The first thing that caught my eye when I saw Steampunk Rally was the artwork. Right on the front of the box, you have these giant strange vehicles racing and it looks amazing. Then I noticed it was published by Roxley who makes one of my favorite dice games, Dice Throne, and Steampunk Rally is a dice placement game so this was a no brainer for me. I know Steampunk Rally was released a few years earlier, but it will be interesting to see how it holds up against other dice placement games of today. So, let’s take a look.
What is Steampunk Rally?
Steampunk Rally is a racing-themed dice placement board game from Roxley. In Steampunk Rally players take on the role of famous inventors all competing in a race through the swiss alps to prove who the greatest inventor is. You will draft machine parts in order to build your vehicle and place dice to activate your vehicle. There are three ways to power your machine: steam, electricity, & heat. Each of which has its own benefits. There also other cards that grant one-time-use abilities that can mess with your opponents and to help give you the edge. The player who makes it furthest past the finish line wins the game.
- Ages: 14+
- Players: 2-8
- Play Time: 45-60 Min
- Designer: Orin Bishop
- Artist: Lina Cossette, David Forest
- Publisher: Roxley
- Year Published: 2015
How to Play Steampunk Rally
What’s Inside the Box
Steampunk Rally includes a wide assortment of components including:
- 120 Machine Part Cards: These cards are what make up your vehicle and are powered by different types of dice to activate their effects.
- 40 Boost Cards: Boost cards add a bit of player interaction and grant one-time use effects.
- 1 Play Direction Token: This shows the turn order and which direction cards will get passed during the draft phase.
- 16 Inventor Pawns: These are the player’s standees and are placed on the track tiles.
- 32 Inventor Machine Part & Cockpit Cards: Each inventor has a unique set of cards to start their machine.
- 8 Player Aids: These breakdown each phase and acts as a key for all of the game’s symbols.
- 8 Light Bulb Tokens: These are used to activate an inventor’s once per round ability.
- 108 Dice: There 36 of each steam, heat, and electricity dice which activate your machine part cards.
- 6 Challenge Tiles: These can be placed on the board to add a bit of variety to the game.
- 8 Damage Gauges: These keep track of your vehicle’s damage.
- 41 Cog Tokens: Cogs are the currency of the game and are used to do things like rerolling dice and remove dice from your vehicle.
- 8 Double-Sided Track Tiles: This is the game board with one tile being the start tile and one being the finish line.
How to Play
Steampunk Rally includes 8 modular track tiles that are used to form the game board. These tiles are double sided so you need to select which map you want to play on. You take the start tile, the two end tiles, and any 3 middle tiles to form the track.
All of the cogs and dice are placed within reach of all the players.
The machine part and boost cards are split into four decks according to their types (boost, heat, electricity, steam) and placed within reach of all the players.
The play direction token is flipped and placed between two random players.
Then, everyone picks one of the sixteen inventors and then takes these components:
- Inventor Pawn
- Lightbulb Token
- Inventor Machine Part & Cockpit Cards
- Damage Guage
The damage gauge starts at 0 and everyone’s inventor pawn begins on the start tile.
Everyone connects their starting inventor machine part and cockpit cards and places their light bulb token nearby. In order to connect machine parts together, they must be connected by valves shown on the card.
Steampunk Rally is played over a series of rounds that consist of four phases. It’s important to note that Steampunk Rally has no turns and each phase is resolved simultaneously.
During the draft phase, everyone will draw one card from each of the four draw piles. Each player then simultaneously takes the following steps:
- Select a card and place it facedown in front of you.
- Perform any one of the following actions:
- Construct: Attach your machine part to your invention. If you are unable to attach the card then you must use another action.
- Generate Power: Discard your selected card to gain the dice indicated in the upper-right corner of the card.
- Gain Cogs: Discard your selected card to gain cogs indicated in the upper-right corner of the card.
- Stash Boost: Place your selected boost card under your damage gauge to be used later on.
- Pass the remaining cards to the player sitting next to you in the direction indicated by the play direction token. Once all of the four cards have been selected then proceed to the vent phase.
Dice power your invention And allow you to take actions, but once they are placed they take up space and you want to discard them in order to retake those actions.
During the vent phase, you may spend any number of cogs to reduce the values of your dice that are currently placed on your invention by two. If your dice ever goes below one then it is discarded from your invention.
