Railroads in Scotland (with insects)

Age of Steam logoI met Ilari today for games. Finally I was able to get Age of Steam Scotland — the free print-and-play two-player expansion — on table. Age of Steam in general doesn’t seem like a brilliant two-player game, but with a good map, it turned out be a rather pleasant experience.

The thing about the Scotland map is that it’s small. It’s half the size of common boards, and quite constrained in other ways too: for example, there are no purple cities on the board. You can urbanize one, but that’s it. There are also lots of mountains, which make cheap routes rare (and rivers spoil the rest of them). Rules didn’t say anything about how to do the two-player auction; we decided to have second player pay half, which worked well.

I lost — it was very, very obvious. Ilari had better routes, and that’s it. One of my weaknesses in Age of Steam is future route planning and making sure I have something to deliver few turns from now, and that cost me the game this time. Scotland is a small map and it’s fairly easy to run out of cubes to ship, if you’re not careful.

It was a fun game, nonetheless, and very quick, too. We finished in an hour. Very effective! There’s no Geek entry for the expansion (should be), but you can find it in the file section of Age of Steam entry. There are two versions: A3 sized and A4 sized. I got the A3 one, printed professionally, laminated and creased. It fits in the box and works well.

We also squeezed in a game of Hive. Geek says 15 minutes, the box says 20 minutes, we took about 40 minutes. Maybe we’re too good, but not good enough? We can defend, but not attack effectively enough? I was close to win the game at one point, but couldn’t make it, then Ilari got the upper hand and finally, after lots of tugging and stalling, won the game.

I like the game much better than last time. It seems to be about controlling and restricting the movement of pieces — I know I had troubles mobilizing my forces, big chunk of them got stuck on one point of the game. Takes some practise, I think. Fun game, and the bakelite pieces are just great.

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4 thoughts on “Railroads in Scotland (with insects)”

  1. One of the problems with Age of Steam is that future planning is essential, and good planning takes time. At least my turns seemed to stretch a bit too long, and while I’d say that it did win me the game, I think it also caused some downtime. With two players, downtime is of course not as big a problem and with more players. And even then, in AoS the other players’ turns can be used for effective planning. Now if I’d only learn that as well… 🙂
    The game worked suprisingly well with two players. The obvious difference is that there’s almost no point in using opponent’s routes, so I assumed there’d be much less interaction. In a way this was true, but the small size of the map forced the competition about the scarce resources. It was a really nice map.
    The other major (also pretty obvious) difference was that with two players the auction wasn’t as thrilling as there were good options always available for both players. The two player game doesn’t really seem to need the auctions, though they still did give some extra spice a few times.

  2. With a map less dependent on urbanization, the auction might get a bit more important. Perhaps.
    Using opponent’s routes is actually easier with two players. If you use your track more than your opponent’s track, you win =) Of course, if your opponent only uses his own track while you have to use theirs, that’s bad (that happened to me in some extent).
    I think the new Mayfair game should make things a bit easier on the long term planning side; that should make the game quite a bit more approachable.

  3. Mikko, I got to play the new Mayfair version at the Gathering and liked it immensely. I think it will be perfect for those who enjoy Age of Steam, but think it’s either a bit much or a bit too unforgiving. I found it just as challenging as the original, but shorter and with less downtime.

  4. Well yeah, the problem with using opponents routes is only the very bad efficiency. (If you have 4 links available, and use one opponent route that’s 3 points for you, 1 for opponent, which in a two player game equals 2 points for you. Using one opponent’s link drops your efficiency by two, which is quite a lot in AoS.)
    Where it gets interesting is counting when “eliminating” opponent’s high scoring goods with low efficiency (2 points when you’d have a 5 link route available) actually pays up as opponent is then forced to use low efficiency as well. And this trail of thought is when turn time starts to stretch. 🙂
    I’m really waiting forward for the new AoS version… shorter AoS with less downtime sounds like a real treat, as one might be able introduce it to non-hard gamers as well! I just hope it has better artwork.

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