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Become the ultimate 1920s smuggler as new roguelike game hits Steam

Bootleg Steamer is a new roguelike game all about managing your underground empire during the 1920s American Prohibition, and it’s out now.

Bootleg Steamer is a new roguelike game all about running an illegal shipping trade - A man clutches the wheel of a ship and grits his teeth.

The American Prohibition of the 1920s was a time where underground brewers sought out profits galore. The allure of running an underground empire is certainly an enticing prospect, with the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2’s online mode turning the bootlegging brewery business of producing, shipping, and selling your goods into a satisfying endeavour. Now, new management and roguelike game Bootleg Steamer asks just how you’d fare in the cutthroat world of the illegal alcohol trade, and it’s just launched on Steam alongside a showing at the WASD event.

In Bootleg Steamer, you’re a captain working in the Prohibition-era United States, and the opportunity awaits to make a big payday if you’re capable of successfully navigating the metaphorical and literal waters. Strike deals with underground brewers to get your hands on ample supplies of cheap alcohol, then ship it out to the speakeasies, throw boozy boat parties, and turn a big profit by fulfilling the needs of all those thirsty punters in this period roguelike game.

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Six potential captains are at your disposal – each of them with their own set of skills that you’ll have to adapt to your bootlegging empire. As you start to bring in your first payouts, you’ll purchase and upgrade your ships, recruit a range of crew members to assist you, and figure out how best to outwit both the coast guard and the local mafia.

Of course, you’ll have to deal with all manner of troubles – despite your best efforts, there will likely be times where the law cottons on, and you’re forced to lead their ships in a merry chase around the bay. Weather troubles can also quickly scupper your plans, although with enough practice you’ll be able to press on past rain storms and whirlpools, and might even find ways to use them to your advantage to throw the authorities off your trail.

You’ll also have to deal with all the various factions at play in the wake of the Great Depression. Local rail barons, construction companies working on grand projects like the Empire State Building, and of course the mafia – whose influence could prove very handy, but remember that they always collect on their debts, and with interest. With over 50 different maps that span the American continent across the full 1920 to 1933 Prohibition era, each playthrough promises new challenges to tackle.

Bootleg Steamer gameplay - A coast guard boat pursues a small ship through a channel between two islands.

Bootleg Steamer is out now, priced at $14.99/£12.79. It features six captains to choose from, over 60 playable ships, 60 different crew mates with their own skills, 15 pets to bring on as a mascot, and ten special abilities to help you get out of a tight spot. If you think you’re up to the task, you’ll find Bootleg Steamer on Steam.

Alternatively, here are more of the best management games out right now. We’ve also got more of the best indie games in 2024 if you’re looking for more great options from smaller studios.

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