Untitled - Tantrum House
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?
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.
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
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.)
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.
Tea Boy
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
5–6 cards left in the Court Hand and you are a Master
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
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.
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.
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