One of the best game nights ever just happened. We had 4 serious gamers, and played my #3 and #4 games back-to-back.
Age of Steam is not suffering at all from repeated recent plays. However, I wonder if there are any winning strategies that don't involve players keeping all their tracks connected together. Every time I consider building away from my "empire", it seems it will gain me nothing and ultimately cost me a lot.
I was doing fairly well through the mid-game. On turn 7 (out of 8), I had a critical decision to make. My best play was to Urbanize and make two 4-link deliveries. This would net me 8 income. I had enough cash to secure going 2nd from the auction, and Urbanization didn't look too attractive to the player with$ 10 more cash than me. It was clear he was going to outbid me no matter how high I went, so I settled for 2nd.
He chose Urbanize, and to rub it in, built a different city on the site I had planned to use. This forced me to use my first Move Goods action to upgrade my Locomotive, and make a 5-link delivery using 4 of my own links. This ultimately cost me 12 VPs. I think I lost by about 14.
I also had an entire wasted turn. I miscalculated a delivery, then built a link that was useless. It felt like that moment in Caylus when you place a worker on, for example, the carpenter, but are unable to acquire a wood cube before building because of the execution sequence.
The Production action was used very often this game, and proved to be valuable. After my first two games, I considered it a weak choice. But in this game, with many deliverable cubes placed during setup, the board emptied quickly.
El Grande came next. By the end of the first scoring round. one player was ahead by about 20 points. This lead only got worse after the second scoring round.
I was playing an unusual game. By the end, I had not used my 10, 11, 12, or 13 cards. Needless to say, I went last quite a bit. This works well in the scoring rounds, but also means you get the choice of only 2 action cards (in the 4p game). The King card (#5) was always taken early. I did my best with cards that let you move cubes around, and managed to position myself to score in many regions, while seriously diminishing the leader's position.
Somehow, I squeaked out a win 107, 104, 103, 95.
El Grande image by garyjames