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Subject: Main differences between Hangtown DISCOVERY and HIGHGRADE modes rss

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Jonathan Cantin
United States
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Greetings y'all!

The rulebook for Hangtown covers the complete rules for Discovery and Highgrade modes in two separate sections. This was done intentionally so that experienced gamers don't have to learn the Discovery rules just to disregard or replace parts of them later. In other words, Highgrade isn't just Discovery complexified... It's a different beast—more of a heavy gamer's game.


has the Discovery Board, fewer cards in the Market, smaller decks of player cards, and a starting hand of 2 randomly drawn cards.

Highgrade does not use the Discovery Board, has more cards in the Market, much bigger decks of player cards, and a predetermined starting hand of 5 cards.


Discovery has a 2-tier yield system (Boom and Bust). The criteria is simpler too. The site with the Outlaw defaults to the Bust site if any player Pioneer is there—that's that. If that's not the case, the site with most (or all) of the Pioneers in it gets the Bust outcome. And there can only be one site at most that Busts per turn.

Highgrade has a 3-tier system (Boom, Common, and Bust). As a rule of thumb, if all of the player Pioneers or the number of players -1 are in the same site, it Busts. And if any player Pioneers are in the site with the Outlaw, they Bust. Only a Pioneer totally alone gains the benefits of a Boom outcome. Those in between Boom and Bust get the Common yield. This all allows for multiple sites to Bust in the same turn. And the Bust outcome is more punishing—something you really want to avoid if possible.

Please note that difference in outcomes in the two modes is more detailed than what I have described above. For instance, the Round Up phase is dice influenced in Discovery, whereas in Highgrade it is a fix amount per tier. And there are ways to bend most of the rules to your benefit.

Worker Placement
(Workers are called Dudes)

In Discovery most of the workers are placed on the Discovery Board. This is a simple worker placement board where players can get money, cards, and building discounts. As time passes, the return on each track "advances" to the right. So letting your investments mature is usually a good idea—but try not wait too long, for they dump into the action pools at the end of the lines which have only marginal returns...

There are some cards which players can deploy their Dudes onto besides the Discovery Board. The Hangman's Tree card allows players to "hang" their opponents' Gunmen for VP and money. And some of the General Town cards have "bonus" action spaces which give the players additional rule-bending options. These mechanics are just a taste of what you do in Highgrade...

In Highgrade the Discovery Board is left in the box! It's up to the players to build their access to action spaces by building cards from their hands/the market. Once the cards are in play, the players may place their Dudes on their cards. This is where the real custom engine-building side of the game comes in. Players can build tableau areas which lean towards gaining resources, hand management, offensive play, and the ability to be flexible with the yields (move to a better site, change their outcome, etc). The game can be won by taking very different strategic routes—there is no sub-optimal arch which you should learn to ignore. The mad scientist can really pull it off! Just try to be apt at making your cards integrate well with each other, and you're off to the races!

(I would really only warn to not to initiate a large set collection strategy without being able to follow through with it. For example, it probably isn't a good idea to build only one District card late in the game—they are best as a full set of 4.)

Rounds, Tableau Size, and End of Game

Discovery is always played in exactly 4 rounds. (And the players' tableau size is not limited whatsoever.)

Highgrade is played in at least 4 rounds, but can continue to up to 6 rounds. Before starting round 5, the players must check to see if any players have built 12* cards in their tableau areas. If not, the game continues. And the same is done before starting round 6. Regardless of whether or not any players reach the 12 card limit, the game ends after the 6th round.

(The "at least 4 rounds" mechanic was implemented fix the common issue that tableau building games with a size limit face: some less-experienced player gets it in them to rapidly build everything cheap and unknowingly end the game early, passing victory to whatever player happened to be in the lead at that moment. In my experience, this totally irritates the long-arch players of such games. Hangtown still offers a valid build quick and get out strategy, but it won't be in less than 4 rounds!)

*Players can sometimes build a 13th or 14th card if they build certain buildings from the Market. These cards can be built without adding to the tableau card count.

I hope these notes and comparisons help with learning the game, or deciding which version is right for your group. Discovery is a good gateway to Euro-style gaming with a fun "blocky" worker-placement board, and Highgrade is great for creative thinkers who like to chain combos into massive power plays.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Happy gaming!

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