Seventy third session - Class warfare

St. Ives Tabletop

6th March 2024

This session had 20 gamers with five different games on the go simultaneously. The various games had people trading with trains, dabbling in class politics, stealing from ghost dragons, engaging in intrigue on Dune and building space megastructures.

Just eight different games this time as a few long ones came out and two completely new games to the club. Six people got the session underway with the traditional opener Ecosystem but then we quickly got settled into the long games of which three had been pre-booked.

Clank: Catacombs

Suggesting Clank Catacombs is a completely new game to the club is a bit of an exaggeration as it is a reimplementation of Clank that has been played at club five times, also testing out its various expansions. In this version the main new mechanic is instead of a printed board for the gamers to explore, the map is generated through tile placement as the reckless thieves get to the edge of the currently explored areas. Otherwise it is the same deck building push your luck game to grab as much loot as you can and get out safely. There is a new ghost theme with some haunted tiles introducing white ghost cubes to the clank bag which hurt the adventurers when they are drawn out. Also lock picks and more locked places to open up including rescuing prisoners that can have end of game bonuses if you escort them safely to the surface. The game was a bit of a table hog with the randomly expanding map in danger of coming off the edge of the table and lots of other components to accommodate from the market cards, Clank cubes and various treasure markers.

Clank: Catacombs

We had three experienced Clank players and two newcomers who quickly picked up the gameplay details and with five players this did fill the session and only just got finished in time. Once all the main treasures had been located and the ghost dragon was suitably enraged by the thieves, all five players turned round and started trying to escape. In the end only one made it out under their own steam and the remaining four succumbed to their dragon induced injuries but were near enough the exit to be dragged to safety and count up their loot. Even without the twenty point bonus for getting out Natasha M. had a significant lead over the others who all had similar scores, with Tom M. just beating the teacher Kathy J. to second place by one point. Jason and James T. were just behind but had enjoyed their first introduction to Clank and seemed keen to try again.

Dune Imperium

There was a four player game of Dune: Imperium providing some space and spice based intrigue inspired by Frank Herbert’s Sci Fi classic. This game was back for a third session, please see blog 49 for a review of the game play mechanics.


Hegemony had been pre-arranged and Jyo K. was teaching two new players who had diligently watched a how to play video before the session, so the complex game had a chance of completing within the available session time. This was the second outing of Hegemony at club, last played in session 61.

Hegemony is a political and economic board game with asymmetric classes. The first time this game was played at the club, the group of four only managed to finish two out of five rounds. But this time around, play was speedy, with the two new players having done their homework very well.

A solid effort by Iain D. and the working class led to the creation of three successful trade unions by the end of the game, along with voting to make public healthcare and education free. Steph H. did a great job commandeering the middle class with a good balance of ensuring prosperity of the population and profitable companies, and it felt like the middle class was very clearly going to claim victory at one stage. However, the capitalists, led by Jyo K. made significant gains in the last round by using some totally legal but creative accounting, buying private islands and selling luxury goods, and beat the middle class by a single point. Everyone was surprised that the game was actually completed and it will be back in action at future sessions.

Solar Sphere

Solar Sphere is a genuinely new addition to the games at the club - its a competitive game about building a dyson sphere around a star! Ian and Sophie FW. taught Rich W. and Jeremy J. how to get a team together to embark on such a monumental task. Each player directs a small set of ships (dice) to perform various tasks - from collecting resources from nearby moons, defending against ships trying to stop the building, and constructing a section of the sphere. At the start of each round every player rolls their 3 dice to find out what possible actions they can take, turn order is determined by highest roll, though lower rolls get bonuses to your prestige and morale as compensation. Then one by one, players allocate their ships to the tasks available. To perform most tasks players need to manage their set of drones to actually do the work, for instance, they need to commit a drone to be part of the sphere, or to become a satellite to help collect more resources in future. Points are scored for successfully defending against the attacking ships, recruiting ship mates, building segments of the sphere and getting high levels of morale and prestige.

Solar Sphere

The game was won by Rich who managed to recruit some good crew members (that can be used once each round) to help him build the most sections of the sphere and defend against several ships bringing him a clear victory.

Dale Of Merchants 2

As this was the shortest long game of the night the table then switched to Dale of Merchants 2 for an animalfolk themed market stall and deck building game to finish off. See session 67.


Age of Steam had also been pre-booked but whilst waiting for the teacher to arrive a two player game of Taluva filled the gap nicely. This is a 3D tile laying lava flow based game last played in session 34.

Age Of Steam Age Of Steam

Then the train game got underway: choo, choo. Age of Steam is a classic in the field of train themed board games. Originally released in 2002, this twenty-two year old game is able to legally drink in America; which is lucky as four players played on the original Rust Belt Map. It can be a mean game… with lots of blocking, taking actions ahead of other people, and pushing each other into over extending themselves (worthy of a strong drink to steady the nerves). The game is really about the auction to determine turn order, which is used to select a special power for the turn and then to build track and deliver goods (cubes); the auction drives the game and losing out on the special power you need can be a disaster. In terms of the rules it’s actually rather simple really, compared to some more complicated games the teach is quick and once you’ve played the first round you’re good to go (as every other round is exactly the same, a four player game is 8 rounds). The problem, money… interest on loans and maintanence costs for locomotives add up and you need to spend money on the auction and track building; everything keeps building up as the debt rises, the deliveries dry up, and other people compete for what is left. The start of the game feels like you’re drowning in debt and one missed delivery away from bankruptcy - and it’s a brilliant feeling when you finally get it all working. Experience is a great benefit and it was a poor teacher who took the win against three first time players.

There are literally hundreds of variant maps for Age of Steam, with strange and wonderful tweaks to the rules. Tonight was played on the most recent (5th edition?) new deluxe printing - it’s very pretty (Ian O’Tool art, but still not “exciting” per se - more functional) if only it wasn’t in such a stupidly oversized box. (There is one slight controversy about Age of Steam regarding the designer, specifically who should be given credit for the game. It’s too long a tale to go into to but it was long thought of as a Martin Wallace game - it has a lot of his later hallmarks such as loans and action selection - but after legal action and other unpleasantness it is now really a John Bohr game, who designed and who developed what; so another Martin Wallace-ish game played at the club)

The next session is the 20th of March. As always let us know in advance on the Discord channel if there is a game you would like to try and we will try and arrange, or just turn up and see what is on offer on the night, there is always plenty of choice.