Liga: Review of Steam Park (Cranio Creations)

steam-parkSteam Park

  • Designer: Aureliano Buonfino, Lorenzo Silva, Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino
  • Publisher: Cranio Creations
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 10+
  • Duration: 45-60 minutes

review by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue thanks to a review copy from the publisher

What happen if you take a nice theme, like amusement parks, a bit of steam-punk, that is always glamour, a dice-rolling real-time mechanic and a bit of strategy ? What if you add Marie Cardoaut arts and the creativity of the Cranio Creations team ? That is actually Steam Park, one of the funniest Essen releases. A game that will not rise up in the Olympus of the top BGG ranks but I’m sure will offer hours of entertainment to the luck owners probably finding his place in the limbo between real fillers and long/deep strategy games.

In the far land of Robobourg you are the owner of a steam park, a fantastic carnival for robot. You will try to build it up and attract visitors (robots), getting money and in the mean-time keeping an eye on the trash level since Robots in Robobourg are not happy about dirt.

The game will last 6 turns. Each turn is divided in 4 phases: Roll, Dirt, Action and Income. The first phase is “real-time”, the others more relaxed. In each turn you will build rides and stands, attract visitors, complete bonus cards and clean your park. Doing that you will collect money. In the end you will have to pay for the final cleaning and the one with more money will win.

Every player has a 4×4 playing board, a small pig-board and a set of 6 dice. You will also start the game with a selection of 3 bonus cards from a starting hand of 6.

steam-park-2

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 the players but one are OK with the results. The last players has 3 more re-rolls and the phase is over. Being the first to finish will let you clean 4 dirt tokens; being the last you get 2 dirt tokens. This phase will also determinate the turn order for all the other phases. This is the crucial phase where you will take most/all the decisions: being the first to finish is a nice advantage, also because the rides are limited in a 3-4 players game this could be a problem!) but sometimes is better to keep rolling to get the desired results.

A Steam Park’s die has 6 different results: Ride, Stand, Clean, Build. Play-Card, nothing.

I really like games where you have to take important decision in a short time; on the contrary I hate games with analysis-paralysis problems or where you have to wait minutes/hours thanks to heavy-thinker players. Steam Park really works well in this direction: you have to quickly decide what is better for you and roll to have it. I need to build a big Ride and a Stand so I’ll keep rolling trying to have 3 build rides and one build stands results.

In the Dirt Phase you will collect 1 dirt tokens for each visitor in your park and 1 token for each build ride, build stand and playing bonus cards results. Finally you will remove (or add) dirt according to the turn order.

The Dirt in Steam Park is something you have to keep an eye on since in the end of the game you can loose really a lot of points cleaning the park.

The Action Phase is 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 juts once in the turn.

To build Rides you need “build rides” dice. There are 18 rides in 6 colors and 3 sizes: small (you need just one die), medium (you need 2) and big (you need three). The small ones will host 1 visitors and the big ones 3. Building rules are simple: rides of the same color have to touch and rides of different colors have to stay apart. Stands are built with “build stands” dice and are in 5 different type, offering different privileges. Same building rules: stand of the same type have to touch and different stands have to stay apart. Stand and Rides can’t touch. The 4×4 grid will be soon to small for your plans and you will have to use dice to buy small 2×2 extensions.

You can clean 2 dirt tokens using a “clean dirt” result , 4 if you have a Toilet (stand) and play an objective card using “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 on your ride: otherwise you have to discard it.

In the Income Phase you will get money for visitors in your park and money are points. One way to score points is to attract visitors and you need Rides to host them: stands will help you with their privileges.

Another way to score points are Bonus Cards. You can consider this cards like short-term/long-term objectives and their weight in the final score is high. Cards are of the kind “Points for each blue visitor” or “points for each build-ride result” or “points of each different stands” and almost all of them have progressive scores so it is better to wait the right moment to play/use bonus cards. In the end of the turn you can draw 2 bonus cards for each one played and keep one: a little way to control randomness and a possibility to plan ahead your strategy.

After 6 turns you pay for the final cleaning (you will loose money/points according to the dirty tokens still in your park) and the richer is the winner.

Is Steam Park fun to play? Yes, it is. This is the first question I always try to answer after playing a new game. Is it fun to play and play again ? Yeas, at least after 5 session. Fun and replaybility.
There are killing strategies? I think not. Is it just luck or there is strategy ? I think Steam Park is a nice light strategy game with some luck (actually more in the bonus cards drawing than in the dice rolling) and a great rhythm. Another hit for Cranio Creations!