This is where the action begins and you get to see how well your invention runs.
During the race phase, you roll all of your dice in your dice pool as well as any stored dice on your invention. You then begin placing dice on your machine in order to take their associated race effects.
There are a few rules for activating machine parts:
- You must place the correct colored die in the corresponding slot.
- The number of times the race effect activates is equal to the total value of dice placed on that machine part divided by the value indicated on the machine part card.
- Some machine parts have a lightbulb icon on them. In this case, you simply flip your lightbulb token to the off side to activate the race effect.
There are a few other rules for activating machine parts, but these are the main ones.
You may also spend a cog at any time during this phase to either reroll a die or increase the value of a die by one.
If your damage gauge is ever below 0 during this phase then you must discard machine parts from your invention equal to the total damage you took this round.
If you ever get to the point where you have to discard your starting inventor cockpit then your invention explodes. This forces you to move one space behind the current player in last place and your damage gauge resets to 0.
End of Round
Once everyone has finished resolving their damage taken, everything is reset and a new drafting phase begins.
End of Game
Once someone has crossed the finish line then end game is triggered. One final round will be played and whoever is the furthest past the finish line after the final round is the winner.
Our Thoughts on Steampunk Rally
Art & Components
I love the artwork for Steampunk Rally. It has almost a comic book look to it that I really like. There are a bunch of different cards with almost all of them having unique artwork. The different vehicle parts are imaginative and it really makes it a joy to put your machine together.
The game board is modular and is double-sided so you have two different maps to choose from. On one side you have the swiss alps and on the other, you have a stadium that you are racing in. Both play extremely different and both are designed well.
You get a bunch of dice in this game, like a lot. I confess that I am a big fan of dice placement games so I love me some dice. They aren’t see-through or have any special designs on them, but with literally over 100 dice they look pretty on the table regardless.
The game includes cardboard board standees for each of the inventors and the cogs. I personally would have liked to have seen some plastic pieces for the cogs to make them pop a little bit more on the table, but I went on Amazon and bought some metal cogs to replace these for like ten bucks. If you do get the game then I would recommend doing the same, because it adds to the overall theme. Other than that, all of the components in the game has held up extremely well over time.
Steampunk Rally isn’t necessarily a hard game to understand, but there are a lot of small nuances that can make it difficult at first. The hardest part most people have with the game is the venting phase which allows you to pay cogs to lower the value of your dice and hopefully remove them from your machine. Once you place dice on your machine they are useless and takes up valuable space on your machine so this phase is very important to get right. It’s one of those games where after you play a round or two it clicks and you’re good to go.
Steampunk Rally has 16 different investors to choose from and each one has there own proficiencies. Some give you more shields for moving through mountains while others give you more movement to get an early lead. Each one also gives you a once per round effect that can give you bonuses like movement or more dice to roll. This adds a bit of variety to the game and can help shape how you want to build your vehicle moving forward.
There is a bit of math that is involved in this game when it comes to the dice placement. You are able to place as many dice as you roll on any open slots on your vehicle. Each vehicle part shows the minimum die value that needs to be placed there in order to activate the effect. For example, you have a card that has four dice slots with a minimum value of three. And say this card lets you move one space each time you place a die. If you placed four dice and all of them were sixes then your total would be 24. You then divide that by the minimum value on the card, in this case, three and you get to move eight times. This is a more extreme example, but this does happen and if math isn’t your thing then it may impact your level of enjoyment.
I really like this mechanic since it rewards you for rolling higher numbers. But the game also balances this out since higher numbers are harder to remove from your vehicle. So just because one person pulls ahead thanks to a bit of luck, it doesn’t mean you can’t catch up later because it will take them longer to remove those dice and use that ability again.
I like that just because you crossed the finish line it doesn’t mean you won just yet. Everyone else in the round gets a chance to try and beat where you ended up. Your vehicle can take damage throughout the game and if you take to much damage then your vehicle may explode causing you to move back a certain number of spaces. So at the end of the game when you are trying to make one final push you have to keep this in mind and strategize how you can pull ahead.
If you build your vehicle right then you will find that a lot of these cards have a nice synergy. Maybe you want more steam dice on your turn so you add a vehicle part that creates steam using fire dice. Or you want to boost your shield with electricity dice and utilize fire dice to move through mountains without taking much damage. There are so many combinations of cards that it makes experimenting with different machine parts a lot of fun.
