The Steampunk User’s Manual: An Exclusive Astonishing Game From Storium’s Will Hindmarch


The Steampunk User’s Manual by myself and Desirina Boskovich is the just-released follow-up to The Steampunk Bible. As a spe­cial perk for read­ers, as noted in the Sto­ry­telling chap­ter of the user’s man­ual, we’re proud to present a character-driven card game for your enjoy­ment, cour­tesy of Will Hindmarch.

Hind­march is a free­lance writer and designer whose credits include the ENnie Award-winning Eternal Lies for Pelgrane Press and design work on the online storytelling game, Storium. In the gam­ing indus­try, he has worked for White Wolf Game Stu­dio, serv­ing as the devel­oper of the flag­ship World of Dark­ness Sto­ry­telling Game, Vam­pire: The Requiem, and he has writ­ten or designed works for Wizards of the Coast, Fan­tasy Flight Games, and Atlas Games. He also co-produces the live-lit sto­ry­telling show, Story Club South Side. Hind­march serves as the Assis­tant Direc­tor of Shared Worlds, a teen SF/F writ­ing camp.

(Image by Jeremy Zerfoss, from The Steampunk User’s Manual)


A game of steampunk contraptions designed and exhibited, for 2–4 players.

Version 1.9.12—2014 by Will Hindmarch

The year is 1899. The World’s Design & Invention Fair draws near. Across the globe, inventors and artists lead design houses in the crafting of new technologies to exhibit at the fair. Soon, you shall debut your contraption, hoping it operates correctly on the fair’s dais, and see which invention elicits the most marvelous reception from peers and public alike. A grant from Queen Victoria and the adoration of the audience await the invention deemed most astonishing!


Each player controls one of four inventors in charge of a fabrication workshop somewhere on the Earth at the end of the nineteenth century. By drawing, trading, and playing numbered cards, each player shall construct a prototype steampunk contraption for exhibition at the World’s Design & Invention Fair in London.

This is a cutthroat affair. The different workshops squabble and scheme in pursuit of the final prize: a commission from Queen Victoria to produce a final, fully functional version of the winning prototype.

Depending on the contraption’s quality of construction — and a bit of luck — the device may have a good showing at the fair … or it may malfunction on stage. It may earn acclaim … or it may fail spark the audience’s imagination.

The more the audience marvels — and the more people that are astonished! — the more Acclaim players earn. The inventor with the most Acclaim wins.


You need a few game components to play Astonishing!:

  • A deck of regular playing cards (including Jokers)
  • Three regular, six-sided dice
  • A different Inventor sheet for each player

NOTE: Play sheets also available via the attached PDF: SUM-play-sheets-9-23-14

Each Inventor sheet represents the vision, guidance, and workshop of a different Inventor. A different playing-card suit — Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades — represents each Inventor’s unique purview:


Lady Calibrette Merchant (Clubs)

Born to a family of weapon-smiths and military officers of some repute in the British Raj, Lady Calibrette has proven herself the true heir to the genius of her father, a Knight Commander of the Indian Empire (KCIE), and the spirit of leadership possessed by her mother, a headmistress from Bombay. After surviving the Bombay plague outbreak of 1896, Lady Merchant took over unofficial management of her family’s munitions factory, where some of her designs are now entering production.


Abimbola Kayin (Diamonds)

This inventor and entrepreneur made his fortune facilitating telephonic operations in the vicinity of Lagos Island and helping to design railway stations and mechanized farm implements for the government. Since solidifying his reputation as an inventor, Mr. Kayin has turned his attention toward beautiful designs with practical applications to “push mundane life beyond Mundanity.” He often promotes a sometimes unpopular movement towards miniaturization and “incorporeal technologies” that would “take Song and Story beyond the Page.”


Marisol Chang (Hearts)

Marisol Chang first made a name for herself among the poets and literati of Lima before expanding her art into performance and installation works in Mexico City, Chicago, and Paris. Now she is known world-wide as a storyteller, singer, and designer of what Harpers Bazaar called “impossible art.” Her vision brings provocative, multicultural tales to life via music and technology in public plazas and city squares. “All art speaks in a voice inherited,” Chang said, “and thus the old forms flow into the new.”


