Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Steam Time (Thames and Kosmos)

Transport yourself back in time. The year is 1899 and strange things are happening in monuments around the world. Powerful crystals have also been discovered that when harnessed correctly can help the user to travel through time and space. The industrialized nations of world, never one to miss an opportunity, are in a race to exploit these powers to their advantage. This is the game Steam TimeSteam Time is a worker placement game for 2 to 4 players, ages 12+. It takes 60-90 minutes to play (depending on the number of players) and sells for $40-$60 depending on the retailer you buy from. Let's set up the game for two players.
1. Take the three Game Board tiles and connect them to form the upside down L-shaped section Game Board,
2. Take the six Monument Boards labeled with the number two (for two players) and arrange them randomly in a column to complete the Game Board.
3. Separate the Upgrade Tiles by age (I-V) and shuffle them. Then, populate the Upgrade Tiles on the board in their appropriate location.
4. Shuffle each of the following three decks (Encounter CardsMission Cards, and Expedition Cards) separately, and form a separate draw pile for each. Match the cards from each deck with their appropriate locations on the board and populate those locations. (Note the Expedition Cards are arranged by age so bear this in mind when shuffling.)
5. Put the clear crystals (wild) at the top of the board, along with Mr. Time token.
6. Put the remaining colored crystals in the bag. Shake up the bag and then find the holes on the game board and put a random colored crystal in each hole.
7. Put two Alpha and three Omega Effort Cards at the top of the board in their proper location.
8. Give each player an Airship Board, three wooden Airships, and three Control Discs all of the same color. Put one Control Disc on the zero of the Esteem Track (score), one on the one Steam Track, and one on the start space of your Time Portal Track.
9. Give Player One a green, blue, black, pink, and grey crystal. Give Player Two the same amount plus an orange crystal. These will go in the first open spot in their matching colored area on your Airship Board.
10. Lastly, give each player eight coins.
Game Play - The game takes place over five rounds and you can take one of two actions.
1. Take the first player token. Convert one Steam into one clear crystal and/or Convert up to ten Steam into Esteem Points. (Note: You cannot take the first player token if you are the first player and it is your first turn.)
2. Take one of your Airships and place them on one of six different locations on the board and execute the action:
a. Green - Take the Mission Card associated with this square and place it face down next to your Airship Board.
b. Blue - Take the shown number of Encounter Cards on the square and pick one to perform.
c. Black - Buy colored crystals located in the square for two coins each and place them in your Airship Board.
d. Pink - Buy an Upgrade Tile with the proper gems designated on the Effort Card. You immediately receive the bonus listed on the tile.
e. Grey - Take the number of coins listed on the square.
f. Orange - Take the Expedition Card associated with this square and pay the proper gems designated on the Effort Card.
3. Each colored square has a bonus action associated with it that you get to perform after taking the main action. The amount of your bonus action reward depends on the number of crystals you have of that color.
a. Green - Esteem Points
b. Blue - Steam
c. Black - Clear Crystals
d. Pink - Move along the Time Portal Track, which will eventually get you Mr. Time and a free bonus action.
e. Grey - Extra coins.
f. Orange - Receive up to five additional rewards, i.e., crystals, points, steam, etc.
4. Turns alternate between players with the only placement rules being that you can't land on a spot where there is already an Airship and you have to move up on the Game Board when you place subsequent Airships.
5. After each round, the top Monument Board shifts to the bottom and pushes the other Monument Boards up a space.

Looking at recent games, it is clear that the steampunk theme is one that has grown in popularity in recent years. This was my first venture into that theme and I can see why it is so popular. There's something interesting about encountering historical figures such as Tesla, Edison, and Watt. Another popular theme employed in this game is time travel. I have played a few time travel games and while none get the idea exactly right, it is always a theme I take great pleasure in.

After looking at the themes, I examined the components more closely and I think that Thames and Kosmos did a first rate job. The game board is massive and modular, which makes for a stunning presentation. Given that there are different sides for the number of players (two, three, and four) and that the game board moves and changes, the game and your strategy must be fluid. In addition to a well-designed game board, the pieces are well made also. They aren't generic cubes, but blimp-shaped, and the little gem stones have a nice feel to them with colors (particularly the blue and green ones) that really pop!

The game, as I said earlier, is a worker placement game, and anyone familiar with the board gaming hobby is no stranger to this game mechanism. I would say that Steam Time took that mechanism and put it on steroids. In a standard worker placement game, you put your pawn on a square and no one else can take that action. This holds true in Steam Time, but there are multiple iterations of each action so someone can't completely block you from an action. The mechanism is also enhanced, because in addition to carrying out a standard action when placing your Airship, you also get a bonus action that varies in strength depending on the number of gems you have. Brilliant!

Lastly, the replay value is high in this game. The base game has enough moving parts, different cards, different upgrades, etc. that you can play this game many times over and it have a bit of a different feel each time. However, if you feel that you need something a little different to enhance the game or add a challenge, there are two optional modules you can add to it. One is called the specialist module and the other is called the sabotage module. The former can help enhance your turns even further, and the latter adds a "take that" mechanism to the game. I like the specialists, but the sabotage is a bit too cutthroat for my gaming group.

RĂ¼diger Dorn, the game's designer, is no stranger to making successful games. Looking back at his track record (Roa, Istanbul, Genoa), it is no surprise that this game plays as great as it does. If you are looking for a quality game that sneaked in under the radar in 2015, then you can't go wrong with this game!

This game was provided to me by Thames and Kosmos in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!