Steam Park blends elements of simulation, tactics, and real-time action in a fun, colorful, strategic board game for up to four players.
|Steam Park||IELLO Games||Board Game|
In The Box
The experience of unpacking a board game can range from mundane sorting to a quasi-religious experience. Steam Park is probably the only game in recent memory that really embraces the unboxing experience by devoting a full page in the game manual to constructing the fantastic rides that will fill your park. The instructions for this are well written and funny, a tone that runs through the entire rule book. After some arts-and-crafts time you’ll end up with 18 really durable rides for your park, illustrated by Marie Cardouat (Dixit) in a colorful but mildly steampunk style.
Although the ride components are Steam Park’s main attraction, there are also 24 cardboard stands you’ll build that are slightly less elaborate. The remaining key components are enough to fill a large box, and consist of custom dice, wooden visitor tokens, cardboard “dirt markers” representing waste produced as you build your park, and cardboard tiles that you’ll buy to expand your empire. Cardboard chits stand in for money players can earn by attracting visitors, and there is a small deck of bonus cards that can score you money based on achievements during the game.
There are other incidental pieces included for tracking progress, notably a pig-shaped cardboard mat for each player, illustrated as if the pig were made of sheet metal. Steam Park’s illustrations are fantastic and wonderful, and drew the kids in our house to the playing table like moths to a flame. There’s plenty to fill the game’s big box, all of it well made and likely to hold up through many rounds of play.
How It Plays
Hearing the pitch about building the theme park, we thought of area control games or abstract economic games, but Steam Park carves out its own niche. It’s not area control because you’ll only have to worry about expanding your own little empire, and it’s only economic in the sense that you do win or lose based on money earned during the game. All players start with a blank slate and expand by rolling a handful of dice marked with symbols for building, attracting visitors, disposing of waste, or playing bonus cards. Any die can also be traded for new land as you grow your park.
Instead of going the turn-based route, each round of Steam Park plays out in real time. Players simultaneously roll and re-roll their dice in search of the best combination of actions. One player may be holding a bonus card that gives her money for building rides of a certain color, while another player is rolling to attract more visitors to rides he built in the last round. Aside from just placing rides, the stands available to buy and place in your park can give you special abilities such as swapping out visitors or multiplying dice rolls.
Because of the real-time rolls and because each game is limited to six rounds, Steam Park is relatively quick. There are still lots of strategic decisions to be made and planning to be done each turn, but things tend to move faster since there are penalties for taking too long to finish rolling all your dice. It’s really cool that each building action produces waste, and that players must think about reducing waste before the end of game to avoid paying a huge penalty. In our first game, one player looked to be way ahead in terms of attracting visitors, but ended up losing because he didn’t start cleaning up his dirt early enough. The net result is a good-looking game with lots of strategic depth, likely to be a quick favorite around the family table.
There’s plenty of subtle strategy, such as the way you draw visitors blindly from a bag, but have a chance to load the bag with certain colors from the communal visitors’ pool. Using the park stands and their special abilities exposes even more layers of strategy. And did we mention the dice rolling?
I like the illustrations on the rides and also how you can roll as many times as you want. You probably don’t want to be too picky about your die rolls though, because you’ll end up with more dirt. The gameplay is really smart and there’s strategy in how you place your rides and which colors you choose.