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The aim in Step by Step is to be the first player to reach the top of the tower in the center of the board, or to manage to prevent all the other players from doing so by blocking them in. Players must build steps out of the blocks. All players may use the blocks to climb on, so you must carefully observe who is building what and where, in order to further yourself and obstruct the others. The winner is the player who gets his ball to the top of the tower first, or who manages to trap all of his opponents.
Theta is a German company that makes big games with nice wooden components. Their price matches the quality, as each of their games will set you back about $50. Most of the games fall into the "dexterity" category, and they claim that you'll only unbox the game once since they look so good out of the box. They do look good, but if you display them it will probably be because the boxes do not fit well on normal sized bookshelves. Some of the games are excellent, while others look better than they play. For the uninitiated, here is a review of the Theta games:
[page 04201#001548]jump to Headquarter review
[page 07809#001549]jump to Saturn review
[page 07805#001550]jump to Cubicado review
[page 04530#001551]jump to Pusher review
[page 04520#001552]jump to Tribalance review
[page 07806#001553]jump to Fire review
[page 07807#001554]jump to Handicap review
Step by Step
The only pure strategy game in the lineup, Step by Step uses excellent components to create a climbing game requiring thoughtful placement and sound planning. The game board is a square frame holding nicely-made square pieces. To begin, the frame is populated with one level of pieces on all spaces, except for the center on which five pieces are stacked and stabilized with a rod through the middle. Each player gets a large ball that fits on the hole in the pieces, and the starting position is determined based on the number of players (2-4.)
With the goal being to get your ball onto the center tower, you progress by moving your ball anywhere on the same level you start and then placing another piece on an adjacent space (adding a level to that space.) You can move down the structure for free as long as you don't skip a level, but once you move onto a higher level in your turn it is over. Using this mechanism, players try to craft a path to the top of the tower that can't be used by others or use their ball as a blocking point to keep someone off the level you need.
Step by Step surprises you because it looks like the other Theta games but has nothing to do with physics; this is a planning and placement exercise that allows for creative thought and punishes short-sighted thinking. It is nice to see that the designers can develop a serious strategy game and still use the high-quality components as in their more approachable titles. Step by Step fits in a category with Aztec by Zoch, Quintillions by Kadon, or The Terrain Game as a beautifully machined game that you win only by thinking faster and clearer than your opponent.
A Quick Summary
The eight games in the Theta collection share the common features of quality wooden components, big boxes, great aesthetics, focus on physics, and high prices. Here is a buyers guide for those interested. The number in parenthesis refers to the "dexterity/strategy" mix, with 1 meaning only dexterity and 10 meaning only strategy: