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Alex Yeager
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Entry 01

These will be my occasional attempts to discuss where we are in the release process, as well as answer a few questions and hopefully give you the information you want about the upcoming release of Martin Wallace’s Steam. By way of introduction, I’m Alex Yeager, Mayfair junior bottlewasher and development manager on the Steam project.

Team Steam has been hammering away at this game for almost 2 years (and before that as enthusiastic players—when you’re a company that makes train games, you play anything you can get your hands on). Certainly, many of the messages that have gone by on BGG over the past months, either about earlier prototypes or simply from less-involved sources, have served to confuse folks as to the eventual nature of the game; hopefully my previous comments (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2763665) and these entries will help clarify things.

So, per the announcement: 1st quarter 2009. We don’t necessarily agree with the poster on the other thread that price was the barrier to entry to the game (availability and game weight were much more in play), but we’re trying to standardize the price of games that come in our 4e Settlers of Catan-sized box (including Steam and our upcoming relaunch/facelift of Empire Builder). We’re still pricing components, but we’re gonna try mightily to hold the line on price. (A components note: there will be more tiles than previous editions, mostly due to the elimination of town tokens.)

Number of players: 3-6 out of the box. There’s some concern that the large/Ruhr map might get a bit crowded at 6, but at the end of the day we decided that the full complement of player pieces should be in the base box. Creating a later expansion with maps and more player pieces felt wrong, and there are maps out there that can take 6 players right now.

Rules: the base game was locked at Essen, with everyone agreeing to the current rule set. You can imagine my nervous awe with both Martin Wallace and a Mayfair team that can claim multiple rail game designs under their belt providing sometimes-conflicting recommendations. (As an aside, listening to Larry Roznai discuss the Empire Builder series at Origins was one of my favorite experiences at a con all year. Reminiscences, the magic formula to create ANY EB map, and the laugh-out-loud gags hidden in the series gave me a much deeper appreciation of the series.) That said, between our playtesting, our tweaks and everyone willing to compromise and be enthusiastic about the results, I think the base game (again, see the other thread for details) really sings.

Also at Essen, the standard/advanced game may have taken its final step. We’re starting the playtest process this week, but in essence we add three things to our base game (a single money acquisition phase, turn action auctions, and maintenance costs) to take the slightly cash-positive and flexible base game and return it to its tight-cash, tight-planning roots. We hope to be able to announce its approval with the next of these messages.

This week, we bundle the existing maps, the rules (locked base and playtest standard) to our international partners. They’ll be able to finalize their involvement, begin translation work, and provide feedback on the standard game. When we go live, this will be an international launch, with the game available language-native in a variety of countries from a variety of partners. (More on the specific partners will be made available as we move forward. Having a final ruleset was rather integral to companies deciding whether or not to join up, but the responses we received in Essen are, shall we say, Very Pleasing). And, in the near future, we hope to release the base game rules (and depending on timing, the standard rules as well) to the game community well before release.

For now, I do want to invoke Empire Builder again in the context of Steam. The Empire Builder series will be getting a lot of attention over the next two years, as EB-series games get a facelift and component upgrade in line with the upcoming relaunched Empire Builder. Having seen the new, color, preprinted load chips, color cards and revamped map, I’m excited to think how many more people are going to be interested to try this game. Doing the same for Steam will be just as important. At the conventions we are at, and especially Origins and Gen Con, we’re going to not only work with the Puffing Billy folks to run Steam events, but, assuming we can work it out with our convention organizers, run frequent and free demo games throughout both shows. Empire Builder traditionally prints in larger volumes than the majority of designer games, and sells out every 18 to 24 months…and has for over 2 decades. There’s no reason that with our support and marketing, our network of players and play organizations, and our ability to keep games in-print over time, that Steam shouldn’t enjoy the same evergreen status as our other train game lines for years to come.

I’ll respond to questions as best I can and within the guidelines of info we’re ready to share, but I look forward to showing you what I’ve been excited about for months!

Alex Yeager
Mayfair Games
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J C Lawrence
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AlexYeager wrote:
...there are maps out there that can take 6 players right now.


A small quibble: There are maps out there take 7 players right now: Age of Steam Expansion - The Netherlands takes and is best with 7, my own Central America also takes up to 7, and Age of Steam Expansion - Vermont, New Hampshire & Central New England supports up to 8 players.
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clearclaw wrote:
AlexYeager wrote:
...there are maps out there that can take 6 players right now.


