Image by Dominik Bartsch
Different folks have different definitions of "steampunk." Some call it a literary genre, and will slap the top hat from your head if you suggest it can be set anywhere but Victorian England. Others swear by their goggles that it is an aesthetic movement, and has more to do with corsets and gears than any specific time and place. But one thing every fan can agree on is that if you're calling your world "steampunk," you should make sure that steam plays a role in the setting.
In Steel Dragons, steam definitely plays a role.
Photo by Trupastilla
As a game designer, I am totally digging Steel Dragons' linked-screen technology. By using a central tablet as the board, and letting the players use their own phones (or tablets, or laptops, or whatever) as their own personal play-spaces, you can do things that don't always work so well with physical board games -- like simultaneous turns.
The idea of simultaneous turns is fantastic: Players don't take their turns in order, but all go at the same time! In other words, they don't take turns when taking their turns.
By The Puzzler
Several elements set the steampunk world of Steel Dragons apart from both historical feudal Japan and other steampunk settings. One of the most important of these elements is the inclusion of the substance known as "smart steel."
Smart steel is a metal that can be "programmed" to take on any shape. In its natural form, it's a liquid metal that looks and acts similar to mercury. Specially-trained masters of smart steel, commonly referred to as "steel-shapers," use their minds to connect to the liquid metal and mold it into any form or pattern they know.
William Shakespeare had a famous quote about roses and names: "Would you stick your nose in a rose if they called it 'stabby-thorn bee-attractor?' I don't think so."
I'm pretty sure Shakespeare said that. The guy was a marketing genius, and he had a point: no matter how cool you game is -- or sweet your flower smells -- it has to have a killer name, or no one's going to check it out. So how did Steel Dragons get its killer name?
One of the biggest problems with playing multiplayer digital games with your friends is that everyone else typically has to own their own copies of the game in order to play. So not only do you have to purchase and download the game yourself, you have to convince your friends to do so too. It's hard enough to get a group of players together for a board game; if you have to talk them into downloading another app just to play it, the whole thing starts to seem like work.
But with Steel Dragons, there's only one thing to download—the game itself—and you only need one copy of it for any number of players to play. With our screen-linking technology, you need merely to download the game onto the device that will serve as the game board and central processor.
It's no secret that one of the original inspirations for Steel Dragons was Magic Realm, one of the first examples of a deep, complex fantasy adventure board game. When we started kicking around ideas for our own game, there was never any question that its theme would likewise be some flavor of fantasy. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that worlds "sort of like Europe but with magic" have been done to death, dug up, reanimated, and done to death again.
Yes, Tolkien did it. So have hundreds of other writers. And yes, D&D has certainly done well with it. But we wanted to find another, less well-trodden path.
Photo by Gobind Khalsa
If you've read the product announcement, you probably have a pretty good idea of how a game of Steel Dragons plays. After all, it's a cooperative adventure board game with heroes, monsters, and a quest for loot... and to save the world, of course. It would be fair to say you've seen other board games that hit a lot of these same notes (cough Arkham Horror), but I assure you that you've never seen anything quite like this.
Shoguns from across the realm have called for their greatest samurai to reconquer a fallen empire using airships, steam, and steel.
Blake Henriksen's Riflewoman art for Steel Dragons
Steel Dragons is a cooperative adventure digital board game in which one to four players take on the roles of heroes in a mythical land of steampunk samurai. To protect their homeland and secure riches for themselves, the players explore the broken lands, fight dangerous creatures, and work together to defeat the challenges the game throws at them.
Steel Dragons is set in the steampunk feudal Japanese world of Shikaku, where airships traverse the haunted ruins of an ancient empire, mechanics grease the gears of the mighty machines, and mysterious shapers bend steel with the power of their minds. It's a realm of samurai, ninja, and all the legendary aspects of feudal Japan, but in a steam-driven world far different from our own.