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Subject: Steam Park: A Review rss

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Neal Hoffman
United States
Houston
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Image source: IELLO USA official store

Designers – Lorenzo Silva, Lorenzo Tucci Sorreentino & Aurélien Buonfino
Published by Cranio Creations/IELLO

Steam Park is a theme-park building game for 2-4 players, in which players try to build their own unique amusement park for robots. The winner is the player that accumulates the most money at the end of six rounds.

Rules/Gameplay

In Steam Park, players start the game with a single four-by-four square grid, which comprises the available land they own for their amusement park. In addition, players get six dice (marked with a variety of symbols), which they use to take actions on their turn. Finally, the players get a pig board and three bonus cards (which are discussed later).

The first part of each round consists of players determining turn order and the actions they will have available on their turn. Actions and turn order utilize a speed-based dice-rolling mechanic. In the center of the table are turn-order cards. After a countdown, the players proceed to roll their dice. They may choose to keep any of the results shown by placing those dice onto their pig board; those dice become locked and cannot be rerolled. Players may then continue rerolling the dice that are not on their pigboard. Speed is of the essence, because once all of a player’s dice are locked, that player may then take any turn-order card they want. Turn order cards are critical; in addition to determining the order the players act, they can provide bonuses or penalties to the player. Once only one turn order card remains, the final player has only three rerolls before they must lock their remaining dice.

The dice results determine your available actions for the round. Five sides have symbols for five distinct actions; one side is blank. The dice symbols let you: (1) build a ride; (2) build a stand; (3) play a bonus card; (4) add visitors; and (5) clean dirt. The game comes with eighteen rides in six different colors. These rides seat one, two, and three visitors, such that each color has its own one, two, and three seat ride. To build a ride, you must spend dice equal to the number of seats on the ride (so a single purple ride costs one dice, a triple blue ride costs three dice, etc.). You may build up to three rides in a turn, but you can never build two of the same size ride in a turn (so the most you could build on a turn is a one, a two, and a three seat ride; you could never build two one-seat rides on the same turn).

Similarly, there are twenty stands: four each of five different types. To build a stand, you must spend one stand dice per stand you want to build, and you can only build one stand of each type a turn. Stands provide various benefits (change a dice result to one of your choice, a visitor roll counts twice, etc.) to you park depending on which stands you buy.

Once you purchase a stand or building, you must place it in your park. Buildings and stands cannot touch, even diagonally at the corners (visitors have to be able to walk around). The only exception is if you buy a second ride of the same color as one already in your park, or a second stand of a type you already have: those rides or stands must connect to the matching ride or stand already in your park.

Since space will quickly run out, players may use any of their dice (up to twice in a turn) to purchase a two-by-two extension for their park.

Once players have rides, they need to start earning money. Players earn money by bringing in visitors. For each visitor dice rolled, players may choose to add one visitor of any available color into a grab bag (the bag already contains one visitor of each color at the start). Then, the player draws a number of visitors equal to the number that were placed into the bag. If any of the drawn visitors match a color of the ride in the drawing player’s park, that visitor can be placed permanently onto the matching ride. If the visitor does not match, the visitor is returned to the supply (therefore the bag will always contain exactly six visitors at the start of each player’s turn). For each visitor in a player’s park at the end of the turn, that player will earn three money.

Players can also earn money by playing goal cards, which provide scaled rewards for certain goals (e.g., the number of red visitors in your park, the number of visitor symbols you rolled in a turn, etc.). Visitors and goal cards are the only ways for players to earn money in the game.

The key game mechanic in Steam Park, however, is dirt. During the course of the game, players accumulate dirt tokens. Players get dirt: (1) if they are the last player; (2) for each visitor in their park; and (3) for each dirt symbol on their dice (each build-ride, build-stand, and bonus dice gives players a dirt token). At the end of the game, players must pay money for each dirt token they have, and the numbers dramatically increase the more dirt you have. For example, a player with one dirt token only pays one money; a player with fourteen must pay twenty-eight money. Having more than thirty dirt tokens automatically eliminates a player from the game.