A small quibble: There are maps out there take 7 players right now: Age of Steam Expansion - The Netherlands takes and is best with 7, my own Central America also takes up to 7, and Age of Steam Expansion - Vermont, New Hampshire & Central New England supports up to 8 players.


Though these were also designed with full knowledge of the fact that the Age of Steam base game box only includes bits for 6 players maximum.
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Alex Yeager
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I certainly don't want to imply that it's impossible to conceive of more players, but as we were working for some time (and had even suggested at one point) that we would be releasing a 3-5 player set, I felt it important to draw out that we would not be reducing the base set players to be less than previous editions. We'll make a note to audition colors for a hypothetical 7- or 8-player expansion, but the base game will remain consistent with previous editions at 3-6 players.

Because of special rules, current maps, though theoretically functional, may include rule modifications that when removed wholesale, cause the map to get a bit wobbly. On the other hand, one of our most recent games had us pulling out Ted Alspach's America map, playing it without any of his special rules and with vanilla base game rules, and the map functioned very well. The further beyond the base game of any of the editions you go (whether it be player counts or modified rules), the less I'm willing to state that there's 100% map compatibility-but there might be. It'll be interesting to hear player experiences with 3rd party maps when we release our rules into the wild.

[wanders off to investigate play time of an 8-player map with base rules]

Alex Yeager
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(Edit: Ted's last name recovered an "s". Sorry, Ted!)
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J C Lawrence
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AlexYeager wrote:
I certainly don't want to imply that it's impossible to conceive of more players, but as we were working for some time (and had even suggested at one point) that we would be releasing a 3-5 player set, I felt it important to draw out that we would not be reducing the base set players to be less than previous editions. We'll make a note to audition colors for a hypothetical 7- or 8-player expansion, but the base game will remain consistent with previous editions at 3-6 players.


Cool. That makes sense and I'd certainly be interested in addition bits for additional players.
 
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Michael Webb
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AlexYeager wrote:
It'll be interesting to hear player experiences with 3rd party maps when we release our rules into the wild.


I obviously can't speak for anyone but myself, but my intent is to release compatibility rules sheets (both here and to those that distribute my maps) that make my present and future maps work with this new game in addition to the original. I was initially skeptical about my ability to do this, but this news release has given me fresh hope that the advanced game that comes in the Mayfair box will be close enough to the original to make such system-bridging efforts reasonable as opposed to quixotic.
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AlexYeager wrote:
one of our most recent games had us pulling out Ted Alpach's America map, playing it without any of his special rules and with vanilla base game rules...


Noooooooooo.

Ha ha ha.

Well, I for one am glad it worked well using the base game rules. I actually think that all of the "standard" maps (those with 12 preprinted red/yellow/blue/purple cities) should work fine with Steam's base rules only, though I have not seen the final final rules.

Like Michael's maps, all of the Bezier Games expansions will have downloadable rules to allow them to be played with the "base" version of Steam (most of them should work just fine with the advanced game with no serious tweakage).

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The new cover (with the corrected name) was rejected as the representative image.

Update: I got an admin to fix it. arrrh
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AlexYeager wrote:

Number of players: 3-6 out of the box.

On this article : http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/13647.html
Martin Wallace wrote:
The game is for two to six players ...

So, who is correct ?



 
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Alex Yeager
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I am (3-6 players). Or, rather, I have to retcon a press release. Everybody, look over there, a monkey!...

Alex Yeager
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(Edit: Whew! Press release right, just icv2 wrong. A correction request has been sent.)
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Alex Yeager
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Thank you, Jim, for the image assist!

Alex Yeager
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In the other post you mention that points earned from making deliveries can be assigned either to the vp track or the income track. You also mention that "taking shares" will be done by moving your marker backwards on the income track.

Questions

1) If making a 3-link delivery can I split it up between the two tracks so that I (say) increase my income by two and my vp by one?

2) When taking shares can you choose which track to move backwards on-- VP or income?

3) There are many other financial games out there that have this element of making players choose between money and vp and a large part of the game is effectively making that switch from a money focus to a vp focus at the right time. This has never really been an issue with Age of Steam or Railroad Tycoon because the two (income and vp)were tied together completely. How do you feel separating them has strengthened the design? Has the flavor of the game changed as a result of adding this element to the game?

4) Can you reveal some of the design issues you guys ran into as you tried separating vp and income into separate entities? This seems to me to be one of the most radical changes to the game system.

