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Steam Park

Reviewed by: Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

(Cranio Creations, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes; $34.99)

steampark1What really makes the difference between a success and an average game is sometimes something not really well defined that deals with the great mystery of what is fun.

To me, what really makes a game fun is a mix of good rules, entertainment, challenges, theme, graphics and materials along with a bit of concreteness and a huge amount of subjectivity. Steam Park, designed by Aureliano Buonfino, Lorenzo Silva and Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino, in my opinion, is a really fun game with a nice theme, a dice rolling, real-time, mechanic and the right amount of strategy and decisions. Marie Cardoaut’s creative artwork is tops.

Steam Park is set in the far land of Robobourg where you are the owner of a steam park, a fantastic carnival for robots. You will try to get money by building attractions and getting visitors. In the meantime, you need to keep an eye on the trash level since making the end-game cleaning could cost you a lot of money and money is the victory points.

In each turn you will build rides and stands, attract visitors, complete bonus cards, clean your park and collect money. Steam Park will last 6 turns and each turn is divided in 4 phases: Roll, Dirt, Action and Income.

Every player starts the game with a 4×4 playing board, a “small pig” board, a set of 6 dice and 3 bonus cards selected from a starting hand of 6. Bonus cards are one if the principal ways to get money and you need to plot your strategy according to the cards. At the end of the turn, you always draw bonus cards to bring your hand again up to three. Since these cards are really a central part of the game, you always draw two cards and keep one, to partially reduce the randomness.

Steam Park’s dice have 6 different results: Ride, Stand, Clean, Build. Play-Card, nothing. During the Roll Phase, all players, simultaneously, roll the 6 dice, placing the desired ones on their pig and re-rolling the others. This goes on until all players but one are OK with the results. The last players has 3 more re-rolls and the phase is over. Usually it takes less than a minute to play this phase. The first player to finish with the dice will clean 4 dirt tokens, the second one will clean 2 and last one will get 2 tokens. steampark2This phase will also determinate the turn order for all the other phases that, sometimes, could be important since the rides and stands are limited in numbers (1 ride of each dimension in each of the 6 colors and 5 stands of each of the 5 different kind). What I like is that the “dice-rolling” phase is the crucial one, where you have to plan your strategy, and you have to do it quickly with a lot of pressure. You need to decide if you want to play bonus cards or build rides or stands. You will have just 6 actions (dice) in your turn and you have to choose wisely. Of course, you can plan ahead but sometimes you will not able to get the right results and so you will need to switch your strategy quickly. Dirtiness could be a real problem and sometimes it is better to concentrate on reducing it instead of doing other things so being the first player could be a real advantage.

In the Dirt Phase, you will collect 1 dirt token for each visitor in your park and 1 token for each built ride, built stand and playing bonus cards results. You will remove (or add) dirt according to the turn order. Having a lot of visitors will get you money (VP) but you will have to use dice to keep it all clean. This is a great and simple mechanic to avoid the problem of the a runaway leader.

The Dirt in Steam Park is something you have to keep an eye on since, at the end of the game, you can lose a lot of points cleaning the park and if you have 30 ore more dirt tokens, you will score 0!

Then comes the Action Phase where most of the playing time will be spent. You will have to use your dice to perform the 6 possible actions in the order you prefer but each action can be performed just once in the turn. It will not tale too much time to resolve these actions so this phase will also run quickly without much downtime.

To build Rides, you need “build rides” dice. There are 18 rides in 6 colors and 3 sizes: small, medium and big. The small ones will host 1 visitor and require 1 “ride” result to be built. The medium will host 2 visitors and require 2 results. Finally, the big ones will host 3 visitors and require 3 “ride” results. Building rules are simple: rides of the same color have to touch exactly for one square side and rides of different colors have to stay apart (including diagonals). Stands are built with “build stands” dice and are in 5 different type, offering different privileges. Stands building rules are also simple: stands of the same type have to touch and different stands have to stay apart, including diagonals. Stand and Rides can’t touch, including diagonals. That actually means that you need “roads” in your amusement park to move around your rides and stands The 4×4 grid will soon be too small for your plans and you will have to use dice to buy small 2×2 extensions. Luckily, you can use any action die to buy the small extensions.

A “clean dirt” result will let you discard 2 dirt tokens each, 4 if you have a Toilet (stand). To play an objective card you need a “play bonus cards” result.

To attract visitors, you have to use your “attract visitors” results. The game will start with 6 visitors, one of each color, in the bag. For every “attract visitors” result, you will add one visitor to the bag and than draw one. In this way, there will be always 6 visitors in the bag. If there is a ride of the same color with an empty space, you can keep it and put it on your ride, otherwise you have to discard it. Security stands allow you to put a “wrong” visitor back in the bag and draw again. Promotion stands allow you to draw two visitors instead of one with an “attract visitors” result. Info Point stands will permit you to place 1 visitor you just drew onto a free space of one your rides even if it is not of the corresponding color. This Visitor must be put back into the visitor pool at the end of the Income phase.

Is it better to build Rides or Stands? All the stands will improve something. Having at least one Toilet and one Casino (that allows you to change a single die result) really helps but your strategy needs to take account of the bonus cards you have and what other players are building. In a 4 player game, turn order is sometimes really important.

In the Income Phase, you will get money for visitors in your park and money are points: one point for each visitor. One way to score points is to attract visitors and you need Rides to host them: stands will help you with their privileges. There is no way to lose visitors so a visitor attracted in the first turn will be worth 6 points, one in the second turn 5 points and so on.

As already mentioned, another way to score points is Bonus Cards. You can consider this cards like short-term/long-term objectives and their weight in the final score is high. There are cards that will give you points for attracting visitors of one special color, others for the rides/stands you have built, others for extensions you have and so on. All the cards have progressive scores so it is better to wait for the right moment to play/use bonus cards but since you will always refill to three cards in the end of a turn, it could be useful to play a card early, if you have the result and nothing better to do.

After the sixth turn, you will have to pay for the final cleaning, losing money/points according to the dirty tokens still in your park. The player with the most money in the end will win the game.

I really like Steam Park for several reasons. First of all, I like that the game can be played quickly, avoiding the analysis-paralysis problem, reducing the effect of slow thinkers at the table. I like games with dice rolling and you have to roll a lot here. I like games that need you to mix long-term strategy with tactics and that is the case here. Finally, Steam Park is fun to play, an explosive mix for a 60 minutes boardgame that I’m sure I will be playing for several years to come.


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