In a metal-riveted palace, covered in a heavy layer of coal dust, lies the Steam Court. Steam Court is a 1–6 player card game with elements of traditional trick taking, character-based abilities, and victory point and party win-conditions. Tasked with the upkeep of the court’s mechanical devices, players try to catch the eye of the Queen and her Courtiers by displaying their mechanical prowess. Using their numbered gear cards, players try to take tricks and be the first to play all their cards. The Queen rewards such displays of skill by snatching up the most successful Engineer as her own. Can you engineer your way into the Queen’s good graces and come out on top of the social ladder? Or will you be stuck assisting the Tea Boy and suffering his incessant whining? Goal Prove that you are the most skilled engineer by collecting the highest sum of gear tokens by the end of the fourth Quarter. Gear tokens are awarded based on the order in which the players get rid of all the cards in their hand. Contents 6 character cards 1 Deck of cards containing: 6 of each gear card 1–12 3 Masterstroke cards 3 Multiplier cards 3 3/9 cards 3 6/12 cards 1 playmat 24 gear tokens (1–6) 6 Starting tokens Instruction manual Setup #2 General #3 Duke Based on the number of players, set out character cards according to the seat order diagram (see next page). Gather the starting tokens (e.g. 3 players would use tokens 1–3). Each player randomly draws a token to determine initial seating order. Players should keep their starting token as they grant end-game points (1 point for Queen, 2 points for General, etc.) #1 #4 Queen Alchemist Gather the four sets of gear tokens corresponding to the number of players (e.g. 5 players would use gears 1–5). Stack each set of the gear tokens from highest to lowest and place one stack on each Quarter on the playmat. Shuffle and deal the deck of cards into hands for each player plus an extra hand called the “Court Hand.” Each player should have an equal number of cards. Extra cards are placed in the Court Hand. #6 Tea Boy #5 Doctor Game Play Privileges: Starting with the Queen and going clockwise, players use any “Beginning of the Quarter” special privileges listed on their character card. First Trick: The Queen starts the first trick by laying any quantity of cards with the same value (e.g. three 2s). The card quantity for the trick has been set. Subsequent players must play the same quantity of matching cards but of increasing value (e.g. three 3s -> three 5s). Each player is trying to beat the previous player’s cards. Passing: A player who can’t play (or chooses not to) passes by turning his character card over to the “Pass” side and sits out for the rest of the trick. Play proceeds around and around the table with players continuing to lay cards until everyone passes. Winning the Trick: The trick (or “machine”) is finished once everyone has passed. Whoever played the highest card(s) wins the trick. The Tea Boy clears the cards and puts them in a discard pile and everyone turns their character card back to the active side. The winner leads off the next trick. Emptying Hand: When a player gets rid of all his cards, he takes the highest-point gear token remaining on the stack of tokens for that Quarter. Play continues around the table on that trick until everyone has passed. If no higher cards were played, the player to the left of the player who went out starts the next trick. Game play continues until only one player is left with cards. That player takes the last (lowest-point) gear token and the Quarter ends. Taking Tokens: Tokens represent points that the engineers win at the end of each Quarter depending on the order they go out. The first player out takes the highest number token and so on until the last player takes the 1-point token. This last token has a special power on the back that the player can use at any time. Keep the token number-side up until the power is used and then flip it over. The player does not sacrifice the victory point for using the power. Starting a New Quarter: Before the next Quarter begins, players leave their current seats and character cards and reseat based on the order in which they went out. The player who went out first becomes the preeminent player at the table for the next Quarter. (e.g. The Duke got rid of his cards first and takes over as the Queen). After the players have reseated, the cards are shuffled and dealt for the 2nd Quarter. Once again, players exercise their “Beginning of the Quarter” privileges starting with the Queen. After the privileges have been exercised, the Queen begins the Quarter by leading the first trick. Play proceeds in a similar fashion for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Quarters. End of 4th Quarter: At the end of the 4th Quarter, players add up their starting character token and the four gear tokens they collected. Whoever has the highest total has proven to be the most skillful engineer and wins the game! Explanation