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Saloon Tycoon» Forums » Reviews

Subject: There's gold in them thar saloons... rss

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Jonathan Warren
United Kingdom
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Designed by Robert Couch and published by Van Ryder Games, Saloon Tycoon is a game that I ran a Kickstarter group buy for. Darren, one of my gaming group members also backed the game as part of that group buy. Backers of the Kickstarter received the Saloon Tycoon: Boomtown Expansions as part of their pledge.

Each player is a budding saloon owner in an old west town. Your objective is to build the Saloon with the most reputation at the end of the game. You do this by completing open and secret goals, attracting certain patrons to your establishment whilst trying to avoid visits from outlaws, and most important of all, building your saloon upwards and outwards!

Darren and I met on Friday night at our usual weekly session, me bringing along his in-shrink copy of the game and my out-of-shrink (but unpunched) copy. We decided that as we were at the most apt and thematic place for playing this game, in the pub, we'd take the opportunity to learn the game. So, after getting our beverages, I began the task of punching the components. There is a lot to punch out!

The cardboard building tiles are nice and thick and are clearly printed with the building's cost, prerequisites (if any) and bonus gained once finished. The artwork is excellent.


Components in box (shown with Boomtown expansion included)


For the first learning game, we setup without any of the Boomtown expansion components being included. The game is not ideal for playing down your local pub, as the footprint takes up quite an area on the small tables found in pubs.

There's a lot to set up. Each player is given four secret claim cards from which they keep two. These are the players secret objectives for end game scoring. It is not necessary to complete them, but if you do manage to complete the objective, it will reward you with some reputation points at game end. I like that it does give you something to work towards, as do the open claim cards, so new players can focus on a goal and try and achieve it.

There are open claim cards, which are like secret objectives in the way they work but instead can be claimed by any player who fulfills the requirements first.

Each player also receives three Tycoon cards. These cards can be played as an action on a players turn to perform the action listed on the card. These can provide a much needed injection of gold, help you build more efficiently, allow you to take more main actions, and plenty of other options.


Tycoon cards - your hand size is 5 cards


The Citizen and Outlaw cards are laid out for all to see. Citizens are attracted to your establishment when you build certain buildings. However, Outlaws are attracted when you start doing particularly well in a certain area. You can also bribe the Citizens and Outlaws to either come to your saloon or go to an opponent's saloon.


Example of Citizen and Outlaw cards


The gameplay was quite straightforward, although we completely missed the Outlaw rules and consequently did not bring them into play throughout our entire first game, along with one or two minor rules. We both enjoyed the experience.

So, finding ourselves free on Sunday afternoon, we decided to arrange another session, this time at our usual meeting place, to get in another play of the game. This time both Darren and I had read the rules more thoroughly and we invited Matt along for a three-player game.

I don't usually add an expansion to a game before we've learnt it, especially when teaching a game, but both Darren and I felt that the Boomtown expansion could easily be included without over-complicating the game.

As mentioned previously, this game takes quite a bit of real estate on the table. You need to set up the stacks of common tiles, special tiles, roof tiles, scoreboard, Outlaw and Citizen character cards and a few more items, not forgetting the player boards themselves.


The game setup and ready to begin (with Boomtown expansion)


Matt had no trouble after a quick explanation of the simple rules in picking the game up.

Turns progressed smoothly and there was plenty of interaction between us. Gameplay is really simple and is turn based. Beginning with the player that last watched a western themed movie/tv show, each player in turn order performs the following:

1. Collect income: The amount of gold you earn is based on how many tiles you have built. At the beginning of the game each player only has one tile, their Saloon, and so begins with an income of 1 gold. There might also be some modifiers to take into account (such as the Outlaw, Flatfoot Fleming, who provides you with -1 gold when she is at your establishment).

2. Play actions: you can take one main action each turn and as many secondary actions as you like. Main actions consist of: collect 2 gold; draw 2 tycoon cards; play a Tycoon card; build a tile; bribe a citizen. Secondary actions are: stake an open claim and supply your tiles (with wooden cubes).

