Posts about Age of Steam

Let run the maps of foreign lands

I’ve finally (ha!) gotten around to preparing three of the maps I put together for commercial publication for free print-and-play:

  1. Age of Steam: Wales
  2. Age of Steam: SE-Australia
  3. Age of Steam: Denmark

Age of Steam: Wales

Age of Steam: Wales features a lot of terrain, multiple track gauges, and different Links for narrow and standard gauge track. The result is a remarkably smooth game which rewards track and expense planning more than most maps.

Playtester feedback (which stretched over a year) consistently rated this game highly with couples (which surprised me).

Age of Steam: SE Australia

The changes in Age of Steam: SE Australia are large, sweeping and easy to under-estimate. More work went into this map and the analysis behind it than any other two maps I’ve designed put together (other than Denmark). There’s a lot of months spent with spreadsheets in there. But that’s what happens when you rework the a game’s economic system from scratch.

Age of Steam: SE Australia introduces an entirely new economic system, more dynamic and player responsive than Age of Steam’s default system, and one which bears surface similarities to Steam’s system (but was developed long before Steam’s release), but puts much heavier focus on accurate long-term planning and precise execution than Steam’s system – most especially end-game planning starting in the very early game.

And yet it seems so simple and fluid on the surface. No more income reduction until the very late game, simpler expenses calculation, several limits relaxed…so nice and easy…and then it isn’t. If anything the game is tougher and crunchier than classic Age of Steam…but it is easy to miss that until the late mid-game when you’re suddenly painfully haunted and crippled by your early game.

Age of Steam: Denmark

Age of Steam: Denmark is the culmination of the changes started in Age of Steam: SE Australia; taking the new economic system introduced there and carrying it all the way forward to also rewrite how Links are handled with an entirely new and somewhat ground-breaking definition of the Locomotive action.

Yep, you can upgrade from 2 Links all the way to 9 Links…in one upgrade action…but not with Locomotive…

Without reservation, I recommend three players here. Try dominating the Locomotive action every single turn until the early late game…and then upgrading all the way to your end-game Links in one step (and a lot of income). There’s a fundamental opportunity for a fully viable (but not dominant) hail mary approach to the game here that’s simply not seen in other maps. That, and auction price management becomes an even bigger deal than usual.

Age of Steam: Denmark marks the zenith of my explorations into Age of Steam.


Imposing the map

Some of this early attempt exploits a prior attempt at an AoS:Romania map:

AoS Romania

That prior version of the map however was far too large for publication and had crippling rules problems. However it fed ideas into this new attempt. A basic hex grid that will fit on a 24”x18” map sheet superimposed on a map of Romania:

(sorry, image lost)

Now to tag in some potential cities (tan) and possible town locations (blue). The locations are primarily selected on the basis of population census data for Romania and secondarily influenced on the basis of historical railway paths (some shown on the background map).

(sorry, image lost)

Until writing this entry I wasn’t aware of quite how much work and past experience went into getting to this point. For instance I’m going to have to be particularly careful with city colour assignments. specifically I’m going to have to put multiples of the same colour in the east near Constantinople. Additionally whatever colour I put in Belgrade will greatly affect the standard patterns of development through the towns North of Bucharest and West of Galati. No matter what I do, those towns will tend to be the lynchpin towns of the map, just like AoS: Wales is similarly controlled by the fate of the towns of Dinas Mawddy, St Harmon, and Culmington.

AoS Wales

As a result, Urbanisation will be immensely powerful (and possibly the most desired action in the game). AoS:South East Australia certainly has this pattern and is similarly based on a network-growth-through-urbanisation pattern for most of the late game.

AoS SE Australia

The next step will be to sketch in terrain and city colours and towns. A few hours over that should show that the map is viable as an Age of Steam basis. After that it is simply a case of writing the first pass rules. It is at that point that the real work begins:

  1. Write a spreadsheet which simulates the game as played by the new rules
  2. Play somewhere between fifty and a few hundred games on the spreadsheet and see what I can make work or break
  3. Tweak the rules
  4. Repeat from #1

During this process the map probably won’t change much at all (asides from the odd city colour assignment). Only the rules will change.

NB Larger images and related discussion of the above finished Age of Steam maps can be found on BoardGameGeek: