Meet the Game
Picture the scene. It’s the turn of the 20th century, and Nikola Tesla has invited the world’s greatest inventors and scientists throughout time to race in the Swiss Alps to prove who can build the greatest steam, heat and electric-powered vehicle. The races won, and pride bestowed upon the victors, the champions return to their homes.
Fast forward to 27th October 1953. The end of the Martian invasion. Many human lives lie in ruin and worldwide destruction has devastated Planet Earth. The champions of the original race are brought out of retirement for one last job – a cunning plan worthy of Baldrick. Travel through time, gather the greatest minds in history and prevent the war from happening by…. -checks notes- having another race! New Martian technology is now in the hands of the Incans. Amelia Earhart returns from being lost. And Tesla still cannot get along with Thomas Edison. As the story concludes, “by working together, they will avert the apocalypse… but only one can be crowned Ambassador of Earth!”
How to Play
Roxley and Orin Bishop are back with the latest version of their Kickstarter hit from 2015. Steampunk Rally Fusion introduces new elements to the world, specifically the new Fusion dice, able to replace the other fuel sources but unable to be removed once in place. 12 more racers have entered the game, bringing with them new expertise and abilities. The game is played in the same way as the original. Five phases of play with only one goal: Cross the finish line first.
Draft – Draft machine parts to build your machine or discard them to gain dice or cogs.
Vent – Use your cogs to remove pips from your dice.
Race – Place dice from the draft phase into your machine too
Damage – Remove machine parts if your damage tracker is below 0.
Upkeep – Reset the board for the next round.
The gameplay is identical to the original, but Steampunk Rally Fusion comes with five new mechanics to challenge the players and give a twist to their gameplay. The fusion dice are one of these, and with nuclear power comes great power but also great risk. The dice hold a value of 4 to 9. They can be used anywhere but they cannot be vented, meaning they are applied once only. You get a great bonus from the machine part when it's activated but you lock it out until the card is discarded.
In addition, some machine parts have new options to them. Some can “gear up” and gain a boost at the cost of some of your cogs. Others can be overcharged – sacrificed for a one-off bonus and discarded. The track itself can also hold surprises for the players, with thematic event cards for the Machu Picchu and Mars tracks which change the rules in certain spaces. Finally, each player can have their own secret project, hidden for as long as the player wants. Activating them to gain a boost at just the right moment can be crucial to victory.
What’s to Love (And Not)
Love: Solo mode! There’s a solo mode! Why aren’t you more excited? When lockdown happened, I suddenly had a surplus of cash because I wasn’t driving. “Great!” I thought, “I can buy more board games!” Unfortunately, I was living with a non-gamer. This meant for a while, these new games sat unopened and unloved. That’s when I started to look at games I could play on my own. The Automa deck in Wingspan is a great example. However, the simplicity of the solo variant of Steampunk Rally Fusion means you can just get on and play. With some fun bonus achievements, you can add to the win/lose condition and a scoring mechanism to judge how entertained the audience is, you can keep track of your own achievements and challenge yourself again and again.
Not: If I’m being picky, and I’m often accused of just that, Steampunk Rally Fusion does suffer from a minor problem. Because there is so much variety, it can be overwhelming for a new player right out of the box. The different mechanics mean that, with a new group of gamers, you cannot use the game to its fullest potential. Arguably, in the early days of playing, my partner and I found that playing the original game more enjoyable. However, I’m pretty confident that, as we play SRF more, we’ll add in more and more variants to keep it fresh.
Love: The artwork by Mr Cuddington is fantastic and the designers clearly went to a lot of detail to ensure the history of each inventor is accurate. I backed the Kickstarter early on and have a few additional features to mine, including extra inventors, but the detail included is no less important than for those printed in the main rulebook. Also, as a nice bonus from the Kickstarter, the deluxe edition has metal cogs, which just feel better to play with and are far more durable than cardboard.
Love: You will never play the same game of Steampunk Rally Fusion. Never. I can say that fully confidently because, even if you pick the same pilot and the same component cards, the dice will rebel against you and make the game subtly different. However, you’d never want to play the same game. There is far too much variety that can be included in the game. You have the four different tracks, the event deck, secret projects, challenges, and other variants which are on the Roxley website. You can even slam together the Fusion version with the original Steampunk Rally to create the Atomic edition for even more variation. Racers, start your engines and pray they don’t explode!