of Cards and Tokens The Masterstroke card beats all other cards. As soon as a Masterstroke card is played, it ends the trick (you cannot beat a Masterstroke with another Masterstroke). If you are dealt three Masterstroke cards, you can pull a coup and seize the throne! You immediately move to the Queen’s seat, and as necessary other players move down one seat. The cards are reshuffled, dealt, and then the Quarter restarts. A Multiplier card (X) can be played with one or more of the same numbered card(s). The player announces the number of times the card(s) will be multiplied (a 2 card and a Multiplier could equal two 2s, three 2s, eight 2s, infinity 2s.). A Multiplier can be played as a multiple of one (played with a 2 card as 2 x 1=2). It can also be played by itself, but it will equal a single 1 card. The 3/9 cards can be played as either a 3 or as a 9 (whichever the player determines to be most valuable to his hand). The 6/12 cards can be played as either a 6 or as a 12 (whichever the player determines to be most valuable to his hand). Each 1-point gear token has a special ability that can be used one time by the player who received it (the lowliest player needs all the help he can get). He may use the token at any time, and keeps the token after it is played for scoring at the end. The Masterstroke token works exactly like the Masterstroke card, winning and immediately completing the trick. The Multiplier token works like the Multiplier card, multiplying the quantity of cards it is played with. The Unpass token allows a player who has already passed to “unpass” and play a card(s). He should use this token when it would normally be his turn (before the player to his left has laid any cards). The Discard two token allows a player to discard two of his numbered gear cards one time during the game. Characters Each character has a special privilege listed on the bottom of the character card. Some privileges are exercised after the cards are dealt, but before the first cards are played. These Beginning of Quarter privileges are exercised in order from the preeminent character (Queen) to the most inferior (Tea Boy). The Queen Her Royal Majesty the Queen presides over the court from her gear encrusted throne. Nothing escapes her shrewd gaze or her iron fist. The Queen grants her Engineer the ability to bestow two undesirable cards on any player at the table. This happens at the beginning of the Quarter. The Queen’s Engineer also begins play each Quarter. The General Second only to the Queen, the General commands respect and obedience. No one dares to cross him and his arsenal. At the beginning of the Quarter, the General’s Engineer may give one of his undesirable cards to the second-lowliest player at the table. Once during the Quarter, he may stop another player from laying a card/ set (except for a lead card). The player does not forfeit the trick, but must wait until play goes all the way around the table before laying another card. The Duke The Duke smiles and bows before the Queen, all the while using his connections to increase his power and influence. The Duke’s Engineer need only match the previously laid card/set. He does not have to play higher valued cards: three 4s → three 4s. The Alchemist The Alchemist rarely emerges from his laboratory. He has no use for politics and court intrigue when he is on the verge of unlocking the mysteries of the universe. The Alchemist’s Engineer may transmute one thing into another. He may lower the value of any of his numbered cards by exactly two digits. The Plague Doctor Mysterious and grave, the Plague Doctor lurks in the shadows. Is he a good shepherd or a bringer of death? The Plague Doctor grants his Engineer the ability to walk among the dead. His Engineer may reveal a card from his hand, shuffle the discard pile, and randomly draw that many cards. He may keep up to half of the drawn cards. The Tea Boy The Tea Boy bows low, keeping his eyes on the steaming silver pot. At the beginning of the Quarter, the Tea Boy’s Engineer must give his two highest numbered cards (not special cards) to the preeminent player at the table. After serving his best he may decide to trade his hand for the leftover Court Hand (he may not look at the Court Hand before deciding), but must keep any cards given to him by other Engineers exercising their privileges. The Tea Boy tends to shirk his duties, leaving his Engineer responsible for shuffling and dealing the cards for the Quarter and for clearing the gears after each machine is complete. Sample Game Play 1. The Queen starts the first trick of the Quarter by laying three 1s. 2. The General lays three 3s (one of which was a 3/9 card). 3. The Duke lays three 3s (his privilege allows him to match the previously laid cards). 4. The Alchemist passes. 5. The Tea Boy has three 11s, but for sake of strategy, he passes and decides to hold on to those cards a little longer so he has a better chance of winning a trick later in the game. 6. On the Queen’s turn she lays three 9s. 7. The General lays a single 10 and a Multiplier. 