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Austin Kennedy
United States
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Check out the full review with pictures here:

This was one of the many games I came home with at Gen Con. I love western themes! Possibly my favorite theme. I love western movies too. So when I heard about this game, I had to go to the Van Ryder booth to check it out. It looked great. Cool components. Then I asked about the game play and the guy demoing it mentioned something about secret objectives. I told him to stop talking, and then I said “Sold!”. I love secret objectives in games. My favorite. And it’s set in the west, building your own western town with 3-D components. I just had to have it. So, was it worth it? Did the game live up to my own hype? Let’s find out!

SALOON TYCOON (2016) designed by Robert Couch; Published by Van Ryder Games – for 2-4 players and takes about 30-60 minutes to play.

Have you ever wanted to live in the old west and own a saloon? Well, now you can! In this game, players will be building their own section of town that will include a saloon as well as other buildings surrounding it. The object is to score the most points by building combinations of room types, and attracting different customers to your saloon. But be careful, some of your actions could cause outlaws to invade your town.

The basic gameplay is pretty simple, but there are a there are a few details that make the game a bit more complex. I’ll cover the basic gameplay, but might not go over every detail.

This is a tile-laying game in which you are going to be purchasing different building tiles and placing them on your Saloon player board, and you can even build them on top of each other, which brings in a cool 3D element to the game.

Everyone begins with a player board, which is where they will build their saloon. They will also begin the game with 3 gold, 3 tycoon cards (which are action cards), and 2 secret claim cards (secret objectives).

On the table will be various building tiles to purchase for your saloon, each one giving a unique bonus when you complete the tile.

There will also be 4-6 open claims/objectives that any player can earn during the game.

There will also be a number of character cards laid out who can potentially visit your saloon, and a few outlaws who can be attracted to your saloon as well.

Finally, besides the supply of gold, there will be 40-80 supply cubes on the table (depending on the number of players). These supply cubes are how you finish a tile, and are able to stack a tile on top of another.

A turn will go like this:

Income – Players will take a number of gold nuggets from the supply according to where they are on the income track on their player board. Your income is equal to the amount of tiles you have on your board.

Actions – A player will perform exactly ONE Tycoon action (main action) and as many free actions as they can. These are done in any order.

Here are a list of the actions:

Earn 2 Gold – Simply take 2 gold from the supply and add it to your board.
Draw 2 Tycoon Cards – Simply draw 2 cards from the Tycoon deck
Play a Tycoon Card – You will play a card from your hand and resolve that action. Sometimes it’s just taking supply cubes and gold, or stealing a character from someone else, etc.
Build a Tile – Choose a tile from the center of the table and use gold to pay its listed cost. The tile MUST be placed immediately. You can’t build above the 3rd floor unless it’s a roof, which I’ll explain in a second. Also, don’t forget to move your income marker up one when you build a tile.
Bribe a character – Pay 6 gold to move a citizen or outlaw card from one player’s saloon to another (including your own). Citizens are usually acquired when finishing a specific building tile, giving you points for the end of the game.

You may also perform free actions, like stake an open claim, which allows you to take an open claim card if you have all the requirements. Most of them have to do with having specific buildings and/or characters in your saloon.

Also with a free action, you may spend 2 gold to buy supply cubes and immediately place them on tiles. This is how you finish a tile.

When a tile has the required amount of supply cubes (usually 3 or 4), then a tile is completed. You will get 5 points for a small tile, and 7 points for a large tile. You may build a large tile on either another large tile, or 2 small tiles. A small tile can never be placed on a large tile.

Once the 3rd floor of a building is finished, immediately place a roof, scoring 4 points.

As I mentioned before, when you finish a tile, you may then take the bonus listed. Sometimes it’s taking a character card, but other times it may be to play another card, draw cards, perform another action, etc.

Besides citizens who give you points at the end of the game. Sometimes, a player can get an outlaw if they are the first to do something. Like the first person to get 10 gold will get an outlaw who will make you receive one less gold per income phase. Things like that.

I should also probably mention that to build on your player board, you must start with your main saloon, which is in the top corner of your board, and then build out from that. If you cover any spaces with victory point stars, immediately score them. There are also negative point spaces to be aware of as well.

And that’s pretty much the basics of it. Players will continue taking turns, building up their town until all the supply cubes are gone. Once this happens, every player other than the one who triggered the end game gets one final turn. Add up all of your secret claims to your points acquired during the game. The player with the most points is the winner.

So, how is it?

Well, first off, I must say that I love the theme! The components really help bring the theme to life too. The cardboard tiles are thick and sturdy, and the artwork on them looks great. I love the rustic look of the player boards too. The artwork on the characters are decent and give the game its proper flavor. I also love the gold nuggets that are used as currency. Nice and chunky.

I will start off by saying that I did enjoy the game. I think it has a few minor issues, but overall it’s fun.

What I liked: Well, the main thing I loved about it was building your own town. I love how the tiles stack up on each other, and love all the different types of rooms, like the poker room, and the brothel. And at the end of the game, the player boards look so cool with everyone’s town build up. I always have to take a picture of my town at the end of the game.

I also love games with secret goals. That part was fun. I guess the reason I love that in games so much is that it gives each player something to work towards. Makes it easier to play the game I think. At least I can get into a game better that way. I like all the bonuses and figuring out the best way to get more than one action per turn by creating combos out of your bonuses.

But the game isn’t perfect: In all of my games, every player had a hard time grasping that you get points when you FINISH a tile, NOT purchase it. From a design stand point, it makes total sense. But for some reason, it just didn’t feel intuitive. Everyone thought that you should get points when you purchase the tile, and then the bonus when you complete it. It’s not that big of a deal, but it was something that EVERY player forgot about when a tile was purchased. And then sometimes we would forget to score a tile when it was finished because it felt like we already scored those points. I don’t know how else to explain it, but it just felt off.

While I think the scoring track looks cool, it certainly was annoying moving your character marker along it. It’s purposely crooked, and winds all over. I kept putting mine in the wrong spot sometimes, because I didn’t realize the track was twisting. Again, that’s minor, but it was a slight pain.

I guess that’s about it for the negative. Other than those 2 things, I really enjoyed the theme. If the game was just a little bit tweaked, I think it would flow better, and would make the game from good to great.

Also, there are some mini-expansions that I think you can purchase on Boardgamegeek that add more variety to the game. I liked em’, and have used them in every game.

If you like games where you’re building your own town, then you should definitely check this out. It looks so cool when you’re all done. Great theme (with some fun flavor text on the cards as well) and beautiful components make this tile laying game worth your time.
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Michael Melen
United States
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Good review! I should be receiving the copy I ordered after Thanksgiving, and the BGG expansion shortly after that. I think that the way I'll teach the room completion element is to explain the cubes as furniture. You can't call a room complete without the furniture!

I haven't seen the scoring track, but that has been universally panned. I guess it works if your character is drunk, or something. Or maybe the player has to be drunk! I'll give that a try.

The game looks cool! Can't wait!
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