I'm really excited about this game and intrigued about how it will turn out having played both Age of Steam and Railroad Tycoon and enjoying both of those games. Thanks.
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Alex, any ideas when you'll be able to post some examples of the board and artwork?

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[Artwork/board: watch this space. We had some of it posted in our booth at Essen, and we'll dole it out as we confirm its use.]

So yeah, let's talk separate tracks a bit. There were versions that had a single track that were considered, but as soon as we played this version, we felt like we had the design we wanted. From a strictly game mechanic standpoint, anytime you can add another decision tree, I'll consider it, and deciding when to make the move from all-income to VPs is an interesting process.

One of the things I disliked about the original design is the gaming of the income breaks; deciding to come up short on a delivery so that another player wouldn't give you points to push you over an income line felt awkward and game-y. With the current setup, there's a huge disincentive to travel others' tracks, because you are either giving them VPs with no strings attached, or (and even worse in the standard game) giving them the chance to bump their income by a little bit as opposed to forcing them to devote an entire run to income late in the game to finance their last turns. (To directly answer questions: all points from a run must be assigned to one or the other track in their entirety, and all income is pulled from the income track. Forced VP or income loss due to unpaid debts is at a considerably less charitable rate, and end-of-game negative income is equally onerous.)

Also as a complete aside, players may only travel other players' tracks if they travel at least half of the trip on their own tracks. No more overt kingmaking in the final round...

Most of us have had the experience of watching the leaders not build track and/or bidding to ridiculous quantities during the final round with their soon-to-be-worthless cash, the inevitable victory already out of reach for the others. Efficient track building will still beat inefficient building, but there's more competition for deliveries, greater opportunities to catch up, and due to the maintenance cost trickle in the standard game, you either HAVE to keep income high midgame and let it drift down, or you're going to have to take the odd delivery to income to offset the costs of auction bidding to maintain turn order, meaning that players with goods already on the board and track placed can continue to feed VPs exclusively. With this version, every $5 you spend is a VP you didn't claim. (That's overly broad, but it certainly frames the decision you have to make...)

Finally, I like the pacing the double track encourages. In the base game, with the absence of auctions, actions establishing turn order, and the race to claim the "best" groups of cubes for Urbanization and City Growth, there's a greater sense of urgency and acceleration through the game. The dual track offsets this slightly - not by much, but it's there - in causing you to stop occasionally and work out if there's a decision to be made between VPs and income.

Thanks for the interest!
Alex Yeager
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AlexYeager wrote:
To directly answer questions: all points from a run must be assigned to one or the other track in their entirety...

This seems as gamey and artificial as the other way. You could be forced to choose a less profitable turn just so you can increase both income and VPs. This is a great decision point in Princes of Florence. I don't really see the problem. Likely house rule for me.
 
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Well, artificial rather than gamey, but you'll likely find the runaway leader syndrome creep back in, though perhaps not to the level of earlier editions. We've played it both ways a bunch, and allowing a split may seem more real world, but it sure did suck some tension out of the game. I'd encourage you to try it, but do know that in this case, gameplay won out over simulation and it was rejected pretty easily by the team here.

And I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you saying that you might run a shorter run in order to put it against income, saving a longer run for VPs (which has certainly been done in our games, and is a valid tactic)? What I have seen is that cubes are a hotter commodity in this version, since once a new city either receives them once (Urbanization) or an existing city is replenished once (City Growth), they do not receive more cubes. So, players are always aggressively looking for cubes to deliver, and hanging one around to take later is a larger risk.

I think there are several ways of approaching income vs. VPs (collecting income throughout the game for a high income that creeps down, or efficiently issuing shares with a minimum of income allotments are the two obvious ones), but certainly rules get iffy trying to overlay them with real life ("Here's $1 million! You may either take all of it into capital expenses, or all into profit!..."). Perhaps saying it better, what I found awkward about the earlier arrangement is that if I played as efficiently as possible, it was possible for someone to hurt me not through efficient play of their own, but through inefficient play that "adds" to my score simply to drag me down at an artificially set breakpoint. I can appreciate designs that have a braking mechanism; Power Grid comes immediately to mind, of course. But in PG, it's your decision to linger back on the city count in order to modify turn order; other players can't build your network for you. In any event, that's probably more about my preferences than the development of this mechanic; we simply found the game played better with the all-or-nothing feature.

Princes of Florence...I haven't played that in forEVER. I was always much more of a Traders of Genoa guy, and as I recall, my last coupla PoF games became either Jester-fests or trying to fight against Jester-fests, and my attention wandered a bit. I'll have to pull it out again!

