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Store:  Family Games, Card Games
Theme:  Mining
Genre:  Auction & Bidding
Format:  Card Games


List Price: $25.00
Regular Price: $19.95
Sale Price: $12.00
(52% savings!)
(Worth 1,200 Funagain Points!)

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 30+ minutes 3-5

Designer(s): Bruno Cathala, Bruno Faidutti

Manufacturer(s): Face 2 Face Games

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Product Description

There's gold in them hills!

With that cry prospectors race westward and Boomtowns are establishedthe gold rush is on. In Boomtown, you must compete with your fellow prospectors in a mad scramble to find your fortune in gold, but watch out for highwaymen, card sharks and crooked politicians. There are many ways to make a buck in Boomtown.

Aim of the game: The players are prospectors, trying to find gold and get rich. Every turn, mining concessions are auctioned. Then gold is found on some concessions, depending on the die rolls. Players can also act as highwaymen, tavern owners, and politicians. Through many means are fortunes won. At the end of the game, the player with the most influence, the best mines and the most gold wins

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Card Game Nominee, 2006
Spiel des Jahres
Recommended, 2005

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Bruno Cathala, Bruno Faidutti

  • Manufacturer(s): Face 2 Face Games

  • Year: 2004

  • Players: 3 - 5

  • Time: 30 or more minutes

  • Ages: 10 and up

  • Est. time to learn: 5-10 minutes

  • Weight: 571 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in multiple languages (including English). This is a domestic item.


  • 60 cards:
    • 45 mining concessions
    • 15 events
  • 2 dice
  • 5 mayor pawns
  • 10 BoomTown tokens
  • poker chips (money)
  • rules

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3.5 in 4 reviews

Bidding, Choosing, and Fun
August 03, 2005

More than anything else in a game, I value fun. If a game is just pure fun to play, then I don't care if it has great mechanics, a solid theme, etc. Fun is worth the price of a game alone. Boomtown (Face 2 Face Games, 2004 -- Bruno Faidutti and Bruno Cathala) is one of those games that provides a lot of fun. Of all the games that I brought back from Origins, it's the one that I see people playing repeatedly. A few people enjoyed it so much that they took over my job of teaching games and started to teach it to others.

That, of course, is an excellent thing; as I love when games "grab" those I teach them to. Boomtown has a lot of luck, and the auctions each round are extremely important; but I haven't seen it bother people too much. It's so much fun to win an auction, or get the property you need, or have someone pay dearly to you because of one of your saloons. The artwork, theme, and mechanics are all secondary to the enjoyable time we have playing the game.

A deck of sixty cards is shuffled and placed in a face-down deck in the middle of the table. Each player receives $10, in poker chips, with the remainder of the chips placed in a "bank" in the middle of the table. A pile of mayor pawns (one each of five different colors: purple, green, blue, yellow, and red), town tokens (two each of the same colors), and two dice are also placed in the middle of the table. One player is chosen to be the first player, and the first round is ready to begin.

In each turn, cards equal to the number of players are turned face up in the middle of the table. Starting with the first player and proceeding in a clockwise manner, each player must bid (higher than the previous bidder), or pass. Once all players but one have passed, that player wins the auction and pays the amount they bid to the player on their RIGHT (counter-clockwise). The player gives half of the money they receive to the player on their right, until either there is nothing left to give or the bidding player is reached (they don't get any of their own money.)

Once the bid has been paid, the highest bidder takes any of the cards from the middle, with each player following in a clockwise order, until they have taken all the cards. The cards that can be taken are of the following:

