Invent an ingenious racing contraption and be the first to cross the finish line!
Note: Roxley Games sent us a copy of Steampunk Rally Fusion so that we could write this unbiased review
Picture the scene: It’s 1953 and the Martian invasion has been defeated (don’t you remember learning about it at school?!) and the champions of the Steampunk rally plan to travel through time and gather the best inventors from history so that they can prevent the war from happening. Using Martian technology and fusion energy combined with their own spectacular contraptions, these inventors will create racing machines capable of showing Earth’s ingenuity and intelligence to the Martians.
Ok so it’s not a scene I imagine you’ll be too familiar with but underneath this crazy backstory is a frantic and fun racing game, unlike any other we’ve played!
Steampunk Rally Fusion is a standalone game (not to be confused with Steampunk Rally) in which players take on the role of historic inventors, and must race homemade modular racing machines to see who will be crowned Ambassador of Earth! Along the unpredictable journey they’ll deal and take damage, encounter artifacts and events, and possibly (but hopefully not) explode! Compared to the original game, this adds new abilities to engine parts (such as gear up and overcharge) as well as Secret Projects and the amazing Fusion dice!
How the game works
The game is a race to the finish line. It’s played over a series of rounds where players add to and then activate their racing contraptions, aiming to move forward as far as possible with minimal damage! You’ve got four racetracks to choose from (including Mars and Machu Pichu), and each one is modular so can be played around with to change the layout/segments which will present different opportunities for shortcuts and dangers of obstacles.
Each player begins with a unique pilot and engine part combo which will get their machines started- but that won’t be enough to get you over the finishing line (and in most cases the start line!), you’ll need to add to your engines. The round begins with each player being dealt a hand of four cards (one from each of the four engine decks that each do slightly different things). They must pick one card to either add to their engine or to sell for dice/cogs, before passing the remaining cards to the player next to them. This continues until each player has either added or sold 4 cards. 3 of the 4 cards you begin with will always be engine parts which you can add to your engine, the other 1 is a boost card which you stash for later, which gives you a sneaky benefit or impacts the other players in some way.
By now you should all have weird and wonderful looking machines that need dice to activate. But what do the various engine parts do? The main aim is to propel yourself forward, so engine parts that move you forward are always good, but you’ll also pick up damage along the way so having something that helps you repair is essential too. Of course the more dice you have at your disposal the better, so having engine parts that generate more dice than are used to activate them can be useful. It’s important to remember that in most cases you can’t carry dice over from one round to the next so don’t just generate dice for the sake of it.
The race phase is the main phase of the game, where players simultaneously roll their dice before placing them onto their machines to activate the various parts. Most parts require specific coloured dice, some will yield greater rewards for higher value dice, and others don’t have value requirements. Some parts don’t even need dice to activate, but can be used once per round for free! Another key rule to remember is that dice will stay on your machines forever unless you spend cogs to remove them (some machine parts also allow you to remove dice), so there’s no guarantee you’d be able to activate a machine part every round as there may be dice stuck there!
Along the racetrack there are various hazards and things to interact with, some of which will cause you damage. When you take damage you adjust your damage wheel to the corresponding number, and at the end of the round you must remove one machine part for each damage on your wheel (resetting the wheel after). If you would take more damage than you have machine parts, you explode! This causes you to be moved back to the space behind the last player, with just your basic starting machine left. It goes without saying but be very careful not to explode as it really will explode your chances for victory!
Once everyone has done all the racing things they want to, the round is over and everyone discards their unused dice. All the other dice are left on their machines, now blocking the spaces on their parts (in future rounds before the race phase players can spend cogs to reduce the value of these dice until they go to 0 and can be discarded). Players continue racing until someone crosses the finsh line. After that, there is one final round where everyone tries to get their nose in front and claim victory!
If you’re playing with the Secret Projects optional extra, these allow you to spend leftover dice to advance your project. Once per game you can activate your Secret Project. The more dice you have used over the course of the game the more powerful this activation. Some reward you with extra movement, others cause damage to opponents, others give you new dice, it varies a lot!
Fusion dice are the very funky larger dice which can be used as wild energy type. The other advantage of them is that instead of having a value 1-6 they are 4-9, so much more powerful for actions that depend on the dice value. The only disadvantage of them is that you can never discard them so they are stuck on your machine parts until the end of the game or until you discard that machine part through taking damage. Still worth it in my opinion!
Steampunk Rally Fusion is a racing game unlike any game I’ve played before. My favourite racing game (at the moment – it could be ‘overtaken’ [pun intended] by this) is Flamme Rouge, but this is so unbelievably different from Flamme Rouge they’re virtually incomparable.
What I loved about Steampunk is that it’s done something very different with the racing mechanic. There’s the pick and pass phase where you’re gaining cards to add to your contraption or sell them for parts, engine building (literally) by adding more and more useful parts to your machine so you can do more on your turn and there’s worker placement from the placing of dice onto your machines to make them go!
There’s a lot to the game and with that a lot of replayability. The decks of cards are very large so plenty of variation in the engine parts (you won’t be constantly seeing the same parts being passed around). The Secret Projects module is a great addition as it allows you to use up leftover dice, I found I often had a lot of leftover dice so using them up here was great. If that wasn’t enough, there are four different tracks which can in themselves be set up in different ways and there are 28 (yes, 28!) different characters to play as, each with their own unique starting set-ups.
The artwork and theme of the game are both fantastic and work really well together to really emerse you in the experience. It’s very futuristic (even though technically set in 1953, there is time travel and Mars involved!) and colourful and all the iconography is very intuitive (helped by the handy reminder cards), making for a very sleak experience.
It always worries me when a game is labelled 2-8 players as the assumption is it can’t be good at all those player counts, but having played it as a pair and with 6, it was just as fun each time and because the play is simultaneous, the game flows so quickly and the further into the game you get, the further players can move on each turn (provided you listened to my advice and didn’t explode), making it the perfect length of time for this type of game. Sure, playing with 6 took a little longer than 2 because you’re more likely to have someone who takes that bit longer to decide what to do when there are more of you, but not restrictively so.
There’s not a crazy amount of interactivity other than taking into account which cards might benefit your neighbours, and some cards/effects will cause damage to your opponents but other than that its largely you concentrating on your own game. The boost cards tend to have the greatest interactivity in them (some of them truly screw your opponents over!), so keep an eye on how these can give you the edge over the other players.
The only slight negative we found was that the rulebook wasn’t as clear as others we have played – I found it harder to learn than some more complicated games. Whether this was just me being dim or not remains to be seen and you might find it really easy to learn! It took a little while to teach a larger group with several run throughs of the rules required. Again, this might just be my poor explanation skills or the fact it is a relatively complex game. Some of the rules aren’t necessarily intuitive (for example the fact the dice stay on your contraptions until you either destroy the part or spend cogs to remove them), and that’s not a bad thing, I think most people would just assume the dice would go at the end of the round so it takes a little more explanation.
Overall though I think Steampunk has the potential to become my favourite racing games. It’s quick, clever, really fun, has a great them and has plenty of replayability. Perfect for a bigger gaming group too.
Get this game
Check this game out on Board Game Geek