Alex Yeager
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AlexYeager wrote:
I'd encourage you to try it, but do know that in this case, gameplay won out over simulation and it was rejected pretty easily by the team here.

Obviously I don't know the rules to Steam, and am basing my thoughts on AoS. It's not really a gameplay vs simulation issue that I have. It's just the notion that the all-or-nothing rule feels like a patch to fix a perceived underlying problem. It's the same with Power Grid; jockeying for turn order by NOT doing as well as you could is a flaw in the design.

In Steam, is runaway leader caused by skillful play, or by design flaw (unbalanced actions, turn order bias, extreme distributions in goods, etc). If it's the former, then I have no problem with it. If it's the latter, then maybe the underlying systems need another look. I'm just speaking generically; I don't know the Steam rules.

AlexYeager wrote:
And I'm not sure I understand your point.

I might want to make 1 delivery only this turn, but be required to make 2 just to be able to increase both income and VPs. This may hurt my overall position for artificial reasons.

AlexYeager wrote:
...what I found awkward about the earlier arrangement is that if I played as efficiently as possible, it was possible for someone to hurt me not through efficient play of their own, but through inefficient play that "adds" to my score simply to drag me down at an artificially set breakpoint. I can appreciate designs that have a braking mechanism; Power Grid comes immediately to mind, of course. But in PG, it's your decision to linger back on the city count in order to modify turn order; other players can't build your network for you. In any event, that's probably more about my preferences than the development of this mechanic; we simply found the game played better with the all-or-nothing feature.

Again, I think this is a design flaw, unless I'm not understanding you correctly. If I use your track to make a delivery, can't you simply take VPs? How can I hurt you (income reduction?) through my own actions?

I'll also re-state my earlier offer. I am willing to proof the Steam rules before they go to press. I'll even make you a little wager should you refuse: I bet I can find 5 quantifiable errors (spelling, hyphenation, punctuation, grammar, syntax, layout, flow, text style hierarchy) and/or obvious ambiguities. If I can, I get a free copy. If I can't I will buy 2 copies.

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ekted wrote:
It's just the notion that the all-or-nothing rule feels like a patch to fix a perceived underlying problem.

I can't call it a patch, really; for us, the evaulation was more an outgrowth of due diligence on the design as Martin provided it. In the end, playtesting suggested that all-or-nothing made for the better game. And, after the parade of reduction schemes we evaluated (old AoS bands, reducing income based on VP, and on and on), this felt like the most streamlined application, and it was the rule as presented.

ekted wrote:
It's the same with Power Grid; jockeying for turn order by NOT doing as well as you could is a flaw in the design.

Here, I'd disagree with you. You're balancing two issues with PG: turn order AND access to cities. I've absolutely sandbagged number of cities to improve my resource purchasing and city choice positions, but I both potentially lose access to cities in the near future, and I'm able to collect cash that will allow me to catch up almost at will when I'm ready to make my move during the first turn of Phase 2. To me, that feels much more organic; that's balancing short-term vs. long-term capabilities with benefits to me directly both ways.

ekted wrote:
In Steam, is runaway leader caused by skillful play, or by design flaw (unbalanced actions, turn order bias, extreme distributions in goods, etc)?

As things stand, I sure believe it's the former. There's no doubt that you can absolutely run away with a Steam game in the same way that you can an AoS game due to poor play by opponents, and even the base Steam game isn't going to allow sloppy play to come roaring back. What the design does allow for are opportunities to take risks; not taking income or shares, hoping that you can perhaps build a particular track or claim a certain goods set cheaply, or taking a run's points into income, hoping that you will both generate enough cash short-term and allow the income level to float long-term to finance future turns. What I HAVE seen with Steam is that more players, equally skilled, tend to have a chance at the end than with earlier editions. The final Steam design promoted that; it wasn't something we tweaked in after the fact. Subsequent playtesting suggested ways we could destroy that.

ekted wrote:
AlexYeager wrote:
And I'm not sure I understand your point.

I might want to make 1 delivery only this turn, but be required to make 2 just to be able to increase both income and VPs. This may hurt my overall position for artificial reasons.

