Untitled - Tantrum House
In a metal-riveted palace, covered in a heavy
layer of coal dust, lies the Steam Court. Steam
Court is a 1–12 player card game with elements
of traditional trick taking, character-based
abilities, and various victory 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 win 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?
The 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 players get rid of all
the cards in their hand. By utilizing the privileges
granted to you by the Royals and Renegades, you
can astound the court and take your rightful place
next to her Royal Majesty the Queen.
12 Character cards
2 Decks of cards containing:
6 of each gear card 1–12
3 Masterstroke cards
3 Multiplier cards
3 3/9 cards
3 6/12 cards
2 Playmats
24 Gear tokens (1–6)
12 Starting tokens
Instruction manual
Game Setup
2–6 Players (see p. 13 for other variations)
Shuffle and deal one deck of cards into equal hands for each player
plus an extra hand called the “Court Hand.” If the cards do not deal
evenly, place the extra cards in the Court Hand.
Finally, players randomly draw start tokens to determine seating. Players should sit behind the character card with corresponding number
on it. Players should keep their start token for end-of-game scoring.
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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 gear
tokens from highest on top to lowest and place one stack on each
Quarter space on the playmat.
Set out character cards according to the diagram on the following
page (for fewer than 6 players refer to p. 21).
Tea Boy
Game Play
Privileges: Starting with the Queen and going
clockwise, players use any Beginning of 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.
End of Quarter: 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.
Tokens: Tokens represent points that the
engineers win 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
Quarter privileges starting with the Queen.
After the privileges have been exercised, the
new Queen begins the Quarter by leading the
first trick. Play proceeds in a similar fashion
for the 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
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 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.
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. Tip: keeping the token number-side
up before use and flipping it to the text side after it has
been used is a good way to keep track.
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 played any cards).
The Discard two cards token allows a player to discard
two of his numbered gear cards once during the game.
The Royals
Each character has a special privilege listed on the
bottom of their 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 number order from the preeminent
character to the most inferior.
1. 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 one
undesirable card on any player at the table. The
Queen’s Engineer also begins play each Quarter.
2. The General
Second only to the Queen, the
General commands respect and
obedience. The General’s Engineer may give one of his undesirable cards to any other player
at the table besides the Queen. Once during
the Quarter, he may stop any 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.
3. 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 needs to only match the
previously laid card/set. He does not have
to play higher valued cards. Three 4s →
three 4s.
4. The Time Traveler
Past, present, future-they
all blend into one for a time
traveler. The Time Traveler’s
Engineer has the unique ability to learn from his mistakes.
Once during the Quarter, after losing a trick,
he may retrieve the last card/set he played
during that trick.
5. The Jester
He entertains the Court with tricks and
jokes, but the Jester’s true skill is the art of
distraction. The Jester’s Engineer may unpass once during the Quarter. He may also
trick the other Engineers one time by playing a single card as though it were a set of 2.
6. The Tea Boy
The Tea Boy hides his sneer by bending low
over 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 with the Court Hand (before
looking at it). He must keep any cards given to him by
other Engineers. The Tea Boy’s Engineer is also responsible for shuffling and dealing the cards for the Quarter
and for clearing the gears after each machine is complete.
The Renegades
7. The Submariner
The Submariner spends little
time on land. He is much more
comfortable sealed in a metal
can under the sea. The Submariner grants his Engineer the
ability to dive into the Court Hand or discard
pile. Once during the Quarter, he may reveal
a numbered card from his hand, shuffle the
pile, and then pull out that many cards. He
must keep at least half of the cards he draws.
8. The Inspector
No secret or scheme can remain
hidden from the Inspector. He’s
a master of tracking down clues
and solving mysteries. The Inspector’s Engineer may seek out
information by looking at the Court Hand and
the hand of one other Engineer.
9. 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.
10. The Pirate
Whether sailing on the high seas,
navigating through the skies, or
wending her way through city
streets, the Pirate has a swagger
that can’t be ignored. Once per Quarter, the Pirate grants her Engineer the ability
to steal a numbered card from the play pile (the machine) before the Vagabond
clears the cards (this doesn’t affect the previously played cards).
11. 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
shuffle the discard pile and randomly draw four cards. He must
keep at least two of the drawn cards.
12. The Vagabond
With nothing to his name except the oversized pack on his back, the
Vagabond is a wandering marauder. At the beginning of the Quarter, the Vagabond’s Engineer must give his two highest numbered
cards (not special cards) to another Engineer at the table. If he
wishes, he may hoard the entire Court Hand and add it to his hand.
As the lowliest Engineer at the table, he also clears the cards after each trick.
7–12 players (Party Variant)
Set up a Royal Table and a Renegade Table
according to the diagram (see p. 4 for Royal
Table diagram).
Each table will play independently with its own
deck of cards and playmat. Each player randomly
draws a start token and then sits by the character
card with the corresponding number.
The rest of setup and play is the same as the 2–6
player game except for the following changes.
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Only one set of gear tokens (the starting tokens) will be
used. At the beginning of each Quarter, stack the tokens
for each table from lowest number on top to highest on
bottom. When a player goes out, he takes the top token
from the stack. At the end of each Quarter, players reseat
based on the tokens they collected (the order players went
out). All tokens are then re-stacked for the next Quarter.
