Steam Park has been a favorite of my children and mine for a few years. The theme of the game is that robots have decided to run an amusement park. You are trying to make your robot amusement park the most popular one around and in so doing earn the most money. Unfortunately, you make a lot of mess while you build and your visitors aren't the cleanest either. So you're constantly having to clean up messes while you're desperately trying to expand. What a wonderfully original theme! It reminds me of the old sim games I played on the computer when growing up. The game has a frantic speed element and a regular paced thoughtful period within each round. Its art work and physical components are awesome. This is just an all around modern classic. But read on to get a detailed look at the game!
The game looks absolutely stunning on the table. It comes with lots of colorful cardboard rides and stands to build on your plots of land. The money consists of small carboard tokens, which are very nice. Then there is a set of dice for each player. The dice are natural colored wood. The customers are brightly colored wooden meeples. It comes with a cloth bag to draw your meeple customers out of. Basically, this game is as aesthetically pleasing as it is possible for a board game on this subject to be. You do have to assemble your cardboard rides and stands, but once they are together you can leave them together in the box when you put the game away. Unfortunately, my cardboard pieces weren’t very easy to punch out of the cardboard sheets they came in, which caused one of the rides to rip. But I sent an email to the company and they instantly shipped me a replacement so that wasn’t an issue. Perhaps they’ve solved the issue in their currently manufactured copies, though.
In the game you are trying to build rides on your lot and then get customers to ride them in order to earn money. There are also little stands you can build which help your park as well.
In order to build these rides and get customers, you are going to be frantically rolling a set of 6 dice. On the dice faces are symbols that correspond to the different actions you can do. The different symbols allow you to build rides, build stands, attract visitors, clean dirt, play bonus cards, or nothing at all (a blank side). Once you have the dice faces on the actions you want to take, you put them on your piggy bank and grab the best available turn order token. The turn order token tells the order the players may take their subsequent actions and it cleans up a given amount of dirt (earlier tokens clean up more).
During their actions, the players may build rides of various colors equal to the amount of ride symbols they rolled. The ride colors matter because only visitors of the ride’s color will ride it. Players must place their rides on their land plots in a Tetris-like manner in order to fit them in. New land extensions can be bought as a replacement action for the regular actions when needed, however.
If players rolled a visitor face on a die, they can put a visitor meeple of a color they want into the bag, along with at least 6 previously existing meeples. They then hope to draw back out a meeple of their chosen color to put on their ride where it will generate money.
Building stands will help out your park. For instance, building a security stand lets you redraw a visitor meeple from the bag. Building an Info Point lets the player use a meeple that doesn’t match the color of a ride use that ride for one turn and generate money. A casino lets you change a die face after you’ve put the dice on your pig. A Toilet lets you double your dirt clean up and a Promotion Stand lets you double the visitors you get to draw.
Dirt is generated anytime something is built or a visitor has taken up residence in a ride. You need to use shovel faces on the dice to clean up the dirt. At the end of the game, the more dirt you have, the more money you will have to pay back to the bank.
Finally, there are objective cards that generate extra money if you match their requirements and use the die face that enables playing one of the cards.
The game lasts for 6 rounds and then money is counted to determine the winner.
The frantic dice rolling part of the game makes it a hit for my children. They love racing to get the first turn markers by finishing their dice rolling first. I usually tend to end up the last one to finish rolling and then get the worst turn marker (which also generates extra dirt instead of cleaning it up). The game plays in about an hour, but it feels like it is much shorter than that. The game flies by. The theme and the beautiful pieces enhance an already great game. Thus, this game has come out over and over throughout the last couple years.
Parent/ Teacher Recommendations
I think children 7 and up should be able to handle the game if playing with their parents. Children would need to be about 10 to play it on their own against other children. This game would not stand up to classroom or game club use, however. The cardboard rides would easily be torn by students not trained to treat board games carefully. If the rides were plastic, it would be a different story. As it is I don’t bring this game into my elementary school game club due to fears about its longevity in that environment.
In terms of mental demands, the game has some fast-paced strategizing going on during that dice rolling section of each round. That could be frustrating to some children who might freeze up when pressured to think quickly. So, knowledge of the children involved and their comfort level with fast thinking is necessary for determining whether the game will be a fit or not. If the children find the time crunch fun, then this game will be a hit with them. My own children love it and seem to outdo me most of the time during that section. Their young energetic brains have no problem with it, whereas my aging one tends to get more befuddled trying to keep up…