Albert “Albie” Smithering (Spades)

“Albie” Smithering is the adventurous youngest son of the Smitherings of Wellington, New Zealand — known explorers and pioneers. Albie himself has something of a notorious past, having been arrested for trespassing and grave-robbing in his youth. He later developed a reputation as a racing aficionado, having won races by sail and cycle as far away as Lake Michigan and France. His self-described “fondness for velocity” has led him to pursue efforts to fund and design the next generation of vehicular inventions.

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Guest Post: From the Editors of Planes B, a new Steampunk Anthology series

A year ago, two writers (Josué Ramos from Spain, and Negro Inmunsapá from Mexico) had the idea to create the first Steampunk anthology in Spanish, written by people from Spain and America. This concept then lead them to more ideas.  One of them was the creation of a collection of books made to promote these new writers, an idea never seen before. Thus Planes B was born. It was officially introduced at the recent EuroSteamCon on September 28.

We are glad to say that the volume #1 is done!

Josué Ramos, aka Schnabel and Simón Bellido, from Spain; and Negro Inmunsapá and Miss von Marmalade from Mexico are the chiefs of the project. They are all part of the artists’ group known as Mercenarios de Dios, which publishes the retrofuturistic magazine El Investigador once a month.

Each volume of the collection of Planes B will include one short story from a famous writer as a guest. The rest of the stories will be written by new and unknown authors.

We are very proud to announce that the guest of volume #1 is Jeff VanderMeer. His tale, “Fixing Hanover,” has been translated by Jason Burrows as “Arreglando a Hanover”, and originally published in Extraordinary Engines, an anthology edited in 2008 for Nick Gevers.

In addiction, this first book includes five more short stories written by Simón Bellido, María Eijo, Rafael di Ferro, Ricardo Montesinos and Janacek Jadehierro. It includes illustrations made by Spain’s Tamarindo Conde; and Mexico’s Karina Denisse “Kadeco.” The image on the front of the book was made by Alexandra Galeano and the model is Vito, both from Argentina.

We hope this will be the beginning of something great! And we want you to enjoy reading it, of course.

If you want to see more, visit our web:

And to buy or get a free download copy of the volume #1, visit:

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Why Does Steampunk Still Matter?

It is a good single question with myriad and varied answers.  This year, has devoted its annual Steampunk week to delving into what sounds like a koan but is in fact a certainty: Steampunk does still matter.

If you haven’t been following already, you can check out the great posts that began last Monday and will be continuing all week long:

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World Fantasy Nominee for Special Award Professional

The Steampunk Bible has been nominated for a World Fantasy Award in the Special Award Professional category.  Jeff and S. J. are deeply honored and both have written about it at their respective blogs:  Ecstatic Days (Jeff) and Bas Bleu Zombies (S. J.).

The awards will be held at the end of the World Fantasy convention held in Toronto November 1-4.

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In Memoriam: Joshua Pfeiffer interviews Paul Roland, Part II (Giveaway Edition)

Today concludes our exclusive guest interview between Joshua Pfeiffer and Paul Roland. For those of you just joining us, you can catch the first part of the interview here. In our second installment, Joshua Pfeiffer questions Roland–who was one of the first to use Edwardian themed lyrics in his music–about his observations on Steampunk.

In Memoriam compiles Roland's best hits culled from his thirty years in music. We will be giving away signed copies of this double-CD to ten lucky readers.

Rocking for over 30 plus years, Roland’s music flirts with various genres like goth, psych-pop, and folk, with a unifying theme of exploring science fiction and horror tropes, especially those with a Victorian/Edwardian bent. Within his songs, listeners will find tales inspired by H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, H. P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as original historical and romantic characters like opium addicts and Ripperesque murderers.

To celebrate this interview, Paul Roland has graciously donated ten signed copies of In Memoriam, a double-CD collection of his best work over his long career to send to our lucky readers.  If you’d rather not participate, but would like to sample his wares,  he has made several tracks available for free download (live links are at the end of this interview).

Official Rules: Only open to participants in the United States.  To enter, leave us your thoughts about Steampunk music.  You may post as many times as you like in the natural course of the discussion, but derisive, trollish behavior will be disqualified.   A winner will be randomly selected by Monday, April 30th at teatime (4 o’clock).  Please check your e-mail Tuesday or Wednesday following; winners who have not responded to us within 24 hours shall be eliminated, and a new winner selected. Official announcements of the winner will go live May 4th.

Well, now that we have all the logistics out-of-the-way, let’s return to the interview. Continue reading

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