Jonathan, Winton*, Glenn, Mark, Fen
Fen always seems to show up with games that weren't in any of our community orders. So, out of left field, came Way Out West. There is a certain familiarity to the game - yet I can't put my finger on it, except perhaps comparing it to the old MB game SUMMIT. As in Summit, players must choose between using resources to develop areas for income and VP's, or to use them for attack and defense. There is also a bit of Junta buried in the game, and it's encouragement of player-hosage, but that would give a very warped impression of the game, as it's system is nothing like that of Junta. CAN SOMEONE HELP ME OUT AND TELL ME WHAT GAMES THIS IS SIMILAR TO?
The important thing is: we had a blast. The turns move quickly; players are always "in" the action, there is lots of player interaction and western experience. Strategies are not incredibly mind bending, but are still essential. A lot of game gets packed into a 90 - 120 minute experience.
The game involves using two actions per turn to buy and place resources in any of five areas (wild west cities). There are three main categories of resources: Cattle are cheap, get you a great income return on your investment, and will pay off modestly with victory points at game end. Buildings are more pricey, can generate significant income, but only depending on the synergies in that city, and can potentially generate considerable VP's at game end. Cowboys are principally military units: they attack and defend your holdings in a city, but give no income or VP's.
There are nice interactions between buildings and other pieces which are consistent with the theme. For example, a hotel will pay off in proportion to the number of cowboys in a city, while a store will pay off for the cattle and farmers in the city. Part of the game involves speculating where the "action" will be, and being the first in with the appropriate services. However, we did find that some of the costs seemed out of line - I don't think we ever mustered up enough cash for a bank, and the railroad line was extremely pricey for it's modest cash payoff. Admittedly, it would seem as though the railroad is most valuable in its potential contribution to VP's at game end, since it doubles the value of cattle.
One play idea which appears to be an innovation is the use of limited actions that can be taken *collectively* in a game turn. There are, for example, five cattle spaces on an action track. That means that *overall*, out of the ten actions that all five players will take that turn (2 per player) only five can be to add cattle. This proved to be critical in the end turn when I wanted my last action to be a gunfight with Mark, in an attempt to take over one of his buildings.
The overall presentation is attractive enough for a self published game. There is some theming background on the board, and it is functional. There is nothing, though, that jazzes up your eye. The counters representing buildings tend to look very similar, and could have used more user-friendly design components. The game is not complicated, but there are lots of different pieces with differing powers, and the game would have benefitted from well presented cheat-sheets, not just the chart that appears on the back of the rules book.
I sure felt as though I was getting over-hosed, with many buildings and cattle getting taken over, preventing me from getting much of a leg up financially. Fen, on the other hand, was very aggressive, building many cowboys - and not being afraid to use 'em. Poor Glenn built four cattle in one area, but their revenue was halved by the presence of a well-placed farmer. The really galling aspect was the fact that that stupid farmer seemed to be a better gunslinger than any of Glenn's pussy-cowboys, who kept getting slammed every time Glenn tried taking the farmer out.
I wound up doing respectibly - within one store (four points) of winning, and I think that my relative success against my adversity was the fact that I kept my eye on the prize - playing more for VP's than money. By game end, I had a sizable set of real estate holdings, but it wasn't enough to overcome Winton, who similarly played a stealth strategy to victory.