Gaming Unplugged: Steam Park

So it turns out the robots love amusement parks. In the board game Steam Park, it’s your job to provide fun rides and handy stands to give these robots the best time of their lives. Steam Park is a fun and innovative game from Iello games, the publisher of the very popular Kings of Tokyo.

Steam Park is a management game where each player decides how to build, expand and maintain their theme park to attract robot patrons. I realize it sounds a little odd but trust me Steam Park is a great little strategy party game. The game mechanics use strategic planning and speed to move the game along really make it interesting.

One of Steam Park’s high points is the art direction of the game. There is a very whimsical and fantastic feel to all of the rides and stands that the players use to build up their parks. The illustrations are fun and very appealing to the eye. The art direction is very creative and I feel has hints of a Miyazaki movie built into it, especially the rides.

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The game play is a good mixture of speed, planning and sacrifice. The object of the game is to collect money and improve your park while trying to keep on park maintenance. This is all done with rolls of the dice. Each player will try to build the biggest and best theme park to attract the most attendees. Players can build rides that come in different sizes or stands that have strategic use. Each stand has its own special ability. Instead of taking individual turns like in other management games, like Stone Age, Steam Park adds a twist of simultaneous play with benefits for being faster than the other players.  Steam Park also is a game designed to be played quickly.  After six rounds the game is over and the player with the most money wins.

Each round starts with all of the players rolling six dice simultaneously. This adds a layer of excitement not normally seen in a management style game. The players are rolling dice looking for specific results. Each side of the dice represents a different aspect of managing the parks. If a player wants to build rides they’ll be trying to get a different dice face to show up as compared to if they wanted to build stands or attract customers.  With everyone rolling at once the board can get a little hectic, but fun.

The rolling phase does come with extra attributes. This phase is all about speed. Players can re roll any number of their dice. But if a player is too slow getting the dice roll that they like it could affect their park in a negative way. There are bonuses for getting the dice roll you need first also. Players must also lock their dice once they’ve decided what actions they are looking to complete. If one of your dice flips over after it’s been locked, that’s really unfortunate for you. You suck it up and deal with it. I did when it happened to me.

Next, depending on how fast you were at rolling your dice players take turns spending their dice to either, build rides, build stands, clean dirt, draw robots or expand their park. Different dice faces allow the players to do these different actions. Rides entice robots to visit your park and stands give you special abilities. All the things you want for your park come at a price. Most of them will also make you take on more dirt in your park. The more dirt you have the more dice you have to sacrifice in later rounds to remove it.  You’re dice choices are the largest part of the strategy to the game.

Building rides is where the money is. Without rides you can’t get robots, without robots you can’t gain money, and without money why are you playing this game? All of the rides are these fantastic Studio Ghibli looking wonder buildings. There are six different rides with three different sizes. The larger the ride the more dice you must spend to build them. You’re welcome to build multiple rides per turn but never the same sized ones. So if you roll four ride dice you can build a size three and size one but not two size two rides. Also when placing your rides in your park there are different placement rules everyone must follow. With the limited amount of space that the players start with you need to realize what you’re building and where you’re putting it during while you’re rolling. You can expand your park also, but again that will cost you dice.

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Stands are your other building choice. There are different types of stands that allow you to improve your dice rolls and assist in your robot picks. I think the most helpful stands to have in your park are the Direction stands, covered in arrows, and the Toilets. Direction stands allow you to temporarily use robots of the wrong color for your rides and the toilets double the amount of dirt that can be removed per die. There are also Security, Promotional and Casino stands, all with their own bonuses. Build them and use them wisely.

I know you’ve seen me mention “dirt” a lot through this article. Dirt is bad. The more dirt your park has at the end of the game the more money you lose at the end of the game. You can actually have so much dirt that you automatically lose.  Dirt piles up with everything you build and every robot you have in your park. Robots are the key to winning but they do come with that one drawback. The more robots you have making you money, the more dirt they leave behind every turn. You can roll shovels with our die and each shovel roll allows you to remove one dirt and if you’re fast in your rolling you can remove extra dirt. If you’re too slow in your rolls though you will gain extra dirt. So again….dirt bad.

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There is one last element to Steam Park that could change your strategy. Everyone always has at least three bonus cards. You can choose to ignore these cards altogether or you can use them to gain extra money. All of the cards have different ways to earn money. Some will give you money for stands, some will give you money for even the dice you roll. There are many different ways to use these. But again if you want to use a bonus card you have to roll a die for it, so they take away from your ability to perform other tasks.

I realize that this must be the longest board game review I’ve written and if you’re still with me, bully for you! Steam Park may seem like an overly complicated nonsense game, but it’s not, I promise. The game is simple, fun and fast paced. It’s also short. There are only six rounds per game. It’s an excellent strategy party game. I would like it better if it supported more than four players but you can’t have everything. I like Steam Park because it’s really different than other management style games and a lot easier to jump into. It’s definitely one of my new favorites.

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