The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Age of Steam Endgame

Larry asked me to summarize the endgame problems.

As I see them:

  1. Urbanizing someone’s town out from under them (to cut the amount of track they have). (Normally, Urbanizing a town someone links to is good in the long run, but in the last turn or so, you know there is no long run).
  2. Building routes that don’t increase your income, or final score, but prevent others from linking up (since money is worthless on the last turn).
  3. The weird fact that you get 1 VP per hex, so that less efficient connections are worth more. Usually in the early game, you want efficiency (and in the real world, too) so that you can start another connection. Not on the last turn or two. Unconnected track is wasted!

I don’t particularly think this are devastating criticisms. And note that it’s not just “destructive plays.” I love those. These are destructive plays that only occur because you know exactly when the game ends. Bumping someone over a tax ledge may be gamey (or not), but it’s not an endgame problem.

Of course, Chris may have been thinking of something else entirely.


Written by taogaming

November 17, 2005 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Ramblings

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6 Responses

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  1. Okay, I see where you’re coming from. That looks like a good list. And absolutely none of it bothers me, but my views of a “proper” endgame are not necessarily typical. Mike Siggins gets all hot and bothered over games with set numbers of turns and loves the ones with random endings (like I’m the Boss), but the former suits me fine, while the latter is disappointing to me, since the winner often is determined by a roll of the dice. Lots of people hate the “pile on the leader” endgame of Vinci, but I think it’s fine. So I may not be the best judge.

    To me, all the things you cite are great, as they give the players creative ways of using the mechanics to help them win. We all know what the victory conditions are, so anything that lets you achieve that is good. Are those tactics “gamey”? Maybe, but so what–it’s a game, isn’t it? Are they “realistic”? What the hell does that matter in what is already an abstracted setting? This comment has nothing to do with you, Brian, but I continually hear from 18xx fans that games like AoS and Stephenson’s Rocket aren’t “real” train games, because they’re so unrealistic. Oh, really? If you can tell me what’s more unrealistic than the Gordian knots that pass for routes in a game of 1830, I’d like to see it. Realism is fine in a simulation, assuming you can stay awake long enough to appreciate it. But in most of the games we play, enjoy a theme that features some aspects of reality, but don’t sweat the small shit.

    Larry Levy

    November 17, 2005 at 11:04 pm

  2. What the hell does that matter in what is already an abstracted setting?

    It would apply towards theme. I would think that would go without saying. A business game that rewards waste is like a scottish themed game set on the Nile. I don’t demand that my Scottish game include haggis, but come on.


    November 18, 2005 at 5:11 pm

  3. Brian’s more or less got what I was thinking, although I would add: wierd bidding for turn order at the end too since a) again, money is worthless, and b) typically only one role (+1 Link) is really worth much. Plus, counting up all those track sections is really annoying.

    When I first played AoS, the endgame stuff really bugged me, and I had a hard time seeing past it. It doesn’t any more, and I like the game, but it still does bug me a bit. If money were just worth *something*, you wouldn’t see some of this stuff, or if there were some way to buy back shares. It doesn’t seem like rocket science.

    Chris Farrell

    November 18, 2005 at 7:10 pm

  4. Your number 3 complaint doesn’t strike me as an end-game problem because you’re rewarded for building inefficient routes all throughout the game. In the real world, if you’re shipping items from Evansville to Cincinnati, you’ll take the quickest, most direct route. In Age of Steam you’d rather arrive via Chicago and Detroit if at all possible. (Even going so far as to build track to those cities for that specific route.) As a simulation of reality this is ludicrous.


    November 18, 2005 at 8:58 pm

  5. If you can build track shorter in the early game, players tend to. It costs less, and they may be able to start another link with the extra builds. [More links mean more options, and more possibilities for leeching a point or two of income from another player. [Sometimes players build longer track around cheaper terrain, which is just being money-efficient, not tile-efficient].

    I see what you are saying, in that the income system rewards long routes, but it doesn’t reward long track. Not what I was going for, but I agree that is silly.


    November 19, 2005 at 10:18 am

  6. It’s not a big deal for most of the game because cash is *so* tight (on most maps anyway). It’s only at the very end that you’re staring at this pile of cash saying “OK, this is totally worthless, how do I turn it into VPs?”.

    Interestingly, I played the new France map recently, and it was my first (recent) fundamentally unsatisfying game of Age of Steam. The map is pretty easy, so cash is plentiful, and at the end of the game everyone had all this money and nothing to do with it.

    Chris Farrell

    November 19, 2005 at 11:36 am

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