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SteepSeers: Truth is in the Teapot

Steepseers Box

I love the art style for Steepseers!
(All photos of KinSoul Studios products were taken and edited by KristaG)

For centuries people all over the world have tried to find answers to their questions, problems, and even their possible futures in the bottom of a teacup. In the realm of Steepseers, this is also true, but belief in the diviners of the same name and their power of Steam Sight is rapidly waning. With the loss of belief, the existence of the fabled Steam Spirits disappears right along with it. In the game, 2-4 players will take on the roles of the few remaining Steepseers and compete with one another to help manifest visions to earn belief (victory points). However, in this last-ditch effort by the remaining Steepseers to save their kind, they only have 10 days left to seal not only their own fates but those of their steamy, spiritual companions. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to read the tea leaves or have visions like Professor Trelawney from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter? Or maybe your interests were sparked by the divination skills presented by any number of the non-fictional soothsayers from around the world? Well, now is your chance to test your skills so get your teacups, tarot cards, and teapots ready because KinSoul Studios is back with a new game: Steepseers!

Steepseers Cards

The team of artists behind Steepseers did an amazing job paying homage to the Tarot! Here you can see the cards (in the center) compared to several of the tarot decks owned by my Player 2 and myself.

Steeped heavily in the traditions of divination, Steepseers is a blend of tasseomancy (the art of reading tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments), tarotology, set collection and a whole lot of resource management – all of which I love! The game was created through the collaboration of Jeff Dunlap, Eric Kovatchitch, Jordan Mathews, Adam Zalatan, and Matt Molanare. The illustrations for the game were provided by a talented team of artists (Andrew Pavlik, Chantel Torrey, Nate Williamson, and Brandon Youngs) who, in my opinion, do a fantastic job of bringing the feel of a diviner’s tearoom to life as well as illustrating their own spin on a tarot deck while still being respectful of the divination tool itself. The fact that they offer an actual tarot deck using their artwork is also pretty cool. This particular card game can typically be played in a little less than an hour and does seem to scale really well depending on the number of players playing. For this review, I am using a prototype copy so some of the components may change after the completion of the Kickstarter campaign.

Steepseers 2 Player Set Up

A 2 player set up of Steepseers.

Similar to anyone who runs a good tea house, players will want to start out by organizing the ingredients. Each color of token (red, yellow, green, blue, and white) should be separated out into their own pile near the “Pour Saucer” and the smaller “Mystery” tokens should also be placed face down nearby. Once the ingredients are in place, players are dealt both a House mat and a Spirit mat at random (they do not have to match). Any unclaimed mats will be set aside and unused for the game. Along with their mats, each player will also receive Attunement tokens and a Teapot bag that matches the color of their House. There are 4 different affinities for the Houses as well as the Steam Spirits: Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, and Tea Leaves. After everyone receives their components, my group and I tend to set up the round tracker. The track itself is actually really useful as it not only keeps track of the round that you’re on (each of the 10 “Days” is 1 round) but also what new event will occur on each day. As the game unfolds, players will gain access to more components such as more dice for their rolls, new tiers of Vision cards, and a whole lot more so having a solid way to track all of that is really important. In order to earn Belief (victory points) in Steepseers, players need to manifest visions, so setting up the “Vision Pool” comes next when getting ready to play. There are 3 Tiers of Vision cards that are marked with both a different color backing as well as a different Roman Numeral on the back to make them easily discernible. The Vision cards should be separated into their respective stacks and shuffled. For the setup and beginning of the game, only 3 of the Tier I cards are revealed for everyone to see (Tier II and Tier III cards will be revealed later in the game). Before the game actually begins, each player will receive 2 ingredient tokens to start with. Players will roll the dice that match their Spirit and House mats, collect the rolled ingredients and place them into their teapots. Should a player have ended up with a matching House and Spirit affinity, they get to roll the same die twice.

Each full set of Vision cards is worth 5 points. These aren’t always easy to collect however as each Tier contains one card of the set and they may not ever be revealed!

Though new elements are added to the game with every round, the basics of playing Steepseers remains the same. Starting with the first player, each player will take a turn comprised of 3 Phases: Attunement, Gathering, and Pouring. When attuning, a player will either place their available Attunement token(s) or move one of them to one of the various available Vision cards in the Vision Pool. The chosen Vision cards will inform the player what ingredients/resources will be needed to manifest it. If a player doesn’t already know that they have them in their Teapot, then the Gathering phase will give them a chance to collect them. Otherwise, the Gathering phase is a good chance to start trying to collect more resources for later. The Gathering phase itself is as simple as it sounds: roll the dice and collect the resources. However, the player will probably want to take a little time to memorize what they gathered as once they go into the teapot, they won’t be seen again until the player chooses to do a Pour. The Pouring phase is optional but highly recommended as it allows players to accomplish several things at once. Firstly, it allows the player to try to collect the Vision cards that they had previously Attuned to. Secondly, it also provides a way for the player to not only see what they had already collected but also to trim down that collection so there’s less to remember. Any unspent tokens remaining in the Pour Saucer are divided so that half of them are returned to the player’s teapot and the other half are discarded. Should there be an odd number of tokens left, the players do get to round up with what they keep. This last step is known as “re-steeping.” Any collected Visions will be replaced with new ones. Once all players have taken their turn, the first player token and the Spirit mats are passed clockwise to the next player, the Turn Marker advances, and any new day effects are applied at the start of the next round. Once all 10 rounds have been played, scoring occurs and the player who has earned the most Belief wins. Points can be earned with individual cards as well as collected sets. The higher tiered Visions are worth more points than the lower tiered ones and the larger the set (each set has a maximum of 3), the more points a player can earn as well.

Steepseers is a game that I haven’t been able to stop talking about since I discovered it on Kickstarter. The art reminds me of either the stained glass work that I do or some of the artwork that my mom had at home so I was instantly drawn to it. The premise of the game also spoke to me because the theme is very unique, but also incredibly well done. This is a game that can be played by experienced gamers and newcomers alike and can be played with various levels of strategy. Some of our players like to play very close attention to what immediate effects they can cause to happen when manifesting Visions such as causing others to discard ingredients, gaining extra ingredients for themselves, or even making it easier to manifest multiple Visions in a turn. Other players, though, focused more on the long game and were able to rack up some serious points with set collection and having more Vision cards with end-game effects. No matter what their strategy was, everyone at game night was pleasantly surprised with Steepseers and it has been highly recommended ever since. Personally, I love it and I am adding KinSoul Studios to my list of game companies to keep up with. As of the time of this review, there are a few days left of their campaign so I suggest checking it out if you haven’t already so you can get a copy of this quali-tea game for your own collection!

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