Playtesting Steam Legacy

by MichelSun, 28 May

On Thursday we played Robin's latest design: Steam Legacy.

Players build stations and links between them. Each station and link has a capacity which may be extended later. The capacity determines how many routes can go through the station or link, and how many services can be scheduled in total over those routes. Over the whole game, you can construct up to 6 (passenger or freight) routes and run up to 3 services per route.

Each service can transport 10 passengers or goods. If demand outstrips how many you can transport, then you have a 'bad' route. Your prestige goes up each round where you have more good than bad routes, and goes down when you have more bad than good routes.The problem is that running a good route attracts people to the towns you serve, and so in the next round demand may outstrip your throughput and your route becomes bad. A nice negative feedback loop that is the crux of the game, because lower prestige due to bad routes stings. A lot.

Freight routes bring in more money, but only passenger routes earn VP. Every round you score your prestige multiplied (!) by the passengers you transported. The more VPs after 5 rounds, the better the legacy the title refers to: you've created and managed a prestigious company that transported many passengers but not by overcrowding trains much. An interesting game of sustainably growing your company.

The game shows its digital origins. All the book-keeping the computer does in a millisecond takes a bit of time on the board. For example, if ownership of a station changes hands due to someone else expanding it, or if you add services to a route you run through someone else's station, cubes move around to keep track of who is running how many services through whose stations, in order to pay a 'licence' fee at the end of the round.

There are other things going on, like players being able to vote against your plans to build or expand infrastructure. This forces you to put the same plans up for vote several times (because votes are spent) but costs you extra money. From one game, it's unclear how much 'bite' this mechanism has: IIRC eventually all of us got our plans through, without great loss of money.

As expected for any prototype, Robin still has some work to do (changing the game's name because it isn't a legacy game, improving the clarity of the map and rules, reducing the manual book-keeping) but overall it's a solid train game that stands out from the competition by not having cubes to deliver, track to lay or stocks to manipulate.


  • R
    Thank you Michel for what feels like quite a generous review. It reflects my learnings from the game well - though the “book-keeping” you refer to was really quite embarrassing! A big thank you to all 3 who play tested this: both the feedback and the process of playing it live was extremely useful for me. One major rationalization occurred while we were still playing which will make a drastic improvement to the book-keeping and map clarity, while preserving the vital negative-feedback mechanism that you rightly perceived as the crux of the game. I’ve booked to play test it again with the Playtest UK people at the expo and I’ve been able to implement the change (though not the map reprint) in time to give them a much more streamlined version to try. So the experience of doing this at the club has been really valuable. Thanks for the support. The one improvement I had no ideas on was the name, which I agree needs it badly. Saturation? Train Crush? Terraforming Routes? No good. Ideas welcome.