Steam Time Review

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Steam Time is a game by Rüdiger Dorn, published by THAMES & KOSMOS. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the roll of airship captains working for the Temporal Institute for Monument Exploration or T.I.M.E. for short. They will travel through space and time in an attempt to find hidden treasures, deposits of crystals and information about ancient civilizations among other things. The player that can navigate the temporal vortex the best and gain the highest esteem of T.I.M.E. will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player is given an airship board, 3 airships and 3 control discs in their chosen color. The board is placed in front of the player. The airships are placed on the hangar space of the player’s airship board. The control discs are placed on the “1” space of the player’s steam track, the start space of their time portal track and the start space of the esteem track on the game board. They are also given 8 gold which is placed on the vault space of their board. Players are also given a number and color of crystals depending on the play order. Some players may also gain gold and steam as well. Crystals are placed in the proper place on the player’s airship board. The remaining crystals are placed into the bag. The game board is put together and placed in the middle of the play area. 30 clear crystals are placed in the secret mine space. The gold tokens go in the bank. The esteem tiles are place on their correct spaces. Mr. T.I.M.E. is placed on the time compass. The encounter cards are shuffled and placed face down on the encounters box. The missions cards are shuffled and placed in the missions box. The expedition cards are separated by Roman numeral, with each deck being shuffled separately. The decks are then stacked together face down in the expeditions box with the Roman numeral V cards at the bottom and the I cards at the top. The upgrades are done the exact same way and then placed in the upgrades box. The effort cards are sorted by the Greek symbol on the back before being shuffled. 2 cards are drawn from the alpha deck and 3 from the omega deck. The 2 alpha cards are place on top of the 3 omegas and then placed face down on the effort box. The remaining effort cards are returned to the box. The first player tile is placed next to the board. The monument boards are separated by the numbers on the boards then, based on the number of players, are placed in any order next to the board. The remaining 3 are returned to the box. The action spaces of each monument board are prepared by placing crystals in crystal deposit spaces, mission cards drawn for mission spaces, expedition cards drawn for expedition spaces and upgrades drawn for upgrade spaces. The first player is chosen and receives the first player tile. Play now begins.

The game is played over 5 rounds. Each round is comprised of 3 phases; income phase, action phase and supply phase. The first phase is the income phase. This phase does not happen in the first round of play as no players have acquired upgrades at this point. In this phase, players receive rewards based on the upgrades they’ve made to their airship board. Beginning with the first player in player order, players receive their rewards. Gold is taken from the bank, the control disc is moved on the esteem track, time crystals are removed from the secret mine and placed in a free generator slot, crystals of the depicted color are removed from the bag and placed in the corresponding slot on the player’s airship board, the control disc is moved up on the steam track and a crystal is taken from any crystal deposit on a monument board and placed on an open generator slot. Of course not all these actions will happen, this is all determined by what each player has accomplished on their player board up to that point. Another thing is that there are placement rules for crystals which must be followed. I won’t go into detail there but just know that this is a part of it.

The next phase is the action phase. In this phase, beginning with the first player, players may take 1 of 2 actions. They can take the first player tile or place 1 airship and execute the action of the space. The first player tile can only be taken once per round. The player that takes it is then allowed to perform 1 of 2 special actions. They may convert 1 steam into 1 esteem or they may convert 1 steam into a T.I.M.E. crystal which must then be placed into a generator. The current first player can not take this action until all the other players have had a chance to pass on it.

Instead of performing these actions, the player may place an airship and perform the space’s action. The player simply places one of their airships from their hangar onto an unoccupied action space on a monument board. Once the action is performed, the player may receive a reward or bonus. Each monument board has a number of spaces. Hower not all of the action spaces may be available on every board. It should also be noted, if a player has placed an airship in a previous turn, then the next time they place an airship it must be at least 1 monument board further up in the stream of time. In total, there are 6 different types of action spaces; mission, encounter, crystal deposit, upgrade, gold and expedition. Mission spaces allow a player to take a mission card. If at the end of the game they are able to complete it, the player gains the esteem reward. As a bonus, the player is able to advance their esteem disc by 1 space per crystal in their bridge area. Encounter spaces allow a player to draw encounter cards and execute 1 of them. They can perform either or both actions on the card drawn. As a bonus for taking this action, they player gets 1 steam for each blue crystal in their engine room. Crystal deposit spaces allow a player to buy crystals for 2 gold each. They also get a T.I.M.E. crystal from the secret mine fore each black crystal in their laboratory generator. Upgrade spaces allow a player to buy an upgrade based on the current effort card. They then gain the income depicted on the upgrade. As a bonus, they are allowed to advance the control disc on their time portal by 1 space clockwise for each pink crystal in their time portal. If the disc advances past the top pink space, the player is allowed to take a bonus action on one of the monument boards. In this case, the player uses the Mr. T.I.M.E. pawn instead of an airship. Gold spaces allow a player to take a certain amount of gold as depicted on the space. Some spaces will also allow the player to gain 1 steam or advance their time portal control disc. As a bonus, the player gains 2 gold for each gray crystal in their Midas machine generator. The Expedition space allow the player to pay for an expedition using a number of crystals. Afterwards as a bonus, they gain a number of rewards based on the number of orange crystals in their analytic engine generator. Once no more players can place any air ships or choose not to, the phase ends.