3. After checking for the end game trigger (running out of a primary pile of wooden cubes), play passes to the next player.

Buildings are finished when they house 4 wooden cubes (large tiles) or 3 wooden cubes (small tiles). Once finished with the cubes, the tiles bonus kicks in and can be taken immediately.


This Saloon tile is now finished and so the Saloon's bonus, which in this case is 'draw one Tycoon card', can be taken by the player


The wooden cubes serve as supports for building your saloon upwards.


Onwards and upwards. Growing your Saloon up


Usually, a Saloon can only have three floors before it is capped with a roof. In the picture above, part of the Boomtown expansion has special roofs that can cap a two floor Saloon. In our first game, there was a little confusion as how far up you can build, as in the UK, our buildings start with a Ground Floor, then up to the First Floor, Second Floor, Third Floor, etc., while in the US, our Ground Floor is their First Floor! Quickly clarified by use of the rulebook!

Buildings are constructed either upwards on top of a finished tile or adjacent to an existing tile. On some building plots, marked on your player board, there are additional costs to build which must be paid, in addition to the tile's cost, before construction can take place.


Nearing the game's end


Saloon Tycoon turned out to be a very interesting and fulfilling game. I really enjoyed the 3D element of building and like the different paths to achieving victory. Everything seems to gel nicely. I am very pleased that I Kickstarted this.

What's to like?
There's not much not to like with this game. It is all put together very well and plays smoothly.

Thick, nicely printed tiles.

The player aid is compact and excellent.

The double sided player boards are a nice touch.

There is just the right amount of interaction between players.

For new players, it's nice to have the secret claim cards to give you a goal to work towards.

It's fun to watch your saloon grow out and up.

The thematic artwork is great.

It is simple enough to pick up quickly, but there are quite a few decisions to be made throughout the game. An excellent game for families to enjoy together.

What I don't like
I don’t like to nitpick, but I have three minor quibbles with the game, and they really are minor. As mentioned above, there's not much not to like about the game, but here goes anyway:

1. It could have done with an appendix in the rules, explaining what each building, card and citizen does. However, that said, it really is quite simple to grasp and does not take a genius to understand.

2. The cards, although they feel nice with a linen finish, are a little on the thin side for my liking. I will be sleeving these cards just to thicken them up a little.

3. This is my biggest minor nitpick with the game: the graphic design of the score track is awful. This should have been picked up at proofing stage. Possibly the worst I've seen in a game. When we were using it in the dimly lit pub environment, the spaces almost disappeared. It was better in normal daylight, but I still do not like the meandering path of the score track. Also, the spaces should accommodate at least two workers - it is a little on the small side.


I really don't like this score track


Even with those small complaints, the game is a lot of fun and an enjoyable experience from start to finish. It doesn't outstay it's welcome, even if pub tables cannot easily accommodate it's footprint!

Well done Van Ryder games and Robert Couch.

Edit: A gameplay issue that I am not enjoying is the fact that on the very last turn you are not allowed to bribe or move via a Tycoon card a character, spoiling your well laid plans. This can mean you not scoring a Secret Claim that you have worked so hard throughout the game to complete.
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Philip Mazzone
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Maspeth
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Could not agree more with the scorecard. Evrytime we play I just look at it wondering how in the world this made it into the final game. The color scheme is quite bad and the numbers are just to close together. I have alot of difficulty seeing the print, especially where the track makes its turns and continues to the next number. Otherwise, I love everything else.
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Ryan Feathers
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Nice review!

I agree that the game is overall very fun and good. It does take up a large footprint, and the score track is just bad. But the gameplay and components are nice. This is a fun game to play.