Since the game board is modular you can create quite a few different map layouts when playing. This makes every playthrough slightly different. Also, the board pieces are double-sided with a second map on the back. The second map is a bit more advanced but adds a cool jumping mechanic to the game where if you land on an empty space you have to move backward to try and make the jump again. Each plays a bit differently and I enjoy them both. If I feel like more of a challenge then I will play the second map, but if I want a more straight forward game then the first map is great.
There isn’t much player interaction in Steampunk Rally. Everyone is mostly focusing on their own vehicles and trying to figure out how to maximize their turns. Boost cards are the only real form of player interaction and they are one of my favorite parts of the game. It’s what turns this game from a standard racing game to Mario Kart. These cards allow you to do things like damage opponent’s vehicles, move you forward, or even manipulate the board a bit. A perfectly timed boost card can make the difference between victory and defeat.
I am not a huge fan of the Sushi Go card drafting mechanic where players take a card and pass the rest to the player next to them. In theory, it should work fine, but every time we play a game that has this mechanic at some point we get mixed up and someone didn’t pass the right amount of cards. This completely kills the momentum of the game as everyone points fingers and has to backtrack to figure out what happened and Steampunk Rally is no exception.
What I do like about Steampunk Rally’s drafting mechanic is the fact that you start with one of each type of card and choose which one to keep before passing. This at least gives you the opportunity to grab at least one useful card. It helps to mitigate some of the randomnesses and I found that it is rare to not get at least one or two useful cards from the drafting phase.
I love the theme for Steampunk Rally. Having real historical figures coming together and racing to prove who the smartest in the world is a truly wacky and fun concept. Each character in the game has there own proficiencies in the game like Edison is particularly good at harnessing electricity to power his vehicle.
The gameplay mixes seamlessly into the theme as well. I mean this game is an engine-builder that has you literally building engines. When you first start playing you will be throwing all sorts of machine parts together to see what works and once you get your engine going then you will really start moving.
Even the cards for your vehicle parts are themed to where they have to make at least some sense. For example, if you need more steam dice then you might be able to find a vehicle part that uses fire dice to create those for you. There are so many combinations that you can build.
Also small things like taking damage from hitting mountains and if you take too much damage then parts of your vehicle will start to come off. Or the fact that there are no victory points in the game. Your goal is simple, cross the finish line! All of these things get you into the mindset of creating the best possible invention to get you to the finish line.
From the game:
It is the turn of the 20th century, a renaissance of steam, steel and the mysterious power of Electricity! 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 juryrig fantastical contraptions of their own design to crown, once and for all, the greatest Inventor of all time!
I mean come on, how does this not sound fun?
I would recommend Steampunk Rally to anyone who is a fan of dice placement games. It has a fun and unique theme that I really enjoy with really good gameplay to back it up. The game includes over 100 dice and you will be able to roll and place a bunch at one time once you get your engine built.
I would also recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of racing-themed board games. I love the idea of all these scientists coming together to decide who the most brilliant is by building these cool looking vehicles.
Similar Board Games to Steampunk Rally
- Flamme Rouge: Flamme Rouge is a staple in the racing-themed board game space. Players are competing in a bicycle race and feature fun hand management mechanics.
- Formula D: This is another racing game, but instead of bicycles you have cars and it has some cool components.
- Dice Throne: This is another dice game from Roxley. I highly recommend it if you are in the market for a two-player dueling game.
- Quarriors: If you like games with a lot of dice then Quarriors is the game for you. This is a dice drafting game where you draft creature dice and battle them against your opponents.
- Voyages of Marco Polo: This is another excellent dice placement game. It’s a bit more complex, but a lot of fun.
Steampunk Rally is just so much fun. Being able to experiment with all of the different machine parts and figuring out which ones will create the best working vehicle is a blast. And for those who like more complex games, there absolutely is a lot of nuances to the game. And I mean, who doesn’t like rolling a hand full of dice? Steampunk Rally is currently my favorite dice placement game and I would definitely recommend it.
Steampunk Rally has quickly climbed my list of favorite games with it’s fun theme and great gameplay.
- Unique racing theme.
- Great dice placement gameplay.
- Creating your vehicle is a blast.
- Love that it supports so many players.
- Low player interaction.
- Passing your vehicle cards around can get confusing.