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12 septembre 2010 7 12 /09 /septembre /2010 00:00

That's a along time ago, we did not make a serious update here!!!

I found time to write few words about these last Essen releases this nights !


For Paris, I wanted to make something new. I had the real map of the districts of Paris and I thought it would be nice to make something interesting with. I have to say that I am teaching the graph theory to my student here in France, so I love drawing graphs. That was easy to imagine rules for Paris with the Seine and the Fly boats that may deliver cubes faster all along the districts.

Some adjustements were needed to make the map working (prices of connection, #links, shares)





For Moscow, I wanted to use the same idea of connections between districts, and I drew the graph of the disctrict of Moscow, quite a hard work since there are more than 100 ! The first games were very dispointed so I immediately gave up this idea. I also want to make a difficult map and an easy way to design one is to change the color of the cities during the game. In Moscow, the cities are black when the mafia enter the district.




I modify the # of districts to make the game play easier. The final map contains 8 districts that are becoming black in clockwise. A new action "Mafia" let the player to choose which district is becoming black for this turn.


Hexpansion/Robot: Two years ago I asked to John if he knows a publisher who could make me 12 new hex tiles. As usual, he was kind to contact one of his friend. But to make the deal profitable, I had to make 1000 copies that would need 3 or 4 years to be sold. So I gave up the idea to publish these 12 new hex tiles that are more than modify the color of the basic cities on the maps. Last month, I decided to make this hexpansion available for geeks of AoS, but they would need to cut themselves the hexes. I added the Robot factory expansion that I designed 3 years ago for the Moon map. This new tile equilibrates the spheric map (yes I know that the map is not a sphere) . As soon as all the cities are connected to the central hex, a Robot factory is built on the fas East or West new cities. This factory produces a black cube each time a cube is delivered. The factory is a multi color city.... when it is not the night....




Two years ago , I bought 600 boxes to a german firm. In 2008, I released 150 Age of Steam box #1 .The first aim was to package our expansions the best way as a tiny publisher could do. But I wanted something professional, so I contacted  a german firm. Some geeks were dispointed with the quality of the blank box. I asked the price for a professional design, but again, if I produced less than 1500 copies, I won't see my money back until 2 years if everything is going well. I chose to buy 600 pro. boxes with no design on it. The box is useful and I sell it with a very small benefit since I have to pay for the 600 boxes two years ago ! I really hope you will understand my choice

Last year I sold Holland/Madagascar for 25E in a big envelop. This year, it is hardly the same price since Paris/Moscow in the Age of Steam box #2 would cost 25E



The Hexpansion/Robot factory expansion is sold 15E

The Essen kit contains both expansion/Mini expansions , and it is priced at 40E

Like past year, the US geeks were first served since it is easier for me to ship the sets during the summer holidays. In september/October it is the rush for me with the students.


To reserve the ESSEN10 kit, please send a message to ageofsteam10@yahoo.fr. This kit is available for picking on the Winsome booth, hall 10, Stand 66, ONLY on Thursday morning between 10 to noon. The print run is 100 sets (Essen) + 50 sets (US). The US sets are SOLD OUT.


To conclude, I want to thank again John B. who always support my ideas and always help me when I need.


My next article will deal with my first abstract game... nothing to do with Age of Steam this time...


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29 août 2008 5 29 /08 /août /2008 12:03

AoS Team is pleased to announce a pair of bonus releases for 2008: Age of Steam Expansion - Washington DC / The Berlin Wall and the Age of Steam Box #1. AoS Team has heard the cries of North American AoS fans, and are also pleased to announce that these releases will be made available initially to North Americans and will later be released at Essen.

Washington DC and Berlin are another pair of maps created by highly regarded Age of Steam expansion designer Alban Viard. Washington DC focuses on the infamous freeways of the US capital. While the interstate can allow for quick goods transportation, it also becomes increasingly clogged as the game progresses and eventually becomes nearly impassable.


The Berlin Wall, meanwhile, takes Age of Steam back to the era of the Cold War and the divided city of Berlin. Troop garrisions impede goods

movement for much of the game, and the wall also presents an imposing obstacle. Of course, the fall of the wall in 1989 changes everything.