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers:

Ben McJunkin (3 plays) – I am on the fence about Steam Park. I purchased the game primarily to appease those members of my casual gaming group who consistently request Galaxy Trucker, a game I’ve grown increasingly tired of. My hope was that Steam Park would provide some of the same real-time frenetic energy as Galaxy Trucker, but in a shorter, easier to teach package. On that score, Steam Park largely succeeds. The dice rolling is entertaining, and the game runs for a brisk 60 minutes, rarely more. On the other hand, the game’s simplicity doesn’t do much to hold my attention. As most of you know, I am a fan of meatier, more complicated strategy games. So while this game serves its purpose, I have no personal desire to return it to the table.

That said, I do applaud some of the game’s design elements. I think that the spatial challenge of drafting and placing amusement park rides works very well, once everyone understands the rules. I love to see how my little park turns out each game. I also think that the choice of Marie Cardouat as the artist helps greatly in this regard. The game evokes a fantastical dream world of robots on ferris wheels quite remarkably. I’m much less a fan of the special abilities of the stand, as it tends to drag down the game in the latter rounds. Likewise, the game seems to incentivize playing cards each round for money, which I view as at too far removed from the enjoyable core gameplay – an unnecessary distraction in my eyes.

Dale Yu – (3 plays) – So far, I definitely have enjoyed Steam Park. I went to Essen looking to get a copy of this due to the theme and the art. Oh, and I love dice games for the most part. I have been a fan of the major Cranio releases in the past few years (Sheepland, Dungeon Fighter), so I had high expectations for this one.

The game is easy to teach, and it has gone over fairly well in my group. The basic turn is simple – roll dice, try to decide as quick as possible on what dice you want to keep, and then wait your turn to figure out what to do with those dice…

There were some concerns from our first game that there was a unbeatable strategy of simply rolling as fast as possible and accepting whatever the first roll brought in order to finish first and avoid the dirt penalty. At first this seemed like a good play because the point penalty for dirt can become quite large if you are unable to control it… However, the results of our games have shown that this strategy isn’t as good as it looks. A player who consistently finishes the rolling part of the round early definitely ends the game with the least dirt, this strategy also usually results in less useful rolls to take advantage of. I think that this is actually quite nicely balanced.

As far as the game play goes, I really like the puzzle aspect of rolling your dice (as quickly as possible) and then constructing the different pieces given the heavy constraint of placement rules. The different buildings also allow you to plan an individual strategy to take advantage of different dice rolls. Admittedly, as Ben has alluded to above, later in the game this can cause a little bit of slowdown as you have to mentally calculate all the possible permutations of dice modification, etc – but not enough to make the game drag (or at least not with my group)!

The bonus cards seem a little swing-y, as you randomly draw them and they have fairly wide swings in VP production – especially if you draw a pair of cards that don’t match up to your theme park at all… But, for a game that already relies on the luck of the dice, it’s just one more bit of fortune that will eventually wash out with all the other chance in the game.

As I am not a parakeet, I will admit that I’m not as big a fan of the 3D buildings. There’s nothing wrong with them, but I would have been just as happy with flat tiles that I could see around. I know that I’m in the minority for not caring for the buildings as everyone else in my group (and my kids) love that part of the game.

Once you know the rules, this is the sort of game that can be played in 30 minutes or less. The 6 rounds really can go by quickly. For now, this deserves a spot in my collection in the super-filler category.

Lorna – Love the theme and the art. Yahtzee in an amusement park, the game is quick enough the mechanisms aren’t too bothersome

Joe (3 plays) – While I like Steam Park, I’m increasingly concerned that the game isn’t a keeper for me. I am particularly bothered by the pace of the game – it’s a game that, for me, really wants to play in thirty minutes – but typically takes far closer to an hour. As much as I love the theme, and enjoy the artwork, I’m not convinced that I need to play the game more (though I’m certainly willing to play it), and as such I’m not convinced it will end up sticking in my collection. I do plan to play it at least once more before making a final decision.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it! – None
I like it – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue, Lorna, Dale Yu, Joe Huber, Mark Jackson
Neutral – Ben McJunkin, Tom Rosen, Jennifer Geske, Ted Alspach, Dan Blum, Luke Hedgren
Not for me – None

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About Andrea "Liga" Ligabue

Andrea "Liga" Ligabue is a game expert contributing to many games related international projects including Gamers Alliance Report, WIN, ILSA Magazine and Boardgamenews. Member of the International Gamers Awards Committee is coordinator of Play - The Games Festival and founder of the project Ludoteca Ideale.
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One Response to Liga: Review of Steam Park (Cranio Creations)

  1. AED says:

    Count me in the “like it” to “love it” category. It feels rather light but the younger players in my group absolutely adore this game!

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