Age of Steam Con: Day Three

Whew! That was a lot of Age of Steam (and chocolate cookies). Let’s dig into one last day.

I started off the morning with The Human Body. Yeah, that’s a map. Red and blue going to the heart and lungs. Black to the stomach. Red, blue, and yellow to the kidneys. Purple to the brain. And, naturally, yellow to the bladder. The body alternates turns of inhaling and exhaling: one turn, all red and blue locations are red, the other they are blue –meaning on alternate turns, one or the other type of cubes are undeliverable.

It was interesting. The size of the heart and lungs distorts the map, as it is actually quite narrow there, but the “cities” have many more sides than the usual 6. I wasn’t too involved in the inhale/exhale process as I stuck to the kidney, bladder, stomach, and a new purple city I placed in the hip, so I can’t speak much to the effect that it had. Thematically, it was a lot of fun to deliver yellow cubes to the bladder, but otherwise, a fairly routine outing.

I didn’t manage to take pictures of any food today. For breakfast, Kay made us some scrumptious breakfast burritos, and somehow cinnamon rolls that topped those she made us just 2 days ago. These were my favorite yet.

Instead, I’ll give you this video of the train horn bellows. We used it to announce 6-locomotive deliveries (though it was up to you if you adhered strictly to the guidelines of your first 6 per game, and all your own links), bankruptcies, and other announcements -like bids of 21 for first in an auction.

Four Corners. More than 150 maps, and I was shut out of a Four Corners game yesterday as the map was in use! That’s a good sign I imagine. It was on my list to try, but I didn’t remember why.

Here, players keep the cubes they deliver and once they have cubes of 4 different colors, these can be turned in for 4 additional income. The board starts with three cities each of yellow, blue, red, and purple, but each color is in one of the 4 corners.

What are the Four Corners?

That place out west where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. There were folks here from many states: Washington, California, Texas, Michigan, Colorado, South Dakota, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Massachusetts and maybe more. We had some interesting discussions about differences regarding where folks were from and where we were: weather, real estate prices, and the legality of different pronunciations of “-kansas” words.

(Which is all to say. I know where California is. Sometimes immediately after I say something, I say “That was a joke” because I’m not funny and you can’t tell I was making a joke. I haven’t said that in a while, but in this game, after a particularly vicious cutting off of another player’s track, I joked that they couldn’t go through California because it wasn’t part of the map. But as a tie-in to the discussions of ignorance of geography in foreign parts of your own country, and California’s dis-inclusion in the map, I said “Wait, is there a state west of Arizona?” I think my table understood, but some side glances from the other tables made me think that they didn’t.)

But, the map! I don’t know what happened, but going fourth in the first round, the three other players did things that were inexplicable to me: they started building in the mountains, where terrain is the most expensive.

I didn’t see any good places to start when digesting the board setup, and decided to sit back in turn order and see where a new city would be added. The first player placed it high up in the mountains, and the following two players jumped on board to get some deliveries. That left me uncontested for much of the game in a cheaper part of the map, and that was largely that.

But it’s an interesting map: incentivizing you to deliver a variety of colors and sometimes non-maximal deliveries.

Up next, the Moon.

I’ll tell you now, we abandoned this map. Other than one game that wasn’t finished by curfew, I think this was the only map that players gave up on.

It has a good reputation. The general twists are: the map wraps around as a sphere, and on alternate turns, a different half of the map is the “dark” side, and cities on that side only accept black cube deliveries.

But we couldn’t figure it out. We had some rule ambiguities that we couldn’t come to an interpretative consensus on, and it may have been the graphic design of the map (this is a reprint and redesign of an earlier Moon map.) After a few turns, we realized what must be the right case, but it was too late (and we found some other rules we had forgotten). So I put it back in the drawer. Maybe next year. Maybe.

Kevin likes to make travel versions of games, and while I didn’t have a chance to play on the mini-AoS map, Kevin brought them in to show us on Sunday, and here is Kevin’s mini-Mars board next to Pittsburgh-XL.

