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Subject: A fun CCG rss

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Bill Stripp
United States
Crystal Lake
Illinois
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Note: This review is off one full play of High Stakes Drifter. We had six people play with starter decks and my impressions will be based on that.

Overview
This is a collectable card game where you get to manage a group of soldiers, drifters, and outlaws as you battle your way through the old west. Each time one of your dudes issues a challenge, players ante up and play a poker like game to determine the winner.

Game Play
There are three types of cards in the game: dudes, gear and fortune. Dudes are the guys that actually go to fight for you. Gear modifies the abilities of gear and fortune is a wild card that can be played while you are battling. Additionally, you have $100 that you use to play cards and bid in battles. Each turn you fill your hand to five cards.

At its heart, the game is a bidding game more than a card game, which is a nice change from the mechanics of every other CCG on the market. When players battle each other, you are bidding money like in poker based on what you think your chances of winning are.

On each players turn, they can do three things. Which ammount to playing dudes, gear, or a kicker chip. Each dude or gear card has a cost which comes out of your money pile. You place the card face down (most times) and put the money on top of it. If you can't pay for the card you can't play it. Dudes can have as much gear on them as you want, but since gear is one use we tended to spread it out.

The kicker chips are poker chips with stats on them. You assign them to a character and flip it. Whatever comes up is then applied to that character until the kicker is somehow removed. You get I think 2 kickers per game. They are also collectable.

Each dude has a couple of stats, Skill, Smarts, and Luck. You are trying to build up characters with high numbers in those stats. Because after you are done playing cards, you can issue a challenge with one of your dudes. The key is that you get to choose the ability that the challenge is in.

When you issue a challenge you push your dude out to the center and everyone has to ante $5. You call out the stat you want to challenge in and the rest of the players have to decide if they are in or out. If no one is in, you get the pot and the turn ends. However, if one or more players take up the challenge, you get to fight it out. Remember that most cards are starting face down. So you do not know how good anything is before it happens.

When the challenge starts there is a round of bidding. Like poker, if at any time all players bow out, the remaining player takes the pot. After bidding you can submit gear. You do that by taking the money off the card and adding it to the pot. The gear gets revealed at that point. This is followed by more bidding.

Finally, players can pay to add fortune cards to the mix. While gear has to be played and paid for ahead of time and assigned to a character, fortune can only be played in a challenge and has to be paid for on the spot. The exception is if you are 'all in' you can play fortune cards for free.

When all cards are played, add up the stat that is challenged and the high player wins the pot. All gear that was used is discarded. All dudes that lost are discarded. The winning dude can be paid for again and returns to your side face up this time.

When the challenge ends so does your turn.

Play continues until one player can not make ante for a challenge. At that point, all players count their money and the high total wins.

The good
I really like the original mechanics of the game. It melds the recently popular bidding of poker with the better parts of a CCG. While I can not say at the moment, I think that bidding skill will be as or more important than deck construction. Since the game uses a 3/2/1 scheme for building a deck (1 of any rare, 2 of any uncommon, 3 of any common) many of the sick combos will be limited.

Since you never quite know what someone's total will be since most of the cards are face down, the bidding can be pretty intense. We had several bloody rounds where lots of money changed hands.

The theme is great and the poker style bidding really works well. This is possibly the best support mechanic I have seen to a theme based game. The cards themselves are well done, although nothing spectacular.

I can already see theme decks that will give you an edge in playing the game. There are some devilish fortune cards that can really play spoiler to a hand adding to the tension in the bidding.

The nice part is that this is a CCG that is tailored to playing with more than 1v1. Which makes it a nice social CCG. Theoretically, you could play it with any number of people, although I have to imagine 8 would be about the top that I would want to do.

The bad
It's a CCG. You will spend lots of money on it if you are the compulsive type that needs to have every edge. Also, realize that if you don't spend a lot of money on it, you will play at a disadvantage. To some people this is a good thing, although I am sure the world would be a better place without yet another CCG.

The kicker chips have a value to them, which if you are like me, might be higher than all of your characters. So unless I buy more stuff, I will never use one of the kickers I got. Again, this is not a big deal if you are going to buy a lot of packs.

If you have cautious people, the game could drag on. Unlike poker, the ante doesn't keep growing; forcing people to eventually play. You could have many rounds where people just ante and play cards.

While the game is a lot of fun with a small group it does suffer from one problem. When two players get locked into a duel, they can end the game far too quick. Since the game ends when one player can't make an Ante, you could knock yourself out real quick with a large bet which ends the game. In a group of six players, you might never get into a challenge. We remedied this by playing until two people couldn't make ante for a six player game.

The game doesn't come with poker chips. We have 11.5 gram chips, which greatly added to the experience. If you are going to play this game a lot, I would highly recomend getting some although they are not needed. That's not a bad, thing, just another expense if you don't already have them. Only one person in your group would have to put that expense in.

While I am sure you can play it 1v1, I have to imagine it would be a horrible 2 player game. Without all the people to bid, the game would loose a lot of the fun. I haven't tried it yet, but that is just my opinion.

The indifferent
One last thing to note, is that all starter decks are identical. This does lead itself to some good and bad things. First is that you don't have a vehicle to get cheap cards unless you want a lot of the starter duplicates. Second is that it changes the nature of a sealed deck tourney. Your sealed deck tourneys are going to be more about skill in playing and less in skill in deck drafting/building. Depending on your preference this could be good or bad.

