“Days of Steam” from Valley Games is the first post-GTS board game review. “Days of Steam” (DoS) differs from the usual “build routes” train game paradigm and instead uses a tile-laying mechanic that allows players control over what routes are in the game. Placing a single city tile containing two goods on the board begins the game. Players (up to 4) choose different colored trains and places them on the starting city. Each player places a track tile from their hand (you get three) in turn. As you play tiles, the black coal markers show how much steam you earn from the tile placement. You may move your train the number of spaces that you have steam in your current inventory. Steam management is a crucial part of the game, as you cannot move without steam. Usually at a critical moment when you really needed to move, you run out! Moving one tile costs one steam, save for some hill tiles that cost two. Rather than place a standard tile, a player may place a new city with randomly drawn goods cubes on it instead. This allows players to manipulate which city appears near their current location.
Goods delivery is the primary method of earning victory points, but there is also a bonus for building “circuits,” essentially a continuous loop between two cities. Colors differentiate the goods and cities. Blue goods go to blue cities, etc. A final bonus comes from delivering two or more differently colored goods.
Players balance their own needs (“I have to reach the blue city!”) with the need to impede your opponents. This results in some…interesting routes. Some of the tiles allow placement over existing tiles, so the board evolves throughout the game. There are, of course, rules about what you can and cannot do with the tiles. For example, players may not cut totally cut off a city or place dead-end tiles in certain locations. The tile restrictions are the only even mildly difficult part of this game, but there are lots of helpful graphics and we figured it all out with one run-through.
I played a two and four-player game of “DoS” and neither lasted more than 45-minutes. I enjoyed it both times, but the four-player experience was definitely more fun.
I enjoyed “DoS. It is a rules-light tile game with some interesting strategic options. I do not normally play games designed for a family audience, but I feel confident that anyone 11 or older could easily grasp the game rules and play competently. It is also a good starting point before delving into some of the more complex, but fun train route-building games. That said, there is enough strategy to keep even sophisticated players interested.
I highly suggest you take a look at “Days of Steam.”
Trask, The Last Tyromancer
Full Disclosure: Valley Games provided a comped copy of this game for review