Mmm, maybe, but cube competition is so fierce, that leaving any cube on the board unattended gets a bit scary. Certainly, I can see the choice of not making a delivery to boost your loco level (which can be done to replace either first OR second delivery, but not both) vs. delivering two cubes simply to make sure that someone else doesn't get it; it becomes more a cost-benefit analysis rather than an artificial construct.

ekted wrote:
AlexYeager wrote:
...what I found awkward about the earlier arrangement is that if I played as efficiently as possible, it was possible for someone to hurt me not through efficient play of their own, but through inefficient play that "adds" to my score simply to drag me down at an artificially set breakpoint.

If I use your track to make a delivery, can't you simply take VPs? How can I hurt you (income reduction?) through my own actions?

In Steam, you can't - giving someone points by riding their track has no down side for the recipient. In AoS, I might have to think about taking, for example, a 4-point delivery as my second delivery if I'm early in the turn order if it pushes me to 39 or 40 VPs, if another player, ignoring a 4- or 5-point run that they have, has the opportunity to take a run to give me enough points to shove me into the -8 income reduction category, nullifying and possibly even leaving me lower than I started.

ekted wrote:
I'll also re-state my earlier offer. I am willing to proof the Steam rules before they go to press. I'll even make you a little wager should you refuse: I bet I can find 5 quantifiable errors...

Heh. Sucker's bet, and you know it. (Besides, if you think I'm going to state that I have control over comp copies to this lot, you're sorely mistaken.) We're going to have FAR more eyes on this than with previous rule sets, including our first-ever beta-rules release to the gaming public, but I know what can get through regardless. It will be interesting to develop the structure for feedback to us on the rules; I've got a few models from my SJ Games days to fall back on for aggregation and tracking. We'll advise anon.

So - that's that for a few days. Unless something earthshaking comes along, I'll have another entry in 2-3 weeks, probably showing off some art and talking about the action value evaluation process.

Thanks!
Alex Yeager
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AlexYeager wrote:
So yeah, let's talk separate tracks a bit. There were versions that had a single track that were considered, but as soon as we played this version, we felt like we had the design we wanted. From a strictly game mechanic standpoint, anytime you can add another decision tree, I'll consider it, and deciding when to make the move from all-income to VPs is an interesting process.


Oh dear. This greatly reduces my interest in Steam. If I read you right you've effectively transplanted a standard exponential economic engine game of: build-engine-then-run-engine-for-VPs into the middle of Age of Steam. If so, oh, what a waste of a game! I have a strong dislike of economic engine games (Power Grid, St Petersburg, Outpost, Agricola etc) and one of the aspects I most liked about Age of Steam was its almost linear nature (and thus I played it twice a week every week).

Quote:
One of the things I disliked about the original design is the gaming of the income breaks; deciding to come up short on a delivery so that another player wouldn't give you points to push you over an income line felt awkward and game-y.


That is trivially simple to address if you feel it is important: move the breaks to $1 for every $5 rather than $2/$10. I've done this with some of my maps (most notably Wales). It makes little effective difference.

Quote:
Also as a complete aside, players may only travel other players' tracks if they travel at least half of the trip on their own tracks. No more overt kingmaking in the final round...


That's a bad rule. It prevents the ability to so constrict another player's position that their best method of improving their own position is to give your position an even bigger boost. Losing that simple exploitative ability from the base game is a significant strategic loss.

Quote:
Most of us have had the experience of watching the leaders not build track and/or bidding to ridiculous quantities during the final round with their soon-to-be-worthless cash, the inevitable victory already out of reach for the others.


Yes and I fail to see that as a problem. By default all levers and clubs with which to afflict the other players are good.

Quote:
With this version, every $5 you spend is a VP you didn't claim. (That's overly broad, but it certainly frames the decision you have to make...)


My general view of AoS is that the game should, nay, must end as soon as the players approach sustained profitability and that it probably should end when profitability becomes visible on the horizon but has yet to be achieved. The current rules of Age of Steam let the game drag on too long, well into profitability and past the point of richest interest. Trimming one to two rounds off is not entirely a Bad Thing except to the degree that it also weakens strong long-term track building/planning.

I've done my own single-track designs (SE Australia, Denmark & Isle of Wight). The results are akin to an earlier prototype version of Steam but yet rather strongly different (I built a rather different economic model). The effect on gameplay is to push players into an oscillating cycle of ever increasing magnitude and ever increasing risk. Mismanage even slightly toward the middle and players will fall off into the pit. Do it right and they fly into the vistas of huge profitability just as the game ends. Come from behind, come-from-way-behind wins are possible if managed well and even occur with reasonable frequency, but require massive risk management. More pleasingly the system's natural rhythms effectively force the players to differentiate into unique oscillation patterns and magnitudes. Thus there will usually be one steady grower, one huge-risk managing hail-mary, one snipe-and-lunger, one slow-big-stepper etc.
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AlexYeager wrote:
Heh. Sucker's bet, and you know it.

