Heinz Thiemann


No. of Players:
2 - 5



One of the games I simply had to check out at the SPIEL 08 was Planet Steam. Actually, I had chosen this games for review well ahead of the convention, because the first images I have seen looked rather promising and its author actually runs the best stocked games-hobby-store here at Essen. I am talking here about Heinz Thiemann, who had succeeded in getting is first game Planet Steam placed with the publisher LUDOART which is well know for its lavishly equipped games.

I was expecting all testing tables to be taken rather quick, and so I arrived quite early to ensure a place for a testing round. And indeed, people were filling the table in a matter of moments once the halls were open, and even more interesting the big rectangular box containing Planet Steam was selling rather well. Even while I played quite a few copies were sold (at a price of 60 Euros), and considering the fact that the game has been manufactured in an initial edition of 500 pieces it is well possible that the game will be sold out during the convention.

Now turning the game itself. The big box showed up to contain an even bigger set of gameboards, coupled with loots of wooden pieces (steam tanks, pipes, resources), stones and cards. As a background story, the game is concerned with the production and selling of resources on another planet, and the player who will organise his industry most successful will have won the game.

Each player receives some resources (stored in spaceships with limited storage room) and money as starting capital, and the first and each following round of play then starts with an auction of different characters. In a five-player game all five characters participate, and so the players may enlist the help of a Surveyor, a Constructor, a Steam Regulator, an Agent or the charismatic Lady Steam for the upcoming round. Each player will receive a character, and the characters not only offer several special abilities but they also will determine the playing order in each phase of the round.

The privilege of being the first player in each action goes to the Lady Steam player, and a round then starts with the Surveyor chosing an engine place for auction, and apart from the two engine spaces which each player possesses at the start of the game the players slowly will start to acquire more engine spaces since they want to place the steam tanks which are the centrepieces of each player's production. The players now may bid for the space, and here the price of the engine space will be depending on several factors. So, the central row of spaces of the whole engine area is of special interest because water can be produced there just with bare steam tanks, and also it is also in the interest of the players to get engine spaces neighbouring their own engine spaces since steam tanks on adjacent spaces can profit from synergy effects during the production phase. When the auction for the chosen space is over (and paid for), all players have a chance to acquire an engine space as well, but here a dice needs to be rolled to determine whether the desired space can be taken. Thus, the Surveyor conveys the benefit of choosing a space for auction directly, and if his player should win the auction he only needs to pay half his bid. The Constructor also brings a benefit here because he has access to deeds which allow him to chose an engine space as well.

Next comes the building phase in which the players may purchase steam tanks and equip them with the piping or production equipment needed to produce the different kinds of resources. The purchased tanks and equipment is placed on the engine spaces and thus are available for the next production phase. Also available are larger spaceships, and here the Agent can use his benefit either to upgrade one of his spaceships for free or to receive a free resource. All building operations are paid for with Credits and certain resources, so the players have to make sure that they have the right resources to build.

In the production phase the players then will use their steam tanks to get new resources, and here the Steam Regulator determines which row of spaces in the engine area will receive extra steam so that the production of any steam tank in this row will be doubled this turn. A water resources has to be paid to get the production of each steam tank going (with the exception of the tanks on the center row where water is produces for free), and then all players collect the resources they have created this turn. These need to be stored in the spaceships, and any excess resources which cannot be stored are lost.

The round then is finished with the trading phase, and here a nice, sophisticated market mechanism comes to bear through a store board and a price board. The storage of each resource on the planet increases and decreases with every buying and selling action of the players, and this leads to adjustments of the current price of each resource so that the market situation is represented quite well. On the market especially the black crystals fetch good prices, but the other resources (Water, Energy, Ore) are needed as well in order to keep the production going.

Of course there is quite are quite a few more twists and rules in a game of this size and context than could be given in this short overview, but nonetheless this should be sufficient to give you a basic outline of the game, While playing I got the impression that not only the components but also the playing mechanisms in this resource management game have been created in a purist but quite elegant way. Especially the market mechanism was integrated quite harmoniously and without the need to do any major calculations, so that the game keeps going quite smoothly once the players have understood the basic mechanics of production. As promised, virtually no luck influences this game, so that in the end the production process will be dominated by the player who makes best use of his available resources.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany