I was lucky enough to play my first Martin Wallace game last night - a 5 player game of Steam. Unfortunately I was tired and couldn't really grasp the intricacies of the game from a quick runthrough of the rules; I decided to not worry about it, play at random and get a feel for the game.

Of course I got trounced: I was way too slow to develop my locomotive, failed to utilise towns to maximise my number of route links, and missed the fact that goods cannot move through a city of their colour on their way to another one. At least I was only a few points behind the players in 3rd and 4th places (though a long way behind the leaders of the pack).

I really liked the look of Steam (which felt like a kind of cross between Power Grid and Caylus) though, and would happily play it again. To save me from future embarrassment though, what are some simple strategies I could adopt to give me a fighting chance of a good finish next time? I've probably suggested some to myself in the list of mistakes I think I made in my first game, but I'm sure people who really know the game can give me some better pointers. Any takers?


You need to be planning a way to build up to routes of various lengths, up to 5 or 6 long, from the very beginning of the game. Look at the resources on the board and route them mentally to places that are far away, then fill in where you need to place tracks. Realize that resources near other cities of the same color are probably going to go away before you complete the longer routes.

You might eventually need Urbanization to help you build the routes you want.

A lot of new players will "land grab" the routes that give immediate gratification but then realize they don't really have a good growth strategy thereafter. Don't worry if your start is slightly slower than such players, although you definitely need to get some goods delivered early.

  • This all sounds pretty good to me. Urbanization was one of those rules that I basically blanked on at the beginning: okay, I can spend money to make a new city, why would I want to make a new city, mightn't other people benefit from it as much as me? Until you have a picture of how the game works overall, stuff like that just sails overhead. – thesunneversets Mar 10 '11 at 18:00

I haven't played Steam specifically, but I have played Railroad Tycoon - a similar game. From what I can tell, you're on the right track. The trick to this game is finding the right balance of train upgrades, number of routes, and location of routes to maximize your score. Short routes will score points quicker but your total won't be as high. Long routes score more points but require a larger train. In my experience, you'll do poorly if you try to optimize one thing (e.g., your train) at the expense of everything else. As with other games in this style, the key is flexibility. You need to take what the game gives you.

I'm not sure if Steam has the same end-of-game mechanic, but in Railroad Tycoon there is skill involved in prolonging the game so you can catch up (or ending it early!). Once a fixed number of towns are empty, the game ends. You need to keep an eye on the scoring track once people start delivering lots of goods and emptying towns.

  • I didn't see a way of speeding up or slowing down the game end (a la Caylus), but we were only playing the basic variant, so it's not impossible there is one. Definitely you're right about early short routes - I built a tiny little route at the game start and used it to transport two goods for 1 point each. I'd have been much better off getting a "free" locomotive upgrade with one of those moves and having the potential to score at least one extra point every subsequent turn. – thesunneversets Mar 8 '11 at 21:17
  • @thesun, I did basically the same thing in my first Railroad Tycoon game. I think you'll get substantially better after a few more games. There's definitely a power curve for scoring potential - if you stay on par with the other players you'll probably do fine. – Kristo Mar 8 '11 at 21:24

I've played the game more than a dozen times (typically with 5 or 6 players) and the outcome seems to always be decided by a combination of the following: 1. Expanding your links asap! 2. Upgrading your locomotive asap! 3. Knowing that you can't play it 'safe' in this game (enter more debt than seems reasonable, take chances, and build for future deliveries)! If you can balance these 3 aspects while resisting the desire for small gains, you'll stand a chance. Having said this, I find it's not as easy as said and I still struggle with balancing all things together.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.