The Age of Steam Box #1, meanwhile, is a useful new accessory for all Age of Steam fans. The two-piece box, manufactured by Ludo Fact in Germany, offers a sturdy, stylish way to transport your standard size Age of Steam expansions. The Age of Steam Box features a check list of all of the currently released hard board and soft board expansions that will fit in it, and is available either together with the new expansions in it, or separately.

(the box cover)

The price structure for these releases are as follows:
Expansion Only: $30 + $10 shipping
Box Only: $15 + $10 shipping
Expansion + Box: $40 + $10 shipping
Special shipping rates will be made available for people who wish to purchase multiple items:
1 Expansion + Box Set: $10
2 sets: $12
3 sets: $14
4/5 sets: $20
Please inquire if you want to order more than 5.
Expansion Only:
1: $10
2: $11
3: $12
4: $13
5: $14
Please inquire if you want to order more than 5.

 This new release is available for direct order from the publisher on BGG. If there is a marketplace entry that fits your needs, please purchase the expansion using that. If it is currently missing or if you want to order in quantity, simply send a Geekmail to Alban Viard (user id: Nabla) or Michael Webb (user id: CortexBomb) to place your order. Rest assured that BGG will be compensated properly for all out of marketplace sales.
These releases will be available for order from
September 5th and will be shipped immediately to everywhere in United States and only in US.

50 copies will be made available at Essen on the Winsome Booth , hall 10, Stand 10-66 and have to be preordered to ageofsteam08ATyahoo.fr. The remaining of the print run will be available in Europe in november to resellers.

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17 juillet 2008 4 17 /07 /juillet /2008 11:17

We are very happy to announce that we are planning to release a new set of three expansions. These expansions will come in the same triangular boxes than last year. They will only be available for the ESSEN fair in October for many reasons, some of which were discussed in Michael's last article. An additional factor is a lack of time: we simply do not have the time necessary to sell maps beyond ESSEN. As a result, only 120 numbered boxes will be available. The maps will be printed on paper identical to that which was used for the Moon/Mars expansion, heavy plasticized paper.

The first expansion will occur in Chile. We are very proud to release this expansion because it has been difficult to find a printer who is able to make two big heavy plasticized paper at a decent price for a small print run. As you know Chile is a long, narrow country with huge
mountains. This expansion bestows an important role upon the yellow cubes, which represent gold.

Because Chile is twice as large physically as a standard expansion, we have produced two other expansions that fit on the back:

The first one will take place in Egypt and features many innovative rules, including a nice mechanism where flooding occurs on one part of the map.

The second will take place in CCCP. We have developed a completely different expansion than Michael's which changes the victory condition for the game in a new and depthy way. We will see how Communism will conquer the heart of Russia...

We think that this new set is nicely balanced, with small alteration of the basic system with the Chile expansion, medium modification with the CCCP and large modifications with the Egypt expansion.

We would like to thank John Bohrer who always support our work and Martin Wallace who authorized again the use of the artwork.

This set has to be picked up on Thursday between 10 to noon during the Essen fair on the Winsome booth. The price of this numbered set is 30E.

You have to pre-order this set before the fair as past years by sending an email to
ageofsteam08ATyahoo.fr . We will bring few copies of our last expansions(The Moon/Mars and NYC/WiI) for 15E each.

Hope you will enjoy again


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15 juin 2008 7 15 /06 /juin /2008 15:33
The subject line is a question that I've seen asked a bit on Boardgamegeek lately, so I thought I would do up a brief post on it here during this lull in playtesting. I can obviously not speak for the other designers, even Alban on this point, but I can give you the inside scoop on what is going on with me, Montreal, and my future expansions at this point:

1) The Age of Steam name license is currently a matter of dispute between the game designer, Martin Wallace who wants to use the name for a new, related game published by Mayfair and the developer, John Bohrer, who wants to use it for a reprint of the original game. The US court case will not be finalized until December of 2008 at the earliest. Until that point, expansion designers like myself are put between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Until the court case is finalized, I do not want to print anything AoS related.

2) Print run reality / Exhaustion of the existing user base: Age of Steam, for all its wild popularity, has had a relatively small print run. 6000 English copies, 3000 Korean ones, that's it as far as I know. If you take that many base games and then look and see how many expansions have been printed you'll see where the problems start to creep in. The same owners are essentially being tapped into again and again by expansion designers. While this worked for a while, the sheer number of expansions has exhausted many of the owners and has made releasing each future expansion more risky. I can actually empathize with this because as a player I am still one map away from being caught up, and I think most people would consider me a fairly hardcore AoS player. Granted, part of that is the group scale I usually have to work with, but still, the point remains: if I'm getting burnt out on buying the huge pile of expansions that were being released each year, who wouldn't be?

3) Which editions will exist with the AoS name? This is related to point 1 above, but it deserves a separate discussion. Without going into any real details that aren't already public, the new Mayfair version of the game system has some very significant changes to the game system. If Mayfair wins the right to use the AoS name, then as a "Classic AoS" designer / player I will be put in a tough spot. I am only interested in playing the original game, and any expansions that I design and publish will be for that original game. However, if the Mayfair game comes out with the AoS name there will likely be marketplace confusion. At the very least, expansion designing is soon going to involve releasing patches to the rules to turn the Mayfair game back into the original system, at least for those of us who are purists. This is all fairly important when it comes to releasing future expansions though: if Mayfair uses the AoS name, there are instantly going to be more games using that title than currently exist with a different base rule set. This can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing if I can patch my rules to fit the new game, a curse if people decide that playing with the different, newer variation of the rules is more desirable.

In short, there are a number of things holding up expansion releases for me, and I imagine many of these considerations are also there for other designers. On a final, related note, I also fear that the solution of the trademark case in either direction will lead to another expansion avalanche like there was last year, which could also glut the marketplace to a dangerous extent. I am certainly interested in doing another small run of Montreal when the trademark case is finished, but my future releases are going to be very dependent on who wins the case, and what the state of the original system is. At the very least I'll probably end up releasing a couple of more maps somewhere down the line (as I currently have 2 working prototypes and the mechanics for 2 more brewing, one of which I am sure would be wildly popular if I can get it to work right), but I will be taking a rather cautious line, and I could potentially end up with a pre-order and Essen release only policy depending on how things pan out.
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4 juin 2008 3 04 /06 /juin /2008 15:02
I originally tried to post this yesterday, but instead of typing it up in a separate program like Notepad, I foolishly wrote it directly into the Overblog form, and the system decided to temporarily crash and eat my post when I tried to put it up.

On Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the initial playtest, I once again was able to get Metro Pittsburgh onto the table, this time with a different group, consisting of 2 of my primary playtesters from Montreal who had played extensively with the original timed urbanization rules from that map. I once again forgot my camera...I promise pictures of playtest #3!

In terms of rules, I merely tweaked the map. I took a few cubes away from the starting board set, and I revised the auction roles, removing Repopulation and splitting the Engineer into the normal build 4 track role and the new free bridge role. In terms of the way these changes worked, I was pleased. The cubes were a bit tighter, which I wanted, and the free bridge role, while still the consensus #2 pick because of its money saving powers, was weakened slightly. In the first playtest, it was often possible to take that role with one intention, and then to use the other half of it if the track building phase threw an unexpected curve ball at you. Splitting the role maintains its usefulness, but weakens it slightly, which is a good thing. I want to insure that Locomotive maintains its powerhouse function in this map so that winning the auction has a real value.

In this particular playing of the map the urbanizations mostly ended up in the western downtown area, and fairly heavily in the south. This was a different texture from the first playtest, where a heavy amount of urbanization was centred in the east. The western area became very congested as a result, and the map ended up with a tighter final score because of my more experienced foes. I ended up losing by 1 piece of track to Alex, who was playing his customary slum lord role, taking out only 8 shares over the course of the game while I had issued 13. The blue city was of particular interest this game yet again, as it showed up very late, on round 8, when most of the non-blue cubes had been cleared off the map.

