Sunday, November 08, 2009

Age of Steam vs Steam

After my session report from Friday night, Mike Garrett (aka The Fonz) said, "I'm trying to understand why you like AoS better. Steam seems to be superior from your description." Fair enough. Except that it isn't. But before I explain why, I want to point out that we played the BASIC rules for our game of Steam. The standard game has an auction for the actions / turn order. This is important, because the first reason that the original Age of Steam is superior to Steam is the auction / turn order mechanic. I like auction games, and the auction in AoS gives the game a lot of its tension. The players that manipulate the auction well typically do well. If you mis-manage the auction (spending for an action that nobody else was going to take, paying too much for early turn order, etc), you will lose the game. That's all there is to it. Ok you say, but you can play the auction in the regular Steam rules. Yes, that is true, but the other thing about AoS that has been lost is the shares. In AoS, the shares haunt you the entire game. You do not want to take out money before you need it, because you'll pay for it the rest of the game. Combined with the auction mechanic, there is a lot of tension in deciding if you should take that extra share. The Steam share mechanic allows you to get money at any time and you have the ability to pay it back almost immediately. I understand why they did it and it works out ok, but it makes the game much more soft and forgiving. Sorry, but I like AoS for its utter brutality. I don't need a dumbed down version so my wife will play this with me. She'd hate either version and I wouldn't enjoy trying to play either of them with her anyway. Now, that is not to say that I wouldn't play Steam again - I'm 100% sure I will. It does some things really well - like the good production and population of goods on Urbanization (almost to the point that Urbanization is retardedly overpowered now). I like the split point and income tracks, but the missing shares takes a lot of bite out of the game. And Steam isn't perfect. Haters like to point out that it bothers them that they have to run a circular route to make 5 or 6 hops when they can make a short run that is closer but makes less money for them - this hasn't changed at all. And I hate to admit it, but I really think I prefer the track counting in AoS to the simplified connection counting In Steam. On the flip side, I appreciate that Steam is much more manageable time wise. So there you have it - it isn't that Steam is superior (except for the production thing). I liked it and it did some things well. Some people could see those changes as making the game better than AoS, but I see it as watering down the original to make it more palatable for the general gaming populace. I'd still rather play the original. If there was only 90 minutes left in the night, I'd be happy to play Steam and scratch that itch. Given the right group of players though, I'd be more inclined to play the superior original.

6 comments:

sourwyrm said...

is there a way to combine the two? combine what you like from Steam into AoS? I think it would be good if there was a compromise with the issuing of shares. Have the ability to issue them as normal and during track building? I definitely think the way goods work is superior in Steam from your description. It's the one AoS mechanic that turns me off.

Charles Hasegawa said...

I'd happily play AoS with the steam production rules and I think it be fine.

Charles Hasegawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike G. said...

I think your comments are fair. Personally, I prefer Steam. I think AoS is a great game and one of the best. However, Steam accomplishes almost the same things for me without taking an extra hour or so. I can use that time to play another game in the same night.

sourwyrm said...

Why did Wallace choose to do a diet coke version of AoS rather than do a updated edition with fixes? (production) (He probably thought the orignal was flawless. *snort*) I didn't follow any of the forum threads on this one, but find it odd. I would think a updated version would have been more appealing to the buyers out there.

Charles Hasegawa said...

I think he likes to tinker with his games. I think RRT's changes with Drover were not quite what he wanted from his original game, and this was. Also, with JB doing the re-print of AoS, Mayfair likely felt that their version should be different enough to be more broadly acceptable. I think they did a great job and it clearly hits its mark, but I still prefer AoS.