8. The Duke passes. 9. The Alchemist and Tea Boy have already passed. 10. The Queen lays a Masterstroke and wins the trick. 11. All of the players who had passed turn their character cards to the active side and come back into the game. 12. The Queen leads the next trick by laying a single 4. 13. The General lays an 8. 14. The Duke lays an 11. 15. The Alchemist passes. 16. The Tea Boy passes. 17. The Queen lays a 12. 18. Using his privilege, the General stops the Queen from laying her card. He then lays a 12. 19. The Duke passes. 20. The Queen also passes as she has no cards that can beat a 12. 21. The General wins the trick and starts the next trick. 22. Play continues in this manner until everyone has played all of their cards and the Quarter ends. Variations 2 Player Rules Before dealing the cards remove all of the 1s and 2s from the deck. In this version of the game players start off as the Tea Boy and Plague Doctor (randomly draw start tokens to determine starting seating positions). At the end of each Quarter, the player to play all of his cards first will gain the privileges of the next higher character for the next Quater (second Quarter characters are Alchemist and Plague Doctor, third Quarter: Duke and Alchemist, etc.). Prior to the start of the game, players should decide on the win condition: either the player with the highest gear point total or the player who finishes the 4th Quarter as Engineer to the Queen. Party Play Remove the gear tokens. At the beginning of each Quarter, stack the start tokens (corresponding to the number of characters being used) in order from the preeminent character on top to the lowliest. When a player goes out, he takes the top start token from the stack. At the end of each Quarter, reseat based on the tokens collected (the order players went out). At the end of the 4th Quarter, the player who gets rid of his cards first becomes the Engineer to the Queen and is the winner of the game. Character Auction Variation During setup gather character cards that will be used for the game (e.g. choose 5 character cards for a 5 player game). Players in clockwise order bid for the characters by gaining negative victory points based on the bids they win. Players who pass during a bidding round cannot re-enter until the next character bidding round. (e.g. player one bids -1 point for the Queen card, player 2 bids -3 points, player 3 passes, player 4 passes, player 5 bids -4 points, player one passes, player 2 bids -5 points, players 3 and 4 already passed and cannot re-enter, player 5 passes and the Queen character card goes to player 2 for -5 points) The auction continues until all players receive a character card. No Rotation Setup and play the first Quarter like normal, but for the second Quarter, instead of reseating, simply keep your seat but switch character cards. This might mean that the Queen sits in the middle and directly to her left is the Tea Boy, but that’s ok! Beginning of Quarter privileges can get a little wonky, but this allows for players to avoid shuffling seats, while still improving their character privileges and earning victory points. Variations Continued 1 Player Rules Work your way up the Court ladder to become Engineer to the Queen before the Court Hand runs out. You start as Engineer to the Tea Boy and must beat the Court Hand’s tricks to advance to the next Courtier. To win, you must beat the Court Hand (all three tricks) as the Engineer to each character, including the Queen. Setup: Deal 12 cards to yourself, 22 to the Court Hand, and place the rest of the cards into the draw pile. Stack the 6 Royal Table character cards from 1–6, Queen on the bottom up to Tea Boy on top. Play: Begin each round by exercising your character’s privilege (if applicable) and drawing back up to 12 cards in your hand. The Court Hand will lay three tricks that you must try to beat by playing the same quantity of matching cards in the set, but of a higher value. (Same method as multiplayer Steam Court). If you can beat all three tricks, move them to the discard pile and start the next round by advancing to the next character and drawing back up to 12 cards. If you are unable to beat all three tricks, discard the beaten tricks, leave the other tricks, and begin a new round with the same character. Draw back up to 12 cards and reveal cards from the Court Hand until three tricks are on the table. If you are unable to beat any tricks, discard all three tricks and reveal three new ones from the Court Hand. The Court Hand If the Court Hand reveals … • duplicate numbered cards, stack them on top of each other to form a set. Reveal additional cards until three tricks are on the table. • a Multiplier or a Masterstroke, treat it as a Multiplier (which adds one additional card to the set) and stack it on the left-most available trick. Reveal additional cards until three tricks are on the table. • a 3/9 or 6/12 