Thus far, I'm extremely happy with the way the map is playing. Of the various ideas I have in my head and in the initial development phase, this is the one that feels like it is not going to have to be changed extensively over the course of its development. The map will likely receive changes here and there, and some of the rules can be revised, but out of the gates this one is playing quite smoothly. I attribute this to the fact that I have already played with a variation of these rules, albeit on a smaller scale, and as a result, knew largely what I was getting into when I first started work on this design. This contrasts to stuff like the CCCP map, or the new team-based map concept I have in my head, which are tackling more virgin (to me) territory.
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2 juin 2008 1 02 /06 /juin /2008 17:38
I managed to get in a playtest of Metro Pittsburgh last night. I foolishly forgot to bring my digital camera along, so I have no pictures to post, but I can give a brief report of how the game went:

The central urbanization mechanic works almost exactly as I expected it to. In our playtest, most of the cities ended up being urbanized in the central triangle area and the east, which is not surprising statistically because only about 1/3 of the towns are away from the central area. The lonely blue city did end up being stuck in an interesting spot though, the top left corner, and a bit of a race developed to build there.

In the first playtest I opted to give us 15$ to start with and to cap the shares at 20. In reality, the 15 share limit seems fine with the 15$ starting cash. The terrain on the map is tough, and it tends to create a constant need to spend the money that is coming in, even into the late game. The map started out with First Build, First Move, Loco (standard), Engineer (4 track or free bridge), Stroll and Repopulation. Repopulation is definitely getting the axe because it is too similar to Stroll in practice, and the map already seems like it has too many goods. I might cull it back by 2-3 before the next playtest. I have to come up with another role to replace Repop so that there are at least 6 role to choose from right now. One of the playtesters astutely suggested a mechanism to change either the particular city or the location of the to-be-placed urbanized cities, but I'm torn about that. It's a neat mechanical idea, but it reinjects power over the urbanization that would create some in-system chaos, and I'm not sure if I want that in this particular map. The most likely short term fix is to split the Engineer into two roles: 1 to place 4 track, and 1 to get the free bridge. The only risk here is that almost all of the roles are useful, and the auction has problems again. Loco is still almost explicitly the best role for the early game, but the free bridge is effectively 6$ in the bank, so it's not a bad second choice. I will probably end up toying with the auction again to see if I can come up with some solution beyond the normal tweak.

Overall I'm pleased with the first playtest though. I am relatively optimistic that the development of this map will be shorter than Montreal, mainly because I was able to base the initial draft off of things I already learned using the central mechanic (albeit on a smaller, more limited scale) while designing and developing Montreal.
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1 juin 2008 7 01 /06 /juin /2008 14:02
I know it's been quite some time since I posted anything on the blog, but I haven't been playing any Age of Steam, or any board games period. Work has kept me busy, and the Stanley Cup playoffs kept me even busier. Now that Summer is here though, I finally have had the opportunity to do some more expansion design work.

This new expansion is a different take on a city that has already received some attention, Pittsburgh. Though I like John Bohrer's map, I feel that the Steel city deserves a more true to geography map that shows how difficult the terrain is rather than just abstracting it out. In that spirit, I decided to theme my new 3 player map idea to Pittsburgh, and in this particular case, creating a sort of alternate reality Pittsburgh where a large light rail service serves the golden triangle area of Pittsburgh and the surrounding neighbourhoods. In real life, of course, Pittsburgh does have a small system, The T, but it serves almost exclusively the southern suburbs and still has not been fully developed. This map, instead, zooms in on the downtown area, and several of the stations are skyscrapers.

Here's the first draft:

Metropolitan Pittsburgh is going to build on some of the ideas I had when I was designing Montreal, much like CCCP, but in a different direction. Some of the 3 player rules which first appeared in that map are going to reappear: the auction tweak, the contiguous track rule. Metro Pittsburgh's central mechanic, however, is the pre-determined urbanization idea that I used in a limited fashion in Montreal.

If you didn't follow the development of that map, let me bring you up to speed: at one point in time, Montreal had 3 timed urbanizations to reflect the history of the city. Round 3, the island of Jean Drapeau urbanized for Expo 67, in Round 6 Pie IX urbanized to reflect the Summer Olympics of 1976, and in round 9 Montmorency urbanzied to reflect the present. I liked how those timed urbanizations worked and the sorts of races they created, but I ended up removing them late in the development of Montreal because they just didn't quite fit that particular map.

Flash forward to the present: Metro Pittsburgh is going to centre on that timed urbanization concept. There are 18 towns. Prior to the game, the 8 new cites will be shuffled, and will have a town locale and round randomly assigned to them. This will all be noted on a sub-board. At the start of each round, 2-9, one will then be placed at its appointed spot.

