Steamrollers is a new roll and write from Stronghold games. It tasks players with building rail lines and then delivering goods between cities on their rails. The game was released to retail in July 2018, we grabbed it up and took a look at it with all player counts. Is it worth a play?
In Steamrollers, there’s a number of dice based on the player count plus one. Each player picks a die and uses it to take an action in the game. The actions include laying down a track (with track options limited by special track die), delivering goods on your line, buying a special ability, or upgrading the train.
Stand Out Features
Roll and write, meet dice drafting: Steamrollers combines two of my favorite mechanics and they work very well together. The dice drafting encourages player interaction, as you can actively work to stymie a leading-players strategy by picking dice they need for the turn. It also makes picking actions more interesting because you won’t always be able to do the action you want with the dice you have access to.
Lots and lots of actions: Well, four actions to be precise. These actions ensure that there is almost always something productive to do on your turn. It is possible towards the end of the game to get a few bad draws on the dice which could result in no possible action, but this is exceedingly rare.
Take that, at a cost: There is a bit of “take-that” in the game in the sense that you can steal other player’s abilities (after they’ve had them for a turn.) The cost here is that you must sacrifice an entire turn to do so, possibly resulting in you falling behind the other players. It really works here, and is only used for the really powerful abilities.
Modular Mini-Expansions: the base game comes with several add-on mini expansions which can be modularly added into the base game. The best one is the difficulty board which changes where routes can be drawn on the map. The other expansions: player powers, black coal, and order tiles all add something to the game. It’s nice that they were “bolted” on to the base game so that players could learn the game and add them at their own pace.
What We Liked
Steamrollers is a solid light strategy game that I would bring to the table with anyone. Although the theme isn’t as fun as Let’s Make a Bus Route, it does feel like there’s more to do here. This is due to the Action Selection working with the Dice Drafting.
The gameplay moves quickly, as players can anticipate which dice they can use before its their turn to pick. Once you get the hang of filling in the hexes, that’s a pretty quick action as well.
I also really like the tension between trying to balance building long tracks and delivering goods while they are still available. If you wait too long, another player may complete a track; allowing them to surprise you with lucky deliveries undercutting your potential points.
What Could Be Improved
The theme and art is drab and isn’t going to be pulling anyone in with its table presence. This is somewhat made-up for by the nice, large tiles and moderately size board. But, I don’t think Stronghold is doing any favors for themselves with the box cover.
I don’t think all the Action Tiles are balanced. This may be on purpose, but one: the #5 that lets you increase or decrease your die by one, is by far the best. This makes it a major target for getting stolen, which is fine, but it does seem a bit out of place with the other options. Luckily, you can just flip the card over before you start if you don’t want to play with it.
Steamrollers is a solid addition to any roll and write addict’s collection. Additionally, it mashes dice drafting with rolling and writing in an original way. The theme and gameplay can be a bit bland, but it’s great for the right group (people that like roll and writes or trains.)
Time To Learn: About 15 minutes reading the rules.
Price: $50 at fine board game shops near you.
Thom: (7/10) Good - usually willing to play.
Jinyoung: (6.5/10) OK - will play if in the mood.
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