Thursday session: Erie Railroad, Secret Blueprints

Wabash Cannonball box

When I arrived, the guys were waiting and hungry: it was Wabash Cannonball time. Hannu and Petri, the two main Wabash fans in our group wanted to give the new Erie Railroad expansion a go. KJ and Tapani, both newbies to Wabash, joined us for another five-player game.

The Erie is a small expansion. It’s just a single-share company with, what, 13 cubes. Once a certain trigger is reached — railroads have expanded enough — Erie can be capitalized. It starts in Buffalo and has enough cubes to reach Chicago. It can also build to New York to grab eight income there. Simple, rules-wise, but this has plenty of subtle effects on the game.

Tapani played a rather excellent game for a newbie, beating us hands down. The final scores were 106-84-66-64-41. The Pennsylvania was distributed completely on the first round, after which the company headed straight to Chicago. That was brutal. Tapani and Hannu, winner and second, were both invested in Penn. So was Petri, but he played too carefully and didn’t buy enough shares — he went most of the game with that single Penn share — and I was able to cut to the third place before him.

I ran the Chesapeake & Ohio on the southern edge of the map, taking it to Chicago with — who else but Tapani. Hannu got both Wabash and Erie, and played both of them well. Tapani did a great job with Baltimore & Ohio, too — he didn’t develop it, so no shares where sold until late in the game.

Five-player Wabash is a tough beast. There aren’t many actions per player, so choosing what you want to do is very critical. It also led to problems with certain not-so-useful yet very important actions, such as diluting B&O and Wabash. You want to see that done, but you’d rather use your own actions for promoting your agenda — so nobody does it.

Box front: Age of Steam

Next I force the others play Secret Blueprints of Steam. This is a curious expansion that is unlike any other. Each player has a personal board. All boards are identical, except the layouts are mirrored and the cities have different colours.

Bidding and action selection is as usual, but building and moving goods happens simultaneously. Everybody builds on their own map and moves goods and announces the results. Very simple! The maps are kept secret from other players, mostly because of the Production action: instead of drawing the cubes from the cup, the player with the action announces a colour and everybody else must give a cube of that colour from their maps.

It’s very solitaire-ish, but there’s some interaction. The auction is still there — and more brutal, too, as First Move and First Build are not available and Urbanization is really important — and the Production gives some interaction, too. But it’s a lonely game and loses lots of the good fighting there is in Age of Steam. However, whatever is lost is gained in time: our game took about 90 minutes, but that included some really serious thinking and newbie players. With experienced players, finishing a game in less than an hour is likely.

So, it’s pretty neat, with few caveats. Total Age of Steam newbies and Secret Blueprints don’t mix. Just don’t do it. Also, if there’s any reason to doubt the honesty of your fellow players, this just won’t work. The same goes with mistakes, if somebody makes mistakes, it’s impossible to notice or fix afterwards. But that’s not a huge deal, really, in casual play, and I wouldn’t worry about it much. Just, you know, teach the newbies with something that has a public map.

The results weren’t really interested, I won hands down and that’s it. What is interesting is that Hannu did learn something from the last week’s session — his second place was as strong as my victory and he managed to build quite a track.

While Secret Blueprints didn’t win everybody’s heart, Age of Steam is still requested for next week. I’m more than happy to comply.

Die Dolmengötter box

Rust went flying when four very rusty Die Dolmengötter players met. It’s been a while from the previous game, but from now on Dolmengötter will return to my every-week game rotation. It’s a bloody excellent game. (Ok, so I got a surprise victory here.)

A quick hand of Strohmann and a game of Dominion wrapped up a rather splendid afternoon of games.

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