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Subject: Now, this is the plan. Get your @#$ to Planet Steam! rss

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Greg Frank
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The year is 2415, the planet is named Steam. You are an Imperialist and you want money! The only way to make money is harvest as many resources as you can and sell them. You can gather resources through shafts that are opening around the surface of the planet. These will give you access to the minerals and resources that are deep in the core of the planet. So go now and gather your resources, sell them at the market and help the IPF.

Theme:

The theme of this game is very interesting. It is somewhat cyberpunk/sci-fi. It takes place in the future and players are competing to cap off mine shafts that have been dung it to the core of the planet and use pumps to bring up resources to the surface. Then you sell resources for credits at the market place or trade them in for upgrades to gain better resources. The art work on the board and components fit the theme and mechanics all seem to also match the theme as well.

Bits:

1 Game board that is made of standard stock and is fairly large, includes the spaces to place most of the components, wells that you need to cover and varius tracks to keep track of quantity of resources still available and prices.

It has 72 Platforms in 6 different colors. One for each player plus a neutral color made out of standard cardboard. The overall feel of them are nice and they seemed to be made of good quality.

You get 37 tanks, 15 quartz upgrades, 15 ore upgrades, 15 energy upgrades and 14 compressor domes. These are all made of wood and are of excellent quality. The pumps are grey and have 3 slots on the side that will fit the upgrades into. I am not sure why they decided to have all them have 3 slots since you only use one of them unless it is coupler (which you put together from all of the upgrades, compressor dome and a pump). The upgrades are also fairly good quality, the energy upgrade is a white rectangle, the ore are grey and the quartz is black. The compressor dome is a brown half circle.

You also get 30 water pieces, 30 quartz pieces, 30 energy sticks, and 30 ore pieces. The quartz and water are made of what feels like hard plastic and come in both small and large pieces, the water clear while the quartz is black. The energy sticks and ore are both made of wood and come in small and large pieces. The energy sticks are white while the ore is grey cubes. These are all made from good materials and are of high quality.

The cards that come with the game are made of good card stock and are of a decent larger than usual size. They include 40 Orbital Glider cards, 10 character cards and 10 overview cards. Also included is paper money of various demons, 8 building licenses, and 6 owner ship licenses. These are all made of the same paper and are good quality. They aren’t just generic paper money; they actually fit the game nicely.

Lastly there are 5 trade markers (used in the advanced rules), 1 year counter, 1 die, 1 manual in German and 1 game setup sheet also in German. These are of decent quality, the die is a normal 6 sided die and the trader markers represent the different resources and are made from decent cardboard.

Overall the box comes with very nice components and really nice art. I would have liked the coupler to be included pre built instead of having to make one by gluing all the upgrades to one pump but it wasn’t the end of the world. Also the box is huge and fits all the components in very nicely. Finally, I would like to mention that the game has all the important text on the cards (which is very little) in English and German, so you don’t need to know German to understand how to use the different components, the rules that were included are unfortunately only in German.

Rules:

The rule book that comes with the game is in German as I mentioned above, but English rules are available for download online and here at the Geek. The English rules are well translated and well written. They are pretty easy to follow and are organized very well. There are some advanced rules that added a little bit more to the strategy of the game but not a whole lot, so if you play the base game only you won’t miss much.

Mechanics:

The first thing you do is put the coupler together before you play your first game. This is done by taking one of the tanks and gluing all 4 upgrades (energy, ore, quartz and compressor). It goes without saying that you only need to do this once and after you have done it you will never have to do it again, unless the glue doesn’t hold.

Now the object of the game is to get the most credits by the end of a set number of years 5 players is 4 years, 4 players is 5 years, 3 players is 6 years and 2 players is 7 years. You gain Credits by trading in goods at the market, owning platforms on shafts, having platforms with pumps on them, deeds of ownership and having compressor domes. This is all included on the game summary at the back of the book or on the reference card, so you can keep it in mind while playing.

Each year is composed of 4 different phases expansion, buying, production and end of year. Each player will take turns starting with the first player (aka Lady Steam) and going in role order (based on cards you get in phase A Expansion phase.

On year 1, you choose who goes first by rolling the die and that player will start the expansion phase, in future years it is whoever had the Lady Steam card, the previous year that gets to start the phase. In this phase the first thing that happens is you place the obnus resources on their spots above the market prices and lower the supply markers by one, if the supply is at 0 you don’t put that resource out. Next is the specialist card auction. This is very simple, basically first player choose which role they want and bids at least 1 credit. If you don’t have any credits the bank gives you 2. Then it goes around the table clockwise and each player bids or passes. If you pass you can’t again until the next card is auctioned. The first player keeps bidding on cards till he or she wins one, then the player on the left (who doesn’t have a role yet) selects the next one and so on until everyone has a role. When you win the auction you trade in your credits to the bank and take the role you won. You also take one of the available bonus resources. If after everyone takes a role there is resources still available they go back to the supply and the supply indicator is raised by one. If you win a role and no resources are available you get nothing. There are 10 role cards with 5 total roles, so you will only uses certain cards based on the number of players. Some of the cards (if you are playing with less than 5 players) have dual roles. The manual tells you which cards to use. The cards have special roles and the also dictate the turn order (the number on the card in the upper right tells you the turn order).

