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BOOMTOWN

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Face to Face Games, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, 30+ minutes; $22.95)

 

There’s something about the American Wild West that fascinates Europeans and the American west takes center stage in Boomtown, the new collaboration from Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti. The premise of the game is simple: players are prospectors searching for gold during the gold rush, competing for mine claims, with all attempting to be the richest.

Each player begins with 10 gold. The 60 card deck, consisting of 45 mining concessions and 15 event cards, is shuffled and placed, face down, to become the draw deck. Cards are now drawn (the number of cards equal to the number of players) and placed face up in the center of the play area. (On the first turn, all revealed cards must be concessions. Any drawn events are reshuffled into the deck.) Now, players bid on the concessions.Boomtown

Each mining concession card has a name, production number (ranging from 2 to 12), production value (from 1 to 7) and a colored border to indicate in which town the mine is located. In turn and going clockwise, players may pass or bid (in gold) for the right to choose a card. (Once you pass, you are out of the bidding.) When the high bidder remains, he must pay his bid in gold. How payment is done is a rather distinctive touch.

The highest bidder passes his gold to the player on his right. That player keeps HALF of the gold (rounded up) and passes the remainder to the next player on HIS right and so on until no gold is left. The original bidder may NOT get any gold back. If the last player gets two or more gold, he keeps it all!

At this point, the high bidder chooses one of the cards. Now, the player on his left (NOT necessarily the player who had the second highest bid) chooses a card and so on. If the chosen card is a mine, that card is placed in front of him; if an event (and special rules apply), the event (generally) happens immediately.

Players need to be cognizant of the colors (towns) of their mines because the first player to control two mines of a single color controls the mayor of that town and that’s a good thing. From that point, ANY player purchasing a town of that color must pay the player controlling the mayor gold equal to the number of towns of that color that player controls. (To unseat a mayor – and take control of him for yourself – you have to control MORE mines in that color.)

Event cards add a “take that” element to the game. Such cards can destroy an opponent’s mine or other holdings, force your opponents to pay money to the bank, turn a mayor you control into the Governor thereby increasing your payoffs, increase mine production and so on. As mentioned, these cards are usually played immediately but some, such as Saloon Girls, can be held until you meet the requirements for their use. (A Saloon is played on a town color. From that point on, any player receiving gold from ANY mine in that color has to pay you 2 gold because they were “celebrating in your establishment”. Saloon girls, added to the saloon, ups the ante to 4 gold! Obviously, you need a Saloon to play this card.)

Once all cards are chosen, production is determined by rolling the two dice. Every mine with a production number matching the dice roll produces gold equal to that mine’s production value, paid to that player by the bank. Now, the next turn begins.

The game continues until all cards in the deck have been claimed. At that point, each player’s total value is calculated by adding gold pieces (cash on hand), the production value of all of his mines plus 5 gold for each mayor he controls. The player with the highest score wins!

Boomtown is the second collaboration of the two Brunos, the previous one being Queens Necklace (Summer 2003 GA REPORT). But, with Boomtown, the learning curve is easier, making this game more suitable for family play. This is particularly true of the event cards as they succinctly state their use, right on the card, avoiding “rulebook flipping” for arcane meanings or rules interpretations. The bidding mechanism, where the lion’s share of a bid goes to one player but the order of bidding favors the player getting the fewest gold, is a clever balancing device which helps prevent a player from being dominated and boxed out.

Grizzled prospectors scoured the Wild West and spent their lives searching for gold in “them thar hills”. Fortunately, you’ve been spared such an arduous task for there’s true gaming gold in Boomtown. – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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