By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
Just getting into my collection under the wire before the end of 2013, Steam Park by iello could be the very best game to hit my tabletop last year. It will hit it again and again in 2014 without a doubt.
The idea of Steam Park, a game created by Lorenzo Silva, Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino and Aurelien Buonfino, is to create a theme park. But this isn't just any theme park. It is steam powered and intended for us by robots.
Gamers will build rides, attract visitors, erect other structures and have to deal with the dirt accumulated when a group of ready-for-fun robots assemble at the park for 24-hour entertainment.
Steam Park is intended for 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, with an average playing time of 60 minutes. Because a part of the game is played simultaneously, the game will play slightly longer the more players involved, but not significantly longer.
The object of the game is to wind up with the most Danari, the game's currency, at the end of the six rounds covered during the game. The more rides and stands you construct and the more robots you attract, the more dirt you must collect. One of the things you can do each turn is to clean up that dirt because any of it that remains at game's end will cost Danari to dispose of.
The available actions you can do each turn are triggered by dice – six of them that you will roll each turn. But instead of having a set number of re-rolls to decide what faces you settle with, there is a race for each player to get done with the rolling. The sooner you decide on your six choices, the more benefit you get in terms of extra ability to get rid of dirt to getting more dirt for being last. Once only one person is left with dice he or she wants to re-roll, that person is limited to 3 more re-rolls.
When a player wants to lock a die, it is put on a pig board and then can't be touched for the rest of the turn.
The rides that can be constructed come in six colors and three sizes. Each player has a starting ground tile that is 4 x 4 and additional tiles can be added during the game that are 2 x 2. There are some rigid placement rules for the rides and the stands that will make the spacial aspect of the game vitally important in every game.
The components for this game are outstanding. There is far more quality here than is necessary to just play the game, but it is an extra step that turns this game from a very good one to a great experience. The rides and stands are 3-dimensional. The rides have a place for the colored robots to sit. The robots are the same colors as the rides and must match the color of the ride to be able to be placed permanently on that attraction. These robots are drawn blindly from a bag that starts with one of each color. The game gains an extra layer of strategy as knowing what colors are in the bag in what quantity plays a key role in deciding which color of ride to build.
There are cards dealt to each player that create conditions for earning extra Danari. The only way to earn Danari is by putting riders in seats and through the use of the cardsx. At the start of the game six cards are dealt and three are selected to form a starting hand. As cards are used, they are replaced. The replacements come as two are drawn and one selected.
It is easy to get a sense of who is ahead in the game but the Danari are kept face down with the denominations hidden. So there is still some suspense at the end.
It is important not to underestimate the powers of the five different stands available for purchase. They can allow the player to change a face on a die, re-draw a visitor out of the bad, increase cleanup powers, use visitors of non-matching colors on rides and so on.
Steam Park provides all of the player aides that could be desired as reference. The rulebook is entertaining and easy to navigate. But be prepared for the slightly insulting style of the commentary, which is all in fun and playfully demeaning.
The artwork is by Marie Cardouat, who is well know for providing the flavor of the extra releases in the Dixit line.
Everything comes packaged neatly and easy to store, but be prepared for a moderate amount of time to setup and take down this game.
Steam Park should be a huge hit for iello. It is one of the best games in my extensive collection. The list price is $39.99 and it is hard to imagine a better gaming bargain among new games on the market. This comes highly recommended.