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Steamwatchers Core Box

RRP: £94.00
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RRP £94.00
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Steamwatchers unfolds in a frozen Europe, broken by an ice age that followed a brutal water level increase. In those hostile conditions, nomadic clans struggle to survive with the regular and puzzling outbreak of steam columns everywhere on the continent. These columns are a testament to intense subterranean heat sources. They free earth from the grasp of ice and allow mankind to gr…
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Category Tags , SKU ZKS-STEAMWATCHERS-CORE Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Solid Strategic game
  • Lots of replayability
  • Modular expansions

Might Not Like

  • Defence orders are not clearly explained
  • Some scenarios are much better than others
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Description

Steamwatchers unfolds in a frozen Europe, broken by an ice age that followed a brutal water level increase. In those hostile conditions, nomadic clans struggle to survive with the regular and puzzling outbreak of steam columns everywhere on the continent. These columns are a testament to intense subterranean heat sources. They free earth from the grasp of ice and allow mankind to grow food once again. These oases of heat are vital for survival...and, unfortunately, only transient. To make things worse, a strange sickness spreads around them: The Bane. It affects both mind and body, and to this day, no cure has been found. Handling it is necessary to the survival of the clans.

Steamwatchers is a 2 to 5 player game in which you play as the leader of a nomadic clan. You will struggle over the geothermal resources of Europa in scenarios that last from 3 to 6 rounds. At the end of the last round of the chosen scenario, the winning clan is the one with the most geothermal resources (steam columns and farms), but a clan can claim victory before the end of the scenario by acquiring 10 geothermal resources.

 

SteamWatchers is a mid-weight strategy game for 2-5 players. Each player controls a ‘clan’ competing for control over the ruins of Europa. A post Ice Age Europe that has been broken by war and famine with the few remaining resources being fiercely fought over. As the ice melts it reveals steam columns that are fought over as the ice begins to melt. Although something sinister may also be lurking within the ice itself…

The Thaw

SteamWatchers itself plays like an evolved version of ‘The game of throne’ strategy boardgame. Each player chooses face-down order tokens, places them next to each region, and then reveals them. There is a fair element of bluffing beyond the troop placement as you are limited in how many orders of each type you can place each turn. This keeps the troop locations important as you try to best position yourself while also shielding from potential threats. Beyond this there is a good amount of additional depth from various cards and mechanics. A politics style board allows you to choose various bonuses and affect the turn order with the ‘Archon’ cards being a particularly fun element that often provides an optional bonus that escalates the game for all players such as ‘upgrading your basic units’ they are also chosen from multiple cards so there is good agency through them. Other options include making treaties with the caravaneers that can transport your army across the waters or reserving a slot for next turn. It is a familiar mechanic to those versed with worker placement style games such as Viticulture or Lords of Waterdeep where you often must plan a few turns in advance and choose what will help you in the long run.

There are several balancing mechanics that enhance the game. Grabbing steam columns with your troops generates you incubation levels which let you field more troops. But getting too much steam at once pushes you into the danger zone as you thaw the bane and permanently lose troops so it is always a careful balancing act. Powerful council roles also usually balance out with acting later in the round so you must weigh those benefits too. Also of note is the numerous different scenarios that come with the game. These provide a loose narrative campaign. These usually offer a few twists on the existing format and make a nice little change to game night.

The Bane

So, what are the downsides of SteamWatchers? The main drawback from playing several games is that the initial concept of the defence tokens is not exactly clear. A defence token has a multitude of different abilities that it can be used for. Such as building a turret, creating a naval contract but also allows a unit to support an adjacent region if the token has not been removed yet. It is a fair bit of complication to explain to a new player and that was repeatedly the area that was flagged during gameplay. Aside from that one part the rest of the game makes good sense when playing although there are some things which will only be used in a very fringe case but it is still good to have those potential options. There are also two factions with similar colours until you figure out the subtle difference in hue which complicates some elements.

Components

The game is of a high quality from a component point of view. The card stock is good, the faction mats/board are solid, and the minis have crisp detail. The factions are each distinctly styles and have their own colour(albeit two are somewhat similar). The factions have both a regular unit and an elite version. These can be anything from tanks to biomechanical robots or jetpack equipped troopers. They have a fantastical post-apocalyptic high sci-fi feel to them which is also shown through the various game art. Everything feels cold and bleak with splashes of colour from various sources. It is all produced to a fine quality and it feels like a big impressive game when on the table. The rulebook and supporting materials are also good although a few more clarifications would have been beneficial to the rules. Namely related to the defence orders. Finally, you have some nice additions such as clear cubes, turret tokens, farms and algofuel markers. The counters are good and the plastic ones will definitely last. The turret figures are also wonderfully over the top with a gun mounted atop a huge spire of ice and spikes. Something that perhaps oversells their usefulness on the actual field…

Incubation

SteamWatchers is a solid strategy game but how does it fare on repeated games? I am pleased to say it has a great deal of replayability. There are numerous factions that all have unique abilities and the different combinations of factions in play as well as differing start positions mean there is a huge variety in what you may end up against. There are also numerous potential strategies to go for and often they will evolve as you respond to the other players. It is a rewarding game that stays fresh for many plays and offers a unique experience every time while also keeping enough grounded strategy so it never feels like you are unfairly punished by the game conditions. It strikes the right balance of competitive and thematic that makes these types of games really appeal. There is also the ability to add some modular expansions to the mix if the game does start to feel stale. These add various abilities such as throwing in your faction leader who acts as an enhanced council member but can also take to the field with various powers. There is also a diplomacy module that adds a nice level of social manipulation to the game. I would highly recommend adding in one or both of these expansions ‘but only’ after playing enough to grow familiar with the base game and its intricacies.

In terms of general game feel SteamWatchers is a great entry and as mentioned feels almost like the spiritual successor to the Game of Thrones strategy boardgame but with enough additional depth to make it a fresh and replayable experience. It also has a very rich atmosphere that embodies the frozen apocalypse that carries through most all of the components and really sells the desolate conflict being portrayed. All in all, for a group interested in ‘dudes on a map’ strategy games there are few better options at this point in time and Steamwatchers is definitely a sound buy that will see repeated table play.

 

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Solid Strategic game
  • Lots of replayability
  • Modular expansions

Might not like

  • Defence orders are not clearly explained
  • Some scenarios are much better than others