I know the concept sounds basic, perhaps even a bit pedestrian, but the effect that it has on gamepay is very interesting. Players race to hook up to lucrative new cities, which provide cubes, and new delivery points. In this first draft, the blue city is of particular importance.

There are a number of other particulars that are still being fleshed out, but this is what I have so far. The terrain costs on this map are going to be beastly, particularly the rivers which are going to be nigh impossible to build over without the aid of the engineer. I will probably have to tweak the starting stations a bit, and I might need to add more of them, but I'm not sure at this point. The first prototype is ready to go though, and I'm sure I'll be posting more on this soon.

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13 janvier 2008 7 13 /01 /janvier /2008 01:36
So, as I detailed in the last entry, there were some clear issues with the CCCP map after the first playtest, the most glaring ones being the weak east, the not as compelling as I would like auction, and the not-yet-satisfactory goods growth pattern. All of these were addressed for playtest #2, on what is the 1.5 revision of the map.

Major changes:

- Moscow increased to two hexes in size
- Two black cities added, one in the east, one in the NE
- Obligations changed to force players to use only their own track to ship to Moscow
- Auction changed to "Winner selects two roles" and a simple role called Corruption, which grants the player taking it money outright added.
- Locomotive action changed to "Buy Locos first, buy anything on the display" (stronger)
- Goods Growth changed yet again. The idea now is exerting personal influence. A die is lain next to each row on the growth chart, and at the end of the round each player, in order, must move one of the dice up a notch, and can pay for additional notches at $5 per if they so desire.

So on to the playtest...this is the map with nothing on it...


Here is the first round, 3 of us (Sean, Alex, and myself) started in the north this time, with Jesse left to himself in the south.

This makes it evident that the introduction of the black cities has made the north viable...perhaps too viable.

By round two the complex tiles are already coming out in force, partially driven by the need to get into Moscow, which is surrounded by the ever-inconvenient rivers, which require the engineer to get over.

By round 5 the north was getting very crowded, but Jesse was still being left to his own devices in the south, generally a bad idea in AoS. Despite this, his delivery options weren't good, and his engine was screwing him repeatedly.

Moscow was blighted by this point, perhaps double blighted.

Round 6, the track ball that occurred in the first playtest is here occurring up in the north by this point. I (red player) found the 2nd edition rules where one can lay a complex tile as an initial build quite useful at several points in this play.

End of the game, final reductions taken into account.

Playtest comments: most of the changes are for the better. The auction had several pathological rounds because of the double role selection, and one particularly poor auction early in the game hurt Jesse for several rounds. The Corruption role, where you simply get cash back functions much like the Engineer does in Lawrence's Sun to that end, creating inflated bids and pulling money out of the game.

In terms of weaknesses, in this particular playtest the most notable one was the lack of impact of the split level engines. This is partially because of the extra cities, partially because of the track building rules, and partially because of our increased familiarity with the map. I think they might be an issue, but I have to brainstorm how to use them differently, or how to handle them. The engines on cards and buying Loco phase are the most original idea in this map, and I want to find some way to make them work. They do function, they just aren't quite what I'm looking for yet.

The changes all seemed positive: the auction is more interesting, the goods growth works better, the larger Moscow is nice. The obligations could still use some tweaking, but they are getting closer to what I want. Progress, in essence.
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7 janvier 2008 1 07 /01 /janvier /2008 17:57
Playtesting time again...Michigan has fallen by the wayside, but over my vacation I came up with a new way to use the split level engines from Montreal and fashioned a map of the Soviet Union to go with them.

The core concept here was to make the second number in the engine restrict players from going through towns. A 2&0 engine would, for example, allow players to ship over 2 links, but they could not go through any towns along the way. Thematically I tied this to the Soviet Union because the government restrictions seemed like they would go along well with it.

Once I came up with the idea of putting the map in the Soviet Union, a number of other thematically based rules instantly evolved though, including Obligations (i.e.: the government demands that you ship a set number of goods to Moscow) and the need for the Engineer to build over the monstrous rivers. There was also another attempt to change the goods growth scheme (something I try to do...I don't particularly care for the dice and there are a number of potential solutions) and in this case it featured a display where goods were randomly seeded out, and which could then move onto the board either from the top or the bottom of the display, with players bribing for their choice.

