Gaming Unplugged: Steam Park

So it turns out the robots love amusement parks. In the board game Steam Park, it’s your job to provide fun rides and handy stands to give these robots the best time of their lives. Steam Park is a fun and innovative game from Iello games, the publisher of the very popular Kings of Tokyo.

Steam Park is a management game where each player decides how to build, expand and maintain their theme park to attract robot patrons. I realize it sounds a little odd but trust me Steam Park is a great little strategy party game. The game mechanics use strategic planning and speed to move the game along really make it interesting.

One of Steam Park’s high points is the art direction of the game. There is a very whimsical and fantastic feel to all of the rides and stands that the players use to build up their parks. The illustrations are fun and very appealing to the eye. The art direction is very creative and I feel has hints of a Miyazaki movie built into it, especially the rides.

steam park

The game play is a good mixture of speed, planning and sacrifice. The object of the game is to collect money and improve your park while trying to keep on park maintenance. This is all done with rolls of the dice. Each player will try to build the biggest and best theme park to attract the most attendees. Players can build rides that come in different sizes or stands that have strategic use. Each stand has its own special ability. Instead of taking individual turns like in other management games, like Stone Age, Steam Park adds a twist of simultaneous play with benefits for being faster than the other players.  Steam Park also is a game designed to be played quickly.  After six rounds the game is over and the player with the most money wins.

Each round starts with all of the players rolling six dice simultaneously. This adds a layer of excitement not normally seen in a management style game. The players are rolling dice looking for specific results. Each side of the dice represents a different aspect of managing the parks. If a player wants to build rides they’ll be trying to get a different dice face to show up as compared to if they wanted to build stands or attract customers.  With everyone rolling at once the board can get a little hectic, but fun.

The rolling phase does come with extra attributes. This phase is all about speed. Players can re roll any number of their dice. But if a player is too slow getting the dice roll that they like it could affect their park in a negative way. There are bonuses for getting the dice roll you need first also. Players must also lock their dice once they’ve decided what actions they are looking to complete. If one of your dice flips over after it’s been locked, that’s really unfortunate for you. You suck it up and deal with it. I did when it happened to me.

Next, depending on how fast you were at rolling your dice players take turns spending their dice to either, build rides, build stands, clean dirt, draw robots or expand their park. Different dice faces allow the players to do these different actions. Rides entice robots to visit your park and stands give you special abilities. All the things you want for your park come at a price. Most of them will also make you take on more dirt in your park. The more dirt you have the more dice you have to sacrifice in later rounds to remove it.  You’re dice choices are the largest part of the strategy to the game.

Building rides is where the money is. Without rides you can’t get robots, without robots you can’t gain money, and without money why are you playing this game? All of the rides are these fantastic Studio Ghibli looking wonder buildings. There are six different rides with three different sizes. The larger the ride the more dice you must spend to build them. You’re welcome to build multiple rides per turn but never the same sized ones. So if you roll four ride dice you can build a size three and size one but not two size two rides. Also when placing your rides in your park there are different placement rules everyone must follow. With the limited amount of space that the players start with you need to realize what you’re building and where you’re putting it during while you’re rolling. You can expand your park also, but again that will cost you dice.

rides

Stands are your other building choice. There are different types of stands that allow you to improve your dice rolls and assist in your robot picks. I think the most helpful stands to have in your park are the Direction stands, covered in arrows, and the Toilets. Direction stands allow you to temporarily use robots of the wrong color for your rides and the toilets double the amount of dirt that can be removed per die. There are also Security, Promotional and Casino stands, all with their own bonuses. Build them and use them wisely.

I know you’ve seen me mention “dirt” a lot through this article. Dirt is bad. The more dirt your park has at the end of the game the more money you lose at the end of the game. You can actually have so much dirt that you automatically lose.  Dirt piles up with everything you build and every robot you have in your park. Robots are the key to winning but they do come with that one drawback. The more robots you have making you money, the more dirt they leave behind every turn. You can roll shovels with our die and each shovel roll allows you to remove one dirt and if you’re fast in your rolling you can remove extra dirt. If you’re too slow in your rolls though you will gain extra dirt. So again….dirt bad.

steam park 2

There is one last element to Steam Park that could change your strategy. Everyone always has at least three bonus cards. You can choose to ignore these cards altogether or you can use them to gain extra money. All of the cards have different ways to earn money. Some will give you money for stands, some will give you money for even the dice you roll. There are many different ways to use these. But again if you want to use a bonus card you have to roll a die for it, so they take away from your ability to perform other tasks.

I realize that this must be the longest board game review I’ve written and if you’re still with me, bully for you! Steam Park may seem like an overly complicated nonsense game, but it’s not, I promise. The game is simple, fun and fast paced. It’s also short. There are only six rounds per game. It’s an excellent strategy party game. I would like it better if it supported more than four players but you can’t have everything. I like Steam Park because it’s really different than other management style games and a lot easier to jump into. It’s definitely one of my new favorites.

