Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 19 July 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- SteamRollers

Game: SteamRollers

Publisher: Stronghold Games

Designer: Mark Gerrits

Year: 2015 (2018 Reprint)

When Steamrollers launched on Kickstarter in August 2017, it was perhaps slightly ahead of its time. Flatlined Games tapped into the beginning of a craze for roll and write games. Although roll and writes have been around for quite some time, it's not until recently that they've started to gain a huge following and to push the boundaries beyond rolling some dice and writing numbers in boxes.

SteamRollers has now been picked up by Stronghold Games for wide distribution. The appeal of this game to me is that it claims to encapsulate a lot of elements of a larger game like Steam or Age of Steam, but boils it down into the world of roll and writes – a world in which The Game Shelf, and many others, are currently entrenched. I’ve developed a real love of pick up and deliver games and I am very close to dipping my toe in the water with ‘train games’ and SteamRollers has been a great introduction.

In SteamRollers, the central board is seeded with resource cubes in each of the six cities. Each player has a player sheet that reflects the central map and they will build out train routes to connect cities that allow goods to be delivered for points. Dice are rolled each turn and their numerical value is used to determine where routes can built, which cities can make deliveries, which bonuses can be taken or which train upgrades can be completed. At the end of the game each player will have a map of unique routes. Most points are available for goods delivered throughout the game, but there are also points for an upgraded train engine and generally for making connections between towns and cities.

SteamRollers has a pretty basic game in the box, described by a not-so-perfect manual. The basic game is all about making routes based on the paths you can draw with the dice. There's definitely some early strategy in the game where you decipher the best routes with the most point scoring opportunities. Some of the key decisions seem to hinge on your level of ambition vs. speed in delivering on short routes. Ambition seems to have won out in most of our games, with the player who upgrades their engine and creates more convoluted routes, ending up coming out on top. With that said, I think a fast game might be a valid strategy.

Depending on the level of experience of the players, you might all focus on the same strategies and the game becomes a bit luck focused on who rolls the best dice, but it's far more interesting to diverge and see who comes out on top. Hate drafting of the dice has definitely been a factor in some of our games because your opponent's needs are so obvious, particularly in a two player game.

Once you're familiar with the basic game, there's no reason not to throw in the optional modules which can diverge your plans slightly more. The expansion modules give you three different elements. The draft of starting abilities allows you all to have a little advantage at the start of the game, varying from a straight two points, to always ignoring the black track dice, which can be a very free-ing ability. The medium and hard setups mean that you draw 'mountains' across the board - this makes it equally difficult for every person, but does mean that games will play out slightly differently and your initial assessment of cubes on the board will be quite drastically affected. The module I like best though are the bonus points for cashing in different selections of cubes. I always like having short term goals to work towards in games and this can really focus how you play the game and create some competition that might encourage you to deliver cubes more quickly to obtain bonuses first, rather than maximising the efficiency of your route network.

We’re are currently playing many roll and writes, from very simple ones, like Qwixx, up to the more ambitious games, like SteamRollers and Welcome To. None of these games are particularly complex and I could probably introduce a new gamer to any of these games. I really enjoy SteamRollers because it seems to have a variety of strategies, especially with the added modules. I also feel like the dice drafting has more impact than in many games and I’m more aware of the other players when doing this. It’s a game we’ll really enjoy playing more at home, but perhaps not the most engaging theme for introducing to others. Where I might use a game like Welcome To or Kokoro. SteamRollers is probably the best example of a “gamer’s” roll and write that I’ve played and I hope that more games start to leverage some heavier mechanisms in this design space.

For the Yellow Meeple, SteamRollers is a 7.5/10.

Steamrollers was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £46.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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