In the initial draw, I erred on the side of too few cities, and I actually added a black one in the west (Kiev)  that makes it different from the initial draw here on the blog. I also decided to try something completely experimental with the engines, taking them from an abstracted chart to 18XX style cards which are purchased outright from the bank but which have no further expenses associated with them. The purchase of the engines and the overall structure is still in flux, but in this initial playtest the Loco buying phase is immediately after the auction, is done in player order, and the player only has the option of buying  worst engine on the display, where the next X engines are laid out at the start of the round, where X is equal to the number of players. The Loco ability in the auction allows players to buy engines last at this point, which means it is useful but still weak if the other  players opt to hold off. The total cost of buying the engines is calibrated to cost players about the same amount that they woud normally be paying out in expenses.

So onto the first playtest...

My regular game group is currently 4, so I designed the map with that number in mind. One thing that was apparent in the first playtest was how important the SW valley was...the highest concentration of cities was down there, and it was almost a no-brainer to build heavily in that area. The only incentive to go north was the need to ship goods to Moscow, and the presence of the only blue city.

In our first playtest, people tried to stay away from each other, and shipping rounds often featured painful delivery skips because of a lack of potential options (good!).

Here's how the board looked at the start of round 4:

You might notice that there is a lot of track, the track building rules are eased to allow 4 pieces each round so that players can more easily cover the board over the course of the game. I hate loose track building, and the extra piece seemed to be the right solution, and it was.


This is the end of the game. Note the awesome track spaghetti ball in the SW and the relatively sparse east. Part of that has to do with Urbanization...with so few starting cities, the placement of the new cities makes a big difference in determining where the action goes.

After the first playtest some problems were apparent though...

1) Not enough differentiation in value between 1st and 2nd in the auction.

2) A board with one clear power area.

3) Rules for Moscow obligations needed clarifying...

4) Goods growth scheme was not interesting, needed changing.

The map is clearly in development.

Check back soon for session #2.
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6 janvier 2008 7 06 /01 /janvier /2008 18:22
Well, it has been quite a while, but I finally had a break from school for a few weeks, and in that space of time I played a tonne of Age of Steam, including two plays of my new Soviet Union prototype.

The quick run through of the non-Soviet stuff:

The new Ted Alspach 1 and 2 player maps
Ted is an odd designer, I like a lot of his early stuff, but I find that most of his recent releases are a little plain. The 1 and 2 player scales are, to say the least, challenging ones though, and I was pleased to try out his 4 new offerings.

The two solo maps, Barbados and Puerto Rico, both are serviceable though unspectacular. Puerto Rico is the more challenging map, especially on the high difficulty level because you need to use up half of your overall ships just delivering useless cubes. I think both of the maps suffer from predictable track building patterns and sameyness though. I anticipate getting a total of 5-10 plays on each before they collect dust. Not bad, but nothing exciting.

The two, 2 player maps are a study in contradictions. Jamaica is easily the worst 2 player map I've played...the thing is so restrictive that players only have about 3 track building rounds before they can't place any more tiles profitably. The patterns are scant, and I just didn't think that the map worked very well.

The St. Lucia map, however, is easily my favourite 2 player map, miles beyond Austria, which is my second favourite. St. Lucia's goods scheme makes for interesting, and different track building decisions and track is often abandoned, and complex tiles are often used to different ends. This is the only 2 player map that I have ever been actively excited about playing again, an excellent design.

Steam Brothers: Mexico
I've had this map around for a while, and I finally got it onto the table. Most of the Steam Brothers stuff is saved for my gaming with less experienced groups, as I find the rules changes too gentle and the maps too expansive for the most part. Mexico's new rule, Nationalization, is an interesting one though, so I had some high hopes for this one.

In terms of play, the role, whereby a player's link is appropriated by the government, and they are paid out money equal to its building cost is not as evil as I anticipated. The fact that anyone can run over it for income essentially means that rather than tightening the system up, the role actually softens it because you can build to exited out areas if you simply take the role. Losing your track to the role didn't seem all that bad either.

The map thus is a solid middle of the road one, and doesn't come close to challenging China as the best Steam Brothers map.

I will cover the first Soviet Union play in my next entry...
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