card games, I took Age of Steam with me. I was too anxious to play it, after reading just about everything about it I could find Tuesday.

But before anybody else arrived, I played a game of Battle Line with Olli. He had played perhaps once before and commented that this time he actually had some clue about what he was supposed to do. It sure seemed like it — the final score was 5-4 to me. I won, but it was close.

More people arrived, but we decided to wait a bit before starting the long game. I wanted to play Land Unter and that’s what we did. Last time I got heavy beating, this time I did much better. Final scores were 10, 10, 6, 4 — and I had 10! I got eliminated once, but got the best score with the only six-point hand. My biggest pride was, however, scoring four points and the lowest card bonus with Ilari’s hand. With that hand, Ilari got two points and Olli and Vesa only one. Curious though, everyone but Olli got the lowest card bonus with that hand. But it really was no surprise: the hand was heavy with cards valued over 50, which means a lot of collecting, but in a controlled fashion. I’ve come to notice that that’s the best possible hand for me. I will collect lots of cards, but with a hand like that, I can choose which cards I want.

Age of Steam logoThen we played the big one. Age of Steam. I took 20 minutes to explain the rules, but I think I could’ve been a bit more thorough. Next time I’m teaching the game, I’m going to show more examples of track building. Well, at least I demonstrated a very effective use of urbanization action on the first round, making me a two-link route that produced my initial income. I had played a practise game with myself earlier and that was easy to see. I think most of the time it was rather obvious who would win the game. My railroad network was the most extensive, which was proved in the end of game, when I counted score. I had built 26 tracks, while Ilari had 18, Olli 14 and Vesa only 13.

About tracks… After my initial link between two cities on the middle western side of the board I started expanding my routes. Ilari and Olli had started on the Pittsburgh side and built a mess of tracks around Cincinnati. They had lots of doubled connections and a rather complicated mess of tracks. I joined that fray, making a rather long route — almost from one board edge to the other. Vesa kept on the sides a bit, making his own routes on the NW corner. My routes were the best, I guess — Vesa’s routes were a bit smallish and Ilari and Olli didn’t have long distances either. But then again, I knew what I was doing from the beginning, which advantage the other guys didn’t have.

In the end, I had 27 income and seven shares out. My total score was thus 86 points. Vesa was second with 58, then Ilari with 54 and finally Olli with 47. Olli had least shares out, only six, but perhaps he should’ve used more money. He had the most money for a while and in the end commented that the money didn’t feel too tight… I guess if he had used more money, he would’ve scored more income. Eventually everyone got their companies on the positive side, making money — I think it took about four-five turns. I issued shares four or five times (I think I issued two shares once and one share on the other turns) and on the last time I had about balanced accounts and I was just taking money to build even more. Nobody was even close to going bankrupt. Well, Vesa didn’t have much money most of the time, but even he could build track. I had warned everyone to be careful with their money and they did budget their funds. I think that if you are careful and nobody plays evil tricks on you, staying in the game isn’t difficult. I used to set aside the money I knew I would need in the end of the turn and adjust that amount if it would look like I would get more income.

So… my verdict is that Age of Steam is a brilliant game. I think it’s the best new game this year. It’s a bit longish, our four-player game took a bit over 2.5 hours with the rules explanation. That’s not a huge problem and I could think of playing it in our board game club (but perhaps not with certain people). I’m definitely looking forward to playing it again.

Vesa had to leave after that, but fortunately Juho came to replace him. We had four players again, which was the perfect amount to test one of the unplayed games: Dia de los Muertos. It’s a tricky game, and it turned out to be perhaps the most difficult card game to explain I’ve ever played. It’s so much unlike anything else. The card mix is untypical and the rules quirky. Yet, it turned out to be a rather entertaining game. The first game was definitely practise. I made some mistakes with the rules (well, I knew the rules, but we just forgot to act on them). Me and Juho lost, when both teams got three Muertos+food pairs. Ilari and Olli just had three food cards extra… Well, we played another game right away and that went smoother — I don’t think we forgot the gift exchange once! This time me and Juho won 4-3. Dia de los Muertos is a clever game and it definitely feels like a deep game. I think there’s much to learn and I like the game enough so that I want to learn it. This one will see more play, I’m sure of that.

So, that’s it. I had to rush to meet Johanna in time when she got from her work (she’s interning in the university library, same place where I was last Summer — though she’s on different department doing different things). Oh, and I think I saw rock legend Wayne Kramer, who had played last night at the very place where we were playing now. He just played guitar, not games… Still. Neat.

Until the next week! Then I’ll bring Amun-Re — people liked Age of Steam but felt it was a bit too long and heavy for that environment. I agree.

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