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Wrestle over steamed buns in the charming and competitive Steam Up: A Feast of Dim Sum

Belly up.

Grab a pair of chopsticks and a cup of tea before checking out upcoming board game Steam Up: A Feast of Dim Sum because it's one of those titles that seems designed to make players salivate. The competitive set collector, which features the Zodiac animals as playable customers, is currently running a Kickstarter campaign.

Steam Up brings two to five hungry players to the table of a traditional Chinese restaurant where they will fight over steamer baskets in a bid to eat the most dim sum before closing time. Sessions are quick, fitting within the space of an hour, and designer Hot Banana Games promises an authentic experience from two Asian-Canadians.

Players start by choosing a board from among the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, each with their own unique abilities and movesets. For example, the rabbit Magician can swap one dim sum from a steamer they just purchased with any other on the turntable, while the porcine Food Blogger earns extra points by gorging on one single ingredient. All twelve have traded their classic designs for contemporary takes on the kind of folks one sees populating a local eatery - loyal customers, the doddering grandparent and that one kid who never stays in their seat.

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Points are earned by purchasing steamers from the turntable in the middle of the board. Players can rotate to snag whichever they desire, but doing so might move another into an opponent’s reach - greed must be leavened with a bit of foresight. The presentation of a steamer stacks full of meat buns, shrimp dumplings, phoenix claws and more is incredibly cute, and fighting over the turntable will probably evoke memories of anyone with a sibling and constantly embarrassed parents.

Once purchased, the contents of the steamer are placed on the customer’s board, which grants them Hearty Points and moves them closer to both a full belly and victory. Gaining the tokens needed to pull a steamer from the table, as well as drawing and playing Fortune cards from your hand, costs one of each player’s two actions per turn. Whether one prioritises a cheap and quick meal versus patient planning will depend on the Zodiac animals sitting around the table.

Complicating matters are Fate cards, which are revealed at the beginning of the second and every subsequent round. These must be resolved immediately and have the potential to throw a wrench into anyone's best laid plans, upending the current leaderboard or providing the perfect opportunity to really pig out. The game ends either when the Fate deck is empty or the turntable runs out of steamers, and the player with the most Hearty Points clinches the win.

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Steam Up: A Feast of Dim Sum is the first title from Hot Banana Games and has already begun earning accolades. It won SaltCon’s 2021 Ion Award and was chosen as a finalist for both the 2021 Cardboard Edison and the Otto Award at this year’s Fastaval convention in Denmark. Pauline Kong and Marie Wong worked with Haymen Lee on the design, and the illustrations came courtesy of Grace Tjahyadi, Tim Cheng and YDXart.

“We know there are many existing Asian-themed board games, but we thought having a game designed by Asians who are from the culture is what makes Steam Up authentic,” Kong told Dicebreaker in an email. “For players who have eaten dim sum before, we want their play of Steam Up, to bring back memories of eating their favorite dishes. For players who are unfamiliar with this particular Chinese cuisine, we hope our game will spark gamers’ interest to have a food adventure and go to a restaurant that serves traditional dim sum.”

The Kickstarter campaign for Steam Up runs through November 11th, and backers can secure a physical box for CAD$59 ($48/£35). Shipping is expected to begin in April 2023, a date Hot Banana Games said gives them ample time to manufacture and distribute under the current delays and material shortages. In the meantime, a digital version is available on Tabletop Simulator, and the rulebook can be downloaded on the campaign page.

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