Age of Steam in Northern California

Age of Steam logoWe played a game of Northern Californian Age of Steam today.

It’s a harsh map. You can notice it on the first round, when you survey the map for possible starting locations and find — nothing. There’s a distinct lack of good starting positions. San Jose is of course tempting — it’s a huge three-hex city that produces lots of stuff every turn, as the three hexes contain all white numbers — but it starts empty.

One thing is obvious: Urbanization will be very valuable. It beat Locomotive on several early rounds, as it allows much better possibilities. It was definitely interesting, trying to find opportunities to develop one’s network.

Our game was interesting. Olli started at San Fransisco, Tero started across the bridge and both me and Ilari started right in the middle (I actually duplicated Ilari’s links on the first turn after he Urbanized, curious decision that actually worked). I created a six-link connection between Santa Cruz and the blue town on top across San Fransisco, but failed to use that much, I did just two six-link deliveries.

We blasted through shares like crazy. In the end, everybody but Ilari had 15 shares out. He had 10, and guess how many points was his victory margin? Yes, he beat me by 15 points… He got as good deliveries as I did (though I’m not completely sure we played San Jose deliveries right), so his better financial control was enough to secure the victory. Both Olli and Tero had some trouble creating deliveries later in the game; being in touch with San Jose might’ve helped.

It was a fun experience, and if I’m in the mood for really challenging game, I’ll return to Northern California. I’m not sure I want to try Bay Area, the less forgiving big brother of this map…

I wanted to finish the session with something quick, but we had to quit our game of Great Wall of China after 30 minutes — the game maybe half done. It’s a shame, I was doing well, but I had to go. Besides, 45-60 minutes is awfully long for the game that should play pretty fast. Well, I hope I can play it again, because it was fun while it lasted…

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3 responses to “Age of Steam in Northern California”

  1. I’d definately like to know how the San Jose deliveries are supposed to work. I felt a bit bad using the small loops in San Jose to increase my delivery links. They weren’t that critical — I certainly might have won anyways, but they sure gave me nice lead.
    Anyway, they even if they are supposed to work that way, I really don’t think that’s a good element. It just feels like cheating and against the spirit of the game. For later plays, I’d use a house rule that a goods can only go through the same city once during delivery — counting the San Jose complex as a single city.

  2. Yes, goods can only go through each city once per delivery — but it’s definitely correct to visit separate parts of San Jose. I don’t think going to the extremes of your house rules is necessary. If cubes can’t visit the same piece of San Jose twice, that eliminates the loops that feel like cheating.
    Moving stuff between parts of San Jose outside the city is a perfectly acceptable strategy and removing that would damage the game in my opinion. Sure, it removes the worst offenders, but it also removes some very simple and elegant moves.

  3. Hmm, for me it just doesn’t make sense to count the different parts of San Jose as different cities. Strategizing with moving goods between the cities where goods can be moved with zero cost anyway just seems counter-intuitive and illogical. (Thematically it’s even more strange, but Age of Steam has some weak points in its delivery theme anyway so I’ll ignore that.) I don’t see how it’d damage the game — San Jose loops are only a small part of the dynamic of the map. The SJ-complex would still remain an interesting place as it has huge output and multiple connection points.
    But I guess it’s just a matter of taste. That’s what house rules are for. 🙂 Anyways, I liked the map regardless of how San Jose is played.