With the new AGE OF STEAM Deluxe Edition now readily available and a batch of new maps from AV Studio, it’s time for OTK to revisit one of our top faves. Find out what we thought of the PANAMA, SWITZERLAND and VIETNAM expansion maps.
Gamers: Kaz, Aanemesis, Heng, HiewCS, Julian, Tim, Jeff Au
Games: Age of Steam (Warfrog) – Panama / Vietnam, Age of Steam Deluxe (Eagle) – Switzerland
Location: OTK Cheras
Date/Time: 7 Feb 2020 (Fri) 9pm – 2am
Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 7/2/2020
All the Maps of the World! And more…
One of the many reasons AGE OF STEAM remains a highly regarded game – for me personally – is how it lends itself to be easily expanded with new maps.
When Winsome/Warfrog first released Age of Steam (AOS) back in 2002 they also released a set of 4 expansion maps – each set containing two maps – which were all designed by either Martin Wallace or John Bohrer.
Since then a few designers beside Wallace/Bohrer such as Ted Alspach (Bezier), Michael Webb, JC Lawrence (more popularly known as clearclaw in the BGG community) and Alban Viard (of Tramways and Clinic fame), have designed and released a large number of AOS maps, contributing to the growing map eco-system of this wonderful game.
Even Vital Lacerda has done an AOS map of his home country Portugal.
The maps themselves carry diversity in their range; from the usual suspect of country/location such as
- Mississippi Steamboats;
to unusual settings as
- Zombie Apocalypse,
- The Moon,
- Amazon Rainforest,
and absolutely weird ones like
- Soul Train (where you transport souls from Hell to Earth).
- Human Body (err.. yes within the human body) and
- Synapses (brain delivery?)
There is no schedule as to when any of these designers will release a map. It happens when it happens; though lately it has been happening much less frequently. However one designer who’s still keeping up with a regular AOS map release schedule is Alban Viard.
In spite of his increased design/production schedule last year – Tramways, Clinic Deluxe, and Pulp Detective – Alban still finds time to produce 6 new maps for his AOS 2019 Map set.
- Sahara: you will need water to build in the desert hexes (3-5p map)
- Vietnam: flooded hexes with two scenarios… (3-4p map)
- Mexico: a 2p map Cartel vs State
- Christmas Village: a Solo puzzle map!
- Greece : you will have issues with the shares (3-5p map)
- Cyclades: a weird map dealing with wind (3-5p map)
The 2019 set looks like a fine collection of maps not to be missed so I promptly placed my order and they arrived last month, just in time for our scheduled AGE OF STEAM Meetup Day last Friday.
You can buy Alban Viard’s AOS Map Sets online via his AV Studio webstore (subject to availablity as he only prints 150 copies of the new map set yearly).https://www.avstudiogames.com/en/artworks/96-age-of-steam-2019-set.html
Meetup.com: OTK Age of Steam Friday
With our regulars asking for more Age of Steam sessions to run thru all the various maps we’ve in our collective library, an Age of Steam session was called and we’d 7 gamers last Friday. This meant we were divided into tables of 3 and 4.
The table of 4 included Julian, who’s learning AOS for the first time and that group went with the recently Kickstarted Age of Steam Deluxe Edition from Eagle Games, while my table of 3 went with the Warfrog 2nd Edition.
The AOS Deluxe table played only one session (Switzerland) while our 3p Warfrog 2nd Ed table did two sessions, both on Alban Viard’s maps ie Panama and Vietnam.
If you wish to get a quick review of the maps, read on.
Age of Steam (Warfrog Ed): PANAMA (Alban Viard)
Me & Kaz are both Alban Viard fans so obviously we were looking to get a couple of his AOS maps to the table. For the 1st session, we picked Alban’s PANAMA map from his 2018 Map set (courtesy of Kaz).
PANAMA is one of the few maps that play at the 3-4 player count and like most of Alban’s design, he tends to introduce some interesting elements or innovative mechanics into his maps to give even veteran AOS players new challenges.
PANAMA differs from standard AOS in a few areas
- All tracks have a base cost of $3 to build (vs the normal $2)
- Each share issued gets you $4 only (vs the normal $5)
- You can only build 2 tracks per turn (vs the normal 3)
- Engineer action allows you to build the 3rd track (with the lesser cost track for free)
- First player to pass is forced to take the Turn Order action which is now reimplemented as the Canal Control action. This can be a boon or bane. tsk tsk
- Panama City is a 3-color city
- The game plays one round less
From the 1st three points above, one can already sense this is going to be a money-tight and slow network building map. However the crux of this map lies in the fight for the Panama Canal.
As you can see from the map above, Panama City has three incoming shipping lines with cubes. Access to these cubes are however only thru the Canal Control action (which is the old Turn Order Pass action) and is available – forced – to the first player to pass out of the Turn Order Auction.
The Canal Control action also allows a 3rd delivery, which can be significant if you let one player benefit from it. As per it’s namesake, this map is all about controlling the Panama Canal, the lynchpin for maritime trade.
