Planet Steam – 2009 Bistro Game of the Year

We enjoy playing a variety of games on Tuesday nights.  Many games only get played once or twice during a given year.  A few favorites get played 3-5 times.  But Planet Steam, a game that takes 2 hours to play, was played 7 times in 2009.  Only Tichu and Call My Bluff were played as often, but both of those games are a much smaller investment in time.

So what makes Planet Steam so good?  First of all, let me tell you what is wrong with it.  The box is ridiculously large, with a creative fold, the box could easily be 1/2 the size.  While the components are eye-candy, they are fidley.  The silver-colored tanks are a fun idea, with slots cut into them to allow you to press attachments into the slots.  Too often the attachments are either too loose or too tight.  The compressor domes are small flat bottomed domes that are placed on top of the production tanks.  We routinely chase these across the game table as they constantly fall off.

Planet Steam is rated for 3-5 players, but don’t believe them.  It is best as a  4-player game.  It’s good as 3-p game.  But avoid adding a fifth player.  The game suffers with this extra player.

But if you do play, you will find a demanding economic game, and should you like the sort of challenge of building a factory and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps this game gives you an interesting game space to explore.  Do you like Steam Punk?  Planet Steam hooks onto this theme well, the production tanks, the steam punk artwork, the idea of dropping shafts and harvesting ore, water, and quartz all give a nice hue to the proceedings.

There is no income for you, except that which you build for yourself.  The game limits how many production tanks come into the game, ensuring you must scrap against the other players to get the materials you need to build your factory.  The initial auction for specialists can be daunting, and this is a game that rewards experience.  You can put yourself in very tight straits as there are several areas of risk to manage.

This is a tough game!  Oh the rules are not tough – the challenge is.  And that is why we have played it 7 times at the club, and why I played it over 10 times through the year.


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