There is a really good, solid game here, but I don't get all the raving for it. It's just a bit too heavy on tech tree to me, with some of it not making logical sense, meaning you were constantly delving into your "menu" -- which was useful and laid out well. For the price point, the production quality and components did not do it for me... bland and boring. Will play again for the challenge, but it didn't delight me like Power Grid and other heavy games often do.
I like games that have roll-up cloth boards (my Cosmic Wimpout set from 1983 still gets tons of play even though the red numbers have mostly faded off the white dice!) So I was a sucker for this, and for $5, it was a must-buy.
I love this kind of game for the waiting for dinner, or others to show up, or we're tired and we're chatting and we need something to do with our hands... you know, really light filler. This has just enough to it, and it's different enough, to remain interesting.
I can understand why people give it lower ratings; Macao, Belfort, or Kingdom Builder it is NOT. But it's fun with the kids or on the ferry, and as such, it's got a place in our collection. Finally, the production is really nice for such an obviously-small run, and it's made in USA.
I helped Josh play test Salem over many prototype versions and enjoyed it from the very first play. It will always play out differently each time, but there's constant interaction, the tension builds in a very realistic way -- it's easy to imagine why people started suspecting their neighbors -- and the resolution is interesting. There's a lot of replay value and Josh has done a great job refining the game.