Updated: Oct 11, 2021
WBG Score: 9/10
Player Count: 2-8 Players
Published by: Roxley
Designed by: Orin Bishop
Steampunk Rally first come out in 2015, giving players the chance to create “wacky” cars in a two to eight player race game. 2021 saw the sequel to this, Steampunk Rally Fusion. A stand-alone game that can be played on its own or combined with the original in what is called the Atomic edition.
This review is for all of this. The version I have brings all the parts from both games. Offering the chance to play Steampunk Rally, Steampunk Rally Fusion or a combined version of both, Steampunk Rally Fusion Atomic edition. Keeping up? I hope so, the race is about to begin!
For those familiar with the original, Steampunk Rally Fusion brings new tracks, new unique event cards, new Gear Up and Overcharge abilities, new ‘Fusion’ dice, and Secret Projects. It is very easy to add these in with no additional time or major rules for fans of the first game. They all work as individual modules you can mix-and-match as you see fit.
On Your Marks!
To set up, choose the terrain you wish to race on. There are four choices, two from each version of the game. The two news ones, Mars and Machu Pichu, offer new terrain features. There are Traps in Machu Pichu which will force you to take either two damage to your vehicle or discard an unplayed die from your dice pool. Mars introduces Canals and Fusion Factories. The Canals will allow you to discard a die from your invention if you end your turn within them, but require either two movement or one smooth movement to travel through them. The Fusion Factories allow players to spend two cogs to gain one of the powerful fusion dice.
Once your track is set up, and you may lay it out however you like, in any order or shape. It’s now time to choose your racing character. There are 28 to pick from across the two games, and any can be used for any variation of the game. They all come with their own unique cockpit and special powers. They are all based on famous scientists, inventors, explorers and adventurous from the eighteen and nineteen hundreds, as well as Pachacuti, who lived from 1438 to 1471 and is the guy who could claim Machu Pichu as his pad.
Each player will take a damage gauge set to zero, a light bulb, their starting cockpit cards, and then lay out all the cogs and dice so they are easily accessible for all players. At this stage you can choose to add in the Event decks, Secret Projects, and Challenge tiles if you wish. I will go into those later.
There are four types of cards used to build and power your machine to victory. These are Gold, Silver, Copper, and Boost cards. There are two sets in the box, one for each game. The Fusion version are clearly marked with a fusion logo on, so you can pick which ever ones you want, suitable to the game you are playing or combine them all for the Atomic game. Shuffle the ones you are using and lay them out in four separate piles.
To play the game, simply take one of each cards and choose one to keep. You will then pass the other three to the player to you left or right depending on the draft tile. Take another and pass again. Do this until all four have been used. The cards can be used to either build up your race machine, sell for parts (dice or cogs), or stash for use later in the case of the boost cards.
If you have any dice on your machine, you can then vent any you wish using cogs. Each cog spent can reduce a die face by two. You will do this because dice placed onto your machine can only be used the turn they are placed. After that, they just clog up your machine and must be removed before that space can be used again.
Players then move into the race phase where the fun really begins! All players will roll any unused dice in the pool, spend cogs to re-roll or manipulate the dice faces by one if they wish, use their light bulb to make use of any available extra powers, and finally activate their machine parts. The machines you construct will change constantly each round. Adding new parts to your machine will bring new powers. Adding dice to these parts will activate them. Some will generate extras dice, some will allow you to repair yourself, vent dice or inflict damage or other players, and others will allow you to race forward on the track. Movement is either smooth or normal. Normal is fine unless the terrain ahead of treacherous in which you need smooth movement to avoid these pitfalls.
This part of the game feels more like a euro game. There is a clear element of engine building here, quite literally. But there is also a strong element of resource management. If I put this resource (dice) here, I can then generate this resource (dice) which can be placed here to allow me to move (race) here. Fans of coloured cube pushing will be in race heaven!
Flipping your lightbulb means you can use any part of your machine that has the lightbulb symbol on. This can only be done once per round but can be a very powerful and effective way to generate extra dice and movement without having to use dice.
Let’s Get Dicey!
Each part of your machine that requires dice will have a number or star printed on it. Let’s say you have a machine part that generates movement and it has a five next to it with four dice spaces. This means that for each total of five on any dice present, you can move one space. Add one dice to the value of five or more and you can move once that round. Add four dice adding to 20 or more and you can move four times. If it is a star, it simply needs a dice. Any value will do. But this only works for the turn the dice are added. Each dice will then sit there, redundant, spent. Until you remove it through the vent phase.
The fusion dice can really help here as they can roll up to nine. But be warned! A fusion die can never be removed from your machine. They are just too powerful! But worry not, most of your machine will be blowing up soon anyway!
Through the ‘Overcharge’ function, some of the new Fusion cards allow you to add a one-time effect such as extra movement, new dice or inflicting damage, but only if you are prepared to lose that machine part for good. You are pushing your engine beyond its maximum limit to deliver a one-time effect before, kaboom! Don’t be afraid to do this as races can be quick, and extra movement or powers can be very useful.
