Design by: Klaus Teuber
Published by: Mayfair Games
2 - 4 Players, 45 minutes
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser
The avalanche of republications continues. One of the latest is Wacky Wacky West, a reprint of the 1991 Spiel des Jahre winner Drunter und Drüber by Klaus Teuber. This new edition by Mayfair Games changes the artwork and title -- neither an improvement -- but as far as I can remember, the rules and game play remain identical to the original. It is the first time an English version has been made available, but I can’t help but asking "Why bother?"
It is rare that one encounters a stranger premise for a game. The game is set in the old west in the ramshackle town of Rossdorf. A dastardly land agent has sold the land from underneath the town many times over, creating a real estate mess. To make matters worse, miners have unearthed a strange spring that the locals call "wacky water". The water had a strange effect on the locals, as they are now building roads, railroads and canals, burying most of the town’s buildings in the construction boom. The only thing standing in their way is the abundance of outhouses, which are scattered about the landscape like politicians at election time. These highly valued outhouses are protected by a town ordinance, and before an outhouse can be removed, the entire town must decide its fate by a vote. Wacky.
The board depicts the dusty town, with five buildings of six different types and a multitude of outhouses scattered about. Buildings have a value ranging from 1 - 5, and each player will have an interest in protecting one type of building. The four corners of the board are the starting points for two railroad lines, one road and the stream.
At the beginning of the game, each player is secretly dealt a card displaying a type of building. The idea is to construct and maneuver the railroads, river and road in such as fashion so as to avoid the type of building you want to protect, while at the same time plowing over the other buildings. Since two buildings are not actually owned by anyone (but no one knows which ones these are), one cannot initially be certain which building each other player owns. This usually becomes evident, however, as the game progresses.
Each player receives an assortment of tiles. Tiles represent segments of railroad, road or stream, and come in lengths of one-to-three spaces. These are all the tiles a player will receive for the entire game, so they must use and place them judiciously. Players take turns placing segments of rail, roads or rivers into the town, extending them from their starting points at the corners of the board. Tiles indicate which side is the "start" side, which must be placed at the end of the expanding routes. Work crews (pawns) are moved along the routes to indicate the current end of a route. The idea is to carefully place these segments so as to maneuver these routes away from your buildings and over the other buildings. Of course, players are limited by the types of tiles they possess, which are dealt out randomly at the beginning of the game. So, it does require some management of one's tiles to play effectively and maintain some flexibility during the later stages of the game.
To complicate matters, one must deal with the fickle idiosyncrasies of the townsfolk. They are bizarrely fond of their outhouses, going so far as to protect them with an ordinance. Anytime a player attempts to place a segment which would cover an outhouse, a vote must be held. Each player initially holds 8 voting cards in varying strengths: 3 'yes' cards, 3 'no' cards, 1 joker (either yes or no) and one 'abstain' card. When a vote is called for, each player plays one of their cards and the outcome is determined. If there is a majority of 'yes' votes -- or the referendum results in a tie -- the segment is laid. Otherwise, the segment is not played and the player loses his turn. All vote cards played are discarded with the exception of 'abstain' cards, which are returned to the respective players. Preserving one's vote cards for critical votes at later stages in the game is an important consideration. Further, if the game ends in a tie, vote cards remaining in players’ hands will be the tie-breaker.
The game continues until no player can place a tile. At that point, each player reveals their secret building card and tallies the points of matching buildings that have not been demolished. The player preserving the greatest value of his buildings is victorious, and becomes the real estate tycoon of Rossdorf.
The game sounds more interesting than it really is. At best, the game is average. The voting is not really as dramatic or tense as one would think. Also, it is quite possible that one player will be stuck with an abundance of one type of infrastructure, which will greatly hinder his placement options during the game. While there are some opportunities to steer a route away from a particular building, this usually can be altered by the play of your opponents. Plus, you are hostage to the tiles you possess. There really isn't a whole lot of control here ... nor excitement. I didn’t particularly care for Drunter und Drüber, and there have been no improvements or changes made with this latest edition. Indeed, the artwork on the components is worse, particularly the roads. It is often difficult to spot the tiny person that indicates the start edge of a tile.
After playing the game again after the passage of a considerable amount of time, I can appreciate just how far game design has improved. That’s not to say the game is bad; it isn’t. However, it feels dated and bland. It would still likely entertain families who don’t regularly play games, but the more discerning gamer will likely be disappointed.