Age of Steam

General Information:
Manufacturer: Warfrog / Winsome Games
Author: Martin Wallace
Number of Players: 3-6
Age: 13 years plus
Time: 120-180 mins.
Year: 2002


 Deutsche Spielerezension

Game Components:
1 Gameboard - 1 Goods/Actions Display Card - 1 Income Display Card - 8 Town Discs - 136 Hexagonal Track Tiles - 8 Hexagonal New City Tiles - 96 Goods Cubes - 6 Sets of Track Ownership Discs - 40 Gold counters - 40 Small Silver Counters - 10 Large Silver Counters - 1 Turn Track Marker - 6 Dice - 1 Rulebook

The theme of the game is more or less classical: Each player impersonates the owner of a railroad company. These companies are competing to become the mightiest railroad company in the USA (Great Lakes Region to be more precise). So players are buildung railroad tracks across the area and are moving goods to earn money. Moving goods means getting victory points - victory points mean might and income. So the player who has got the most victory points wins the game.

Before the game starts it has - as always - to be set up: The display cards have to be placed next to the gameboard. All counters have to be separated and laid aside. All the goods cubes are put in a cup, bowl whatsoever. Then good cubes have to be picked up randomly and put on the goods display until all squares have been filled. Then 3 cubes have to be put into Pittsburgh and Wheeling and 2 good cubes into each other town on the game board. Each player chooses his/her colour and gets all discs in his/her colour. Each player gets 10 dollars. Now each player puts one disc of his/her colour on the 2 of the Issued Shares Track, on the 1 Link on the Engine Track Chart and one on the 0 of the Income Track. Then each player rolls 3 dice. The player with the highest total puts his/her disc on the first place of the Player Order Track. The game is now ready to start. The game is played in turns - the number of turns played varies depending on how many players participate - and each turn consists of several steps. Each step has to be performed by each player before going on to the next step.

In the first step of each turn each player may choose to issue shares. For each share a player chooses to issue he/she accordingly moves his/her disc on the Issued Shares Track. For each share issued a player gets 5 dollars from the bank. No player may issue more than 15 shares.

In a second step the player order has to be determined. The first player has to bid at least 1 dollars and the other players - in player order - either have to bid higher or have to pass. If a player passes he/she drops out of the current bidding and puts his/her disc in the last position of the Player Order Track. A player may choose to make no offer at all - he/she passes automatically. A player may pass once if he/she has chosen the action "pass" in the last turn. The player who drops out first does not have to pay anything. The next players dropping out each have to pay the half of the amount they bid. The first two players - so the last two remaining in the bidding - have to pay the full amount.

Now each player - in player order - chooses an action. A player may choose "First Move" (the player moves his/her goods first), "First Build" (the player is the first player to build track), "Engineer" (the player is allowed to build 4 and not the normal maximum of 3 tiles), "Locomotive" (the player increases his/her Engine Level by one link), "Urbanization" (the player chooses
a New City Tile and places it on the gameboard), "Production" (the player randomly takes two goods cubes from the cup and places them on two empty boxes on the Goods Display) and "Turn Order Pass" (in the next determination of player order the player can drop out once and restart bidding). Each player places one marker in the box of the selected action. Each action may be chosen by one player only.

The players now can build track. The player with the action "First Build" starts and the other players follow in player order. In his/her turn a player may build up to 3 tiles. Each tile has to be paid for dependent on the kind of area (e.g. river, mountain, plain) he/she builds on. Replacing tiles costs money as well. The first tile a player builds must be adjacent to a major city. All other tiles have to be connected to the player's network. If a player does not or is not able to connect two cities in one turn he/she could decide to leave the end open - so that a tile/several tiles does/do not directly connect two cities. He/She than places an own disc on the last tile. If he/she does not restart building on that tile during the next turn his/her disc has to be taken from that tile. No player must build track.

After each player has or has not built track it is now time to move the goods: Beginning with the player "First Move" all players can move one goods cube from one town to another. Each cube can only be moved along completed links up to a maximum of the links a player can move - dependent on his/her position on the engine track. Goods can only be moved to towns of the same colour. For each link used the proprietor of that track increases his/her income by one box. After the first round each player can move a second cube. Once during this turn a player can replace his/her move by upgrading his/her engine track by one box.

Finally all players get their money and have to pay maintenance and taxes. Each player gets money according to his/her position on the income track. Each player gets 1 dollar for each share issued and 1 dollar for each link he/she can use when moving goods. Each player's income has to reduced his/her income dependent on the shading of the box his/her disc is in on the income track. Players do not have to pay but move back their discs - according to the income track.

Before the beginning of the next turn the towns get new goods. A player rolls two dice and refers to the Goods Display. Two dice have to be rolled for the Western part of the part and two for the Eastern part. He/she then places the corresponding cube in the city with the same number as the column. If there are no goods left on the display the towns can not get any more cubes.

The game ends after a certain number of turns dependent - on the number of players.  Now each players receives 3 victory points for every dollar he/she gets according to the income track and 1 victory point for each tile that is a part of his/her completed links. Each player looses 3 victory for each share he/she issued. The player with the highest total wins the game.
(Troudi 02/02/05)

Further Information:
- Homepage of Warfrog

Troudi says 9 of 10 points:
"Age of Steam" is a great game. It is not a game just for railway enthusiasts like so many others (e.g. British Rails) but a game for players who enjoy complex games and especially complex business management simulations. "Age of Steam" is not an easy game - the rules are easy to understand and easy to learn and explain but you do not really know what the game is really about when playing it for the first time. The most common problem all beginners have is spending all the money and earning nothing. And that is the point: The art of investing one's money to get the largest benefit possible. Never worry: It is not unusual if you spend more money than you get in the first two or three turns of the game! And that exactly is what makes the game really interesting. You never know who the winner of the game is after you get to the last 2 turns. The game is not very suitable for families and not very suitable for players who expect an easy railroad game. The game is most suitable for players who like strategic and commercial games and who enjoy detailed planning. My advice: If you like such games do not hesitate to buy "Age of Steam"; if you are not sure whether you will like a game like this - at least test it! "Age of Steam" is a great game that should not be amiss in any good game collection.

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