Why Age of Steam is a Gaming System/AoS Survey Results
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
Recommend
67 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide
Age of Steam’s popularity among its loyal followers continues to grow, even though the game is almost 5 years old. The bulk of this popularity is due to the variety provided by the large number of expansions available for the base game (more than 2 dozen commercial maps and a large number of free ones), each of which modify the basic game in some way; some dramatically, others marginally, every one of them giving players a unique gaming experience every time they play.

The Age of Steam base game and its “Rust Belt” (also known as Great Lakes) map by itself is a great game with enormous replayability. But it’s the ability of those expansions to maintain the core essence of Age of Steam while providing new and challenging elements that makes Age of Steam a gaming system all by itself. There’s no other game in the BGG top ten that has the seemingly endless potential that Age of Steam does; the only game with similar expansions is Power Grid, but due to the structure inherent in Power Grid’s play, it is limited to much more basic changes that don’t add or change as much as do AoS expansions. The only other game in the top 10 with a bunch of expansions is El Grande, and they’re of a whole different sort, on a par with the Puerto Rico expansion buildings. Battlelore (will it stay in the top 10) seems to have fairly strong expansion potential, both in scenarios and figures, but it’s way too early to know what will happen there.

Age of Steam provides the tools for players and designers to tweak most aspects of gameplay while allowing players to use the same basic set of components. With the exception of Italy, all the expansions use the existing track tiles. Only the board and the rules change.

I’m a huge fan of Age of Steam, having designed several expansions myself and published a few more by another designer, and I’ve played most of the expansions out there, both commercial and downloadable. While many of the people I regularly game with also play Age of Steam and we all have our preferences as to what we like and don’t like in an expansion, I wanted to know what the rest of the AoS playing community thought. Part of this stems from my marketing genes, so that as a publisher I’m offering products that the “consumer base” desires, but another part of it was really just good old gamer curiosity.

A few months ago I posted a survey to find out a little bit more about what Age of Steam players like and don’t like, want and don’t want, expect and don’t expect in Age of Steam expansions. After receiving more than 100 responses I’ve tabulated the results, and am presenting the significant/interesting data here for the first time. Some of the results were as I expected, while a few others were a little more surprising. My guess is that the more you play Age of Steam, the less surprised you’ll be with any of these results. Regardless, it’s good stuff.

I’ve represented the results below rounded to the nearest whole number %. In all cases this was sufficient to portray answers in a meaningful light.

For current and future designers/publishers of Age of Steam maps, a few words of caution: As with any data, this is a small subset of the (assumed) Age of Steam players out there. The responses are naturally biased towards more enthusiastic AoS players who don’t mind spending 10 minutes taking a survey for free. Just because this survey indicates one thing, don’t take it as gospel, and please don’t let it limit the creation of maps/expansions because it doesn’t fall within the majority of the responses.

So how have these results impacted my design/publication of Age of Steam maps? I’ve just announced a new set of maps (see the last entry here: Age of Steam Expansion: Mississippi Steamboats / Golden Spike for more details) that were designed and developed prior to my knowing the results of this survey. However, the desire for mounted maps shown in this survey was the thing that pushed me over the edge in terms of production style. I’ve taken the plunge (and a greater financial risk than ever before) by getting this new set of maps professionally printed and mounted on gameboard by the same production company that made the original Age of Steam and Warfrog mounted maps.

If you’re interested in adding your responses to the survey (though updated results will not be posted unless there are significant changes), it remains open at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=223672846725
Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: aos [+] wallace [+] survey [+] [View All]
  • [+] Dice rolls
1. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:61]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
How often do players play Age of Steam?
Less than 10% of the respondents played Age of Steam 2 times or less. Over 70% of the respondents played Age of Steam “several” times or more, with 32% of them self-labeling themselves as addicts. This goes directly to the natural bias of enthusiastic players who are interested in filling out a survey for free on a topic they have great interest in.

For this reason I didn’t bother asking what they’ve rated Age of Steam, or more questions related to the base game. It is assumed (fairly or not) that the bulk of respondents are mostly Age of Steam enthusiasts.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
2. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion #1: England & Ireland [Average Rating:8.08 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.08 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
How many expansions have these players played?
15% of the respondents have never played any Age of Steam expansions. The inverse is much more telling: 85% of them have played expansions, and more than half of those have played at least 4 different expansions.

