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Subject: Deadwood after one play rss

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Jeff Curtis
United States
Plainfield
Indiana
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Deadwood Review

Deadwood was an impulse buy for me at Gen Con this year. So far, I've only managed one 5-player game. The mechanics of the game are fairly straightforward. Cowboys that have been hired can be in one of three places. They start in your hand, which is called your ranch. They can be sent into town, and there is an abandoned mine, which is a bit of a no-man's land, although no fighting occurs there. Technically there is a 4th location, the graveyard at Boot Hill, but you'll want to avoid that one, as it's a one-way trip.

The town starts with a few pre-set buildings and 3 random draws. Each building has some special advantage. Most only get triggered at the time you take control of the building, with a few exceptions. For example, if you control the undertaker's office, you will get $1 each time someone dies in a shoot out. Everyone starts with three cowboys, who you need to hire. They are rated from 1-3, with three being the expert gunfighter. Money is also victory points, and is fairly tight. A 1-rated cowboy costs you nothing, $1 for a 2 and $3 for a 3. You can hire an additional cowboy if you annex the saloon.


You only have two actions to choose from when it's your turn. You can return cowboys to your ranch (hand), or you can send a cowboy to town. The cowboys returned to the ranch can come from buildings in town and/or the abandoned mine. You'll need to do this once in a while few buildings have an ongoing advantage that makes it beneficial to hold over the long term.

When you send a cowboy to town, you choose the building where you want him. If no one is there, you automatically get control, and gain the benefit of that building's special benefit. If a building you really need already has another player's cowboy there, then a gun fight ensues. Gun fights are pretty simple and very unpredictable, although you can move the odds to your favor with a better rated fighter. Here's how it works. Let's say my 3-rated cowboy is fighting your 2-rated cowboy. I'll get 3 dice to your 2. A six will kill the opponent and a 4 or 5 cause a wound. Wounds have no immediate impact, but two wounds kill you. However, they do not all get rolled at once. Since I have one more dice than you, I get a free roll with my extra dice. Assuming I do not roll a 6, then fight moves to the next round. Now we both have 2 dice, and we each roll one of them. If we both roll a six, its mutual destruction, and the undertaker is happy. If we're both still standing then it goes to round 3 and we both roll our last die. Needless to say, if a 3-rated cowboy is fighting a 1-rated cowboy, the 3 gets to roll 2 dice and the 1 has to survive to get a chance to roll his single die. However, the defender of the building has a horse, he can skedaddle and gets placed at the abandoned mine, relinquishing control to the aggressor. If control of the building changes, then the new possessor triggers the building action. One final thing about starting a fight, it gets you a wanted poster. These will cost you money at the end to avoid legal problems. There are buildings though that let you dump a wanted poster of two, primarily the church and laundry.

Let's talking about the buildings. Most of them get you $1 when you take control plus have some other building. Going to church doesn't get you any money, but dumps a wanted posted, and any number of cowboys can coexist there without violence breaking out.

If you annex the gunsmith shop you can get extra bullets, which provide an extra die in a fight. As critical as the fights tend to be, this is almost essential, unless you're just lucky and roll a lot of sixes.

As mentioned above, you go to the saloon to hire another cowboy. That means this building is in high demand. If you find yourself needing more cowboys, and who doesn't, you could have a bit of a dilemma, unless luck is on your side. This was especially true of our 5-player game. One building lets you move another player's cowboy out of a building. The problem there is you're just freeing it up for someone else to nab. You might get lucky and have the player to your right return his cowboys to his ranch. This will happen periodically, as most buildings do not provide any advantage after the turn you annex it. Third, you can fight for it. If you already have less cowboys than the other players, and you lose that shoot out, you're even further back.

Since the game is a western-themed worker placement game, having less workers to place is a definite detriment.