Players will roll their dice, build up their parks, add visitors, and accumulate money over six rounds. At the end of those rounds, the player with the most money after removing all their dirt is the winner.

Time

The game says it plays in sixty minutes. I found this figure to be an accurate estimate, although I think the game is more likely to play in 40-45 minutes once players get the hang of the game mechanics.

Components/Component Quality


Image source: opinionatedgamers.com

The components that come with the game are generally excellent. The rides are 3D cardboard. Mine seemed to fit together easily, and the pieces detached easily without any of the images getting torn. The money tokens, dirt tokens, and player boards are all good-quality cardboard, and the bonus cards are easily readable (large lettering) and nice quality. The box is big enough to hold all components without bending, although you do probably have to dump in the stands. The dice and robot meeples are both wood, with the meeples having a somewhat unique-looking design. The artwork on the stands and rides has an interesting whimsical look that gives the game a unique image. The rulebook is short and well-written.

On the negative side, the meeple design, while unique, adds little from an image perspective. The dice symbols are a little hit or miss for me, with the dirt symbols being somewhat difficult to see until you learn which symbols are associated with dirt. And the font on the player aid card describing the game turn is incredibly small, which may frustrate some people with vision problems.

Theme

As a “build a theme park” game, I think Steam Park really excels. The impressions from my group were that players really did feel like they were building a park. The 3D rides are a very nice touch. Additionally, the building-placement mechanic and visitor-placement mechanics really fit well (visitors need to be able to walk around without obstructions, and visitors want to ride attractions that fit their personality).

The “steam” portion, however, felt a bit pasted on. Other than some occasional images of steam, and the rules stating that visitors were robots, there was really very little substance behind that portion of the theme. And despite visiting a number of theme parks, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with a casino in it (unless players are located in steampunk Vegas).

Also, the dirt mechanic seems slightly out of place thematically in one regard. Players get dirt from having people in their park, from building a ride, and from building a stand. Players also get dirt each time they choose to play a bonus card. This mechanic seems strange to me, as most bonus cards involve things that are already inside your park (visitors already present, rides/stands already built, etc.). Some bonus cards involve things that have nothing to do with dirt (such as die rolls). It simply seemed non-thematic that players acquired dirt to play bonus cards, but did not get dirt when they attempted to bring new visitors into the park from the draw bag. The bonus card dice symbol also seemed somewhat out of place.

Pros

Steam Park is very easy to learn and (at least for now) there seems to be a decent amount of choices and strategies available in the game. The dirt-management mechanic is excellent, and the dice-rolling mechanic and the stands mitigate against “luck of the dice” concerns. The game’s theme should make the game accessible to a large variety of audiences; I’ve played Steam Park with both male and female competitive gamers and with male and female players who generally do not play games. Everyone seemed to enjoy Steam Park. Also, since the game lacks any real “take that” mechanic, the game becomes more accessible to those who dislike the more player antagonistic-type games. Additionally, the quicker playtime really helped keep players focused upon the game.

Cons

Some players, particularly methodical gamers or those prone to analysis paralysis, may be turned off by the “speed rolling” mechanic to determine action and turn order. Also, after several games, players began to adopt somewhat similar strategies in gameplay, at least in regards to early round purchases. Specifically, three of the six stands (the casino, the info point, and the promotion) provide benefits that seem fairly disproportionate to other stands. In repeat plays with different groups, I began to see multiple players employing fairly similar strategies around these stands. While this leads me to some concern that the game’s strategy may end up being somewhat limited, the gameplay mechanics were still very fun. My only concern is whether the game’s design may force players to play a specific strategy in order to remain competitive in the game.

Overall

In my opinion, Steam Park is an excellent game. Although there are some minor quibbles with theme and components, the gameplay is very fun and well-designed. While I have some concerns regarding strategy, the game was still very enjoyable, even with players somewhat mirroring strategies. Additionally, the game seems very accessible, and could be a very solid gateway game for new players.

8/10
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