The roles are Lady Steam, The Venturer, The Fireman, The engineer and the IPF agent (only used in 5 player games). Lady steam allows the player who wins her to be first player. The Venture starts a shaft auction and if he wins the auction he only pays half of his bid. Secondly he also can auction off Neutral Platforms if there are no empty shafts. The Fireman gets to decide where the energy coupler goes (which provides bonus production of resources). The Engineer gives you building license or 15 credits if you don’t want a license. License allows you to get shafts without rolling and/or take over neutral platforms. Finally the IPF agent will allow you take a resource immediately for free or upgrade your carrier instead for free.

Once the auction is over, the player who has the fireman gets the coupler and the person who has the engineer takes the license or 15 credits. The IPF agent also gets his resource or carrier upgrade.

Next you do the shaft auction, unlike the Specialist Auction there is only 1 shaft auctioned no matter who wins it. The Venturer selects an empty shaft or a neutral one if no empty ones are available and everyone bids on it. The bid starts with the Venturer who must bid at least one credit. Then the person to their left will bid until everyone but one player passes. The Venturer also only pays half of his bid if he wins. Whoever wins places their colored platform on the shaft (or swaps it with the neutral platform, if that was auctioned off).

After the auction is done, each player going in role turn order chooses an open shaft and rolls a die or uses a license if they have one. If they get a 4-6 they get the shaft as their own and place there color platform there if it is 1 – 3 they must instead claim an empty shaft adjacent (same row or column) to the shaft they were shooting for. If there is not shaft or there are only neutral platforms available then they will get 15 credits instead. Instead of rolling the die (must be declared before you roll the die) the player can trade in one building license to automatically claim ownership of the empty shaft or a neutral platform of their choice. Finally once everyone has gotten a shaft or credits the fireman places the coupler on one of the coupler spaces and all pumps in the same column of the coupler will produce extra in the production phase.

Once Phase A is complete players move on to Phase B the Buying Phase This phase is very simple. In order to participate in the phase the players must immediately pay the cost of 1 water to the supply. This doesn’t change the supply marker of water. Then you can buy tanks; buy tanks from earth, upgrade tanks, reequip/rearrange tanks, buy compressor domes or upgrade carriers. You must go in role turn order during this phase for tanks can run out or get more expensive and you could run out of upgrades or compressor domes etc. Once you purchased all you want the next player goes until all players went. If you buy a tank you place it immediately on a platform you own. If you don’t have any empty platforms (only 1 tank per a platform is allowed) then you must discard the tank to the supply. This is done by accident or to jack up the price of tanks. Upgrades go on tanks and you can only have 1 upgrade (plus a compressor dome) on each tank. If the tank supply runs out you can’t buy any more tanks from IPF but can still buy them from earth.

After Phase B is complete you move on the Phase C Production phase. Here each take will produce a resource. Every tank you want to produce resources requires 1 energy to pump (except for water on the center shafts marked with an H or energy pumps). If your tanks are adjacent to each other either horizontally or vertically and are producing the same type of resource they will produce bonus resources. They produce (number of tanks – 1) extra resources. As in if you have 3 water tanks adjacent to each other (each tank needs to be adjacent to at least one of the other tanks as in if you have 3 tanks you can have tank 2 adjacent to 1 and tank 3 adjacent to 2) you will produce 2 addition resources. If the tanks are producing different resources then they will not produce any bonus resources. If a tank has a compressor dome on it, it will also produce one more resource. All tanks that have produced resources that are in the same column as the coupler produce 1 addition resource no matter what player controls them. Once you have all your resources and paid the energy cost you need to pay, the next player does the same. (you can do this all at once but it is easier to just do it in turn order, especially if one of the resources runs out. However, you do not change the supply marker of the resources not matter how much energy you trade in or how many resources you pump out.