I don’t always want to play the best games. Sometimes I like to explore games that push edges of things, but sometimes I also need a break with a solid experience to remind myself what it’s like. What’s the baseline of a “great” game. A great map. To that end, I was able to get a game of Montreal Metro in with Caden and Kevin. I’m sufficiently unfamiliar with the AoS map catalog that I go into maps with a paucity of expectations. The Moon was one exception. Montreal Metro is another; it’s one that I’ve heard about for years as an outstanding map -though for 3 players only.

You’ll see 4 player’s discs in the photo below, and that’s because the government also sponsors some of the track. The locomotive “track” is now a table and rather than a simple one digit number, it is now two. 2 + 0. 6 + 4. The first represents how many links of yours (or the government’s) you can use. The second is a supplemental amount of government links you can use. For any government link used, either as part of the first loco number or the second, you will not receive any income, but you will pay for expenses each turn. The only way to increase your government loco is during the auction and the only way to increase your personal loco is to forgo a build.

Each round, in a standard rotation, one player lays a completed link of not more than 3 track for the government, and this occurs prior to the players issuing shares. Costs are ignored for the government. All track in the game must be part of one network.

There is no goods growth, so few additional cubes will be added to the board, though some will. The auction also has an interesting 3-player twist, where if 2 people pass in the auction, neither of them receives a special action. (I found it reminiscent of a sorta reverse-OWACON double-action space.)

This map was simply outstanding. It came down to the wire. With different strategies. We used an incredible percentage of the available hexes on the map. We exhausted some of the limited track pieces. I made decisions that I was so unsure of that I went and squatted in the corner, scared to return to the table and face the results of my actions.

Some maps have been good, some have been fine. But like I said, not coincidentally as I knew where I was going, it’s awesome to play a great game/map to remind yourself of how high the scale really goes.

I cannot mention enough how incredible the hosts of this convention are. From the work Kevin does designing and printing maps -both for the Con map releases (more on those below), but also the contents of the map drawers, the rules binder, the XL and mini versions, etc. Chad’s commitment to making sure that everyone had a game to play and no one was left out, bringing tables for us to play on, organizing a steady-stream of food and snacks and drinks.

But also, Kay. 8:00 PM, the Con is over in a matter of hours, and she brought _more_ warm chocolate cookies. Just the best.

So, Con maps. These year’s maps were a double-sided release of Detroit Bankruptcy and Kansas Tornadoes. I told you about Kansas Tornadoes on Day One and I’ll tell you about Detroit Bankruptcy below. Each attendee was also able to grab a copy of the Berlin 1890 expansion that John donated. It was near the top of my shortlist to play until I found out I’d have a copy to take home. Another magazine expansion, though this time from Fairplay. In Berlin 1890, each city starts with 4 cubes in a row, and only the right-most cube may be delivered.

Detroit Bankruptcy is sort of Age of Steam: the Ponzi Scheme, or many other things. The game ends when all but one player has declared bankruptcy, and the remaining player wins. The track costs and expense calculations have been tweaked to accelerate the situation.

The Con promised you would get to pick 2 maps and get them to the table, and the spreadsheet had room to list up to 12 preferences – one for each slot. But, I managed to try the _15_ maps I most wanted to play. This was one of them.

It delivers on what it promises. Maybe in a sense it is also: Age of Steam: the Party Map, as there’s a different approach of a sort when you _know_ that all but one player (and maybe all) _will_ be declaring bankruptcy sooner or later. (And before you go trying some nonsense, Chad ensures us that only taking enough loans to service debt and never bidding or building will not be a successful strategy. Speaking of nonsense, Bev introduced us to the word “shenanagains” today. Not “shenanigans”, but shenan-agains. Doing shenanigans a second time. Again. @OpinionatedVocabulary.)

I have now gone bankrupt.

That’s pretty much a wrap. A game of Panama was cut short as we needed to clean up, and an XL map on Pittsburgh (where straight track costs $10, but curved track costs normal) finished just before curfew. Late night AoSCon doesn’t need Time’s Up or other party games, as we’ve got party maps, and well, great camaraderie.

I’m sure there’s a word for it, but I don’t know it. The first time I remember it was when my grandparents got a hammock. I laid in the hammock for hours in the afternoon. And then. At night. I’d be laying perfectly still in bed, but feel my body swaying. I’d done it so much during the day and my mind was still doing it.

I’ll be thinking about Age of Steam for days.

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