Machine parts can also be lost if you take damage on the course, which happens frequently! When you move into difficult terrain without smooth movment, or take damage other ways, you must rotate your damage dial one space counter clockwise. If you cannot repair your machine by the end of your turn, you must remove one part of your invention for each negative number you have. Your damage then resets, but you could then be left with a very different looking machine! You shouldn’t worry about this too much. Your contraption will grow and shrink, be developed, and destroyed over and over. This is part of the fun. Enjoy seeing the different form your cockpit takes each round!
Once this is all done, remove any stored dice, discard any unused dice, flip your light bulb token if you used it and then flip the draft direction tile over and start another round. Players will keep doing this until someone crosses the finish line. At which point there will be one final round and then the inventor furthest across the line wins. As the game reaches a crescendo you will find players taking more powerful turns as their machine increases in size and power. It’s exciting to see people catch up by huge amounts and overtake people in the later rounds.
The Secret Projects are hidden long term goals that players can add in as an additional module at the start of the game. These are simple goals that players can look to achieve to gain additional benefits. Players can use dice for these projects rather than their machine. The dice need to be in a run of at least three, (at least three consecutive numbers), and then added to the secret project card in the race phase. You then move along the number track on the card with a tracking clip, and when you reach a certain number, you can activate extra powers. For example, this could be the chance to get seven extra fusion dice if you reach the maximum on the ‘Nuclear Stockpile’ secret mission.
The Event deck replaces the draft tile and can be used on the two racetracks from the Fusion version, Mars or Machu Pichu. You will either use the Artifact or Tripod deck. These cards are used whenever any racer ends their turn on a certain part of the track (which is most of it!) In the upkeep phase, if you find yourself on the pink spaces in Machu Pichu or the red spaces on Mars, players must draw the top card of the deck and place it face up next to that zone. You then must apply the effects of that card. This could be a chance to peak at top two cards of the artifact deck, gain or discard a die, lose a machine part, gain extra movement, move back one space, lose cogs, or have their ability to use their lightbulb token taken away for one round.
The Challenge tiles can be added to the racetrack at set up and offer even more variation and additional benefits to players who land on these spaces. The Crowd tiles, new to this version of the game, allow players the chance to get five extra cogs, less any incomplete valve on their machine. There are also seven different tiles from the original. The Coal Mine, Power Station and Newcomen Atmospheric Engine tiles allow a player to spend one cog to gain one die. The Rails allow players to discard the yellow electricity die from the unplayed dice pool to gain two motion. The Steam Pony allows you to swap the blue steam die to gain three cogs. The Glaciers force you to lose either one red heat die or take two damage. And the jump spaces force you to move back out of the spaces that have this marker.
Gear Up and Move Out!
The final new power is the ‘Gear Up’ powers that some machine parts have. This will be displayed by a large cog, circled on the card next to an additional benefit. Place the required number of cogs into this space, to ‘Gear Up’ this part and gain extra powers. Cogs on these slots cannot ever be removed a little like Fusion dice, but they offer an ongoing benefit each time the card is activated.
This is a race game like no other. It feels like the fusion between a euro game focusing on resource management, an engine building drafting game, and a crazy race game filled with the thrills and spills of the racetrack. With all the different parts and long rule book, learning it can seem daunting at first for what looks like a light race game. But as we have discussed, this is a medium weight resource management game in race form and it can be quickly understood if you give it some time.
Star Treking Across the Universe.
The theme of this game is a little lost. The whole idea that you are playing as an inventor, travelling through time, trying to prevent a war with the Martian race is completely lost on me in truth. I love the idea. I read the story blurb before each game, but within minutes I am focusing on my machine and dice, and not thinking about wars, Mars, or time travel at all. This does not detract from the game. The theme is certainly present throughout the art, game and rule book. It’s just the game is so absorbing and actually quite resource heavy, that I am not thinking outside of this.
The games works in a two. And can be perfect for a quick two-plyer game. But it shines in higher player counts. Probably best in a four or five for me. There seems to be more going on. More of a frantic and frenzied race. I like more standees on the track and more things happening. I also prefer to not see any cards again once I pass them on in the draft, which of course with four cards, happens in any game above three players. It makes each choice much more important.
I have really enjoyed every game of Steampunk Rally and Steam Punk Rally Fusion. Oh, and the Atomic version too! In truth, this version doesn’t feel like three different games. It feels like one with a few modules and variations. But this is certainly the copy I would get if I had neither already. If you already have Steampunk Rally and love it, then I would recommend looking at this. But if you don’t love it, this won’t change the game enough to make you think differently.
But if you are looking for a race game that has a little more going for it than the usual card or dice play, this could be the one for you! There is enough in this box to create a multitude of different race combinations. And the satisfaction had from creating a powerful and hardworking race machine is something I will enjoy for many years to come. Oh, and did I mention the gears are metal!?