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Subject: FMW Review's #30: Planet Steam - Tanks for Everything rss

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Antonio Guerra Gerdel
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29 reviews in and I had to think of something really nice to mark my 30th review here on BGG. I had a list of games in mind to review. But I wanted something that I knew was big. Bigger than any game I've played before. I wanted to review a game that at least a lot of people knew because of the size and the weight of the game. It had to be a game that not many would review because of such weight. After winning an auction with this very game, I didn't know what to expect when I placed this game in front of my gaming group and told them that this was the game we're going to play tonight.

Planet Steam is best remembered with those really interesting components and high price point to get such a game. Lucky us, Fantasy Flight decided to release this game with upgraded components and lower price point that many can try to get into. However, this is a heavy game. And I don't mean by weight because the game is pretty heavy on that end. No, with lots of rules and a lot going on, Planet Steam is currently the heaviest game in my collection to date. Is such a game ready to get tackled by me and my friends? Only one way to find out!

Steam powered pencils sure didn't take off as I really wanted them to.



Planet Steam
Fantasy Flight Games
Released: 2008
Resource Gathering/Auction Bidding
2-5 Players
~2 Hours (ha)


Components

When Planet Steam was first released in 2008, it was the talk of the town because of all the components in the game. That and the high price point to actually get the game now make it a nice item to find for cheap if you can. FFG decided to release this game with different components and a lower price point and I must say, for the price, you can't go wrong with what's inside:

90 Plastic Pieces - Ah yes, the bulk of the game is with these pieces right here. This is what players are trying to buy and place on the map to gather resources. We have Tanks and with have converters that you can have to upgrade the tanks from the different resources: Silver, Gold, Grey and Bronze Superchargers.
350 Cardboard Pieces - The other side of the game is with these pieces, which gives you the different resources you can collect throughout the game. First you have the 80 Claim Tokens, 14 for each player with 15 in Grey. Then you have 30 each of Water, Energy, Ore and Quartz. Finally, you have 130 Credit Tokens, or money tokens for the game.
8 Resource Supply and Price Indicators - These allow you to keep track of the market on the game board. These include a tank supply marker, a support airship marker, a round marker and 4 order markers.
67 Bridge-Sized Cards - These cards are also used in the game in different ways, we have 10 Specialist Cards, 40 Carrier Cards (8 in each color), 14 Certificate Cards and 3 Optional Cards if you want to use them
5 Reference Sheets - These are super helpful for players so that they know what to do on a given turn and the cost of getting certain items during the game.
1 Six-Sided Dice - This is used during the claiming area phase of the game.

Overall, there is a lot of game inside of this box and I'm not surprised by how the game looks. All the tank pieces are nice and heavy and the fact that you have smaller pieces that you can put on these tanks are just awesome. Gone is any form of paper money, these credit tokens are awesome to actually use as money for the game. Everything about Planet Steam is made very well. Now, there will be people that like the first edition components then this edition but I'm talking about the FFG edition of the game. Speaking of, I think it's time to tackle this beast of a game!

Gameplay

Planet Steam takes place over the course of several rounds, depending on the number of players. Players are trying to claim zones and gather resources in order to get the most money at the end of the game. There are four phases of the game, each having their own turns for players to take their actions. There is a lot going on in this game and if there's one thing I can't do, is cover everything little thing this game has to offer. I would be writing this until next week. So, I'll do my best to cover each phase with what you can do.

Phase 1: Expansion

In the Expansion Phase, players will claim zones and claim player order for the rest of the game. With these actions, this will allow players to ready themselves to gather resources.

1. Place Bonus Resources - With the start of the Expansion phase, players will determine if they need to place bonus resources above the market for them to take during the auction action in this phase. If a resource has a 1 or greater in the supply shown on the market, then you place that resource in the space above and move the marker down by one.

2. Auction Specialist Cards - This not only determines player order in the game but also gives that player a special ability or two depending on the phase of the game. These range from getting you some credits, becoming the first player, auctioning off zones and placing the support airship in one of the spaces it's used for. Much like Power Grid, a player selects a card and then places a minimum bid on it. Players will go around increasing their bids until all but one player passes. They then pay that amount of credits and claims that card for the round.

3. Auction a Zone - The player who has the Venturer card has the ability to now auction a zone of their choice that is unclaimed. Then, much like the auction for the specialist cards, this goes around until everyone passes except for one player. The benefit for the Venturer winning is they pay half of what the bid is. If there is no more unclaimed zones, then they can start auction off the zones that have the grey colored claim tokens on them.

4. Claim a Zone - After a player won the auction a zone action, now the other players roll a dice to determine if an area they have decided to place their token on is a pass or fail. If a player rolls a 4, 5 or 6, then they place their token on that zone. If any other number however, they must go to the next available, unclaimed zone closest to where they wanted that zone. Once everyone has done this, then we can move to the next step. If a player has a blue, building license card, then they can ignore the dice part of the phase and claim a zone that they want. They can also claim a neutral claim zone and replace it with their color as well.

