This weekend, enthusiasts from eight different states gathered in the Kansas City area for the inaugural Age of Steam Con. The event started on Friday morning and ended yesterday, with several games starting at 9:00am, 1:00pm, 5:00pm, and 9:00pm each day. Other games (and eating!) occurred between the AoS games, but Martin Wallace’s classic game was the event’s centerpiece.
I always report on the various gaming events I attend, so I wanted to do a small post for Age of Steam Con. I had never been to a convention entirely devoted to one game, but I was intrigued immediately because Age of Steam is in my top 10 favorite games. One of the best parts of AoS is that the various maps change different rules, so the game feels fresh and variable between plays, making it a great game to which enthusiasts can devote an entire connvention.
In addition to an event recap, I also do a quick discussion of my five favorite maps below.
There were just under a couple of dozen gamers attending. Many people (myself included) traveled in for the event, and by my count, there were people from eight different states. It was cool to meet AoS enthusiasts from around the country, and I look forward to playing with these gamers again! (I’m already hoping that this becomes an annual event.)
We each received a brand new map designed specifically for this event, called Kansas City Interurban. One of the convention’s hosts, Kevin M,, designed the map, and it is one of the best maps I’ve ever played. We also received an awesome mug commemorating the inaugural event, plus we all got a bonus map generously donated by the publisher.
No game convention is complete without a focus on food, and AoS Con was no exception. The hosts provided great meals, and there were snacks and drinks readily on hand. There were also way too many gummy bears… between Essen, TurtleCon, and AoS Con, I’m starting to associate gaming events with gummy bears…
What got played…
Kevin (the event host who designed the convention’s map) has basically every Age of Steam map ever published, so there were well more than 130 maps to pick from. Everybody prioritized two on a spreadsheet in advance of the event, so many of those got played. As the games started, attendees would sort to the various tables based on what map they were interested in playing.
One of the really cool features of the convention was the XL version of the game. Kevin has made a jumbo copy of the game, which he uses with the maps he’s designed and a few other maps.
Almost 30 maps got played over the course of the weekend, some of them multiple times:
- 1830s Pennsylvania
- 20,000 Rails Under the Sea
- Central New England
- Chesapeake & Ohio
- Four Corners
- French Riviera
- Human Body
- Kansas City Interurban (The Con Map)
- Kansas Tornadoes
- Las Vegas
- Montreal Metro
- North and South Korea
- Rust Belt / Eastern U.S. & Canada
- Sahara Desert
- Soul Train
- Sweden Recycling
- Taiwan Cube Factory
- Washington DC
- Zombie Apocalypse (Pennsylvania)
My Five Favorite Maps
With one exception, I played all new-to-me maps at AoS Con, an easy feat when there are more than 130 maps on hand!
I love Age of Steam, but given the length and complexity of the game, I don’t get it to the table that often, so I know there are more great maps to find. But after playing a couple dozen of them, here are my five favorites:
Central New England – This is probably my favorite map. I’ve long preferred Age of Steam maps that accommodate large player counts (this one can take up to eight players) and change up the production mechanic (which I think is the weakest part of base Age of Steam). The Central New England map — made by combining the New Hampshire and Vermont Maps — has a big twist in that you have to ship goods across state lines unless you choose the “smuggle” action to ship in state. There are other clever additions as well, including turns where track building costs more but deliveries are worth more. It’s a highly competitive map, and in both games I’ve played, talented players went bankrupt.
Kansas City Interurban – This was the AoS Con map, and I fell in love with it after my first play: Kevin did a great job designing this one. I knew this would be good — a few AoS enthusiasts that playtested it loved it, and I was excited that the geography is of my hometown — but the gameplay impressed me with how good it is. There are several twists: everybody starts in downtown Kansas City, which is represented by two hexes (one for KCMO and the other for KCKS), making the fight for territory intense from the beginning. Instead of having locomotives, you need power-plants, which give you the equivalent of two locomotives per level, allowing shipment of up to 12 links. But be careful: the most clever addition was the fact that once you deliver at a certain level, you cannot again deliver below that level. For example, once you’ve made a 5 delivery, your future deliveries need to be 5 or more. Even though there were plenty of cubes, it’s still an exceptionally tight map, and at various points we all feared the the oh-so-dreaded bankruptcy. Plus, there are several historic tie-ins to the Kansas City area, which was a nice touch.
Korea – Korea is a think-y map that, to me, works perfectly at 4 players. Each city is deemed to be the colors of the cubes on it. Thus, as you manage your network, you have to think about how you’re changing your possible future deliveries. For example, if you ship a city’s only blue cube, that city can no longer accept blue cubes! It’s a simple change, but it is opens up new gameplay possibilities. This is probably my most-played map… I’ve even played this more than Rust Belt.
Montreal Metro – I was excited to play this at AoS Con. I had long heard it was the best 3-player map, and it lived up to that reputation. There is a neutral government player, and the three players take turns building track on the government’s behalf. You can ship using the government’s track, and your locomotive can be expanded to handle a combination of your own track and government track. Additionally, the auctions can be brutal, because if two or more players pass, they don’t get special actions. Finally, this map — like several of my favorites — eschews the normal production action.
The Moon – The Moon is one of the most well-regarded of the Age of Steam maps, and in my personal opinion, it is the think-iest of those I’ve played. (Given how well-regarded it is, I’m a bit shocked that the Moon map didn’t get played this weekend!) The maps wraps — the moon is spherical, after all — so you can make previously-unseen connections. Additionally, there’s a day and night phase, where half of the cities on the moon are counted as black. It’s an exceptionally cool map, and one I recommend at players counts of 3-4.