The general store gives you a dollar and then lets you move one of your other cowboys, allowing you to annex a 2nd building or start another fight. There is a special rule, that if you move a cowboy directly from the laundry to the church, you get to dump 2 wanted posters.
If you annex the sheriff's office, you get to play the sheriff on the board. The rows are offset, so any intersection to be adjacent to 3 buildings. You place the sheriff at one of these crossroads, and no gun fight can occur in the adjacent buildings. Even to annex an empty building adjacent to the sheriff costs a player a $1.

So how does the game end? There are three things that will end the game:
1. If any player has no living cowboys. This could possibly happen pretty quickly if a player got aggressive and unlucky at the same time.
2. The hotel gets built.
3. No wanted posters remaining. I would think this one is fairly unlikely.


The hotel is only built when the railroad reaches the north end of town. The advantage to annexing the town hall is you get to add a section to the railroad and add three more random buildings to the town. You get to dump a wanted poster as well. After track has been laid 4 times, the hotel can bet built. Track also destroys any building it passes through, and triggers the advantage of any buildings now adjacent to the railroad.

If the game ends before the hotel is built, the player controlling the stage coach office gets a sizable cash bonus. There are several other building types with interesting advantages to offer. There are also two tiles of the same building in many cases. In our 5-player game, the 2nd saloon did not come out for quite a while. We really wondered if it would have been a better game if the 2nd saloon had been on the map from the start or at least early on. The sheriff also ended up there, blocking any option to fight for the saloon. So, it would require fighting for the sheriff's office just for the right to move him, and then later you might get an opportunity to annex the saloon.

Most of the player's in our game came away with that "meh" feeling. Partly we all had high expectations, which the game didn't seem to quite live up to. We all felt it might be better with one or two fewer players. It's quite possible we just didn't use the best strategy in our first play. We had our share of gun fights, but they were not as common as you might expect. The wanted posters keep you from taking the gun fight path too often. Plus, if you don't get a chance to hire more cowboys fairly early, its high risk to be dueling often. If you lose that first one and only have two workers, you have a problem, especially if there is only one saloon out and it's always occupied. This happened to at least one player, and with the sheriff protecting the saloon, you just had to hope the saloon would be vacated in a timely manner that gave you a shot at it. We may have just been too conservative in our first game. It might have been more fun to just get aggressive, and if the game ended in 30 minutes, so be it. Set up and play again. It's always a bit dangerous to review a game based on one play, but there seems to be a lot of folks wanting information. I'm certainly not writing this one off without some more plays. There is a lot of luck to the gun fights, so I think keeping the game time fairly low was a good move.

I'm writing this from memory from a hotel room, but I will try to edit the review later to add more building info and photos if there's interest.
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Jonathan Er
Singapore
Singapore
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hi Jeff


thanks for the early mini review

been wanting to hear more about this game


do let us know more of your thoughts when you have another play through with it !

would love to know if the "meh" feeling still resides.
wow


been thinking about picking this one up but have been very uncertain from lack of information, and also a proper rule book






Jonathan
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Ernie Barrett
United States
Warren
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Thx for the review. Ive been waiting a long time now for someone to review/discuss this game. Please share your thoughts again after you have played a few more times and/or with varying amounts of players.
 
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GIANCARLO CESARIO
Italy
ERCOLANO
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Thanks for the review...
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Mike Clarke
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Port Coquitlam
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I'm interested in hearing your thoughts after a few more plays AND seeing some pictures. Good review.
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Andy Andersen
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mikecl wrote:
I'm interested in hearing your thoughts after a few more plays AND seeing some pictures. Good review.


Me too.
 
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Mark Biggar
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One correction, it's the Train Station not the Hotel that ends the game and it work like a piece of track in that it can be built on top of an existing building (at the end of the track) and triggers adjacent buildings. The Hotel pays out a bonus to it's owner when the Train Station is built.
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Dave Kudzma
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Millsboro
Delaware
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Orangemoose wrote:
mikecl wrote:
I'm interested in hearing your thoughts after a few more plays AND seeing some pictures. Good review.


Me too.


I'd like to hear a review after playing with 3-4 players. There are many games whose play is inferior at min or max numbers. Publishers do not seem to "stretch" the player range as much as they used to, but it still happens.
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