5. Place the Support Airship - The player that has the Airship Captain specialist card now places the airship in one of the seven available spaces next to the zones on the board. This allows players in that row to gather an additional resource during that phase of the game later on so keep that in mind if your the Airship Captain because you could be helping other players too.

Phase 2: Tank Phase

In this phase, players will not have the ability to start buying tanks and putting them on their claimed zones in order to get resources. In player order based on their specialist cards, players will have the chance to perform these actions to get themselves ready for the gathering!

1. Pay Activation Cost - This is where players will spend one water in order to actually start buying tanks and upgrades. If a player decides not to pay the cost, then they gain a water and skip the rest of this phase.

2. Buy and Reorganize - Once a player has paid the cost, they now, in any order they choose, to buy and do some of the following until they pass and the next player goes until everyone has got a chance to perform this phase of the game. Here's what a player can do during this part of the phase:

A. Buy a Tank from the Local Market - Players can buy a tank from the local market and place it on one of their claimed zones on the board. They pay whatever the cost is currently for a tank. Once a player buys a tank, they move the marker up by one. If the player buys the last tank on the local market, then no one else can buy a tank locally.

B. Import a Tank - Players can also import a tank if the market is either too expensive or if there isn't anymore tanks to buy from the local market. They must pay one water, two quartz and five credits. This is more if a player has the resources to buy tanks instead of just spending credits outright.

C. Buy a Converter - Now things get interesting when it comes to gathering resources. Without any converters on a tank, a tank by itself gathers water resources. However, if you decide to start getting other resources, then you must invest in the converters in order to do so. The cost of a Quartz Converter is 8 credits, an Ore Converter is 5 Credits and a Energy Converter is 2 Credits.

D. Buy a Supercharger - A tank by itself, with or without a converter, will always gather one resource of that type. However, for the cost one water, one ore and two quartz, a player can buy a Supercharger. These allow that tank to gather two resources instead of one.

E. Buy a Carrier Upgrade - At the beginning of the game, players have four carriers, each having the storage space for each resource of the game. For one ore and one energy, a player can upgrade any one of their carriers by flipping the card over to a level two. Overtime, once you get more resources, you can upgrade your carrier up to a level four, allowing you to store even more resources.

F. Rearrange Tanks, Converters and Superchargers - A player can then rearrange their supply of all their tanks on the zones and change them however they see fit actually. They can even return converters back into the reserve if they so choose.

Phase 3: Resource Phase

In this phase, players will now have the chance to gather resources, buying them from the market or selling them to the market. This really determines a lot to what happens at the end of the phase as well. Let's see what players can do here.

1. Extract Resources - It's time to finally gather those resources at last. In this action, there's actually two steps to take when it comes to this part of the extraction:

A. Basic Extraction - This is where tanks will gather their resources depending on the type of tank it is. For each tank he wishes to use, he spends one energy for each tank in order to gather those resources. The exception is if their tanks are on one of the water zones in the middle of the field, then that negates the cost of energy. Given the type of tank you have, you can gather that resource.

B. Bonus Extraction - Once a player has gathered their resources, then they can see if they gather any resources with one of the three bonus extractions.

Synergy - If there are three or more tanks within the same group together (vertically or horizontally) and if they extract the same resource, then the player can gain additional resources. For example, if you have three of the same tanks together, you get an additional two resources of that type. It will always be one fewer then the tanks overall, so if four tanks, then three resources.
Supercharger - For each tank that has a Supercharger, gather another resource of that tank.
Support Airship - Finally, depending on the row of zones where the Support Airship is lined up, those tanks get another resource extracted.

2. Buy/Sell Resources - Once all the players have extracted all the resources they can, now they go to the market next to the zones and either buy and sell resources. This is where things get interesting. Starting with the first player, they can either buy or sell each resource, they can't do both on a given resource. If they decide to buy resources, check to see how many is available to buy. Then, see how much each resource costs and that's how much you have to spend depending on how many you buy. Once you buy, adjust the market.

When adjusting the resources, lower the amount of resources that's available and look towards the very right of the market. There are six different colors with different numbers on them. Depending on how many resources are left, that determines if the cost of the resource either goes up, goes down or stays the same. This is important because either they get expensive or really cheap. The same goes if your selling resources as well, only you increase how many resources is back in the supply marker and how much a player makes. And again, they adjust the price of the market every time they either buy, sell or don't do anything and move to the next resource until they covered all the resources. No matter if they bought, sold or passed for each resource, every time they do so, they must adjust the market!

3. Buy/Sell Certificates - This is where players can buy or sell a building permit or buy a luxury quarters. As mentioned before, building permits allows you to skip the dice rolling and claim a zone. You can buy these for one quartz and two water. If you decide to sell them, you can get 15 credits for them and is removed for the rest of the game. Buying a Luxury Quarters is permanent because they give you credits at the end of the game.

Phase 4: End Phase

After everything that you just did, you must get ready for the next round of the game.

1. Produce Tanks - Check the supply for both the ore and energy tracks of the market. Depending on how many of each resource is left, that determines how many tanks will be made for the local market. Say if there is 7 ores and 6 energy in the market. Since there's six energy and seven ore, reduce the number of energy to zero and reduce the ore to one and you made 6 new tanks that will be in the local market now. You then adjust everything and move the tank marker to the left on how many you created. All it takes is for one ore and one energy to create one tank.