Pacific Rim Review

Genre – Scif-fi, Action
Director – Guillermo del Toro
Cast – Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi
Alluring element – Giant robots vs. giant monsters…come on…
Check it out if you liked – Transformers, Jurassic Park, Neon Genesis Evangelion (Anime)
Plot – 8
Acting – 8
Representation of Genre – 10  
Cinematography – 7
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 9
Logical consistency – 8
Originality/Creativity – 8 
Soundtrack/Music – 8
Overall awesomeness – 10

hush_rating_85

Suit up Hush fans!!  Tryouts have officially started.  “Tryouts for what?” you ask!  I’m on the hunt for my neural handshake partner.  “What’s a neural handshake?” you ask .  For those of you that have already seen Pacific Rim – no explanation is required.  For those of you who haven’t (…WHY HAVEN’T YOU!!…) I will explain.  A neural handshake is the method by which two individuals dive into one another’s minds and memories facilitated and for the purpose of piloting the most bad-ass invention ever thought up by humans – a 250 foot, two-thousand ton, plasma gun wielding combat robot.  A Jaeger.  “What’s a Jaeger for?” you ask (you’re full of questions today, aren’t you?).  Well, what else is a giant battle-bot good for besides fighting monsters the size of skyscrapers.  Kaiju, is what they’re called.  So, like I said, tryouts are here and I’m sure there’s already a line outside my door.  While you make your way to that line, let me tell you why Pacific Rim may be the best movie you’ll see all summer.

Pacific Rim gets to it right off the bat.  The film starts with a brief recounting of the worlds first Kaiju encounter.  Narrated by the main character, Raleigh Becket (Hunnam), viewers are flashed images of the beast taking down the Golden Gate bridge, F-15’s being swatted out of the air like they were mosquitoes, humble citizens frantically fleeing (Godzilla style), and endless amounts of destruction until finally the Kaiju is downed by all the human race has to throw at it.  After taking down one hulking monster from the sea, another one appears some months later.  This time on the other side of the world, Hong Kong.  After more death, destruction and a slow, nearly unachievable take down of this new terror from the pacific ocean, the people of earth realize that “this wasn’t going to stop.”  So naturally, the pacific nations united, bringing together all the coolest scientists, engineers and video game experts (I assume…) and tasked them with creating “monsters of our own…”  The Jaeger program is born.  While building the walking ninja-mechs was simple enough, what proved to be the biggest obstacle in making the Jaeger’s feasible was finding pilots to guide the man-made beasts into battle.   A Jaeger is only as effective as its driver.  If one was going to hand a Kaiju’s ass back to him, they had to be able to go toe-to-toe with Mr. Miyagi in real life (the gamers wept at this news).  Not only that, but the neurological strain on solo pilots proved to be too overwhelming for sustainable implementation.  This is where neural handshakes are important.  Instead of one brain to pilot a Jaeger, two would be used.  But for ultimate effectiveness paired pilots have to be “compatible.”  Not just any two people can share all their thoughts, desires, memories, fears, and emotions and still karate chop Kaiju in the face.  Eventually the humans finally got it down, and before you know it, the pacific coast became the new battle-royale arena.  That’s where the movies starts and it only gets better from there.

Pacific Rim does an above and beyond job as far as sci-fi and action movies go.  By not wasting any time on deliberate build-up or complex plots (but having just enough to carry the story along) the audience is sucked right in from the get-go.  It was clear that del Toro and crew understood what aspects fans would be drawn to and they did an excellent job of highlighting them.  I’d wager that more than 50% of screen time included either or both Jaeger and Kaiju.  Watching the pilot loading process, or Jaeger maintenance and transportation, or Kaiju dissection is so enthralling and entertaining it’s surprising.  The scenes between major confrontations are well spent on developing characters and plot with only marginal amounts of that dragging-along feeling.  This is especially noteworthy considering the main sequences are larger than life and truly spectacular battles between machines and monsters.  Each cast member plays a pivotal role.  Each has layers that peel back over the course of the movie.  None of it is cliche and all of it makes for very entertaining moments.  I especially loved the banter between the two head scientists (portrayed by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) as they theorize why and how the Kaiju are attacking.  Idris Elba never fails to deliver a smooth, yet in your face performance of a hardened and passionate leader.  Miss Mori’s (Kikuchi) layers are especially epic and very chilling.

Combine all the greatness of the in-between and it still doesn’t come close to Jaeger vs. Kaiju battles (which is how it should be).  These sequences were damn near perfect.  Anticipation builds to boiling levels every time a show down is imminent.  When the bell dings and the lumbering giants charge the rush is practically orgasmic.  Each battle holds new surprises.  Jaeger’s all have different abilities and weapons, Kaiju adapt and “learn” from previous battles, environment and landscapes vary.  The epic-ness is consistently epic.  The details in these scenes are icing on top of the cake (your favorite icing, I might add).  When a giant robot fist swings and misses it’s intended target (a giant monster’s throat) and careens into the adjacent office building, slamming halfway across a single floor stopping at just the right point and with just the right amount of force to start the pendulum effect of a Newton’s cradle desk ornament is applause worthy.  Speaking of punching office buildings… The collateral damage in this movie makes Man of Steel look like a glass of spilled milk.  My only grievances with this movie are the sometimes hard to follow cinematography during fights and the “dinosaur” plot twist.  Not really a twist, just an unnecessary and distracting element that doesn’t even constitute deeper thought.  All in all, Pacific Rim nailed it.

I could write all day about how impressed I was with various aspects of Pacific Rim.  This film struck a prominent cord within me and resonated so deeply with what I love about the genre that it’s taken me two weeks just to write this review for fear of leaving something important or awesome out of it.  Don’t be mislead by the overall rating I’ve given Pacific Rim.  Strict adherence to the grading criteria and personal principles indicates this movie is pretty freakin’ sweet with a rank of 85%.  On a very personal level, this film is much closer to 95% for me.  It will go down as one of my all time favorite films.  I can’t wait to see this movie again and gawk at the shear and pure awesomeness that is Pacific Rim.  Please, please, please do not miss this film while it’s in theaters.  It may not be the best movie you see all summer, but I’d be willing to bet you a movie ticket that it is probably the funnest movie you’ll see all summer (if not, all year).  Now, if you’ll all excuse me – I have tryouts to attend to.

written by Taylor Lowe