Review: Steam Park

Steam Park Review

What is it about a theme park that makes kids go crazy? I prefer the traveling fun fairs that pop up each holiday season. To me they just feel more special, out of the ordinary, not something that you can go and use every day. The everyday feels mundane. Some time I feel like a robot. I can only imagine what a robot must feel like. Luckily for them there is a fun fair that pops around just for robots…

Steam Park is a game where each player decides to build a fun fair in the city of Roboburg. The robots of Roboburg get a single 6 week holiday each year and they love to spend it sitting on rollercoasters. Produced by IELLO Games in 2013, Steam Park is a fast family game with a few interesting mechanics.

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the box

Specs on the box:

  • 2 – 4 players
  • Ages 10+
  • 90 minutes

The box is like a lucky packet full of goodies. There’s a heap of wooden dice, little boards with robopigs on them to hold your dice. There are tokens for money and for dirt that can accumulate in your park and bag full of robot-meeples. There are 3 dimensional rides, that you need to assemble, and little booths that you need to build to round out your fair.

There is a lot of stuff in the box and it can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you need to assemble the rides and the booths. However it’s easy to learn what everything is and what it does. It’s also made of fairly thick card stock so it will withstand lots of games including games with younger more active kids.

Steam Park Review
That’s a lot of components packed snugly into the box.

The rule book is an easy read and the game is easy to teach. One thing that’s missing though is a board. Each player has their own, which grows as the game is played. Everything else needs to be laid out in a logical way so that everything is easy to access, all while leaving a clear area in the centre of the table that everyone can reach it. This game requires a fair amount of table space.

All of the components, after assembly, still fit nicely into the box without too much fuss.

Theme

Steam Park is a game about building and managing a fun fair. That means constructing rides, laying out the entire fair, attracting your target market and maintenance.

It is not heavy on the economics or anything that kids might find tedious. It actually tackles those things in a rather innovative way. What I find missing are the robots and steam driven elements. There really isn’t much to keep to that part of the theme. The visitors to your park could be humans, although humans won’t be able to sit on a single ride for six weeks. The dirt could be regular dirt instead of oil, but it does make it slightly more appealing to kids. Toy robots riding toy rides and paying you to do it.

Gameplay

The game is divided into 3 phases. The first is arguably the most fun. Everyone starts with their handful of dice and their pig boards. Then at the same time they start rolling. The different faces of each die allow you to perform different functions in a future phase of the game. Any dice that you want to keep you place on your pig board, any dice that you want to re-roll; you re-roll until you’re happy with them.

Steam Park Review
The Pig board with dice already selected.

Once you’ve got all of your dice on your board you grab one of the turn markers in the centre of the table. Each turn marker will either give you some kind of benefit, in addition to playing early or a penalty when you are playing later. However the longer you take to select your dice means that you have spent more time trying to get the exact faces that you require, so the trade-off is not necessarily that bad.

The second phase if the dirt collection phase. Some of the dice you rolled also adds dirt to your park. All that sand you dug up to build your rides has to go somewhere. Additionally any visitors that you have riding your rides will also add to your growing pool of dirt. Don’t let your dirt get out of hand, accumulate too much and Roboburg will tax you for it and if there’s too much they will take all of your earnings!

The third phase is where you spend your dice to perform actions. Perhaps the most important action is building rides by spending the building dice. 2 Dice will get you a single ride that can hold 2 passengers. There are different colours of rides and each colour has a single, double and a triple seat ride. Robots will only stay on the rides that match their colour. So with only 3 rides of each colour and up to 4 players… going last might not be in your best interest every turn.

The next action is to build a booth. Booths let you do things like advertise which attracts more robots to your park or a booth could be a toilet which allows 1 of your clean up dirt dice to clean double its amount of dirt. Again, booths are limited and the toilets always seem to go first.

Construction of booths and rides is tricky, only booths of the same type or rides of the same colour can touch each other, even on diagonals. This means that you wil rapidly run out of building space and will need to extend your show grounds. You do this by spending any of your dice to get a litte 2×2 grid to add on to your grounds. Usually this is not enough either.

Steam Park Review
Ride placement can feel like a bit of a chore at times.

Another action is the attract visitors action. This is where things get tricky. You start the game with a black bag that contains 1 of each colour of robo-meeple in it. Each die that you spend allows you add a meeple of your choice to the bag. After spending your dice you draw that many meeples from the bag, any that match your rides will jump on and pay you every turn, any that don’t are returned to the pool.

The next die face allows you to play bonus cards. These grant you bonus cash for meeting some criteria. The criteria can vary from the number of the same colour rides you own to the number of different colour rides that you own. These little lump sums of cash can go a long way to making you the richest but you need to time it correctly. Play them too early and you won’t maximise them, too late and you might miss out on another more valuable action.

The final dice face is the clean-up face. Each of these allows you to clean dirt from your grounds. It’s important to note that the first and 2nd player markers give you additional clean-up faces while the 3rd and last place marker give you additional dirt!

Lastly we have the income phase. Each visitor in your park will pay you for riding on your rides. Whoever has the most money at the end of 6 rounds, after taxes for dirt are paid, wins! So this phase can be tricky as you need to have a nice steady income but you need to be able to clean up all of the dirt that visitors will generate. This means that you won’t be using your dice to expand your park or claim bonus cards.

Steam Park Review
A dirt build up like this can get serious…

Conclusion

Steam Park is a fun, fast and lightweight game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The 3D game ‘board’ really does appeal to the kids and the fast first phase can lead to a lot of laughs.

That being said it’s not really my cup of tea. It is fun and the kids really enjoyed it. Sometimes they used to bring their lego mini figures to ride while we were playing. The construction rules made it a bit too much of a chore at times so we did alter it WRT to the booths, by allowing them to be on diagonally adjacent squares and it seemed to flow a bit better.

 Can I braai with this?

Sure, as long as you can do the rolling phase then pausing the game is easy.

Steam Park Review
The ‘board’ laid out does take up a fair amount of space.

 

Thanks to Boardgames.co.za for the review copy of Steam Park.

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