Time to play: 75 – 120 minutes (Teaching: 10-15 minutes)
Best played with: 5 Player (2 – 6 Players)
Sandbox…. okay I know its a Western Theme and there’s a lot of routes to victory, but it does continue to surprise me that a lot of things I have read about this game refer to it as a sandbox game. By the way, I don’t hold this against the game at all but then a euro by any other name would smell as sweet. For me, this is a great example of a modern euro game – a game with many paths to victories and with a lot more going on than multiplayer solitaire!
So what is this game then if not a sandbox and why do others call it so? Well you find yourself moving a piece across a map and taking actions (through a simple action selection mechanic), all to either make money, gather items and achieve legendary points – which are your game end scoring mechanism.
You are, after all, trying to become a Western Legend. For better or worse, your actions will scorch a trail on the history of this region. Will you be remembered as the murderous thief, who robbed the bank and slaughtered your opponents. Or could you be the virtuous martial, chasing the bandits and delivering the cattle to the station. Or perhaps the prospector mining through gold and ignoring the world!
This is then the sandbox effect – being able to go many different directions, and perhaps the need for players to take opposing directions so as to balance each other out. The attraction of one legendary point per turn for being Wanted (and bonuses with it) will certainly attract some players, but then any marshal player will be able to rush up the marshal track by arresting them! Too many marshal players and there won’t be much to arrest in town – perhaps the time to break bad and rob the bank!
This is the most exciting factor of the game. A lot (not all) of the actions are good or bad. A lot of the locations have good and bad actions. Oh and if one player is really hoarding the cash…. well one bad action is to go right on over and rob him of everything he has! Dancing this line between good, bad and indifferent is an entertaining part of the game and crucial to the final score. It’s not just you, but the whole town, and the story developing. By the end of the game night, you will remember the duels, the robberies, the time you were arrested or shot down the bandits in the North.
This all sounds like a lot then, but again there is a beauty in this game through simplicity. Want to rob someone? High card wins from the poker cards in your hand. Want to earn money through playing poker – use the same cards! Want to move faster / take less damage – those effects are on the card. Oh, and if you do want to go mining …. well that’s just dice. This game is simple and highly visual. It won’t take you any time at all to get into the mechanics of this game. You might not feel like a master, but in two turns you will certainly be making meaningful and determined choices.
So, without just walking through the rule book in mechanical terms, what I can say is that this is a game about getting legendary points and they are available all over the place. It doesn’t matter if it’s the combination of depositing the gold from the mine in the bank, or playing poker to upgrade goods from the general store, there are a vast array of simple scoring techniques. Some interfere with other players, and others just allow you to harmlessly pass by like ships in the night – which you choose is up to you!
Invest then in your character early, and get good at your plan for victory, but don’t be afraid to deviate with opportunity to score points or the necessity of stopping the leader. Also, enjoy the story cards that come with the game. Little bonuses for finishing outside of town or starting a fight with another player. Sure sometimes it’s the opposite of your plan, but often a small alteration can get you a worthwhile little bonus and push the game on.
Speaking of investment – every turn you will get an option between money and cash. Will you invest by holding a broad hand of cards to protect yourself, will you take money to use, or will you build slowly and with balance? Another simple, but interesting choice at the start of each turn.
Now, the best part of this game is the same reason I love Scythe and the same reason I enjoy Viticulture. It’s time to talk about the end game. There are three game lengths and it’s simple you will drive the game to it’s conclusion by scoring points. Sometimes therefore you will build up a head of steam and just plough through the finish line. Other times you will sit near the finish line but build up your marshal or wanted tracks to get more points! It’s not always the player who finishes the game who wins the game – playing for that final turn rush can be challenging but a worthwhile endeavour.
Is this a perfect 10 out of 10. Well, no. It’s hard for me not to find some small thing that I can see might annoy players. There is take-that. It’s inevitable! I mean it’s a western! If there wasn’t a shoot out what kind of game would this be! However, I know some people will hate the feeling of being arrested or robbed and losing everything they have been working towards. What if you spent a whole turn mining, just to have someone turn up and rob you! Okay, so you wouldn’t do that again… but it might ruin a game for you.
Now that’s style of play and preference, but it’s also worth mentioning that the game map has quite thin lines that define the space and that has frustrated some attempts to move. Honestly, I prefer it to a simple grid, but there’s definitely times when you end up stuck in an awkward point on the map and you can’t do much for a turn! That can feel very underwhelming when it happens.
That aside though, I still hope to get this game back to the table and keep enjoying Western Legends.
- If you are looking for the modern answer to the old fashioned Euro – this is my vote.
- If you don’t like random card draws, then this might be tricky
- If you win, try again and take a new character (oh yeah, there’s asymmetric powers!)