In Steam Park the players are buildng competing fun fairs, visited – if you buy into the theme – by robots, who unfortunately leave dirt all over the place. And a dirty park will cost you points at the end of the game…
Everyone starts with a tile – upon which they’ll build their park – three bonus cards (more on those shortly) and six identical dice. The dice are the real nub of the game. Over six rounds, the game plays over four phases: in phase one everyone rolls their dice, choosing what to keep and what to re-roll. You can re-roll as many times as you like, but finishing quicker than the other players is rewarded: you get to clean up some dirt from your park, whereas if you finish later, you add more of the stuff! As soon as only one player is left, they must instantly stop rolling: they’ll have to use whatever they’ve got.
Phase two is dirt: players take a dirt toke for each dirt symbol on their chosen dice, and for each visitor in their park.
Phase three is actions: you now spend your dice in any order you choose: building more rides (which take visitors) or stands (which give you a little in-game benefit), adding visitors to rides, playing a bonus card to score points, or sacrificing a die of your choosing to expand the footprint of your park, making more room to build on. You’ll need more room because – unless they are the same colour – rides and stands cannot be built next to each other.
In phase four you get income: three money for every visitor in your park on that turn. As the richest player wins, this is pretty key – but the downside is, more visitors means more dirt. And at the end of the game (after the sixth round) there are penalties to pay for how dirty your park is: these can get very expensive, so don’t forget to clean up!
The simple premise of building (and keeping clean) is given the extra twist by the simultaneous dice-rolling, putting everyone under pressure at the start of each round to make decisions as fast as they can. Thematically I guess that’s like the theme park architects hurrying to finish their plans to keep ahead of the competition – but if they rush, they may make mistakes. I found that fun, but it does mean there’s a pretty wide seam of luck running through the game: you can be desperate to just roll a Visitor (for instance) on your final die, but it’s just not coming up and meanwhile you’re slipping down the turn order. Whether you find that kind of frustration funny or merely irritating may define how much you enjoy Steam Park.
Nobody can mess with your park, but people can beat you to the punch on turn order, which is a pretty crucial aspect of the game.
Low to moderate. You can't go completely random with the dice because if you're building you need room, if you're bringing in visitors they need somewhere to go (and there is a risk factor in this anyway, as there are six different kinds of visitors and they're exceedingly picky!) and if you're playing bonus cards you want to make sure it's worth sacrificing a die to do so. But a couple of plays and it's all very straightforward.
Dice provide variety, but there are other random elements here (bonus cards, the visitors) as well as your own strategy. Keep a nice tidy park as you go, or throw caution to the wind and hope you accrue enough cash to survive the whopping dirt penalty at the end of the game?