Steam Park

Published in 2013
Created by Aureliano Buonfino, Lorenzo Silva, and Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino
Published by iello Games
No. of Players: 2 – 4
Playtime: 60 minutes
Age: 8+

When I was a kid, I would play Rollercoaster Tycoon on the family computer. I found it amusing to run this fake business and do completely outrageous things. I remember making drinks free at all the food establishments, but charge ridiculous prices when people had to use the bathroom. I would hire so many mascots and put them in stupid places. Of course, when there was the five or six people who were unhappy with the park, we would move them to a secluded area and have them test one of the “special rides”. The park population would go down, but my approval levels would go up…ehem… So nostalgic.

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I was happy to see that there was a board game that replicates the Roller Coaster Tycoon experience. Steam Park is a game created by Aureliano Buonfino, Lorenzo Silva, and Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino and is published by iello games. In this game, players construct theme parks for robots in an attempt to take their hard earned money. Players build the rides and stands, tempt robots into coming into their park, and clean all the dirt in the park due to strict regulations imposed by the government. The player who is able to earn the most money wins.

Before you play, construct all the rides and stands so that they are upright and then set them to the side. This one-time action will probably take the majority of your time in your first setup. The rest is straightforward. Hand out six dice, a player reference card, a starting park tile and a pig tile to each player. Also, deal six bonus cards to each player. They have to select three cards and return three back to the bonus card deck. Place the money, dirt, robots, turn order tiles, bonus cards and the park expansion tiles somewhere easily accessible to all players. Next, take a robot of each colour and place them in the black bag provided. Finally, place the final dirt track and round track somewhere in which all players can see it and place the turn counter on the first round.

Steam Park is played in six rounds, with each round having four phases. In the first phase, the roll phase, players will take their dice and roll them over and over again, taking any dice that they like and placing it on their pig board. Once all six dice have been placed on the pig board, they grab a turn order token. The faster you are able to get all six dice on the pig board, the better the bonuses you get. If you are last to get a token, you may use three additional rolls before you can take the last place tile.

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Once all players have finished rolling their dice, the dirt phase happens. This phase determines how much dirt you get. This is calculated by adding the number of die faces that have a dirt symbol on it, the number of visitors riding rides in you park, and the bonus or penalty you got from the turn order token.

The third phase is the action phase. Each player, in turn order, will use the dice they rolled and perform their actions. There are six available actions a player can take:

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  1. Build Rides – The number of tool faces you roll will determine the size of the ride that can be built. The more tool faces, the bigger the ride.
  2. Build Stands – Each stand face will allow players to build a stand in the park, giving the player special abilities.
  3. Attract Visitors – If they roll the robot face, players will attempt to load their built rides with robots. This is done by selecting an available robot from the visitor pool, putting it in the bag and then drawing one randomly. If it is a robot that matches the colour of your ride, they will stay in your park and ride your attraction. This is symbolized by placing the robot in the slot of your ride. If it doesn’t match any of the colours of your ride, it is taken out of the bag and is placed back in the robot visitor pool.
  4. Clean Dirt – Rolling brooms will allow a player to discard two of their dirt tokens.
  5. Bonus Cards – Rolling the shovel and coal will allow players to use their bonus cards. When a bonus card is played, they will get a bonus amount of money based on the condition on the card. Players can earn money for having certain rides, visitors, stands, or even specific faces on their dice.
  6. Expand the Park – Any of the five faces mentioned above can be used to expand the park. A player will take an expansion tile and place it adjacent to any tile they have in their park. They can only do this twice in a round.

The last phase is the income phase. Every player will get three dollars for every robot that is in their park. Then the turn order tiles are returned to the center of the table  and the round marker is moved to the next round. Lastly, each player replenishes back up to three bonus cards. This game lasts for six rounds and the player who has the most money at the end of the game wins.

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Steam Park is surprisingly entertaining. Although it has a fair bit of luck elements, Steam Park still has a good amount of strategy involved in the game. The game is focused on being flexible with the dice, while still getting the actions you need to construct and expand your park. The turn order mechanic poses interesting decisions for players. Do you keep rolling in hopes that you get what you need, but potentially take on dirt, or do you take what you get from your rolls and draw the first player turn token? And the dirt tokens, which my friends and I started to call poops, are exponentially punishing if you don’t do anything about it. This means that you have to balance between constructing more in your park, or taking time to clean the filth your robots have created. It is a nice parallel between the two decisions.

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Steam Park is scaled okay. Although the game can be played with two or three players, this game works best for four players because it gives just the right amount of limitations for players to work with. As players are purchasing more rides, drawing more robots into their park and changing the composition of the draw bag with different robots, there are less choices for players to make. The game gets even harder when bonus cards steer players into a certain strategy. It could be building certain coloured rides, or building a lot of stands. This means that timing is critical because if you don’t get the opportunity to buy rides or stands, you may not get to at all. I found that in a four player game, there was a good tension as more players started to buy more stuff. In a two player game, I found it less challenging because all the stands and rides were available. A four player game was definitely more frantic and fun as opposed to two players.

The only drawback I found with Steam Park is its play time. It was short. I wanted to do more, but I think it is this constraint that makes the game exciting. I wish the game was just two or even one round longer because I felt that in round four or five I finally got an engine going with the money, but the game is over after round six.

Steam Park is a nice light game to play with friends. It’s easy to explain and show to people. Although the initial setup is brutal, the artwork and components are amazing and the theme is strong. It was nice to have a Roller Coaster Tycoon feel to this game, although you don’t get to take a disappointed rider “out back”. Finally, the turn order mechanism makes the game frantic yet fun. Steam Park is an admirable casual game that is absolutely one you want to show off to your friends.

Pros:

  • Light game that’s easy to explain to people.
  • Theme is strong; you feel like you’re building an amusement park.
  • Artwork is cute and bright.
  • Gameplay is hectic, but fun and full of strategy.

Cons: 

  • Initial setup sucks when constructing all the 3D pieces.
  • I wish the game was a bit longer.

 

 

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