17% of respondents have played 8 or more expansions, with an abnormally large group of 12% having played exactly 8 expansions (some strange data blip, or something more sinister??? Hmmmm).

When doing the survey, I did separate commercially-available maps from downloadable/free ones. The only significant result here was that 58% of the respondents have never played a downloadable map. To those 58%, I would encourage you to check out the files section of the BGG entry for the Age of Steam base game and download a few to play.

I also asked about how many maps were owned (and of those owned, how many were played) by respondents, but this result merely mirrored the “expansions played” results.

When analyzing the results of this survey, I did filter out the “played Age of Steam 2 times-or-less” and “no expansions played” players to see if the results were significantly changed (this was more of a marketing exercise than anything else). I also looked at the players who owned expansions (as they would be more likely to purchase in the future than non-owners). The end results were pretty much identical to the overall group’s responses, however.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
3. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: China / South America [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
What are the most important aspects when considering an Age of Steam Expansion?
A broad question, and one whose results most likely mirrors the typical Eurogamer desires, with the possible exception of a lower-than-expected interest in the designer of the map (but that’s very likely my own ego’s expectations affecting my perceptions of what I thought the results would be). In fact, just over a third of the respondents deemed the designer of the expansions irrelevant (though this is in slight contrast with a later follow up question regarding designer preferences, which clearly indicated a bias towards Martin Wallace-designed expansions).

The most important aspect by far was Mechanics, with 86% of respondents viewing this as very important or critical to their consideration (those are the top two choices). Contrast that to Designer, where only 7% of respondents marked the top two fields.

Keeping with the Eurogame nature of Age of Steam, Theme was also much less important to respondents, with only 40% marking the top two fields. Responses to pricing and production quality were middling and definitely took a backseat to mechanics.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
4. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: 1830's Pennsylvania / Northern California [Average Rating:7.91 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.91 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
What graphical style of maps is preferred?
This was one of those questions I really didn’t know the answer to, as the anecdotal evidence was all over the, um…map. My own background in graphics has always had me wishing for “better” AoS graphics (more focused on the terrain and less on the hex grid), while the ability for Winsome to instantly sell out of new expansions with a bare-bones “outline” (white background with black hex frames and colored triangles to indicate terrain) meant that a reasonable number of people really like that style ( for instance, J C Lawrence, Age of Steam player/designer, professes a great liking for that style over the classic AoS look, but he is also a big 18XX player).

The results indicated that players really like the “classic” Age of Steam look (the style which is used by the Great Lakes/Rust Belt map included in the box) significantly more than any other style, with absolutely NO responses in the lower three fields. Compare that to the “outline” mode, where 67% of respondents indicated that they were unlikely (or worse) to purchase an outline-style map.

So why is Winsome able to pull off consistent sell-outs whenever they introduce an outline-style new expansion (there’s actually a waiting list to get on the actual list to get these maps)? I believe it has to do with the whole “mechanics” question. John Bohrer’s designs are consistently engaging and innovative, which overrides the graphics. There’s a certain level of quality expected with a new Winsome mapset, and players are rarely disappointed. My first purchase (I’m finally “on the list”) of Winsome maps occurred this past year when I picked up Age of Steam Expansion: Eastern US & Canada, which has innovative mechanics (Marketing action which allows you to deliver through a same colored city on your way to a destination, shared routes) and the innovation of placing this map next to the Great Lakes “base” map for Gameplay (something that initially is visually distracting, but quickly fades as the game is played).

Once you’ve played an outline style map, I think you’ll be more accepting of other maps. However, everything else being the same, I want my maps to follow the classic look.

Oh, and regarding a better, more enhanced look? It seems players really don’t care one way or the other (it certainly isn’t going to be a deciding factor when purchasing maps).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
5. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion #2: Western US and Germany [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
What type of production format is desired?
While players definitely want hard copies (PDFs and JPEGs were the least desirable of choices), there was only one clear winner here: players wanted mounted gameboard maps. While all other formats had results stating that players were unlikely or worse to purchase/download them as a result of the production format, nobody (0%) said they didn’t want mounted maps.

This provides an interesting issue for designers/publishers. The cost of producing a mounted board is significant relative to any other form of production, and the number of copies that have to be printed to keep the individual cost of each map below the stratosphere is incredibly high considering there are only 6000 copies of the base Age of Steam in existence (as of January 2007). Until now, only Warfrog has produced mounted Age of Steam maps, and they haven’t produced any new expansions for over a year now (since the Warfrog version of Age of Steam Expansion #4: France and Italy was released at Essen 2005).

