Steam Works is an engine building worker placement game set in a steampunk world, designed by Alex Churchill and published by Tasty Minstrel Games. Players take on the role of inventors who hire mechanics to build devices for Queen Victoria. These devices will gain you prestige as you build them, as opponents use them, and when particular components are activated. Whoever has the most prestige (victory points) at the end of the game wins, and becomes the Official Inventor of the Majesty.
At the beginning of the game, players receive a persona board, which gives different starting sources and/or components as well as coin. These sources and components can be later built into devices, along with other tiles that you obtain throughout the game. The persona board also gives the player four spaces that their mechanics (workers) can be placed on. Later in the game, players can build devices which mechanics can also play on. Essentially, Steam Works is a worker placement where you are building the placements for the workers.
In order to build a device, players must connect at least one component to at least one source. This source has to be played legally. For example, I can only connect a Scroll Rack using a Clockwork Source. The source is the spot where players place their mechanics and activate devices. If the source is connected to multiple components, every component will activate, giving a player several actions to do in one mechanic placement.
The genius in Steam Works lies in the device building aspect. Not only do you build more and more powerful devices over time, but your opponents can also use your devices. This is mostly a positive thing, because every time an opponent uses your device, you get one clock (worth a VP at the end) and any owner bonuses that a tile may yield when activated. You actually want to make your tiles more lucrative than other players’ tiles, because you can gain almost a 1/3 of your endgame points this way.
There is much calculation and planning in Steam Works, which will satisfy the type of player that loves to optimize. It’s a game where your turns becoming more and more efficient, yielding precious coin, tiles, and victory points in just one mechanic placement.
Steam Works blends mechanics with theme very well. As an inventor, it makes sense that you will overtime, build better devices. It also makes sense that you gain prestige every time an opponent uses your device, showing that you are the best inventor. The board also has the tiles come out on conveyer belts, where they shift down every turn. The rightmost tiles not used in a round get discarded, just like a conveyer belt would dump components that aren’t used.
The art and game components in Steam Works are very high quality. The back of the tiles are gorgeous, showing awesome steampunk gears. The tiles are thick and sturdy. Each persona board showcases different types of steampunk themed characters such as a Tesla fanatic or a lord with a mechanical arm. The art and theme will impress any steampunk fan, especially knowing how well the mechanics mesh with the theme.
Steam Works will fill that niche of a worker placement with an engaging theme and unique mechanics that will make every game different and exciting.
Rulebook Note: A tile explanation was omitted in the final rulebook of Steam Works. Here is the image of the omitted tile: The Librarifier. Revised Rulebook on BGG.
2 Player Experience
- Players receive one coin when their opponent uses a device
- Because of this, less reason to make a device more lucrative for that opponent
- Focus more on making devices that work specifically for your own strategy
- Works fantastic as a 2 Player, lighter than with more because of less decisions to make
4 Player Experience
- As more devices are built, turns will go longer as players have to figure out what works best for them
- Many decisions to make, may cause some analysis paralysis
- Want to make your own devices attractive to opponents in order to gain points
- Overall, very fun as a 4 player, lots of planning and optimizing.