Age of Steam St Lucia - Steves report

Looks like we have 2 reports for this week, here's Steve's side of the story

Shameless backsliding by most of the group meant there were only Richard and me to commence excavations in my heap of games from Essen, so where else to begin but one of the two player Age Of Steam variants from Bezier Games. We chose St Lucia.
In this game, every plain and river hex is seeded with a random cube that can be shipped as soon as a track tile is built there, but neither the blurb nor the rules point out that the island map features 11 towns but no cities. This makes the opening moves very tense, with only slight relief being provided by the alternation of the start player (or rather, by the alternation of the right to be the first to choose whether to pay $5 to be the start player). Urbanisation is the only sensible choice of job for the first start player, and it is relatively easy to choose the location for the city and the routes for the first links in such a way that the other player cannot make any shipments, even if he manages to build track. However, the other player can ensure that he goes first next time, and as he gets two build turns in succession and can see where his opponent’s track is headed before he lays his first tile, it is by no means clear whether being the initial start player is an advantage.
My strategy was to distract Richard away from building track towards the undeveloped end of the island by building stubs elsewhere and then abandoning them, whilst Richard stuck to his tried and tested technique of steaming round in circles with a multi-link express. Unfortunately for me, the easiest blocks to reach at the end of the game were black ones, whose routes Richard could easily intercept by placing black cities on them, of which there were a number available, of course, compared with only one for each of the other colours. As a result, Richard was able to pull ahead on the income track far enough to make up for the extra shares he had issued, and the free track tiles that I had gifted to him earlier then gave him the victory.
A very enjoyable game that will certainly come out again. I would even consider using it to introduce a newcomer to AoS, and the absence of the turn order bidding and production phases might make it more amenable to those who struggle with the original game.

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