Wyatt Earp is a cleverly themed hand management and set collection card game. Premised on amassing bounties for notorious criminals of the Wild West, the goal is to be the first to gain $25,000 in bounties, or more in the case that both players cross the threshold at the same time.
The game is solidly produced. The game comes with a number of $1,000 and $5,000 denomination chits, which are by no means flimsy. The “posters” are nice heavy stock cardboard. It would have been nice if the cards had a bit more texture, as do the cards in Citadels, but this is a matter of personal preference. There’s nothing to complain of in this area.
The game captures that “Wild West” feel. The poster are done in a drawn fashion that bring to mind wanted posters seen in westerns. Additionally, even the font on the cards contributes to the overall theme. Earp gains points for evoking a sense of authenticity.
Mechanics and Play:
The game begins with all seven posters arranged in a circle, the piles of money in the middle along with the draw and discard stacks. Each player is dealt 10 cards. At the beginning of a turn a player may either draw two cards from the draw pile or the top card in the discard pile. A player can play any number of villain cards and one sheriff card. A card must be discarded. A hand ends when a player plays their last card and has no more in his or her hand. In the upper left corner of each villain card is a value for capture points, which I’ll get to in a moment. There are cards for each of the villains in addition to “special power” cards, or in Earp parlance, a number of types of sheriff cards: Most Wanted: Fastest Gun, Hideout, Stagecoach Robbery, Bank Robbery, and Wyatt Earp. The Villain cards are either 2 capture point cards, which have bullet holds in the lower left corner (to be referenced shortly), or they are 4 capture point photo cards.
Any player may play any villain card they choose on their turn. However, the first cards played on any villain have to be played in a set of three. Afterwards, any other player may play a matching villain card in their play area. Bounties are accumulated on the posters as follows: $1,000 is placed per card minus $1,000. Example: you play a four card set of Billy The Kid, you place $3,000 of bounty on his poster. The exception is if one of those cards is a Photo Card which requires you place an additional $1,000 on the poster in any case.
Since the goal of Wyatt Earp is to accumulate $25,000 in bounty money, it seemingly behooves you to keep piling money onto one poster during any given hand, but this is likely not a winning strategy for three reasons:
1. because the amount of money you place per card played is decreased by $1,000 you’d need to accumulate a significant number of that villain’s card, which from the point of view of simple probability is not a winning strategy.
2. bounties in Wyatt Earp are potentially shared: if, for example, you have 10 capture points worth of Wes Hardin and your opponent manages by the end of the hand to accumulate 6 capture points worth of Wes Hardin, the bounty is split. This prompts me to make mention of the bounty collecting mechanism. For any bounty to be in play, there needs to be at least 8 capture points on the table for the villain in question. If not, the bounty remains in play into the next hand. If there is, there is then another calculation. If you have at least a five capture point lead for the villain in question, the entire bounty is yours. If not, then the first $2,000 goes to you with the players alternating taking $1,000 from the pot.
3. last, amassing a great fortune and capture points for a particular villain makes you particularly vulnerable to being the victim of a Hideout Card (explained below) which, unless you free him or her with a successful Wyatt Earp shot, nulls your stake in that villain.
So, Sheriff Cards. These are one of the coolest aspects of the game and really contribute to that Wild West feel. These cards allow you to add a fixed amount to the cash pile on a poster and then attach it (since each has a certain capture point value) to a villain already in play in your area. Making use of these cards is not a simple matter of drawing them. In a nod to a gun duel, whenever you draw a Sheriff Card with a gun printed in the background, the powers of that card rely upon a successful shot. For instance, if you play a Bank Robbery card, you then draw the next card in draw pile. If it has a bullet hole on it (a villain card) then you get the powers of that card, i.e. the ability to add to the bounty and capture points of the villain of your choice that is already in play in your area. Hideout cards are a way to do your opponent in: when played you try for a successful shot. If so, you place it over a villain in play in your opponent’s play area. Any villain of your choice. However, that’s not the end of the story. If a Hideout card is over your most profitable villain all is not lost – there is the Wyatt Earp card, which has three powers. When played, you can draw two additional cards from the draw pile or any single card in the discard pile. However, the third option is a successful shot option – if successful, the hideout is removed and your collection of a particular villain is back in play, hence you regain your stake.
Simply put, this game is a blast and really captures that Wild West feel. The sheriff cards can represent tactical option but the successful shot requirement of most of them allow luck a role which captures perfectly the chance you’d imagine a villain taking in robbing a bank. Moreover, the set collection never feels contrived since there are options for boosting your stake, derailing the efforts of your opponents, and, finally, the bounty sharing mechanism prompts you to calculate how much distance you either want to put between you and an opponent regarding a villain representing a possible windfall for you, or how much distance you’d like to close in not allowing your opponent to walk away with a windfall. This is a way to cash in on the success of your opponent.
This game scales down really well to two players. We are a lone pair of gamers so we play multiplayer games with a certain tightness of game flow and tension in mind. Wyatt Earp still provides for the full implementation of the above mechanics, hence, there can still be a good amount of tension in this game. The largest amount either of us has won by is $5,000, and even in that case, it wasn’t clear how the game would turn out until the end .
If there is one possible area of concern, it is a positive one – the game with two seems to end quickly. Objectively, this is not the case – it still takes about 35 minutes. It’s a testament to how enjoyable the game can be. We’re considering implementing a variant that either calls for the game to be triggered by $30,000 in bounty, and/or reducing the villains by one to force competition even more. If we do so, I’ll post a session report.
Nice review - I'd never really considered this to be suitable for 2 players, but having read your comments I think it would be worth a try. Thanks!
Agreed - a good review.
I can back-up that it plays fine with 2 players. My partner & I enjoy this a great deal.
It seems to be a game that scales well with the full range of 2-4 players, despite the box saying 'plays best with 3'.
A good game.
What're you looking at!
My wife and I like this game a lot. We usually play up to 35,000 when it is just the two of us, so that we get at least three rounds in.