For many Americans, Sunday brunch means waffles, pancakes, and bacon and eggs. But for my family and millions of Chinese expats, Sunday brunch means just one thing: It’s time for some dim sum. a new board game called Steam Up: Feast of Dim Sum, published by Hot Banana Games, has adapted the tradition of dim sum – small portions of delicious food steamed inside bamboo baskets – into a novel new board game. While this isn’t the first tabletop game to have Chinese traditions at its center, it’s one of the sweetest board game experiences I’ve had in a long time.
As luck would have it, the launch of Steam That coincided neatly with the birthday celebration of my 婆婆, or grandmother, Belle Yee in Vancouver, where the game was created. I sneaked my mother Brenda Ford, my cousin Eric Lee, my cousin Kimberly Lam and her husband Sing-yu Lam into some of the games. Steam – An appetizer, if you will — before the big birthday dinner. What we found is a game that’s deceptively straightforward, but with too many moving parts to keep track of.
The setup board looks like a real-life dim sum table, with a rotating turntable to hold the small steamer pieces, just like in a restaurant. On their turn, each player takes two actions of their choice: draw a Dim Sum token, draw a Fortune card and alternately spin the turntable, play a Fortune card and alternately spin the turntable, two for one token Swap Fortune cards, and/or buy steamers by spending tokens to match the pieces inside.
If a player buys a steamer, they earn points. Characters receive different points for different dim sum pieces, and at the end of a round, a fate card is drawn and the effects are resolved. After each steamer is bought, a tracker counts down, and once the tracker reaches the end—or all the fate cards are drawn—the game ends, and the player with the most points wins.
Steam Comes in two versions: Standard and Deluxe. The differences are essentially aesthetic. The deluxe edition replaces the flat punch-card tokens with wooden tokens, prints characters and scoreboards on high-quality cardstock, and most importantly, replaces the flat dim sum punch card pieces with rubber dim sum squisies.
Squishies are worth highlighting, as they delighted all members of my family, especially my 婆婆, who enjoyed siu mai (pork dumplings), lo mai gai (glutinous rice), har gow (shrimp dumplings), fung zao (chicken dumplings), feet,) quickly recognized. but literally translated as “phoenix claws”) and char siu bao (pork buns). The premium, squishy bits were also more functional than the cardboard chits. Taking them out of a bag and moving them during play was easier than using flat pieces. Even my 103-year-old self found the squishy easy to handle.
However, they were so tempting that Kimberly and Sing-yoo had to bow out, as their two-year-old son repeatedly tried to grab the squishy. They would probably be in her stomach without any interference – they just look nice.
The family was also delighted by the manual and game layout, especially my family. Some customs of dim sum, such as serving tea to others before oneself, have been described. The artwork is stunning and lovely too, and love flipping through my 婆婆 manual and looking at the dim sum stereotypes that make up the different characters you can play – loyal customers, food bloggers, or just to name a few Seafood lover. Each corresponds to one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.
Unfortunately, the complexity of the game also meant that my 婆婆 was not able to participate directly. There were a surprising amount of effects to keep track of, from Fortune cards, Fate cards, character abilities, and the turntable itself. This became an issue as we found ourselves falling back on missed effects, especially Fate cards. The second issue was physical design. The turntable was difficult to turn, and only Eric made effective use of it, depriving my mom and I of full steamroller at a few critical points.
Steamers and Dim Sum Squishies can also be finicky. While the squeegee was easier to handle and certainly better aesthetically, they could tip the steamer if the squeegee was not fully placed inside. The steamers also sometimes stuck to each other, and this spread the dim sum.
In the end, my mom emerged victorious and quickly added bonus points with her “loyal customer” character, who is tied to one of the game’s issues. There are characters with whom it is easy to win. Some are even marked with a teacup icon to show they are easy to play.
Steam Laser-targeted for a Chinese-American audience. The familiarity of the dim sum squishy and character archetypes is something that felt especially welcome to 婆婆, who called it “so cute” and “just like real dim sum” — even if competitive eating is a reflection of real-life Chinese politics. fly in front of
Steam A niche feature, but its Kickstarter success shows that the creators have branched out into that niche. Overall, the experience left us sufficiently full, but hungry to try its thousands of possible variations. In short, this is the quintessential dim sum experience.
Steam Up: Feast of Dim Sum Available now. If you’re interested in this, pick up the deluxe edition at $66. While currently sold out, more copies should be available for pre-order soon. The Standard Edition will feel less special and at $47 will only save you a tiny bit of money.