Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 6/6/2014 – TRAINS NIGHT
Been awhile since we got some trains & railroad games to the table so TRAINS Nite it is for tonite. There’ll be no shortage of games for this theme.. except what do you want to see on the table? Read on to see whether we think AGE OF STEAM or STEAM is the more brutal version of the game.
Games: Ticket to Ride Africa, Rolling Freights, Russian Railroads, Steam
TICKET TO RIDE AFRICA
The early birds started with the one of the more recent maps in the TICKET TO RIDE series – the Heart of Africa.
Note: The AFRICA map is just an expansion map so you’ll need one of the TTR base games – USA or Europe – in order to play this map.
Some changes to the base game for this map
- There’s the addition of Terrain cards, which when played at the time you claim a route would allow you to double the score of the route – but only if you have as many of that specific terrain cards as your opponents
- There’s no Longest Route bonus but you get the Globetrotter bonus which is given to the player who claimed the most tickets
I prefer the Globetrotter bonus since it’s more riskier and harder to go for it than the Longest route.
Map seems small. This session played five and they enjoyed the session so I would assume the map is best for 4 or 5 players.
Oh by the way, it’s totally optional to play this game with that “African” hairstyle that shrapnel (in black tee) is sporting. LOL.
Having said that, seeing that hair style and the map of Africa made me think of Toto’s AFRICA song….
I bless the rains trains down in Africa…
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had
I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become (the hair, the hair!)
A new unwrap for the evening! ROLLING FREIGHTS hot off the tracks from the APE Games courtesy of Kaz.
Game components look good, very Euro-ish.
Almost reminds you of RAILROAD TYCOON.
Only thing is the high number of dice rolls. Anyway I didn’t join the session so won’t have any impression to comment. Let’s wait to hear it from Kaz and the gang.
You can’t miss thinking of this game whenever a Railroad theme is mentioned. One of last Essen’s strongest games RUSSIAN RAILROADS made its customary appearance on the OTK tables thanks to Ivan.
Those following us who have known we are fans of the original AGE OF STEAM (AoS). Since then, I’ve lost count of the “variants” of AoS released to the market. STEAM Rails to Riches is arguable the “definitive variant”. tsk tsk.
I did STEAM the Basic version some time back while in KK at Carcasean, and it didn’t leave much of an impression with me. The game by itself is not bad, if you think the Zth remake of another Journey to the West movie from HK is not bad.
Tonight we’ve five OTK regulars who are keen to try the Standard version of STEAM. So let’s get going…
- Bidding for player turn order remains as AoS – first two players pay full, last player (first to pass) pays nothing and all others half round-up
- Action tiles incur no additional payment (unlike Steam Basic which there’s a cost for Loco, City Growth and Urbanization action tiles) so this is again similar to AoS
- When moving cubes, you must use more of your own links than any one opponent (AoS – no such restriction)
- City Growth is via pre-loaded 3-cube batch instead of dice throwing in AoS. This reduces the luck element
- The major difference is in the Income and VP tracks. In AoS, they are a single track and there’s also the Income Reduction mechanism to drag the leaders forward momentum (consider this as the “cost of scaling”). In Steam, these are two different tracks.
- End game scoring – each completed link counts as one VP in Steam while in AoS three completed tracks count as one VP.
Bidding for Player Order remains as cut-throat as AoS and a 5-player game plays to 7 rounds. So far so good.
City Growth is one positive change in STEAM where the growth is determined from a series of 12 pre-loaded 3-cube batches. The player taking the City Growth action simply select one batch and add them to the city of his choice. A city can only be improved once – there’s a token placed on it to indicate no further City Growth allowed on this city.
The downside is that if no player takes City Growth, there won’t be any additional cubes added to the board. Also at max, you get 3 new cubes added per turn whereas in AoS, in a 5-player game you could potentially get 10 new cubes added (if the dice god is with you).
I think most Euro players would prefer the pre-determined City Growth mechanic in Steam than let the dice roll decides the growth.
That’s the Income Track where you move down (towards negative) one step for every $5 share you issued. In Steam, there’s a separate VP Track.
It looks “similar” but in play, it’s not since you can now “pay back” shares issued if you have good cashflow unlike in AoS where once issued, the shares can’t be paid back and will continue to incur a $1 interest per round.
AoS more brutal in this aspect since it also has a cap of 15 shares per game.
Players initial starting position – Orange (Ivan), Green (Khim), White (Heng), Black (CK) and Brown (rhyen).
Looks pretty spread out but given the small footprint of the map, no doubt everyone would start clashing into each other soon.
Players Income Track getting pushed down as everyone issued shares to raise funds for the initial rounds. In the above, some players have already issued 6 shares (in AoS that’s 40% of your total allocation and you only have 9 more shares to issue).
In STEAM, we can pay back those shares – when we deliver goods, instead of claiming VP, we paid off the negative Income – and we never felt the pressure of going under (bankrupt).
In STEAM, it’s better to build short links since your end-game Track VP is one per completed link (regardless of how many tracks in the link). In AoS, you score one VP for every 3 completed tracks.
In the above example (assuming Orange completes the last open track), he’ll score 4 VP. In AoS, he’ll get only 2.5 VP.
The routes expanded in mid-game. This game doesn’t seem as packed as AoS Rust Belt map which is absolutely brutal for 5- or 6-player game.
Towards end-game, everyone’s amping up their loco for maximum delivery. Only Heng & Ivan went to Loco-5, the rest staying at Loco-4. Interestingly, almost everyone switched from Income to VP generation at around the same time… I think Heng (White) did it one turn earlier so he opened a gap which the rest couldn’t manage to close at end game.
Overall, everyone felt there’s less tension even though this is a 5-player session. No one felt the pressure of bankruptcy or even running out of shares to issue. There’s still a cost to issue shares in Steam and you need to be aware of your ROI when issuing more shares but the fact that if you can build up a good income engine to pay back your issued shares early, that’s usually calculated in your favour.
Unlike in AoS where shares once issued stayed unpaid until end of game therefore earlier issuance of shares has a higher residual cost – not to mention getting you closer to the cap of 15 shares after which you can’t raise any more capital. In AoS, if you get caught on the wrong side of a bidding war, you’ll go under in no time. Here in Steam, you’ll likely want to be more aggressive in the bidding since the top three action tiles – Locomotive, Urbanization and City Growth – are pretty powerful especially when taken early.
If you have played both, what do you think?
TRAINS theme always provide us with a good range of games to bring to the table; from lighter ones (10-Days, Ticket to Ride), to medium weights (Railway Tycoon, RRR) and the heavies (Age of Steam, Steam, Brass)
There’s obviously the other genre of TRAIN games that’s in a class by itself, the 18xx series. We’ve been itching to get the humongous 18OE (Orient Express) to the table but the scale and complexity of this biggie remain a challenge. hehe
Part of the components of the 18OE. The stock market chart looks err… simple? Hmm.. so maybe it’s a 2-hr game. 😛
For more pictures of this meetup session, pls see our Facebook photo album (below).
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