Game Buzz: Kings of Air and Steam

Tasty Minstrel made a huge splash with their last Kickstarter project, Eminent Domain.  That game ended up with $48,378 after setting an initial goal of $10,000.  They’re shooting even higher with:

image by BGG user DrMayhem

Kings of Air and Steam was designed by Scott Almes and will be released by Tasty Minstrel, hopefully in July of 2012.  It has already met its basic Kickstarter goal of $10,000 – I’ll talk more about that later.  The game is for 2-6 players aged 13 and up, and takes an hour to play.  It’s a steampunk style game where you’ll be using airships and railroads to deliver goods.  The game is still in prototype form, and there will probably be a few changes before publication.  But for now, here’s what I know.

The game comes with seven hex tiles and six bumpers that will be used to form the board, which will differ depending on the number of players – only three tiles will be used in the two-player game, five with 3-4, and all seven with 5-6.  Also included are six double-sided player boards, a market board, six airship movement decks of 13 cards each, six airship pieces of different colors, 20 demand tiles, 60 depot tokens, 100 goods cubes, 13 uncolored cubes, a start player token, 12 character cards, and paper money (sigh).

Each player gets an airship, a player board, a movement deck, two uncolored cubes (one for their airship rating and one for their train rating), and $12.  After setting up the board, one cube will go on each factory that matches its color, and cubes will be placed on the market board in the $4 price space.  In reverse order from the starting player, each person will put a depot tile and their airship on an open rail space.

prototype image taken from rules - available at http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0079/2102/files/Kings_of_Air_and_Steam_-_Rules_-_V5.0.4.pdf?852

There are six rounds in a game of Kings of Air and Steam, and each round has five phases: the market adjusts, plan airship movements, movement and actions, upkeep, and the factories produce.  When the markets adjust, you’ll draw three demand tiles, placing them on the market board.  The color of each tile indicates a price hike for that color.

When you plan airship movement, everyone will be playing face down cards to plan four movements during the round.  You’ll need to check your diamond rating, indicated on your board – the total diamonds on your cards cannot exceed your current diamond rating.  You must play four cards.

In the movement and actions phase, each player will reveal their first available movement card.  Then, in a specific order determined by the played cards, each player will move their airship and take an action.  You’ll move the airship a number of spaces indicated by your movement card.  You can’t end in a city, you can’t go off the edge of the map, you can’t repeat spaces.  At the beginning or end of your movement, you may load goods from a factory or one of your depots, placing it on your player board; or you may unload goods from your player board to a factory or one of your depots.

After movement, you may take one action.  Here are your options:

  • Build a depot – Put one of your depot tokens (as long as you have one left) on an unused rail space.  This will allow you to ship goods using the railroad.  If yours is the first depot along a line, it costs $4; the second costs $7; and all others cost $10.
  • Upgrade airship – This will allow you to increase cargo capacity and/or diamond rating.  You can only go up one level, and you’ll pay money equal to the level number (level 2 is $2, level 3 is $3, and so on).
  • Upgrade train – This will allow you to ship over a greater distance.  Cost is the same as upgrading airships.
  • Ship a good – Take a good from one of your depots and ship it to a location, based on the distance allowed by your train rating.  You can only use railways that have depots on them, but you must pay $1 to go use railways with depots that don’t belong to you.  You can ship to another of your depots, or you can ship to a city.  If you ship to a city, you’ll get money based on the current market price for that good.  When a city’s demand has been met, you replace it with a new demand tile.  Once that tile is filled, the city will take no more goods for the remainder of the game.
  • Route adjustment – Move your airship exactly one space in any direction, following normal movement rules.  You may load or unload after this.
  • Pass – Take $3 from the bank.

After all players have played all of their movement cards and taken actions, it’s time for upkeep.  For each good you have in a depot or airship hold, you pay $1.  If you can’t or won’t pay, you must discard goods that aren’t paid for.  The start player then rotates clockwise.

The last thing that happens in a round is that the factories produce.  Each factory gains one cube of their color.  Demand tiles are removed from the future market, and cubes are added to corresponding factories.  At the end of the sixth round, the game ends.  Each player has an opportunity to ship any goods left in their  depots, receiving $4 per good.  You’ll then receive $10 per depot you have built, and the player with the most cash wins.

So there it is.  I’m not very familiar with a lot of pick-up-and-deliver games.  I have played Steam, which has a similar feel of moving colored cubes along routes to certain locations.  I’m also reminded of the Airlines/Union Pacific mechanism of several people possibly claiming parts of a route.  The full game also includes some characters that add additional powers, so it will be cool to see how those work.  I’ve talked about how much I like programming actions, planning several turns in advance and hoping it works out.  I’m not sure if this game will feature the chaos of, say, RoboRally – in fact, it probably won’t.  But still, something I’m interested to see.  The game itself seems fairly straightforward, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Tasty Minstrel does with it.

Which brings me to my Kickstarter discussion.  Right now, KOAS has raised $22,290 after a $10,000 goal with 21 days to go.  But Tasty Minstrel is still beating the drum asking for more money.  They’ve been pretty open from the beginning about having overfunding goals.  Their ultimate goal is $80,000, but if they started off with that, they probably wouldn’t be successful.  By starting low, they pretty much guaranteed that they’ll be able to produce the game.  Now they’re just trying to improve the final product by adding more characters and bits.  The next step for them is $25,000.  I’m really not sure what I think about the practice of shooting low and then going after more and more once funded.  Eminent Domain was a big success for Tasty Minstrel, and I have a feeling they’re trying to see how far they can push the Kickstarter system.  It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.  I don’t think they’ll hit $80,000 – this game, while it seems good, doesn’t seem THAT good.  We’ll see.  Thanks for reading!

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