card, play it as the lower of the two numbers. Character Privileges: Tea Boy: Only at the beginning of the first round: Give up your 2 highest numbered cards (not special cards) and place them on the bottom of the Court Hand. Plague Doctor: Once per round: Draw 4 cards from the draw pile. Keep 2 of them. Alchemist: Once per round: You may lower or raise one card by exactly 2. Duke: You may match the number laid. (You do not need to lay a higher numbered card to win.) General: At the beginning of the round: You may discard your lowest card and draw to replace it from the draw pile. You may stop the Court Hand from laying one trick (i.e. you only need to beat 2 tricks to advance.) Queen: You may discard your lowest card or set of cards and draw to replace them from the draw pile. End Game: Beat the Court Hand as Engineer to the Queen, and you win the game! Do it with... 1–2 cards left in the Court Hand and you are an Apprentice level Engineer. 3–4 cards left in the Court Hand and you are a Skilled Engineer. 5–6 cards left in the Court Hand and you are a Master Engineer. Frequently Asked Questions What do you do when the dealt cards are uneven? Every player receives the same number of dealt cards. Any extra cards go into the Court Hand. Players may have to trade cards using their privilege, resulting in uneven hands, but this is done after all the cards have been initially dealt. If I’m the Queen and I have a set of three 1s, do I have to give two of those away? “Undesirable” doesn’t necessarily mean “lowest.” If you would prefer to get rid of your single 2 so that you can play three cards on your first turn and get rid of those 1s, then give whatever you want to that sniveling little Tea Boy! If I’m the Tea Boy, do I have to give away my Masterstroke, Multiplier, 3/9, 6/12 cards? No. You only have to give away your highest “numbered” cards, not your special cards. When can the General stop someone from playing? Before or after a player lays his card/set (except for a lead card/set), the General may stop him and make him put his card(s) back into his hand. He must stop the player before the next player lays his card(s). Can the General stop a player from playing a Masterstroke card? The General can stop any player from laying ANY card(s) (as long as it is not the first card(s) to lead the trick). Since stopping a player from laying does not require them to pass or remove them from the trick, that player could still lay a Masterstroke card on his next turn. Is it better strategy to get rid of my low cards first? Typically it is. Especially at the beginning of the game. It is impossible to play a 1 card(s) unless you lead the trick, so getting those low cards out of your hand early will keep you from being stuck with them at the end (there are always exceptions though). Can I pass even if I have playable cards? Yes. You may choose to pass at any time, but you will not be able to re-enter until the start of the next trick. Can I lay two cards with a Multiplier card? Yes. If a player started the trick with three 5s, you could lay two 7s and a Multiplier. Can a player play over his own cards in the same trick (everyone else has passed, but the active player still has cards that are playable)? Yes. Say you lay two 10s and everyone else has passed. You have two 11s and a single 4 left in your hand. The best strategy would be to lay your 11s on your 10s, win the trick, and start the next trick with your 4 and go out. When a player goes out, do we keep playing or start a new trick? When a player runs out of cards, the other players continue playing around the table as usual. If a player plays his last card and no one else can play on that trick, the player to his left starts the next trick. As usual, everyone who had passed is back in the game again. If I pull a coup (with three Masterstrokes), do I get bonus points? No, but you do get to play with the most powerful character and will have a good chance of going out first and receiving the most points for that Quarter. Credits This game was designed by Will Meadows and Ryan Pilz. Graphic design completed by Will Meadows. Illustrated by Greg Warner. Steam Court typeface design by Jeremy Dooley. Rules edited by Melissa Delp. Tantrum House Team: Will Meadows, Ryan Pilz, Kevin Delp, Ben Fields Thank Yous Special thanks to David Lovegrove. This game wouldn’t have existed if you hadn’t introduced me to the mechanic, mentored and brainstormed with me as we worked on a dozen other games, and encouraged me to step up and give it a try. Thank you. Tom Glass—you introduced me to the wide world of board gaming and your insights were invaluable as we put this one together. Thanks for being awesome. All of the members of our Advisory Board/Playtesters: Thanks for the support, feedback and encouragement! Our wonderful wives (we each have one): Thank you for letting us waste far too much time playing games! We love and appreciate you! Thanks for helping us get to where we are! Soli Deo Gloria.