The third and final phase is the supply phase. This phase basically prepares players for the next round. Players take back all their airships, placing them back in their hangar. The monument board in the top position is moved to the bottom and the remaining boards slide up. Crystals remaining on crystal deposit spaces are returned to the bag. Expedition cards, mission cards and upgrades that were revealed for this round are discarded. New crystals are placed in the crystal deposit spaces. New missions, expeditions and upgrades are laid out for the new round. The previous effort card is discarded and a new one is flipped over. The new first player places the first player tile next to the board and begins a new round.

Once the 5th round has been played out, the game is over. Players reveal their missions and spend the required resources to increase their esteem, advancing their control disc on the esteem track. If the disc crosses the start space, the player takes their colored esteem tile and place it next to their airship board with the 60 side up. If they cross it a second time, it is flipped to the 120 side. Once all players have completed this task, esteem totals are compared. The player with the highest esteem is the winner.

This game also comes with a couple of extra modules for more advanced play; sabotage and specialists. The sabotage module adds saboteurs into the game, making player pay T.I.M.E. crystals to be able to use the blocked space. The specialists module allows a player to use a special deck of specialist cards during the action phase. Each player will receive 9 specialists in their color. These cards allow the player to perform special actions as described on the card.

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COMPONENTS
This game is overflowing with some of the best looking pieces I’ve ever seen. There is a ton of cardboard, wood and plastic pieces inside the box. There are the 3 game board tiles that are put together like a puzzle, monument boards that are placed alongside the game board and have beautiful backdrops of some well known monuments, a first player tile, gold piece tokens, esteem tiles, upgrade tiles and airship boards with 4 amazing looking ships that would make any steampunk adventure happy. That’s just the thick cardboard pieces. There are lots of cards as well. There are encounter cards with some famous historical figures, expedition cards that portray some really beautiful places, mission cards as well as effort cards. There is a huge bag of plastic crystals in several different colors, as well as a fabric bag to hold them in. There are some brightly colored wooden pieces including control discs, airship meeples and the Mr. T.I.M.E. pawn. If that’s not enough stuff to make your mouth water, there’s also the saboteur tokens for the sabotage module and a deck of specialist cards for the specialist module. When all the pieces for this game are laid out, you will not believe how beautiful it truly looks. The artwork is gorgeous. The character drawings on the different card types are amazing. I’m just completely blown away. I couldn’t have asked for a better looking game. You will not be disappointed with the pieces in this game.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is just as beautiful and nice as the components. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. The first 2 pages give you a lay out of all the different pieces included with the game in full color. The next page shows how the game is set up with a reference for setting up the crystals. The accompanying page has the text for setting up. The next several pages break down the rules and explain how to play the game in great detail. There are also thematic little entries from different specialists like the commander, engineer or navigator to break up the sections. It adds a little bit of something to the rulebook to draw you into the world that the designer has created. The last page lays out the extra rules for including the 2 bonus modules into your game. The back cover has a very unique steam time almanac. This gives a brief description of the people that you find on the encounter cards and the places you’ll go to on the expedition cards. It’s a really nice addition that adds a little history and geography to the book. As I’ve said, the book looks amazing and is just jam packed with information. It’s really easy to read and understand. With only 12 pages, it won’t take a long time to read either. This is definitely a well designed rule book.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
What can I say about this game? It’s absolutely amazing. It is one of the most fun games that I’ve ever played. It is packed full of choices with lots of decisions to make. Do you try to increase this section of your airship or that one? You really have to plan out your decisions and decide which way your gonna try to go as the decisions you make will affect you later on in the game. The good thing is that there are so many different spaces available throughout the game, that you’ll never feel like your getting the short end of the stick. Every option is a good one. There are so many options available and paths to victory that you can pretty much customize your ship to fit your particular play style. Fans of worker placement games will absolutely fall in love with this one. It’s very cool and will delight even the most strategic minded player. I love that the game scales extremely well, regardless of how many players you have playing. The different monument boards provide for all play groups to get an equally fun and addictive game. It’s not a super long game either. Most game sessions will run about an hour or so. Of course with more players it may take a bit longer. The theme doesn’t come through as much as I thought it would but is an extremely minor thing. You won’t be worried about it at all. I promise. The replayability of it is very high. You will find yourself wanting to play it again and again. The added modules increas the longevity of this game in so many ways and add lots of extra flavor for when you want a little something more. Regardless of how you look at it, this is absolutely one of the best games that I’ve ever played.
10 out of 10

OVERALL
Steam Time is a medium weight game of airship exploration through time and space. The game has an average play time with most games lasting around an hour or so. The artwork is very beautiful and feels very thematic, even though the game doesn’t quite feel that way. There are lots and lots of great looking pieces and when set up completely, it looks amazing. The gameplay is tons of fun with lots of choices and decisions to make. There is quite a bit of planning ahead involved with this game so strategic minded players will absolutely love it. Fans of worker placement games will adore it. There’s plenty of customization to appease those players, like myself, who love to make their own unique design. Even with all the strategy, decisions and customization, it’s a game that is fairly simple to play. This is one that I really feel that everyone should enjoy. I can’t recommend it highly enough. This one will definitely see a lot of play at my house. It’s a work of art.
10 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out THAMES & KOSMOS at their site.

http://www.thamesandkosmos.com/index.php/kosmosgames

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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