Age of Steam: Holland / Madagascar
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Alban Viard continues to work his magic with the Age of Steam engine, turning out another pair of maps with special features that will drive the players wild. Of Age of Steam: Holland, which is for 3-4 players, Viard says, "The topology of the map is very difficult since you can be blocked by other players if you do not take enough care at certain points."
Due to the highly urbanized nature of the Netherlands, either the Engineer or Urbanization action is blocked each turn in a three-player game. "Moreover," says Viard, "you cannot deliver yellow cubes until the midgame as the yellow cities are surrounded by polder hexes, and it is forbidden to build on polders until that time." As the game progresses, players have fewer and fewer spaces on which to build until the polders open up suddenly (at a cost of $3 each) and the game feels like it has a new beginning as players race for open ground. Says Viard, "Your network has to be ready for that new hope of yellow cities." Thus, his rating of this map falls between "hard" and "brutal."
Viard says that Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world and has only one railroad link in real life, between Manakara and the capital, Antananarivo – which might make it seem like a poor setting for an expansion of a railroad game, but he decided to turn those negatives to his advantage. "The actions on this map are not good ones but bad, such as Locomotive and no build, or Last Player," he says. "There are eight negative actions, so each turn is different." Not only that, but to keep the tension high no matter how many players are in the game, the number of actions available each turn is capped at the number of players (which ranges from three to six), plus one.
"I would rate this expansion 'hard' since you have to worry about the money as in the basic game as well as getting the least worst actions in the bidding phase," says Viard.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com