  • Mines: Mines have a production number in their top left-hand corner (from two to twelve), a number of gold pieces on them (from two to seven), and a town they are associated with printed on them (which matches one of the five colors). If a player is the first person to get two mines of the same color (town), they take the corresponding mayor token. If another player gets MORE mines of that color, they can take the mayor token for themselves. Either way, if a player takes a mine card that another player has the mayor of, they must pay that player one gold piece for each mine that the mayor's owner has of that color.
  • Dynamite: The player who takes this immediately destroys one opponent's mine or saloon.
  • Saloon: The player who takes this card puts a town token of their choice on it. From now on, whenever a mine of that color produces gold, the owner must pay the saloon's owner two gold.
  • Holdup: The player who takes this card immediately chooses another player and a number from two to twelve. They roll the dice; and if they roll the number that they chose or greater, they steal that much money from the target player.
  • Governor: The player who takes this card changes one of their mayors to "Governor" and now receives double payments whenever another player takes a mine of their color
  • Expropriation, Card Shark, Mustang, New Vein, Saloon Girls, Stagecoach Robbery, and Telegraph all also have a variety of effects.

Once all players have taken a card, the first player rolls the dice. Each player checks their mines, and receives gold for the mines that have the same production number as the number rolled. The players receive gold equal to the number of gold pieces on the producing mine(s). A couple of mines automatically collapse if a two or twelve are rolled. Once production occurs, the next turn occurs, with the first player being the winner of the previous auction.

When the last card from the deck has been drawn and auctioned, the game ends. Each player totals their points, adding their money, the production value of all the mines they control, and five points for each mayor token they control. The player with the most points is the winner!

Some comments on the game...

  1. Components: Boomtown packs quite a few components in the small, colorful square box it comes in. The cards feel like thin plastic, which is unique for a card game, but I like them (they're washable and more durable). The artwork on the cards is very evocative and thematic, although some people may not like a few of the provocative pictures. The wooden mayor pieces are big and chunky wooden pawns, and the town tokens are thick wooden discs. I'm not sure how easy to tell the colors (on the wooden pieces) apart would be for a color-blind person, but we had no trouble at all. The gold coins come in three denominations (white, red, and blue mini-poker chips), and the dice are - well, normal six-sided dice. Everything fits in a custom made plastic insert in the box. Great components - changing a simple card game into something more, just by how it looks!

  2. Rules: The rules come in several translations (including Korean!), with the English rules in a seven-page booklet. The rules are formatted very well and are easy to understand, although I think an example or two wouldn't have hurt. Still, the game is extremely simple to teach. I just explain about the mines and mayors at the beginning of the game, and then just explain each special card as it comes up. We had no real rule ambiguities when playing the game; everything was very easy to work out.

  3. Bidding: The whole game revolves around the bidding. Players have to realize that the other players are getting the money that they bid, in a system similar to the one used in Traumfabrik but a little more clever. If I let the player to my right win, for example, I may get the second pick, but I won't get much of the money he's bid. The player who picks last gets the majority of the money, so players are constantly (at least in my games) kibitzing as to who should win each auction.

  4. Taking: While bidding is an important aspect of the game, choosing the correct card to take is also rather important. It is occasionally obvious what card to take, but players are often presented with a few tantalizing choices. They might want the best producing mine up for grabs, or they might want another mine in a specific color so that they might get the mayor of that color (or prevent another player from getting it.) Sometimes players take the strategy of not picking a color that they have a majority in, just so that someone else has to take it. They are taking a slight risk, because that player might eventually steal the mayor from them, but they get some quick cash on the way. Each mine is worth a different amount to each player, depending on what mines they already have; so it's tremendously important to take the right card.

  5. Strategy and luck: Bidding and taking are the strategic parts of the game, while the production rolls and effects of some of the special cards add the luck. Some players will be irritated that their mines never produce because certain numbers are never rolled (like in Settlers of Catan). However, the production, while it certainly affects the game, isn't always necessary for a victory; I've seen players whose mines never produced the entire game win! Besides, it's not too difficult to get an entire range of numbers, so it's fairly probable that one of your mines will produce each turn.

