Steampunk Rally: A Rally Good Game!

Pairs well with: Gin on rough terrain (the rocks)
Traitor rating: 4/10 “I could race… or I could screw over Lizzy…” – (everyone)

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Each member of the Misery Farm had several favourite games to come out of Essen 2015. When pressed, all you can get out of us tends to be a pretty diplomatic and squirmy answer, along the lines of “well I loved so many of the games, I couldn’t possibly choose!” or “can’t I just say that I love all of them?” or “I CAN’T FREAKING DECIDE, LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY”. We’re told this is similar to how some human adults feel about their children.

But if we were pressed to decide on a top list of games then we could probably all agree that Steampunk Rally has a pretty damn high spot. It’s one of the games we all actively sought out after Bob enticed a group of us in with her description:

DSC_0617_Fotor“Guys! We need to play Steampunk Rally next. It’s like the hipster Wacky Races, but you get to play as Marie Curie! Only she’s a ROBOT!”

Sold! Literally.

Now we’ve brought (several copies of) the game back to our humble homes the excitement hasn’t worn off.

To start off with, have we mentioned the characters? There are sixteen to choose from, all based on some of the coolest inventors that history has to offer. If you want a team of badass lady-racers (which you know very well your team of badass lady-journalists do), then you actually have a whole range of options! That’s right, A RANGE of female characters!

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Science!

This evening we plummed for Bob as Ada Lovelace, Briony as Marie Curie and Lizzy as Hertha Ayrton. Briony had conveniently hosted a steampunk Hallowe’en party in her house a few days beforehand, and being the cool kids we are we grabbed a few spare steampunky goggles strewn around and got our race on!

Each player gets their little chosen inventor card plus an additional unique card which, together, make up the start of your brilliant machine, which you’ll add bits to as the race goes on via a little valve symbol that lets you know more bits of machine can go there. Being the snazzy and intelligent inventors that you are you can easily unscrew some bits here and there and rearrange your machine as you go along, so you don’t need to worry too much about the order of placement (take that Galaxy Trucker!).

DSC_0624_FotorThe aim of the game is to win the race. You win the race by crossing the finishing line first.* Sounds simple and familiar so far, right? Racing 101. Oh! Also, you’re racing in a giant machine that’s constantly rearranging, powering up, and occasionally exploding – more on that later.

Brimming with overconfidence, having not actually played since the trial rounds at Essen, we opted to play on the super-fancy FUTURISTIC HOVERDROME. More danger, but we could handle it. Robot power! Plus the map is a bit randomised at the beginning, which is always a bonus.

DSC_0613An actual turn consists of a few different phases, which each person does at once 7-wonders-style (or does slowly and in turn order if you haven’t figured out the rules yet, or if you just want to show off your rad moves). The first of these involves taking a card from a selection and passing the rest on. Here’s where you’ll use some of these cards to add bits on to your machine! Propellers, rocket boosters, a forcefield… should we chuck a time machine on there? Yeah, why not!

But the machine you’re building isn’t just about cool gadgets and aesthetics, it’s a beautiful, smoothly-running *cough* mechanism that uses water, electricity and fire power (dice of different colours) to bolster your machine’s defence or SPEEED madly along the track.

DSC_0630_FotorLater in the round is the racing phase! Here you roll the dice you’ve generated that turn and see how much power (how many little winged-wheel symbols) you’ve managed to generate. The misery farmers were off to a flying start! Each of us racing ahead with some efficiently running robot monstrosities, producing the dice and throwing them madly into the machines.

Oh, remember that bit earlier where we glossed over the bit where your machines can explode?

Yeah. Here that comes.

The final phase of a round is a ‘damage phase’, where you calculate all the damage you’ve taken from the terrain you’ve just hastily and cockily rattled across.

“Oh, oh shit. I think I raced a bit too far ahead.”
“Oh crud, me too. Ohhhh no.”

The exploding machinery is probably the most unique mechanic of Steampunk Rally. For each damage you take which you haven’t defended yourself against, a part of your machine (of your choice) will explode and fall off. This can be a useful tactic at some points- sometimes it might just be worth losing some outdated bits of your machine for the chance to speed a bit further ahead. Maybe the force of the explosion is propelling you ahead a bit? Who knows!

But uh, what happens if you take more damage than you even have bits of machine? Back into last place you go.

Every single one of us had, despite being nominally-competent adult human beings, miscalculated the damage we’d take and exploded our machines completely. On the very first round.

“Guys. Guys. Can we just… maybe…”
“Pretend none of this happened?”
“Yeah!”
“Start over?”
“Yep.”
“PRACTICE ROUND OVER, GUYS. NOTHING TO SEE HERE.”

We definitely owed it to the great inventors that we were representing to pretend that that was a practice round and start over. Nobody wants that kind of a disgrace on their shoulders.

THE RACE BEGINS AGAIN!

DSC_0626_FotorSlightly more careful this time, the team of badass lady-racers (or just ‘badass racers’, if you will) had a much more successful second attempt at a race.

The theme is excellently done, as you can tell from our enthusiasm over the characters. Marie Curie has a brilliant robot body because of the radiation poisoning done to her flesh one, but this just makes her even more hard-core than she was already. Which is tough, because Marie Curie is pretty hard-core even in puny human form. Lovelace is also a robot, having downloaded her consciousness into a robot casing.

The depth of the machine parts is also great. You can build some pretty bizarre and beautiful machines!

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Boom.

“I’m becoming a weird spider-tree with legs! FEAR ME!”

