Age of Steam Con: Day One

At one point today, this was my chair for a game. Ok, in several games. It used to be like this frequently, but it hasn’t been in many years. It’s not that I was relegated to the corner or wasn’t participating, rather I had so much nervous energy that I couldn’t sit down. I needed room to pace and stretch my legs. A lunge or two and some squats. But we’ll get back to it.

First, uh, here’s an OpinionatedEaters break. This was one of the tables for breakfast: three kinds of casseroles, and three flavors of cinnamon rolls. Delicious. There will be more tomorrow, and, well, to be frank, I’m going to have some more when I finish drafting this.

I started the day playing a game of Kansas Tornadoes. There were two things specific to this con about this: the map was designed for the con and is one of the take home maps, but also we’re playing on the XL set that the crew here has.

At the start of each round, a few tornadoes start up on the board and then twist through 4 additional hexes, in a generally NE direction. The black tokens mark the damage. To build where there is damage you must pay to clear it. To use track with damage, you must pay to clear it. You cannot deliver from or through a city with damage. This damage can only be removed by delivering a cube of the corresponding color to that city (and you can keep that token for 2 points at the end of the game.) There is also a special action that allows some ability to forecast a tornado and clear debris.

It was an outstanding experience. The map was great, the XL version is much more enjoyable to physically play with than I had expected, and this is where my standing and pacing for the day… for the con… started. Game one. Very glad to be able to take this one home to play.

After a short break, I found myself back at the XL table for Sweden Recycling. Rather than cubes being added during a phase at the end of each round, the cubes don’t really leave the board. They just change color until inevitably, the board becomes crowded with black trash. A new special action allows you to collect any black cubes that have been delivered for 2 points a piece.

This was another very interesting map. For me, the standard production mechanism that adds cubes is one of the least enjoyable parts of Age of Steam, and I enjoyed the planning process of knowing that if I deliver this yellow cube this turn, it’ll turn into a red cube in that same location that I can deliver to that red city, and then I’ll need to find a blue city to deliver it to later.

It’s interesting seeing how small cons are run. Chad and Kevin put this thing together, and I don’t know how things are split up and who’s responsible for what, but they each designed one of this year’s maps (, and that’s Chad of, so he also has provided tables for us to play on.)

This is Kevin’s map cabinet -outside of the XL maps and his mini-AoS maps for a small edition he has also made. The boxes on top house the mounted maps, the sheets are in the drawers below, and the binder contains the rules for each of the maps. The device behind the maps is a bellows type locomotive sound calliope of sorts for celebrating six-length deliveries.

They found the first year that lunch wasn’t too popular of a meal, so we break for a communal meal around 3:45 between the 12:30 and 5:00 games. Between lunch and dinner. For tonight’s meal we chose from a menu he was ordering from a local joint and I had this steak sandwich that was outstanding. (And some broccoli.)

OK, back to maps. There were a few maps I was interested in playing, but for which I had not made “Map Friends” in the spreadsheet. One was Fukushima. The photo below is the start of turn 5. You might wonder where all the track is? What have green and red been doing?

Well, the plant has just blown. All track that had been built on red, yellow, and blue hexes was set to be removed from the map at the start of round 5. It’s also cheaper to build: blue is 2 dollars, yellow is free, and the government pays you 2 to build in red.

Do you build in the expected blast zone, saving loans for later and knowing you’ll be able to rebuild cheaply? Do you built in the more expensive hexes knowing that it’s a permanent investment?

Don’t ask me on this one. I missed something. This one fell a little flat for our first play. But this is another one that made me set my chair aside as I needed to pace as I considered my options.

I finished out the night with Madagascar. Here, the conceit is that each of the auction options are worse: rather than building first or delivering cubes first, you can do those things but last. Or you can only deliver 1 cube instead of the usual 2. Build 2 tracks instead of 3. And worse things. You’re going to have to pick one.

One of the tricks to these maps is that they can be player-count sensitive, but there’s a spreadsheet near the map cabinet with the preferred player counts; this one was labelled 4 to 5 and we played with 5.

It was a nail-biter with 4 of the 5 players’ scores piled together in a lump in one corner of the score track. The special actions are tight, and made tighter as the rules restrict those available each round to 1 more than the number of players. The ones which are unavailable are chosen randomly, and so there may be turns where no matter how much you are willing to bid to do something, like add a new city to the board, well, you cannot.

It was also twisty as you’re less familiar with the ‘right’ amount of shares to issue and bid ranges, as the special actions cascade seemed harder to predict. This was an enjoyably tight and miserable map.

I didn’t have a chance to play on it, but Eagle has also sent a prototype of the components and new maps from the upcoming reprint for the weekend.

We did have our first bankruptcy today. And our second. At several points there were 7 simultaneous games going on, and we opened the shrink wrap on a 2002 copy to set up that 7th table.

I don’t know what I’m going to play tomorrow or who I’m going to play with, but I’m looking forward to it.

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3 Responses to Age of Steam Con: Day One

  1. ianthecool says:

    Is it only Age of Steam, or do you play at other scales like Steam or Railways of the World?

    • xitoliv says:

      In the past I’ve played quite a few games of Steam and one of RotW. At this convention, there was one game of Irish Gauge I saw, and two of The Soo Line, but otherwise it’s AoS!

  2. Pingback: Age of Steam Con: Day Three | The Opinionated Gamers

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