In addition, the relative explosion of new maps by designers in the last year means that the market is somewhat diluted, making it less likely for a small publisher to break even on such a big investment. That said, this result was the factor that pushed me over the edge with my just-announced maps, Age of Steam Expansion: Mississippi Steamboats / Golden Spike, combined with overwhelmingly positive response from playtests. Hopefully this will prove successful for Bezier Games, enough so that other publishers will follow suit…I for one would love a big box full of “real” mounted expansions…kind of like what you can get for Formula De now (but it’s Formula De…so it’s kinda irrelevant).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
6. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Sun / London [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
Bigger maps, anyone?
There are several maps in development by designers that are larger than the standard AoS format. The cost of printing “larger” maps is quite noticeable to a small publisher, so I asked if players were willing to shell out any additional cash for a larger format expansion.

Unfortunately for those designs (and their designers), 60% of users say they wouldn’t pay more than they would for a typical sized map.

While that’s bad…that’s still “less bad” than the 67% of users who didn’t want to purchase an outline-style map…yet Winsome consistently sells out. In addition, pricing studies of any sort are notoriously tricky – few users ever admit that they’ll pay more for something than what they feel is the “right” price…but consumer behavior tends to undermine that; if there’s a great map out there that costs twice as much, a whole heck of a lot of folks are going to purchase it. Of course, as a publisher, that’s yet another risk that has to be considered…

With J C Lawrence's Sun map, he originally designed it to be about 50% larger than a typical Age of Steam map. When I decided to publish the map, the biggest issue was how to get this huge map reduced to "standard" Age of Steam size to make production of it feasible. This will undoubtedly be a frustrating limitation for map designers moving forward.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
7. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Austria, Switzerland & The Netherlands [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
How many maps should be in an expansion?
I’m noting this question and the results only because this is something that publishers want to know….unfortunately there were no clear directions provided by the results of this question. While players wanted more than one map, even that preference was fairly insubstantial and would be unlikely to detract from sales of an expansion.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
8. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Disco Inferno / Soul Train [Average Rating:7.72 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.72 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
What about rules?
I like good rules. Rules that are tight, yet provide answer to all the questions that might come up during gameplay. The AoS (2nd edition) rules are good and bad; they’re good in that they cover pretty much every situation you run into, usually in a clear enough manner to be understood by most players. However, those same rules make learning AoS much more difficult than it should be; I’ve *never* met anyone who learned the game from the rules alone and was an avid player. There’s another “bad” thing about the AoS rules: they’re not available online.

And in fact, that’s the one thing that people want in their rules more than anything: the ability to download PDFs of the rules. 30% of respondents checked the top two boxes in regards to PDF availability, more than any other option.

The other important thing players want is examples. This is a bit more challenging for expansion designers and publishers, as they tend to have less space for publishing longer-than-absolutely-critical rulesets.

Having color in the rules is not really an issue (though it obviously can make examples clearer).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
9. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:61]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
Who’s the favored Age of Steam expansion designer?
Well, we already learned that the designer of a map isn’t nearly as important as the mechanics. But there’s one designer that stands out: Martin Wallace. While the top two boxes averaged about 25% for most of the other Age of Steam designers (including yours truly), Martin achieved 50% in those boxes. John Bohrer of Winsome was a distant second, and all the other designers (only commercial map designers were listed) pretty much clumped together.

Age of Steam Expansion #1: England & Ireland was designed by Martin (and the rest of the Warfrog crew), and it is the highest rated mapset of all the Age of Steam expansions (though its status as the first expansion along with its out-of-print status likely has some impact on that). Full credit is also typically given to Martin for the Great Lakes/Rust Belt map, though that map was (to the best of my knowledge) more of a collaborative effort between John Bohrer and Martin Wallace than otherwise.

While John Bohrer was clearly 2nd among designers, he was also the most polarizing. However, I’m pretty certain this is much more closely related to John’s occasionally “opinionated” online statements than it is to his map designs. The Germany side of John’s Age of Steam Expansion #2: Western US and Germany, for instance, is almost as highly regarded as Martin’s Ireland.

