We’ve been moving and I’ve been otherwise busy, so I’ve had to skip each board game club meeting in November. Now I was finally able to make it and we got to play the game that’s been right on top of my “want to play” list.
Age of Steam — The Zombie Apocalypse. Even the name is amazing. I mean, the dead are raising from the graves, but who cares? There’s profit to be made on the railways. After all, people still need to travel from A to B, and preferably quickly, so they’re willing to pay premium — especially if you have armed guys on the train ready to blast the zombies to tiny bits.
The base of the game is pretty basic Age of Steam. There are no production rolls, though. Towns start with cubes and each new city gets two cubes in the beginning. Production action is draw 3, place 1 anywhere on board.
Then there are the zombies. In the beginning, zombies are placed on three random graveyards. After that, there are no random elements. In the end of each turn, zombies move towards closest cubes. If there are multiple options, zombies split up. If there’s more than one way to reach the same cubes, again they split up. If there are decisions to make, the player who is first in the turn order makes them.
Image via Wikipedia
Zombies cause some problems. Once a zombie reaches a town or city, the place is razed. Cubes are removed and the town or city is dead — it counts as a city of no colour. Zombies spawn, of course, there’s one or two more of them. Zombies also add to the cost of building and moving cubes through the zombies costs more, too, unless you choose the Military Caboose action that replaces Locomotive.
There are two maps, one for three players and one for four and five. We played the bigger map, which is full of $3 mountains. Almost nothing but, actually, and for some reason the share track goes to 20. It was ridiculously difficult. The cube distribution didn’t help, plenty of cubes in the same-colour cities…
Zombies weren’t that bad, actually. Sure, few cities were razed, but the largest horde of zombies prowled a corner of the map that nobody built in. Of course, that reduced the amount of cubes a lot. I was the only one to go up to 5-link trains and even that was pointless.
The final results were dismal. I won, with whopping 25 points. I don’t think I’ve played many games of Age of Steam where that wouldn’t mean final place. Of those 25 points, 22 came from track I built. Pretty bad, I know…
But this was a good one, definitely one of my favourite Age of Steam expansions. Michael Webb is a top-notch designer. The zombies are an excellent addition to the game, the way they bring danger and some chaos, even though they move in fairly predictable and deterministic ways.