Victory Condition
At the end of the 4th Quarter, the player at the Royal
table who gets rid of his cards first becomes the
Engineer to her Royal Majesty the Queen and is the
winner of the game.
Promotion and Demotion
At the end of each Quarter, the last two players at the
Royal table to get rid of their cards are banished to the
Renegade table. The second-to-last player takes the
Submariner’s seat (character 7) and the last player moves
to the Inspector’s seat (character 8). The reverse is true for
the Renegades. The first two Engineers at the Renegade
table to get rid of their cards are promoted to the Royal
table. The first player reseats as the Jester (character 5),
and the second player is given the chance to prove himself
as Engineer to the Tea Boy (character 6).
Variations (Continued)
1 Player (Solo Variant)
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.
Jester: Once per round: Play a single card as though it
were a set.
Time Traveler: Once per round: You may retrieve an
already played card from the discard card pile.
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 achieve the rank of
Apprentice Engineer.
3–4 cards left in the Court Hand and achieve the rank of
Skilled Engineer.
5–6 cards left in the Court Hand and achieve the rank of
Master Engineer.
Variations (Continued)
2 Players (Duo Variant)
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 initial positions). The player
to play all of his cards first will gain the privileges of
the new character for the next Quarter (second Quarter characters are Plague Doctor and Alchemist, third
Quarter: Alchemist and Duke, fourth Quarter: Duke
and General). 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.
Clock Climbing (Alternate side of playmat)
For 2–6 player games, this alternate scoring
method can be used. Players will be rewarded
for taking tricks. Set up the Royal table using the
alternate side of the playmat. After taking their
seats, players place their start tokens on the outer
rim of the playmat from lowest number to high-
est (as shown in the example). Players will
use the same token throughout the game.
The other gear tokens will not be used.
Play the Quarter like normal (strategies will
change, but rules are the same). The Quarter
ends after a second player has played all of
their cards (third player
for a 6-player game).
Note: Players must
keep track of each
trick they win.
At the end of the Quarter, beginning with the lowliest
character, players—one at a time—move their token one
space around the clock per trick they collected. Use the
outer circles the first time around the clock. The second
time around, use the inner circles. A token cannot rest
on the same space as another token. If a token would end
on an occupied space, move it forward to the next open
space. The first player to play all their cards earns 2 extra
spaces, and the second player to go out earns 1 extra space.
Before starting the next Quarter, players reseat based
on the order of their tokens (the player whose token is
farthest ahead on the clock takes the highest character,
second farthest, the second character, etc.). Then the next
Quarter begins.
At the end of four Quarters, the player whose token is
farthest ahead on the clock wins!
Frequently Asked
What do you do when the dealt cards are uneven?
Every player should receive the same number of dealt
cards. 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 evenly.
If the Queen’s Engineer has a set of three 1s, does
she have to give one of those away? “Undesirable”
doesn’t necessarily mean “lowest.” If you would prefer
to get rid of another card so that you can play three
cards on your first turn, then give whatever you want
to that sniveling little Tea Boy!
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? Yes. But stopping players
from laying does not require them to pass or
remove them from the trick. The player could
still lay the Masterstroke card on his next turn.
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.
Can I pass even if I have playable cards? Yes.
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. If a
player laid two 10s and everyone else has passed, he
could then play two 11s on top of his own cards.
If I pull a coup (with three Masterstrokes), do
I get bonus points? Nope.
If two players try to exercise their privileges
at the same time and they conflict, who goes
first? The higher ranked player goes first.
What characters do you recommend for X
numbers of players? See “Character Recommendations” on the next page.
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.
Character Recommendations
3 Players-Queen, Duke, Tea Boy
4 Players-Queen, Duke, Time Traveler, Tea Boy
5 Players-Queen, Duke, Time Traveler, Jester, Tea Boy
6 Players-Queen, General, Duke, Time Traveler, Jester, Tea Boy
7 Players-For 7 players we recommend staying at 1 table and adding/
inserting the Inspector’s seat between the Duke and Time Traveler.
8 Players-(Royal Table) Queen, Duke, Time Traveler, Tea Boy
(Renegades) Submariner, Alchemist, Pirate, Vagabond
9 Players-(Royal Table) Queen, Duke, Time Traveler, Tea Boy
(Renegades) Submariner, Alchemist, Pirate, Doctor, Vagabond
10 Players-(Royal Table) Queen, General, Duke, Time Traveler, Tea Boy
(Renegades) Submariner, Alchemist, Pirate, Doctor, Vagabond
11 Players-Remove one character card of your choosing
12 Players-Use all character cards
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 our playtesters and Kickstarter backers: Thank you
for the amazing 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!
This game was designed by Will
Meadows and Ryan Pilz. Graphic
design by Will Meadows. Illustrated
by Greg Warner. SteamCourt font
design by Jeremy Dooley. Rules
edited by Melissa Delp.
Tantrum House Team: Will
Meadows, Ryan Pilz, Kevin Delp,
Ben Fields.
Soli Deo Gloria.
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