Once that is done and all players have gained their resources you can trade with the market. Here in turn order you trade resources in order. In the base game the order is fixed starting with Quartz and ending with energy. In the advanced game you can change the order that this occurs in. Each player gets a chance to trade a resource in before you move on to the next resource. When you trade or sell your resources to the supply you sell them all at once at the current price, then move the supply marker up by as many as you just sold. So if you sell 4 energy, you would move the energy supply marker up 4 spaces. Next you check the number on the same row as where the supply indicator is to see if the price moves, if it does you move it in that direction. If you want to buy resource you buy as many as you can (indicated by supply) afford at the current price then move the supply indicator that many spaces down. And adjust the price if the number on the same row tells you to. If a supply ever reaches 0, then no one can buy any more of it, until some of that resource is sold back to the supply. After the first player is done with the first resource the next player in role order goes and so on until each player has a chance to purchase or sell goods of that type. If they pass the price is still adjusted if the number on the row of the supply tells you to adjust it. Then you move on to the next good and so on until all goods have had a chance to be bought and sold. Finally you go on to certificate trading, as long as certificates are still available in role turn order you have the option to buy a license, a deed of ownership (worth 50 credits at the end of the game) or sell a license for 15 credits (which is then removed from the game). The only way to get credits for building licenses is to sell them at this phase; otherwise you would use them during Phase A instead of rolling dice to claim an empty shaft or to claim a neutral platform. I recommend picking up deeds if you can afford them here (since there is a limited supply) until they run out and only sell license if you have them at the last year. But since you can only do one of the actions, choose wisely. Building licenses are very useful in getting shafts that you want without needing to role and to claim neutral platforms.

The final phase occurs after you are done with Phase C. Now you move on to Phase D Year-End Phase. Here tanks are produced and the supply is replenished back up the 14 in the production hall as long as there is ore and energy. The players look at how much ore and energy there is and build tanks until a resources is exhausted or the production hall is back up to 14. Say there 10 ore and 5 energy left, then you would build 5 tanks lowering energy and ore by 5, however if you only need to build 3 tanks to make the production hall return to 14 then you only build 3 and lower ore and energy by 3. After you build the tanks you will lower the supply for ore and energy by that amount but do not change the price. If however you cannot build tanks because the supply for ore and/or energy is depleted then you raise the price of the depleted resource by 4. So if both ore and energy is at 0 you raise both by 4, if only one is at 0 then you raise that one by 4. Now you advance the year marker, if it is the last year you go to final scoring, return the role cards and coupler, set up bonus resources and start with Phase A again with the player who was Lady Steam starting the auction.

When you reach final scoring you will get 50 credits per a tank on a platform, 25 for each platform without tanks, 50 for each compressor domes you have, 50 for each deeds you have and you can sell back any resources you still have for their current value. Then you added your money together with the credits you just earned and the player with the most money wins. Tank upgrades, carriers and license aren’t worth anything at the end.

Overall the mechanics for the game really work well with the theme and are very interesting. The way the market works is very different from most games I have played and make it really fun. The market is by far my favorite mechanic in the game and really shows how important first player is. I also think Venturer is very important at the end of the game since he starts the shaft auction and only pays half, he basically can get 2 shafts per a turn netting at least 25 extra points at the end of the game. Also if used correctly he can cause his opponents to spend a lot of money getting their shaft making the shaft almost worthless at the end of the game. Also the engineer has a lot more power then he first seems to, because he gets a license every turn or 15 credits, this allows him to have an extra 15 credits to help in bids or get shafts he wants without worrying about rolling a die.

Advanced game changes the amount of stuff the players get at the beginning of the game, and has you set up the board with shafts in role turn order and then reverse role turn order instead of setting it up as the chart recommends. After you win a specialty in the auction you gain a marker that you place on the terminal to change the order of the resources that will be traded in Phase C. Another change is when you are in Phase B you cannot move your tanks on to different platforms which you can do in the base game. Also on the shafts marked with an H you cannot produce anything but water or energy.

While advance game does add some more strategy elements it doesn’t radically change the game, but you are allowed to mix and match with the base game and use as many advance rules as you want. Playing with the rule that only the middle (H) shafts cannot produce ore or quartz adds a lot to where you want to get platforms so you can create chains. And I also recommend the resource order markers since this can help players to trade resources in the order they want, but is not crucial or that big of an impact.

Conclusion:

I really enjoyed this game. I think it is a great strategy game that has a lot of depth. It isn’t a light game and wouldn’t work as filler, so if that is what you are looking for this is not the game for you. There is a lot of strategy involved with when and how many goods to sell, what platforms to go for, what roles to pick up and what resources to pump. So there is a lot of depth to the strategy and very little luck in the game. The luck only comes into play with the dice rolling for platforms, even thought you can use license and if you pick the right spots losing the roll won’t be too damaging, you still have a 50/50 chance to getting the spot you want. So if you are bad at strategizing or don’t like keeping track of a lot of things at once, you might be better off playing the game before purchasing. For everyone else who like strategy games and/or want to have a really interesting, original and fun experience I recommend you get this game if you can. Lastly I would like to point out the price. I think for 130 dollars this game is very expensive and almost not worth the price. However, the components are very nice and it is being imported, so it is not unexpected that you would pay a lot for the game. If you can afford it I highly recommend picking it up. 9/10!
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Adam Slape
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Total Recall! What do I win?
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Greg Frank
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You win the prize of being a movie aficionado, congratz .
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