I can see this being a very tight map for 3 players and absolutely brutal for 4. We were maxxing out the 15-share issue before we reached half the turns but becoz we could still get good deliveries, most of us achieved net income by the halfway point and therefore could stop relying on shares for financing. With 4 players, this might not be the case.
Age of Steam (Deluxe Ed): SWITZERLAND (Martin Wallace)
While we were ship-shopping over the Panama Canal, the other table were busy with the SWITZERLAND map, which is part of the Triple Maps add-on from the recent Kickstarter. This map works best with 3p and very interesting for 4p. 😛
- Zurich is a multi-color city and accepts all goods. It also gets an extra good per turn
- Cost to build is always $4 and there are some special hexes that affect track building
- Share buyback allowed at $8 per share (interesting)
- Each track at end game is worth 2 VP instead of 1 VP (I heard this tripped someone?)
The map itself may appear bland and uninspiring but do not let that lull you into a false sense of ease. With track building fixed at $4 – even on simple terrain, which are doubled the standard cost of $2 – and Zurich (a key city?) being surrounded by some unpassable terrains (those red lines), it can be a nasty fight to get early and good board positions.
With tracks being worth twice in VP at end game, I suppose having more tracks won’t hurt your score. The map has a high number of towns which helps in track VP scoring esp since each track is worth 2 VPs/ea in this map … (until someone…. ahem ahem).
I didn’t play in this table so can’t write much about this map but let’s hear it from those who did.
Hiew: It’s tough because building tracks is expensive. But let’s tell people it’s suitable for beginners because all types of track building is flat $4 so it’s super easy to remember. 😛
I actually think four is fun for Switzerland.
Heng: Tough. You don’t get positive income till the last two rounds. But Julian seems to like it. Tracks are expensive, space is limited, lots of impassable terrain.
Aanemesis: Can be challenging with 4. Suddenly the track value at the end can make a difference at 2 points instead of 1. One urbanization can wipe out 6 points. Also, the impassable red lines can be tricky.
This map was first released back in 2005 and I’m happy to see Eagle Games releasing an artwork-updated version of this map with their recent Deluxe Edition. From the quick-reviews, this map looks like another keeper for the 3-4 player range.
And if you have the Deluxe Edition, you can get this as part of the Triple Map expansion which includes two other maps – New England (2p) and Pittsburgh (3p).
Age of Steam (Warfrog Ed): VIETNAM (Alban Viard)
Our table finished the Panama session earlier than the Switzerland table (partly as we were 3-player vs their 4p) and since it’s still early, we decided to do another map. One can never get too much of Age of Steam in one day.
Another Alban Viard map – we did mention we are AV fans, no? 😛
At first glance, VIETNAM looks empty. Barren. But looks are deceiving. tsk tsk. Let’s set foot inside.
Some rules differences first
- Tracks cost the normal $2 to build for those on the top side of the map but those in the (richer) bottom part of the map (with a round number in the lower-right corner) cost $3
- But those round numbers bear a more ominous tiding – they are the hexes that can potentially be “flooded” hehe
- To build on flooded hexes would cost $6 (wow)
- Engineer action allows building on flooded hexes for $3 (aha!)
- Flooding is performed by the player in last turn order
- There are two levels of difficulty…
- Optimistic (easy) – flood 3 hexes per turn
- Pessimistic (hard) – flood 6 hexes per turn
Straight off the bat, one needs to decide if you are building up the left or right side of the map since there’s an impassable mountainous terrain in the middle separating left and right with a narrow choke-point passage way.
The map label (and therefore the perspective of my pictures) are inverted with the geographical direction. Looking at the perspective of the picture, the left side of the pic is South Vietnam while the right side is North Vietnam.
In order not to confuse you, I’ll be using left/right, top/bottom to refer to the picture’s relative perspective rather than east/west, north/south.
The split of your network between the left and right side of the map would increase the demand for matching the right goods to the right cities. And with flooding being used as a strategic tool to slow down or even restrict your opponent’s track laying – or just be a jerk! – the bidding for turn Order would be driven up as Engineer is a much sought after action since it allows one to build across those flooded hexes at (normal) $3 instead of $6.
Becoz of the higher bidding for Turn Order and the generally higher average track building costs, all of us were quick to have 10 shares issued (oops) before the halfway point of Turn 5, and were starting to get worried, wondering if we could “last” till game end.
Thankfully we did get to net income after Turn 5 (possibly becoz we were 3p instead of 4p?) and therefore managed to reach the end of the game without hitting the 15-share max.
This map is solid with 3p and I think it’s even better with 4p. As with the Panama map we played prior, this is another solid recommendation if you are looking for 3-4 player AOS maps.
Missed this? Join our next session…
Want to join us for our next AGE OF STEAM session? We plan to have one AOS session monthly. Check out our BGC Meetup group for invites.
so many maps, so little time
Or better still, if you are looking to level up, come join us this Sat 15/2 as we take you on a playing tour of yet another OTK faves – the 18xx series. All levels of gamers welcome!
For more photos of this gaming session, visit our Flickr Album.
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