Western Town is a game designed by Olivier Warnier and currently being funded on Ulele.com (http://www.ulule.com/western-town/) in order to get it published.
I was given the files to produce my own copy of the game, and after much printing, pasting, cutting, etc. I had a playable copy. Due to the files being designed for A4 paper my components came out a bit smaller than I would have liked but the game was playable and I made do. I can’t comment on the components of the finished game obviously, but I’m sure that they will be up to the standards we have come to expect from European publishers if the game receives the funding it deserves. Let me just add that it comes with a LOT of bits
Overview of the game and mechanics
I’m going to talk a lot about the mechanics of the game without going into great detail…the mechanics complement each other and are unique to this game in really inventive ways, they make for interactions between players and changing strategies that make every game follow a different storyline.
The rules are available at the following link and explain them very well… http://www.whyme.fr/rules/R234b_purged_EN.pdf
Western Town is a game in which you are trying to build and then settle a town in the Old West during President Lincoln’s time in office, you play the Marshal. Winning is accomplished by gaining the most victory points. Victory points are earned based upon three criteria; Settlers, the lure of your town (how attractive it is to new settlers), and how much gold you contribute to the nation. President Lincoln is represented by a deck of cards, and the value he attaches to each of the criteria changes during the game (Sometimes he prefers gold, then settlers, then the lure of the town for example). I really like this mechanic as it forces players to diversify.
Another mechanic that makes this game exceptional is called “Progressive Expansion”.
Progressive Expansion causes certain tiles to be held out of the game until turn 2 and 3…so everyone starts out equal footing and more options are introduced incrementally making the game “build” upon itself.
The cards use a mechanic where each building has an action and each action has two types. One type is the “played” effect and the second the “revealed” effect.
When a player constructs a building, he place it on his player board, gets the action card from his reserve and places it into his hand. When a player plays an action card, he puts it on the right of his board. and applies the "Played" effect. The catch here is that the “revealed” can only be used if the action is also taken by another player. (The rules make this clearer). This mechanic forces you to pay attention to the other players and what they are doing...no multiplayer solitaire in this game! The game makes you take advantage of others and ignore them at your own peril.
Allies and Adversaries
The players to your left and right are your both your “opponents” and “allies” and are therefore of considerable importance in a game of Western Town. You need to pay attention to what they’re doing so you can use their development to your advantage and attract Lincoln’s attention. The great thing about this game is that your neighboring players will be doing the same. You actually get victory points when you help other players.
Another neat mechanic is the Indian encampment that grows based upon the players actions. The Indian encampment represents the growing Indian threat to the towns. The Indians come together little by little until their expanding number causes the threat to explode. Once a certain level of development is reached, an Indian attack on a town is probable. The Indians attack, destroy, make people run away and in general tarnish the image of the attacked town. It’s up to the players to prepare for this by building up cowboys for their defense and conserving peace pipes to make sure the Indians aren’t going to target them.
Now that some of the main mechanics have been discussed I’ll give an overview of setup.
Each player takes a “town” board and a set of tiles and cards. The board is placed in front of the player; this is where building tiles will be placed. Building that can be constructed are separated and placed above the board in piles. The cards put on the side of the board, this is called the reserve deck.
The 4 tiles marked with a cactus are the starting “constructable” tiles: place them wherever you want on your town board (the goldmine is put outside the town at the bottom left). The cards marked with a cactus are taken into your hand.
In order to provide variety, the available constructable buildings will be increased each round during the first three rounds. These “bonus” buildings are the same for all the players. In the first round, one player randomly draws two buildings that will be played and two that will be discarded. Each player takes the two playable buildings marked with a star and adds them to his constructible buildings. The two discarded building tiles are turned over to show their constructible Dwelling side and the 2 corresponding action cards can be returned to the box. Each player therefore now has 8 constructible building tiles above his board, plus the Goldmine, as well as 3 other buildings already in play on his board.
INDIVIDUAL STARTING CONFIGURATION
Each town starts with 7 Peace pipes (white cubes) and 3 cowboys. Each player draws one “set-up card” and adds the shown building tile to town - without paying its cost - on any free space and takes the corresponding action card into his hand.