“Argh! I keep wanting to attach a penny-farthing to my machine but there’s never room!”

“KAPOW! Oh no, my galvanised brakes!”
“Oh no, you’ve lost your galvanic brakes!”
“Galvanic! That’s what I said.”

Impressively, it also plays with up to eight players. But it does this while still being strategic, rather than a game of luck. You can fit the same amount of players as Camel Cup, for example, but actually involves some skill and planning.

Briony’s playing a giant-machine tactic. Unfortunately, she seems to have got a little bit carried away with building something beautiful and forgotten that she’s actually taking part in a race. Lizzy, going for a “try to win” strategy, keeps losing her galvanised galvanic brakes, but the lack of stopping power definitely seems to be playing in her favour, and she’s speeding to victory.

That's a damn impressive machine, Briony, but it doesn't appear to be going anywhere...
That’s a damn impressive machine, Briony, but it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere…

The way that the phases work together is good for a larger number of players, so you’re not spending too much time waiting for other people to make their moves. But there’s definitely something lost when everyone races together, and it has a bit less of an exciting or sociable feel to it when you don’t get to watch everyone else’s smoothly running machines creating the perfect amount of water for their steam machines and then trudging along, or completely misjudging their power, going too far and falling in a hole. We prefer doing that part of the game one at a time, so we get to watch each other’s’ triumphs and disasters as they unfold.

Speeding to victory
Speeding to victory

The game is a winner both on theme and gameplay. It’s a great game to get your friends excited, and although there are certainly games that are more in depth, more strategic, and more ridiculous, it plays a pretty good role in our board game collections.

Of course, as always, the real winner is board games. And Lizzy.

*You can also cross the finishing line at the same time (on the same turn) as someone else, but then it’s about how far over the line you get. It’s not literally a case of who moves their character over the line first winning, because that would be madness of a different kind.

Sushi Dice: What is the Sound of One Hand Dinging?

Brutus Rating: 2 little fish hooks in the back.
Pairs well with: Sake or Ahasi beer.

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There are two ways to play Sushi Dice. The adult way, and the kids’ way. The adult way goes like this: You go to Essen Spiel with your friends and partner of choice and have a wonderful time (very important stage, this one). While there your friendly robot boyfriend should find the stand6D-33-104 where a new game called Sushi Dice is being exhibit and played (note, sushi is for some reason the current theme of choice for casual games – don’t confuse Sushi Dice for Sushi Go! or Sushi Express or some other nori-based nonsense). The game artist will hopefully be sitting at the stand, churning out little watercolour octopus drawings on the inner lids of games bought then and there. Friendly robot boyfriends know that this makes an excellent gift, and will buy it for their neurotic board game girlfriends (ie Bob).

Later on, when you and your wily gang of nerds are relaxing at a German Brauerei with beer 6D-33-117and bratwursts the length of your arm, you figure out the (very very simple) rules and have a go at playing. The game can be played by any number (>2) of people, but there are only ever two active players at a time. Each active player gets six dice, with are printed with sushi ingredient symbols. Three of the six dice have a star symbol, and three have a black skull.

To play, a deck of cards depicting sushi and other fish dishes (e.g. paella, fish and chips) is placed face down. Three cards are drawn from the top and laid face-up in the middle of the table.

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Players roll their dice until they match the ingredients of a fishy dish and if they get there first they get the dish card. Whoever has the most cards after an arbitrary length of game time wins. Then the round ends and the dice pass to the next pair of players.

6D-33-122Stars are wild. If you see another player get a skull dice you can yell ‘YUCK!’ and they will have to re-roll all their dice. If a non-active player sees both active players roll a skull they can yell ‘CHOP’ and the round ends.

To signify that you, the plucky sushi chef, have completed an order of whichever fishy dish you’ve chosen, you ring the handily-included bell. Of course, when you play the grown-up version you’re in a tap-house, so it’s unlikely that a group of people ringing a service bell would be very popular. So instead of hitting the bell you instead say ‘Ding!’ This swiftly escalates to shouting ‘DING!’ while hitting the table but that’s still way better than being the dickheads with the bell, right?

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Of course, when you play the kids’ version you have to include the bell. Them’s the rules. You also have to become suddenly and tragically blind to cheating. As part of Bob’s plot to indoctrinate the youth of today with geeky values* she has become adept at rooting out decent games which are still child-appropriate.**Sushi Dice is pretty and brightly-coloured, easy to learn, and loud.

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DING!

Kids like loud***.

DING DING DING!

In fact the children Bob played this game with liked it so much they refused to stop playing it even after all the adults had lost interest.

(DINGING intensifies)

The two of them played it between themselves for a good while until the accusations of cheating got out of hand (they were both cheating, and they weren’t even playing to win). Then one of them continued to play it by herself, mainly just to be able to hit the bell every time she finished a combination.

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(DINGing continues, forever, until all meaning and time is lost to the sound of one hand dinging. And every time the bell rings, Bob’s dog barks. She has created a monster.)

That’s what we can consider a success story.


 

*Parents! Are you worried about your teenage children growing up to be hoodlums and drug fiends!? Well try this remedy on for size: Magic the Gathering! With this collectable card game your son or daughter will never have the money for drugs, and all their friends will commit no greater crime than failing to shower regularly! Hurray!

** Unfortunately she still hasn’t been able to stop saying ‘fuck’ in front of the kids. You can’t fight nature, man.

*** See the Twilight Imperium review for the moment when loud became unbearably loud.


Picture thanks to Dr Photographer