Steam Donkey‘s my new portable light strategy game for multiple players. Previous games that have been in that category includes San Juan and Lost Cities. It’s a pure card game that focuses on hand management and tableau building and will play up to 4 players in a 30 – 60 minute game.
Steam Donkey’s a nice looking game with very 19th century, steampunk elements. Now, Steampunk isn’t for everyone but the art is cute and the design well thought out in the cards. It’s easy to tell what cards are placed where and what each card is, so that gameplay is fast and smooth.
That’s the thing of good design – when it works, it works and you barely even notice it unless you are thinking about it. That’s what Steam Donkey has, and I’ve got to give them kudos for it. Card stock is nice and thick too so there’s no issue at all with the card peeling – at least for a while.
The rules in Steam Donkey are simple. Players are resort owners who must build attractions in their resort to attract the most tourists. They have 3 sections to build resorts in – the Park, Beach or Town area and four different types of attractions they can build – amusements, lodgings, monuments and transportation attractions.
To build an attraction, players must discard cards from their hand of the same attraction type and place it in the appropriate area. Only one attraction in each area can be built though, so you’ll have to decide on which attraction works best for you. To get more cards in your hand, players can decide to instead draw from the discard pile or begin attracting visitors. Visitors are colour coded (on the back of the cards) to indicate the area they are interested in, and players can transport all visitors who would are going to the same area to their attractions at the same time. In subsequent turns, they may then draw the players from the attractions into their hands.
For those who have played San Juan, the game sounds and is very similar, but is much simpler as there are fewer ‘special’ cards that break the rules. At the same time, the game has a decent amount of complexity as players must decide between building attractions immediately to begin attracting visitors with saving cards to build the right kind of attractions. With the addition of secret goal cards and the fact that all built attractions score, there are a few viable strategies to winning.
In addition, Steam Donkey is easy to teach. The (basic) rules are relatively simple like all good Euros and this keeps each turn passing quickly. Of course, the advanced rules (not explained) add more complexity to the game along with more tactical options which greatly enhance the gameplay for those who have mastered the basic rules.
A word of caution – shuffle well. Due to the way visitor cards ‘clump’ together when played, if you don’t shuffle well you will find that you will be drawing visitors of the same type constantly, which might cause issues with how fast the game plays. Also, at times you’ll just be drawing cards because you are waiting for a specific card, which if you don’t shuffle the cards together properly can make for a long time of just drawing.
Lastly, something to note, while the game itself is easy to transport when playing it can take up a lot of space because of the tableau. This isn’t a game that plays in a very small space well, so be careful.
Overall, it’s a good accessible game that is easy to transport. If you need a basic filler, Steam Donkey is definitely something you should consider getting especially since San Juan is currently out of print at this moment.