Players now set up their Gold on the Marshal tile, Wood on the Woodwork tile and the settlers in the population area at the top left of the board according to the number shown on the set-up card. Once this is done, the cards can be returned to the box
“INDIAN” BOARD AND THE “LINCOLN” DECK
Put the small Indian encampment board in the center of the playing area along with the die and the orange and red cubes. Put one small white Lure cube (value 1) per player on the Indian encampment. These form the Lure reserve.
The facedown “Lincoln” deck is created by putting the number 5 Lincoln cards at the bottom of a pile of four other randomly drawn Lincoln cards. The 3 remaining cards will not be used and are placed to one side without anyone looking at them. Place the deck face down near the board: it acts as a countdown timer….a game of Western Town thus lasts 5 rounds. Turn over the first card of this deck. Nice use of cards as a game timer.
Randomly select one of the players to be the “Marshal”: he takes the black meeple to show this. The player to his right takes the red meeple and is the “Grand Manitou”.
THE PHASES OF PLAY…
I’m going to list the phases of play and their titles, but I recommend consulting the rulebook (http://www.whyme.fr/rules/R234b_purged_EN.pdf for complete explanations…it does a much better job than I can.
Preparation of cards - Each player keeps 4, 5 or 6 cards in his hand based on the
lowest number visible on his town board (spaces not covered by a building tile).
Play two cards – The Marshal starts this phase and each player plays two cards.
He selects an action card from his hand, places it face up on his board and applies its “Played” effect. This player (the main player) and the player to his left simultaneously select an action card from their hands and place them face down on the table. They turn them over at the same time and apply their “played” effects. The role of “main player” moves clockwise. The next two players play their cards simultaneously and so on. This phase ends once all the players have been the main player. The last player will have played only one card at this point whereas the other players will have played two. He ends the phase by playing his second card by itself.
Revelation - Played in turn, in clockwise order, starting with the Marshal. It continues until all the players have passed. The player must select one of the following choices:
The first player to pass immediately becomes the Marshal, The player to his right becomes the Grand Manitou. A player who has passed can take no further actions in this phase.
• Play his 3rd and final action of the round. Player takes a card from his hand, places it face up on the table and applies its “Played” effect.
• Reveal a card: The player chooses an action card from his hand or one of his cards that has already been played and is still visible on his town board. He can reveal it if it is identical, that is, it has the same title as one played in one of the 2 towns to his left or right. The player should point out the matching cards to the other players.
The allied card must be visible. The player then immediately applies the “Revealed” effect from his card. The matching action card is then turned over. It can therefore
no longer be used as a match for a Revelation action in this phase. This phase continues as long as at least one player is able to take one of the above choices
Earn advantages/lure - All players do this simultaneously. Each action card played on the board and still face up generates resources for the town. These are shown by the icons in the top right of the card.
Discards & Lincoln’s visit – All players must discard any resources in excess of their storage capacity. The player who is the Marshal assigns the face up Lincoln card to the player who has the most points, based on Lincoln’s expectations and takes the card
Next round or end of game - At the end of the 5th round, the game ends. (See rulebook for exceptions and extra rounds).
The winner is the player with the most victory points. (See rulebook for scoring example).
I really, REALLY like this game. It incorporates almost all of the elements I enjoy... building, push your luck, card management, worker placement and a bit of screw (or help your neighbor), a dash of blind bidding, resource management, card combos but most of all I feel “connected” to the other players due to the way the actions and gameplay are structured.
The game brings unique mechanics to a game that has an immersive theme and great replayability. I hope this review / game overview has made sense…it’s a bit hard to really get the feeling this game gives without playing it. I’ll once again say please read through the rules and you’ll be able to get a better feeling for how all this game works…and I believe it works wonderfully.
I can't wait to get a published copy!
*Thanks to Endersgame for uploading the setup graphic I linked to*
- Last edited Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:32 pm (Total Number of Edits: 9)
- Posted Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:55 pm
Thanks for a great review. I hope this shows up on the US shores at some point.
Thanks for the review Hank!