Here I am in Austria having a really wet holiday. This must be the wettest May in Austria for a very long time. Still we are enjoying the Tiroler Grostle!!! So Richard has taken over as guest blogger this week, and his report for AoS China is below.
As Colin was away on Holiday (Hopefully enjoying the delights of Austria) the remaining three of us, Steve, Garry and myself, decided that might be a good idea to take the opportunity to play Age of Steam (Basically not one of Colin's 'preferred' games).
The only choice was which board to play?
As I seem to have acquired a considerable selection of Age of Steam boards over the past few years I emailed out to Steve & Garry the following board options (* Indicates we or I have played it before):
Austria*, Switzerland* & The Netherlands
France* & Italy
The Moon & Reunion Island
Western US & Germany*
Ireland* & England*
Northern California & 1830's Pennsylvannia
Northeastern USA & South Africa
China & South America
Scandinavia & Korea
My preference was to play the China map, but as it was Steve’s choice this week it was his decision, luckily without any prompting from me he decided he wanted to play the China map as well.
With the China map the main differences from the normal map is that all your track must be contiguous to one of the costal cities, plus to connect to any new city you must pay cash equal to the value of it’s goods replenishment number (ie 1 to 6). The last rule was really constricting early in the game as it meant you had to be especially careful with you money and track building.
Other minor differences included changes to the engineer (to connect to new cities at half cost), a Russia hex that generates one good cube from the goods cup each turn , having an additional ‘personal forune’ of 10 cash at the game start and Peking being the only Purple city (The new Purple city being removed from the game).
Once we had the set the board up, it became obvious that there weren’t many
Initial income generating routes. Basically I started down in Hanoi and built up to Chung King via Kwei Yang whilst Steve expanded from Wai Hai Wei via Luancheng to Peking and Garry east from Tsin Tao. A miscalculation on Garry’s side meant he missed out on the early income generation opportunities (Going back one the income chart in turn 2 I think).
As the game progressed I created in ‘Circular/flexible’ route in the south western area of the map, Steve linked many of the coastal cities and pushed into my south western monopoly whilst Garry expanded into the north east.
Having a circular route in the south east (Hanoi, Kwei Yang, Chung King, Si-an, Lan Chow, Cheung Tu, Kung Ming & back to Hanoi) gave me a great deal of flexibility as it allowed me greater flexibility in delivering goods (Basically you can send a good ‘the long way around’ if it is directly next to a city of the same colour) – this coupled with a 6 train at the end of the game meant it was impossible to stop me delivering for 6 each delivery phase.
As a matter of general Age of Steam strategy, I am of the strong belief that train size and a flexible network (The circular route above being a prime example) are the keys to winning at Age of Steam.
For most of the game Steve seemed to be deliberating whether he should connect to Russia to get at all the goods that had accumulated there. However he decided that he needed to remove the goods on my railway instead (to reduce my income generation abilities) – so expanded towards me instead. He was still generating quick a bit of cash but never enough close the gap – either by removing goods that were of value to me or by shipping them for income himself.
Garry, stymied by his initial miscalculations, was only able to deliver goods of large value towards the game end – by which time both Steve and I had opened up to large a gap.
The final scores were
All in a all a very good game, personally I really enjoyed the China map, the need to pay to get into cities was a really good game mechanic – on more than one occasion we found we really couldn’t build where we wanted to because we simply did not have the cash to do so (Don’t bid so much next time Steve …)