Games I love: Age of Steam

One of the beautiful features of being a modern adult is that we still play games, not sports, but games.  There are multiple industries dedicated to giving us games to play.  I like games – being a grownup is awesome.

My current game obsession is with Age of Steam.  The premise as that it’s early days for the railroad industry, and you’re a would-be tycoon trying to make it big.  It then proceeds to be the most soul crushingly accurate rendition of running a start-up I have ever encountered in a game.  This makes my logistical-planner brain happy on levels I can’t describe.  You (realistically) start off in debt, and go into more before the game is over.  There is no paying that debt back – it will haunt you forever.  Just like with a real company.

Masochistic obsessions with realism aside, the mechanics design in this game is a testament to balance.  It plays 3-6, but the game is radically different depending on how many people are playing.  More players shortens the number of turns which is great both for time management and because the board fills up much faster.  That dramatically changes the scope and nature of your planning.  My biggest hurdle in mastering this game was my tendency to plan for the very long term health of my railroad, meaning I haven’t optimized by the time the game is over and I’m in second again.  With more people in the game, the immediate, short term stakes are much more important.

This game is not quick, and it is not gentle, so this is not a good party game (unless you’re partying at my house – my parties are strange).  But it’s worth having just so you can make an event of it.  Six people, some hors d’ouvres, and 3-4 hours will give you an experience you won’t soon forget.  And if they’re the right six people, it’ll be a fabulously positive one.

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One thought on “Games I love: Age of Steam

  1. Everything I learned from railroads I learned from a Russian émigré who taught me the only thing that mattered was the steel I made my rail tracks out of.

    What is this accounting nonsense? Can’t I just turn a profit just with my sheer genius or a long speech?

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