One thing that I’ve done on my maps recently is to put my name right up near the logo (“Ted Alspach’s Soul Train”), in order to develop a brand for myself in the ever-increasing field of Age of Steam expansions. Based on this research, that’s not all that effective in increasing current or future sales, but hey, those marketing genes of mine demanded it, and I am but a helpless slave to their desires.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
10. Board Game: Age of Steam: The Moon [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
What type of setting should expansions take place in?
This is one of those questions that I had quite a bit of first-hand experience in before I asked it officially in the survey. When I published Age of Steam Expansion: Disco Inferno / Soul Train last year, many people refused to buy/play the maps because of the theme. I anticipated this to some extent (the official Disco Inferno web page has several fun theme-related warnings, including, “may make straight men slightly uncomfortable”). However, I estimate that the expansion has and will continue to sell less copies as a result of the unconventional theme.

But wait! Wasn’t theme one of the least important aspects of an expansion? Well, yes. But that could be interpreted as “I don’t care whether this map is based on France or Germany, I like the mechanics” as opposed to “I don’t care if I’m transporting goods between 19th century cities or if I’m establishing a colony on the moon.”

As expected, Fantasy/Science Fiction themes were the least desirable, with only 16% in the top two boxes, as compared to Historical Simulation (39%) and Real Location (44%). But it would seem that this is more of a classic “barrier to entry” than anything that has an effect on gameplay. The Moon is considered a fantastic map by most of those who have played it, but I know at least a dozen players who won’t play it because of the theme (which is their loss).

The “railroad purists” will never play the Sun map, but those same purists purchased Age of Steam Expansion: Sun / London because it included London on the other side.

I’m of the opinion that the maps with really interesting, unusual themes make Age of Steam even more refreshing. For the most part, those maps also have some of the most unique changes in mechanics: Sun has dynamic town creation, Moon has wrap-around track, Soul Train has a three-part flipping board, and 20,000 Rails has an ever-growing board made of map tiles. By contrast, more traditional maps tend to have less dramatic changes (though they can be just as interesting).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
11. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion #3: Scandinavia and Korea [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
What type of mechanics should be altered in Expansion maps?
This is the heart of Age of Steam expansion maps. Every published map includes changes to some part of the Age of Steam rules system, giving each map a unique experience (outside of the themed “location”). But how far should designers go when making maps; how many changes are too many?

When I first started playing Age of Steam, I was resistant to most rules changes. It was hard enough to keep all the AoS rules straight, but adding additional changes to the system seemed to be too frustrating, especially if those rules weren’t interrelated. The first map I published, Age of Steam Expansion: Bay Area, has very few changes to gameplay: outside of fairly standard bridges (used in other maps previously) and a three-hex clump of cities each with two production numbers, it had one new feature, which was entirely map-based: goods were lined up outside the “LA Port” and had to be delivered in order. The map was very accessible (although it is considered one of the most difficult maps to play, and has resulted in more bankruptcies than any other expansion I know of), but in hindsight it wasn’t different enough.

John Bohrer has made it very clear that he likes expansion maps that have one or more unique, interesting aspects to them, as he feels it increases the scope of the Age of Steam playing universe. And it seems that most users agree with him; having an expansion with no changes is much less desirable than one with some sort of significant change to gameplay, with only 41% of users checking the top two boxes for “no changes.”
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
12. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:61]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
Changes to gameplay are important, but how many changes?
J C Lawrence, who has designed several maps including the published Age of Steam Expansion: Sun / London, starts many of his designs with what most would consider an insane number of major changes; the first version of London that I played literally gave me a headache trying to keep all the rules straight. However, the method to this madness is that this process allows J C to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and also what is an acceptable number of changes (though I think if J C was making maps for just himself, they’d end up with a whole lot more than they do now). Changes that aren’t working or that are too convoluted are removed during the development process, and the result are changes that are the best ones possible. The published version of London has only two major changes: instant production and union-inflated track building costs, both of which have a significant impact on gameplay.

The respondents parallel J C’s test results; more than three major changes to maps are even worse than no changes; it’s just too much to comprehend on top of standard Age of Steam rules. Keeping the number of changes small is often more difficult for designers than you might expect; every change has an impact on the game, and additional changes are often incorporated to offset the effects of the initial changes.

