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Subject: Workers and Poker. A review of Tiny Epic Western rss

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Sterling Wright
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Noblesville
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I was lucky enough to win one of the review copies of Tiny Epic Western and really want to thank Gamelyn Games for the opportunity to evaluate one of their upcoming games.

There are several different types of commodities in the game that each do different things. And it is useful to know what they are up front.

* The first one you notice are the power resources of Gold, Law, and Arms. These are the currency of the game and are acquired mostly by placing workers during the worker placement phase. They are mainly spent to purchase buildings that you can attach to your location.

* The next commodity is stocks. They can be in Mining, Railroad or Wagons. Each building comes with a number of shares of each stock. One of the goals is to have the majority in the more valuable of the three stock types.

* Finally, Victory Points are the main commodity. In addition to stocks, each building has a victory point value. Your final score is based on the victory points of your buildings and the victory points earned by having majorities of different stock types.

The game has a layout of six locations arranged in a circle with enough space between each to place a poker style card. One of these locations is the town hall and doesn't have any location for your workers. Four are the "home" locations where that players buildings end up when he buys them. These have three worker spots and a "pot" that can be won by whoever places a worker there and has the best three card hand. Then there is the Sheriffs office which has special worker spots that can not be found anywhere else.

Each location except the city hall gets a building placed on the inside of the circle which will be up for purchase at the end of the round. The sheriff office and any "home" location that isn't being used by a player is also given a building on the outside that can be used by workers.


Then you start the first round. The game is played in six to eight rounds and each round has the following steps.

1. Shuffle and deal out poker cards. One between each building and the rival space on the city hall and two to each player. Each player chooses one of their cards to keep and discards the other.

2. Players take turns placing their workers on the various worker spots. The "Home" locations allow you to take an instant power resource. Wait until the end and get two of that power resource if you win the pot, or do the action on the most recent building purchased at that location. In addition to a buildings power, the Sheriffs office has spots that let you modify your poker card or purchase an additional building.

You are allowed to place a worker where a worker exists already. This causes a gun fight where each player rolls a die and then has a chance to enhance it with a power resource (Arms for the attacker and Law for the defender) and the value of your card.

3. At each location you evaluate the hands of all the players that placed workers there. A players hand is made up of the the two cards adjacent to the town and the card in the players hand. The winner of each location gets the pot for that location which for most of the locations is a couple power resources. If only one person placed workers on a location, they must beat a hand using the rival card on city hall.

4. Evaluate everyone's hand at city hall. The winner gets to purchase a building first. Then the second place hand, then the third etc. Until everyone has had a chance to buy a building.

5. The winner at city hall decides which type of stock moves along a three space track. The first stock to reach the end of this track is the most valuable in final scoring.

6. Finally, you replace all building purchased and collect all the poker cards and prepare for the next round.

Thematically, the game does very well. I like the buildings and their actions and both the poker and the shootouts give it that western feel.

However, mechanically, I was a little underwhelmed.

I am no longer placing workers based on what I need to achieve victory, instead I am placing them based on where I think or I can convince everyone else that I can win a pot. While this is an interesting twist, it kind of muddies what I like about worker placement games.

The duels felt too random. First both players rolled a die, then starting with the person who lost the roll, you can add resources or reveal your card to increase your score. However, both of these seemed to wash at the end and the winner of the roll was often the winner of the duel. Also, unless the defender was on a "win" space where they only got the resource in addition to the pot if they won at that location, there seemed to be no reason to defend a space except to stop the other person from using it too. I kind of wished that instead of the loser increasing their score and the winner then increasing just enough to win, we could use a system like the battle dice from TEK where after the initial roll, each player would choose secretly how many points to add to their roll with a simultaneous reveal and then have to either spend resources or reveal your card to make up those points.

I'm not saying this is a bad game. We did enjoy it and we will play again, but it is definitely the weakest of the Tiny Epic games to date. That said, I will still be a backer on day one and look forward to what twist the deluxe components add. My concerns with Tiny Epic Defenders were addressed before the kickstarter had ended, so maybe we will see the same happen here.
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Michael Coe
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Arizona
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Thanks for the preview Sterling!
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