Summary
It's fun and refreshing. I loved the mechanics which deviate from the get energy to put stuff out mould of MTG. The game flowed well and the mechanics supported the fun aspects of the game. If you don't mind getting into another CCG this is a good one and really shines.
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John Armstrong
United States
Cleveland Heights
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When you say everyone had their own decks. Everyone had bought their own starter deck. the reason I ask is that the ad copy seems to suggest 2 people could play with one starter. Does this seem feasible?
I hate to to spend $60-$80 on a game that noone enjoyed.

Thanks,
DN
 
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Pat R
United States
Peculiar
Missouri
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You could play the game out of a single deck if you wanted too. IMO the game is more about bluffing and bidding than what your cards are anyway. I think it would be a good idea to buy a deck and play with a couple people before you dive in. Our group is playing out of their own decks, but I don't think it adds anything. Maybe getting to see more different cards. He is correct though. It's a CCG. The Kicker chips are what sucked me in the most. From the starter decks I have seen opened I get the impression that they only have common (White) chips. To get near the $50 limit on kickers you have to open several boosters.
 
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Jeff Dworak
United States
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If you do play with one deck for 2 players, don't use the basic starter rules, use the standard ones. The starter rules are a chopped-up version of the regular rules, and the game loses a lot when played that way. I would suggest a starter for each player at least, that way everyone gets kicker chips to play with (which are very cool).

Unfortunately, you'll think the chips are so cool you'll want to go out and get boosters to have more of them. Ah, the joys of "collectability"!

Also, one of the starters I bought had a red and green ($25) chip in it, so it's not just white ($1) chips in the starters.
 
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Bill Stripp
United States
Crystal Lake
Illinois
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Other people are correct in saying that you could both play out of one starter deck. The game looses a little in this fashion, but would still play ok. At its heart, it's a bidding game first, and a card game second. To me, that's what makes it interesting.

Now, as you play further, you certainly can build decks that capitalize on cards that you pick up. Something like an outlaw that gives all outlaws +1 smarts.

When that card comes into your hand you can play him normally (face down) and not get the benefit of the ability, or play him face up for $1 less and reap the benefits of the card. Obviously, if you can have a few of these guys with a deck loaded with outlaws, you'll do better than someone with a random collection of cards.

Kickers are completely randomn. I recieved a white and green kicker in my starter set (common and semi-rare). Of course I have no cards that can use the green kicker chip which is slightly annoying.

Coming back to it, you can play out of one deck, but you loose any aspect of tweaking and building a deck. To me that's half the fun of a CCG. If deck building is not your thing, then you should be just fine.
 
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Bill Stripp
United States
Crystal Lake
Illinois
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Edited article to add the indifferent section and to update the bad with the problems in early game ends.
 
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John Armstrong
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What might be be considered an average game play time for say 6 experienced players?
 
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Bill Stripp
United States
Crystal Lake
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Now we ran into several games that were over in 20 minutes as a couple of players locked horns and went at it, depleting their money and ending the game. Then we made a house rule to change the end game from one person being unable to ante to two people being unable to ante.

Now we are not experienced and did not fold on hands since no one had any real idea what to expect.

I would expect a six person game to last around 45 minutes to an hour at most. That is just a guess as I am expecting that people will be much better at bidding than we were to start. So there will be many more smaller pots along with people not stepping up to challenge unless they know they are competitive. We had a few pots where people really undervalued what kickers, fortune, and gear cards could do to someone.

 
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Brook Willeford
United States
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I've played quite a bit of this game, and game length varies greatly depending on the personalities involved. Some of the players liked to bet a lot on marginal hands, which leads to a quick game (5-20 minutes), while others like to play cautiously, which can lead to a more drawn-out game (30 minutes up to an hour and a half for a very cautious, very balanced 8-player game).

One negative that has been mentioned quite a bit is getting high-value kicker chips when you don't have high kicker value dudes (characters). This isn't always a negative, however, as you can use them to effectively remove the kicker chips on opposing dudes (if a face down dude has a higher value in kicker chips on him than his kicker limit when he is turned face up, all kicker chips are discarded).

All in all, a very fun, very social game that plays exceptionally well with 4-6 players, pretty well with 3 or 7-8 players, and okay with 2 players.
 
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Michael W.
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A decent game. Played with one starter. Played the beginner game and the advanced/regular game. As stated earlier, just skip the beginner game and go right to the regular game...

Definately needs more than 2 people ... Is there a two player variant that would work? Not sure...

Like Poker and any bluffing game though 3 or more is best...

Can I recommend it?

Not until more people buy it and play it at our gaming store...

Right now it is just sitting there unpurchased.

The other gaming store in the area didn't bring it in...


Cheers, MSW
 
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J B
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I have a question about the kickers....

Does the kicker limit value refer to....

A. The number of physical kicker chips that can be on the card.

B. The value of the stat boosts that can be on that card.

C. The cost (color) value maximum that can be on that card.

D. None of the above.


Please clarify this for me if you can, and explain....I don't quite get it.
 
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Ryan Bigelow
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Salmon Arm
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Thanks for the review!
I recently bought this game too and since it was going for cheap at CCGArmory, I bought about 6 starters. I was really disappointed to find out that the starters are all identical. I wonder why the game was made this way. In a way, it would lessen my desire to buy starters and just do boosters. Still it looks like a fun game, and I'm looking forward to trying it out with my game group.
 
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John Wray
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We found this game fun and helped our Deadwood phase we were going through. The only problem with this game is I don't think it should have been marketed as a CCG. A stand alone game with kicker chips that were randomly selected at the beginning of a session would have been much better. In fact, if they came out with a different edition deck of cards every quarter (not a whole slew of theme decks) I would buy it. My friend and I have our little collection and that's about it. They are not going to make us anymore.
 
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