For instance, as I developed the Disco Inferno side of Age of Steam Expansion: Disco Inferno / Soul Train I initially focused on the “Burn down to the ground” aspect of the cities no longer being destinations after they were emptied of goods. Of course, Urbanization became worthless, as the New Cities had no cubes on them, so a rule was added to bring the cubes in as they were urbanized. But the cities weren’t emptying fast enough to make that aspect interesting, so I added “chain reactions,” allowing a player to chain deliveries together which rid the board of more cubes. Now they were emptying nice and fast, but players had limited control of their cities’ existence, making the production action much more of a crapshoot than normal, so that action was changed to place cubes directly on the board. Goods growth was a mess as result of cities not being there anymore either, so the initial setup was changed to include more cubes, and the Goods Growth phase was eliminated entirely. Another problem: chaining cubes generated more-than-typical income, so the cost of track was increased to compensate. The nice thing is that all the rules work together nicely (in hindsight, it seems very obvious, though at the time it was quite challenging), but it’s still more changes than I had planned for.

Even three major changes are too much for many players. 20% of players said that they found 3 changes either “annoying” or “an absolute no-no.” But more is totally unacceptable: 37% checked those two boxes for more than 3 changes.

Respondents were clear on what they did want, however. 75% of respondents preferred a single major change over any other number.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
13. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Bay Area [Average Rating:7.06 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.06 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
Of the change(s) to gameplay, what kind should they be?
Action and map-based changes were the most highly requested, with 88% and 85% choosing the top two boxes, respectively. They were followed by single new additions to gameplay (ferries, bridges, etc.) (84%), goods growth/production changes (77%) and share modifications (70%). Less interesting were Income changes (60%) and Track Building costs (58%). For each of these, the lowest two boxes (“Annoying” and “Absolute no-no”) averaged only about 4%.

And remember what I said earlier about all those unique changes you get from the unusual themed maps? That and VP changes are quite polarizing. While 64% checked the top two boxes for Unique changes and 53% checked them for VP changes, 20% and 18% checked the bottom two boxes of each respectively.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
14. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion #4: France and Italy [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
In summary, what should AoS map designers take away from this information?
Those of us who publish/design maps are doing it because we love playing Age of Steam, and we all really enjoy creating maps for one of our favorite games. If you love AoS and have a great idea for a map, you’re bound to create something compelling to other players.

The most important thing about any map is clearly mechanics. It’s gotta be interesting and work well, without being a total overhaul of the Age of Steam ruleset. A thoroughly playtested map will evolve with the correct set of mechanics.

Don’t worry about the theme in terms of if people will like or care about it. That said, I really like maps where the theme is integral to the mechanics and vice versa.

If you want a lot of people to play your maps, you’ll probably want to get it printed somehow. The current small set of AoS map publishers might be willing to publish your map (and you might earn a small bit of cash to offset the long hours you spent designing and developing, with an emphasis on small).

One other thing that I didn’t mention here. The commercial designers/publishers and many of the free downloadable maps contain copyright info regarding Age of Steam. The game is not public domain, and Winsome owns that copyright. If you’re publishing (printed or downloadable) a map, be sure to include the proper copyright information (email John Bohrer for info).

If you’re going to be selling your map (printed, downloadable, whatever), talk to John Bohrer first. Those of us who sell maps do pay a per-map royalty to Winsome and Martin Wallace (one reason third party maps are little more pricey); it’s a fair price to pay both as a designer and a player to the folks who have created such an engaging and well designed system that is destined to give Age of Steam players years and years of playing enjoyment.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
15. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Mississippi Steamboats / Golden Spike [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked]
Ted Alspach
United States
San Jose
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
badge
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
mbmb
How Mississippi Steamboats and Golden Spike was impacted by this survey
As mentioned earlier, these two maps were designed and mostly completely developed prior to the creation of this survey. The survey did have an effect however. As I realized that both maps, particularly Mississippi Steamboats, were getting much higher praise than any maps I had worked on previously, I began to consider getting them printed and mounted on gameboard, something I had always wanted to do but wasn’t willing to risk a big sum of $$ on.

That, and I really really really like playing with a real board. There’s something about it that I find quite enjoyable as opposed to all the other paper-based mediums. I know that I personally would buy pretty much any expansion anyway, but if it was offered as a mounted gameboard, I’d order it instantly.

As the results of the survey started to trickle in, and I discovered that these two maps were almost directly in line with what people wanted: (historical simulation mixed with a real location, a single significant change/addition in each map, etc.), the one thing that was missing was the production format: getting these maps printed and mounted seemed to be the next logical step. Only time will tell if I’m able to recoup my investment.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.