Theme&andn’What is it?
Steampunk is an eclectic work of cogs and rivets. It is airships, goggles, and steam. It is romance. It is traveling on clouds and diving beneath rugged waves. It is adventure.
― Aether Emporium
Boy that quote sums up this game. As one of the great scientists and inventors of the ages selected by Nikola Tesla, build a contraption using all manner of energy transfers and get it across the finish line. Penny farthings, naphtha cannisters, propellers, and more make up the pieces of these great steampunk creations that rumble, amble, and roll along the rally’s course in the Swiss Alps or the Hoverdrome. Avoid complications from terrain, challenges, and the other racers for a chance to be crowned the Greatest Inventor of All Time!
To truly change your stars, you must first be willing to risk everything.
― K.L. Harris, Equillian’s Key
I went back and forth with this game before I first picked it up at Barnes and Noble. It is one of the oldest games in my modern game collection, but picking it up shortly after it was released to the public after the Kickstarter. Punching tokens and looking through cards while reading the rules immersed us in the theme and got us itching to get going.
A clockwork heart can’t replace the real thing.
― Dru Pagliassotti, Clockwork Heart
The goal of Steampunk Rally is to be the inventor with their contraption the furthest beyond the Finish Line at the end of the last turn and with the most parts in their contraption.
Choose a course side of the tiles. Take out the Start, Finish, and End Track tiles, and randomly choose three Middle Track tiles and arrange the tiles between the players in a 2×3 fashion. Place Challenge Tokens on the track if being used.
Shuffle the Boost cards and Gold, Silver, Bronze Machine Item decks and place next to the rally tiles. Put the red, blue, yellow dice and cog tokens in piles next to the rally tiles. The Draft Direction token near the players.
Each player selects an Inventor and takes their associated Cockpit and Machine Part cards and a light bulb token. Place their Inventor Standee on the Start location.
There are five phases (Draft, Vent, Race, Damage, Upkeep) of play and some are executed simultaneously.
During the Draft Phase, players each takes a Boost card, Bronze, Silver, and Gold Machine Item cards. Select one of these cards, play it, stash it, or sell it, then pass the rest of the cards face down to the player next to you in the direction indicated by the Draft Direction token. This is repeated until the four cards are used up.
The Vent Phase allows you to spend cogs to reduce the face value of the dice on your contraption; 2 total pips per cog. Some Boost cards can only be spent during this phase.
Moving your contraption happens in the Race Phase. Roll your dice, turn over your light bulb token, and allocate dice to Machine Parts to protect your machine, make it move, or gain more dice to use. This is where the “engine” aspect of the game can really take off if you gather parts that will feed or expand each other.
The Damage Phase is where damage to the contraption is resolved as indicated by the Damage Gauge. If the Damage Gauge shows a negative value, remove as many parts (and discard their dice as necessary) as it takes to get back to 0.
The Upkeep Phase prepares your contraption and other items for the next round (store dice, flip over the light bulb token, etc.).
These rounds continue on until an Inventor ends the round beyond the Finish Line, then one more round is played.
Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.
― Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days
The game’s components are made up of tiles, tokens, dice, and cards. The tiles and tokens are made of a good quality cardboard and paper for rigid and lasting pieces. The dice, all d6, are translucent colored dice and there are plenty of them — nothing like the heft of a handful of dice to chuck. The cards are the only quibble I have — the look is good but would have wanted a sturdier cardstock with a core, linen instead of a slick finish that would get dull after some play so I would suggest sleeving them.
There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in proportion.
― Edgar Allan Poe
The game presents some of the most visually appealing and thematic art of the games I’ve played. There are so many unique cards from Boost to Machine Parts to each Inventor in the game, not to mention the box and rulebook. Kudos to Mr. Cuddington!
“Hail a cab, please, Floote. I am going out.”
“Are you certain that is wise, Miss? “
“To be wise, one might never leave one’s room at all”
― Gail Carriger, Soulless
A good part of the appeal of the game is the theme and incorporating the theme to the max is what the game does. Building up your contraption with a cornucopia of air, fire, and electric components in multitudinous combinations gives a good bit of nanty narking.
You’d be surprised what an eleven-year-old can get away with.
― Richard Due, Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy
The age range is 14+ for the game but the weight of the game belies a lower age by a few years, even down to 10 or so. Older ages lend toward better strategies but the younger players, especially those who have a bent towards science and/or science fiction, will get a kick out of the art and information about these great inventors and scientists. The difficulty of the game in learning the rules is low and player aid cards are provided for the most pertinent symbology and turn order info, making the game easy to learn by someone who knows the game.
Darkness is your cloak. Fear is your ally. Wickedness is your manna.
― Stephen Hunt, The Court of the Air
So I’ll start with the game aspect. The two keywords for this game are versatility and replayability. The setup has randomness with the cards and selection of the rally course. Different ways to influence the dice played and those yet to play can make it hard for others to predict where you might go with your strategy. Card draft and pass makes for a curious wrinkle in it all too. I will say though that the aspect that has the least randomness are the rally course tiles. Yes you have two sides for two different tracks but the track is short and three of the 8 tiles are always used and present so the courses can feel the same each time.
Aside from the mechanics, I have to point out that the art oozes theme and is at least half of the appeal to the game for me. There is some much going on in the Inventors, parts, and Boost cards that being distracted by the cards can make it take a little longer to play — none of us have issue with that.
When I initially started getting into more modern gaming, this game was one of the first I picked up. My boys and I were certainly not let down when I opened this game up from the start and put our contraptions to work. Out of the gate the first time, It took a bit of time going through the rulebook, pretty as it is, because some of the asynchronous nature of the game made it difficult reading the rules in order and getting it all in my head, yet a couple rounds in we were good to go. Later on when my game group picked up playing board games over RPGs, this is still one of our perennial favorites to pull out. With the newest Kickstarter just delivered, we can’t wait to see what comes next!