Well, I'll buy one anyways.
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clearclaw wrote:
AlexYeager wrote:
So yeah, let's talk separate tracks a bit. There were versions that had a single track that were considered, but as soon as we played this version, we felt like we had the design we wanted. From a strictly game mechanic standpoint, anytime you can add another decision tree, I'll consider it, and deciding when to make the move from all-income to VPs is an interesting process.


Oh dear. This greatly reduces my interest in Steam. If I read you right you've effectively transplanted a standard exponential economic engine game of: build-engine-then-run-engine-for-VPs into the middle of Age of Steam.


That was my thought on reading the rule (after having tried out some of the earlier iterations). But it works well in practice. Part of the reason for that is that it's often *not* a decision to go all-income at the start then switch at some particular point - rather there is often a need for more money later on (especially to get the big trains), so you usually need to top up your income at some point. Which is great if someone will do it for you by using your track; not so great if they aren't being so accomodating. But pushing your income up too far is a mistake too - you might run out of things to spend on, and find yourself having given up valuable VPs.
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RDewsbery wrote:
That was my thought on reading the rule (after having tried out some of the earlier iterations). But it works well in practice. Part of the reason for that is that it's often *not* a decision to go all-income at the start then switch at some particular point - rather there is often a need for more money later on (especially to get the big trains), so you usually need to top up your income at some point. Which is great if someone will do it for you by using your track; not so great if they aren't being so accomodating. But pushing your income up too far is a mistake too - you might run out of things to spend on, and find yourself having given up valuable VPs.

To be fair, whether the game's playtesters and developers feel the rule 'works well' doesn't really speak to J C's basic objection, which is that Steam appears to feature the kind of economic engine pattern found in games like Puerto Rico, Race for the Galaxy, St. Petersburg, and Dominion (to name but a few!). In every economic engine game, players will often find themselves in need of cash even after they've fully committed to a focus on points. The pattern you've described is a classic engine pattern.

To put it another way, J C has said 'I don't like this pattern and am disappointed to hear that it will be featured in Steam,' to which you have replied, 'I do like this pattern. Let me explain how it works.' This is a reasonable comment, but I think it's helpful to identify it not as an actual response to J C's complaint, but primarily as a stage-whispered opinion concerning a pattern about which neither ostensible participant actually needs clarification.
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ekted wrote:
The new cover (with the corrected name) was rejected as the representative image.

Update: I got an admin to fix it. arrrh

I approved it. At first glance I didn't see what was different, so I can see how someone might miss it.
 
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AlexYeager wrote:
By way of introduction, I’m Alex Yeager, Mayfair junior bottlewasher and development manager on the Steam project.

Then why don't you have a Game Developer badge?
 
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ekted wrote:
It's not really a gameplay vs simulation issue that I have. It's just the notion that the all-or-nothing rule feels like a patch to fix a perceived underlying problem.

It works as a game mechanic and it's rational as a simulation. Suppose your real life business choice is between renting a building or buying it. There may not be a halfway choice, or structuring a halfway choice may have its own cost. We could have a game mechanic for that. Let's allow you to split the return, but at a cost of 1. You can put 3 on one track or the other, or 1 on each. You can put 4 on one track or 2 on one and 1 on the other. Would that rule please you?
ekted wrote:
It's the same with Power Grid; jockeying for turn order by NOT doing as well as you could is a flaw in the design.

It's not a flaw in the game it's a flaw in your play. Maximizing your return this quarter while taking a big risk that you'll be paying next year is "NOT doing as well as you could" in real business and it is "NOT doing as well as you could" in a game.

Last Sunday, when Step 3 started I was in last place. The player to my left marveled at how I had done that again. In part that was luck, but in part it was that I had outbid him for the 30 plant two turns before.

Power Grid has high opportunity costs, though not as high as Agricola. You may prefer games which operate in simpler economic models, but that does not make high opportunity cost a design flaw.

ekted wrote:
In Steam, is runaway leader caused by skillful play, or by design flaw (unbalanced actions, turn order bias, extreme distributions in goods, etc). If it's the former, then I have no problem with it.

If it happens much it's a problem. Once the winner and loser are decided, the game should end.


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