2. Perform Maintenance - Finally, move the round marker one to the right and place all specialist cards that players own back to the center of the table. Remove the support airship from the board and begin the next round of the game.

Man oh man, there's a lot going on in this game right here. This will continue for a couple rounds until we reach the end of the game. Players will then count of all their credits and gain additional credits as well depending on a number of factors. 25 Credits for each claimed zone, 25 credits for each tank, 50 credits for each tank that has a Supercharger and 50 credits for each luxury quarters they own. Once everyone has gathered their credits together, the player who has the most credits is the winner of the game!!!

Tanks for Everything

Throughout the time that we played the game, everyone was really thinking. It was enough that I could hear brain cells cooking with excitement of such a game. I don't want any puns here but we let some steam out once the game was completed and everything was put away. But before we did, I always ask the same question. What did everyone think of the game? So far, my group has rated this game very highly and I mean very highly. Coming from a game that is so long and pretty brain busting, my group really liked the game. This is a game that is not, and I repeat, not for the weak at heart. This is a long game that depending on the number of new players, will go on for more then just 2 hours. This is as cut throat as a economic game as it gets. The market always changes and allows for players to really decide what they want to do. The goal of the game is to get the most credits and that determines a lot by the market that changes with every round. When it comes to this part of the game, this is a well balanced example on how a market should change depending on what's in supply and demand and that's how a market is suppose to work. Players will determine this every time they buy, sell or pass when it comes to resources and that will change how much a certain resource is worth. Heck, we had a lot of water in the supply and it cost as much as 3 credits per water so it was a great buy for someone at least. At the end of the day really, before we put everything away, we looked at the board and we felt happy to play such a game that was complex. This is a brain burning, heavy game that will zap the minds of those who don't like that style of game. This is not a family game by any means. This is for those who enjoy a nice, heavy game to play here and there and enjoy the game for all the different steps you have to rake in order to get what you want in the end. Add on top the amazing components and a really good price for what you get, Planet Steam is a winner in my book, no matter how long the game takes or how it works. After wiping the sweat from our hands (not really but still, it was intense), we felt like we can handle any other game that was at this level of weight to it. I recommend this game again, after some time away to restore our brain cells.

Final Verdict

Planet Steam should be a game that has to be played in some economy classes. This will teach students on how a market should work and all about the supply and demand for resources. But as I mentioned before, this is not for the weak at heart. Planet Steam is a very heavy game that will take a long time to complete if your teaching it to new players. The player aids is something you will always look to in order to see what you need to have in order to buy certain things. The game is very solid when it comes to gameplay and the changing market is fantastic for this game. I won this game at an auction and I didn't know what I was expecting for such a game after I won it. But after playing it with my group, we really loved the game a lot. It's like if Power Grid decided to morph into a heavy game. Again, not for those who want a short game but wanted by those who want such a heavy game, this is a game people should at least try once. With amazing components and very good gameplay, Planet Steam is a solid game that everyone should see first before playing. Trust me, you'll thank me later because this will bust the brain cells. But hey, least you can say that you got a good brain exercise from this game.

Overall, I give Planet Steam a solid nine and a half out of ten, proving that heavy games come in all shapes and sizes, this being one of those games that manages to be so great.

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Nick Case
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Fullmetalwwant wrote:
Lucky us, Fantasy Flight decided to release this game with upgraded components
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I really don't think the FF plastic components are an upgrade on the wooden Ludoart edition.

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Mark Robinson
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A great review - thanks! I have been looking at PS for some time & I know for sure now that if I did buy it, that it might not get to my table very much. But, I still want to own it.

As Nick says - beauty is in the eye... the FF plastic tanks are certainly less abstract - they look like they're engineered to do stuff, at least given our 21st century existence & civilisation's history as a reference. However, the Ludoart components are extremely elegant...but possibly less "recognisable" if you know what I mean.
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Atilla Kármán
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Big Bad Lex wrote:
Fullmetalwwant wrote:
Lucky us, Fantasy Flight decided to release this game with upgraded components
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I really don't think the FF plastic components are an upgrade on the wooden Ludoart edition.

I have to agree, I love my Ludoart edition and won't trade it for the more recent FFG edition for the world. Despite that generally I do like the quality of FFG game components.
The more recent edition looks completely different (that is nor necessarily a bad thing, but I do prefer the original).

Wish it could hit the table more often, great game!
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Moe45673
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Around 2007, a number of excellent market games came out. Planet Steam is by no means the sole game like this that "takes Power Grid to the next level". Wealth of Nations is a superior game, imo, but its biggest flaw is the length of time it takes to play. However, the market is even less programmed than the excellent PS one and it has players buying/selling to each other (so you can bypass the market altogether). It's extraordinarily tense. There's also a game I've never played, Container, which people rave about.

Power Grid is a great game but if you love it for its (scripted) supply and demand market, you can get that itch scratched wayyyyy better elsewhere. Planet Steam is an awesome choice. Great review!
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