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Steam Tunnel (was Re: Q1 2003 gaming report & Top 10)

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  • Doug Orleans
    ... Well, see that last sentence... Or, less briefly: The game is a deck of cards, each showing tunnels and endcaps connected to six entrances on the edge of
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 1, 2003
      Matthew Gray writes:
      > > > Cheapass hasn't had what I'd call a "hit"
      > > > with me in some time, so this is a nice reversal.
      > >
      > > Have you tried the five other Hip Pocket Games? Er, wait, I know I
      > > played Agora with you at UGV... I like them all (a lot more than the
      > > other Cheapass games), though I haven't played them enough to see if
      > > they're replayable. I think my favorite (after one playing) is the
      > > latest one, Steam Tunnel-- it's not a placement game, so there's not
      > > quite as much analysis paralysis as the others, plus I'm a sucker for
      > > wrap-around (i.e. torus-shaped) boards.
      > I liked Agora, but wouldn't call it a hit. I'm interested to try
      > Steam Tunnel. Care to give a brief review? (I'm more interested in
      > opinion than in description of play).

      Well, see that last sentence... Or, less briefly:

      The game is a deck of cards, each showing tunnels and endcaps
      connected to six entrances on the edge of the card-- pretty much the
      same configuration as The Very Clever Pipe Game, except everything's
      the same color. There are four special cards with six endcaps with
      number values from 2 to 4; these are placed face-up in the four
      quadrants of a 6x6 grid of face-down cards. On your turn, you flip
      over one face-down card, and then either claim one tunnel segment
      anywhere on the board, or "bury" a face-down card, which permanently
      turns it into three straight-through tunnels. After all cards have
      either been flipped face-up or buried, the game ends, and all tunnel
      networks are scored. The value of a tunnel network is the number of
      tunnel segments in the network times the sum of all the endcap
      values-- there may be more than two endcaps because some tunnels
      branch. The player who has claimed the most segments in a tunnel
      scores the tunnel's value, with ties splitting the value equally;
      refreshingly, there's no rounding, so you can end up with a fractional

      Anyway, it feels a little like Metro in that you're trying to extend
      your own tunnels while keeping others short, a little like a
      majority-influence game like Mexica with battles for control over
      shared tunnel networks, and a little like Carcassonne with the
      opportunities to take over control by merging multiple networks. But
      since you're just flipping over cards in place rather than choosing
      where to place a card, you spend less time searching for the best move
      and play more by intuition, betting on which tunnels will get
      connected most optimally for you. The decision of whether to bury a
      card is interesting because not only does it guarantee certain
      connections, it shortens the game because there's one fewer card to be
      flipped over. Because of the multiplication in the tunnel network
      value formula, some networks will score much, much higher than others;
      this may lead to a balance issue, because someone could get lucky and
      score a 100-point network while others work hard to get six networks
      that only add up to 40 or 50. In practice, I don't think this will
      happen, especially as players learn to predict how a high-scoring
      network might form and put their tokens on it early. On the other
      hand, it may turn out to just be a light, random game, but it's short
      enough (20-30 minutes) that it wouldn't bother me, and I just like
      tracing out the maze of tunnels to figure out where all the
      connections lead.

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