Thanks for the review.
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John Rudolph
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Is it an enjoyable experience for only 2 players or does it require a larger player count? I play mostly 2 player.
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Jonathan Warren
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We have enjoyed our 2-player games so far. Preferred it with 3-players. I am hoping to get my first 4-player game this evening.
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Jonathan Warren
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After repeat plays, there is one issue with the gameplay that I am not enjoying. That is the fact that on the very last turn you are not allowed to bribe or move (via a Tycoon card) a character. If the player who triggers the last turn also moves a character from you (or even to you), it can spoil your well laid plans. This can mean you not scoring a Secret Claim that you have worked so hard throughout the game to complete. There is nothing you can do about it, which actually can ruin a very nice game.
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Christian Heckmann
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JoffW wrote:
After repeat plays, there is one issue with the gameplay that I am not enjoying. That is the fact that on the very last turn you are not allowed to bribe or move (via a Tycoon card) a character. If the player who triggers the last turn also moves a character from you (or even to you), it can spoil your well laid plans. This can mean you not scoring a Secret Claim that you have worked so hard throughout the game to complete. There is nothing you can do about it, which actually can ruin a very nice game.

...but on the other hand, if you could bribe characters after the game end was triggered, YOU could spoil THEIR best laid plans by luring away a character they needed and they could do nothing about it. I see your point, but you could argue both ways. And it's not like the game end sneaks up on anybody, it should always be pretty clear when the hammer's gonna fall.

Anyway, nice review. Played my first game last night and liked it a lot as well. Looking forward to playing it again soon.
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A.J. Porfirio
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What Van Ryder Game are YOU playing?
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Harblnger wrote:
JoffW wrote:
After repeat plays, there is one issue with the gameplay that I am not enjoying. That is the fact that on the very last turn you are not allowed to bribe or move (via a Tycoon card) a character. If the player who triggers the last turn also moves a character from you (or even to you), it can spoil your well laid plans. This can mean you not scoring a Secret Claim that you have worked so hard throughout the game to complete. There is nothing you can do about it, which actually can ruin a very nice game.

...but on the other hand, if you could bribe characters after the game end was triggered, YOU could spoil THEIR best laid plans by luring away a character they needed and they could do nothing about it. I see your point, but you could argue both ways. And it's not like the game end sneaks up on anybody, it should always be pretty clear when the hammer's gonna fall.

Anyway, nice review. Played my first game last night and liked it a lot as well. Looking forward to playing it again soon.


(Thanks for the review. I normally refrain from commenting on reviews (unless there are rules errors) as we believe gamers should be free to voice their opinions good, bad, or indifferent! In this case, I simply want to give insight into the development and why the end game works as it does.)

Correct, this was a big part of why we changed the game as originally designed because the magnitude of the effect is MUCH worse if you allow movement in the last round. The last player has a HUGE advantage.

As it is now, yes the player that triggers the end game gets that advantage, BUT you can compete to be that player (or decide not to be and get the additional turn)! Managing the end game is a big part of the game AND The other players do get another turn whereas the triggering player does not. We feel like that was the best way to handle the end game and are happy with it, but I understand that there will be some players that won't like that characters can be taken at the end of the game and we can certainly respect that opinion.

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John Rudolph
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What size sleeves are needed since the cards are thin?
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Matt Stone
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I fully agree on much of what was said.

The score track is terrible.

I side with those who like the fact that characters can not be moved after the end game is triggered. Otherwise the Secret Claims that require a specific character would be almost impossible to make.

The expansions were very easy to add on a 2nd play, even with a new player, and I find they enhanced the game.

I did have a problem with some of the graphic design on the Tycoon cards. Flavor text was too big and in some cases what the card does is too small. But that is a minor quibble. The cards though are a bit unbalanced. The first time I played I got almost none of the ones that gave extra gold or actions. Even when I pulled a card from another player I seemed to end up only with cards that let me draw cards and move characters.Things evened out in the second game, and I enjoyed it much more.

The game is a bit long, and we thought about giving an extra action each turn, or adding 2 gold to what is collected from the income track (at least for the first few turns), but I assume these options were play tested already.

I have been burned far too often lately with Kick starter games that are not very good.

Thankfully, this is one that will continue to hit the table (though it will have to be the large table...)

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Jonathan Warren
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Putzmanrudy1 wrote:
What size sleeves are needed since the cards are thin?

My plan is to get Mayday Premium 63.5mm * 88mm for the cards. Haven't checked to see if there are any sleeves for the character cards.
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