Age of Steam
I pushed for Age of Steam again this week since we may lose our borrowed copy. My second session did little to alter my feelings about the game, but some of the warts are starting to show themselves. I'll get to that later.
This was a 5-player game. The cube distribution favored long links; I think there were only 6 initially deliverable on our first builds. Perhaps this is typical, but, in my first game, we delivered a lot more before needing to increase our link capabilities. Urbanization became the action du jour. First Move was more valuable than First Build because there was more competition for cube colors than there was for board space.
Age of Steam is a fantastic game. I even raised my rating from a 9 to a 9.5--a spot which it shares with El Grande.
So what are these warts?
One, towns ruin an otherwise elegant system. You not only have to build track to the town, you must add track in the town hex to connect to the smaller circle within. Also, since track built in the town hex counts for VP's, Urbanizing over a town to kill opponents' VP's become viable. This is way too gamey. Towns should just be full gray hexes with no internal tracks.
Two, the rules are not very good. For all his posturing about the rules, "minimum spanning set" diatribes, and his precious not-allowed-online intellectual property, John Bohrer just makes himself look like a fool. For example, the rules for Unfinished Track, Income Reduction, and VP's for track in towns (example notwithstanding) are all arguably unclear. The point of the rules is to teach the game, not to be as "minimal" as possible. And these rules fail on both counts. They are not terrible rules as rules go; they just do not live up to the hype.
I'm looking forward to seeing what Martin Wallace comes up with for Age of Steam 3rd Edition. I'm hoping that all of the above is taken care of. Mayfair should do a good job with the rules, and they will be posted online. I'm also hoping that they do not go overboard with art and/or graphics. The plain style of the original board is very functional, although the scoring/goods boards could use a better treatment.
Age of Steam image by Nodens77