Oh how I wanted to love Steampunk Rally with all my heart.
“It is the turn of the 20th Century, a renaissance of steam, steel and the mysterious power of electricity,” detailed the rulebook fluff. “The mad genius, Nikola Tesla, has summoned the world’s greatest minds to challenge them in a no-holds barred race through the Swiss Alps. On this neutral ground, the competitors will construct, push to the breaking point, and jury-rig fantastical contraptions of their own design to crown, once and for all, the greatest Inventor of all time.
“‘Race of the Century,’ cry out newspapers around the world. Controversy over the results of the Swiss Rally sparks public interest in details surrounding the Inventors’ rivalries. This leads to the construction of the Hoverdrome; an enormous floating stadium built with strange and futuristic technology by a mysterious private benefactor from Earhart Industries. There, the Inventors can once again test their mettle.”
So I am a sucker for steampunk, and when you add the cool theme to a box top art piece showing a sort of cartoonish version of Tesla and a strange flying machine, well I was past excited to give this one my heart.
The components were solid, although I must admit plastic miniatures of the various historic inventors in the game would have added a nice touch over the cardboard standees included.
The game, which can be found at www.roxley.com, does allow up to eight to play which is a big feature for a gaming group to consider. Few games play large numbers and this one actually has more potential when more players are involved.
At its heart, Steampunk Rally is a card-drafting, dice-placement game. Players will be rolling and placing dice on their invention to generate motion, gain more dice, prevent and repair damage, and discard used dice.
Players can improve the efficiency of their contraptions by adding machine parts.
The game is played over a series of rounds until one player’s weird race machine – on the board it’s your inventor’s standee that moves – crosses the finish line, at which point one final round is played. The player furthest past the finish line after the final round is declared the winner.
It all sounds like so much fun.
Creator Orin Bishop has almost made it work too. There is a lot going on here, dice being rolled, cards added, the potential a machine explodes with parts going every which way. It has that wild and crazy feel of movies such as Monte Carlo or Bust! or The Great Race.
But in the end a lot of the damage comes from unavoidable hazards on the board that often feel like a design cheat to harass players.
And, because there is so much going on, it ends up feeling like too much work for the amount of fun in the game.
Still, as a steampunk fan you might want to check it out, but if you are not, you might find other race games more appealing.
Thanks to fellow gamers Jeff Chasse, Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.