This is not a game review, there won't be a rules explanation, just a guy gushing over game design. I will try to explain rules when they are discussed.
The other day, I played Steampunk Rally by Roxley Games, designed by Orin Bishop. And, oh boy, was I blown away, he did a great job.
Roxley Games have not published many games but, in my eyes, have become a publisher that deserves to be monitored. We have recently been enamoured with the beautiful abstract game Santorini, and Motherload will be hitting 'My Cart' very soon. (If you were wondering, they currently have a Kickstarter going for the reprint of Brass. Needless to say, it is stunning and deserves consideration). However, I would like to praise Steampunk Rally...
I cannot stop thinking about this game. This is a sign of quality game design. I happened to win the last game I played. Regardless, I cannot wait to try it again, grab a different inventor and try a new strategy, the play of the game is that exciting. This is all thanks to the game design.
First of all, the game is close to simultaneous. It includes drafting, pick a card and pass it along. And each phase of the game works in a way that everyone can play out their turn simultaneously as well. This gives Steampunk Rally a great racing feel; everyone is moving together. Elements that fit well thematically has become a must for me recently, and I am glad the trend seems to be continuing.
The game is also well balanced. When the cards are dealt, everyone receives one card from each deck. This ensures that, initially, everyone can take a card to either, add it to their invention, discard it for dice or discard it for cogs. Each of these options is very useful at different points in the game. This also means that if you're 'stuck' with a card, you have three fantastic options, which is excellent. The cards themselves are separated into four types (coming from the four decks). The two dice each card provides is unique to its deck, with the 'boost' cards giving you the option to take one of any type. This means that, even though you like the look of a card for your invention, you may need to discard it to get the dice it provides. Decisions like these are always popping up in the game, ensuring every decision is important, but all decisions are useful.
Games need to give you a plethora of good options. I don't like being forced into making average or poor decisions. Steampunk Rally is a good example of the former.
Another positive is the dice rolling. All dice rolls are good. Well, that is a tad stretch but, you can build an invention that allows all rolls to be useful. If a player rolls high numbers, they get a powerful action or lots of small actions, but, it costs a lot of cogs to be removed from your machine (because dice remain once they are played). And, if a low dice is played, it is easy to remove. This creates a great balance, players who have a great turn will need to go through a lot of maintenance to be able to do something similar again.
Each element of this game has had a lot of attention given to it. While this is not the best game ever, it does provide a lot of options, engaging simultaneous play, fantastic art and thematically integrated mechanics.
Odin Bishop and the Roxley Games team have given this game a lot of attention in regards to its game design and, we as gamers, benefit. Game designers, please pay attention to good game design and make every area amazing, not just one.
You can check Steampunk Rally out at our sponsor's site here.