  6. Fun Factor, Time, and Players: The game plays equally as well with three to five players, although I much prefer the five player game. Either way, Boomtown only lasts about forty-five minutes, which is an excellent time for a game of this magnitude. No one is every really "out" of the game, because everyone gets at least one card a turn; and if you don't bid on much, you'll still get money from the other players. Everyone is involved at all points in the game, and I can't really put my finger on it; but something just makes the game a lot of fun for all. There's a bit of "Take that!" with some of the cards and tactical moves (forcing someone to pay you), but not too much to make the game mean. Everyone I played it with, which has been fairly man, has enjoyed the game; and it's requested often.

Bruno Faidutti is known for his chaos in games, and I enjoy them for that reason; it just gives them the "fun factor" that Vasel enjoys so much. Boomtown is certainly one of his typical games, yet plays quickly and tightly, and is frankly a good auction game. There's more strategy in the game that initially appears; and while luck may determine the winner, superior play will usually supersede it. Boomtown is one of those games that is quick enough, fun enough, and clever enough that I don't care if I win anyway; it was fun just to play!

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games."

Very simple and with a lot going on
May 16, 2005
This is one of my favorite recent titles as an introductory game. It works great as the precursor to Settlers because it uses the same mechanic but it is much simplier. It is fun for a lot of people because there are a few "screw your neighbor" aspects. At the same time, there is quite a bit of depth in the game. This enables experienced players to overcome being the target and the luck factor a lot more than you might expect. Overall, this is a very good game.
by Greg J. Schloesser
Strike it rich in this entertaining wild west romp
October 20, 2010

Designer: Bruno Faidutti
Publisher: Face2Face Games
3 – 5 Players, 45 minutes
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser

NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine

Head out to the old west, stake your claim to a potentially profitable gold mine, and fend off those dastardly claim-jumpers. With such rich flavor present in this Bruno Faidutti title, it is difficult to resist the temptation of slipping into a Slim Pickens old western accent!

In Boomtown, players represent prospectors aiming to stake claims to valuable mines and grow rich. Along the way, they are likely to encounter all sorts of perils and greedy villains … or even be enticed to part with their money by saucy saloon girls.

Armed with an initial bankroll of 10 gold (poker chips), players will participate in auctions for mining concessions and possibly special cards. Each turn, a number of cards equal to the number of players are revealed. A traditional auction occurs, with the high bidder choosing his card first. Then, in clockwise order, each player chooses a card. Simple enough so far. However, the manner in which the money is distributed is a clever twist. The winning player passes the gold he bid to the player on his right. That player keeps half of the amount (rounded up) and passes the remainder to the player on his right. This continues until all of the gold is distributed. So, since cards are selected in clockwise order, the player who chooses last will actually receive the bulk of the winning bid. This is a nice touch, and does serve to give the players selecting last a bit of a boost.

Three-quarters of the sixty cards are mine concessions. Mines belong to five different townships, and carry both a numerical value (2 – 12) and icons representing the amount of gold that will be extracted from that mine if its number is rolled. At the end of each turn two dice are rolled and all mines bearing the number rolled yield gold to their owners. So, as in Settlers of Catan, it is important to play the odds and acquire mines that have a higher probability of producing.

However, there is also an incentive to acquire mines belonging to specific townships (colors), which often will outweigh its potential production value. The first player to acquire two mines in one township rises to prominence in the town and is elected mayor. Thereafter, whenever an opponent acquires a mine of that color, he must pay one gold to the mayor for EACH mine that the mayor owns in that color. As with the “Longest Road” card in Settlers, the office of mayor is only lost when another player acquires more mines in a town than the current mayor.

This mayor mechanism often causes some very interesting auctions and card selections, as players attempt to avoid having to select a mine that will force them to pay an opponent several gold pieces. Thus, players will often select mines that may not be as potentially productive, simply to avoid having to pay huge royalties to a mayor.

In addition to the mine concessions, there are 15 special cards that add a touch of chaos to the game. Most of these fall into the “take that” category, causing mines to explode, gold to be surrendered or stolen, mines to be expropriated, or production to be increased. A fortunate player can even be elected governor! All of the cards are useful, but several are very powerful. When they surface, the ensuing auction is usually quite spirited.

The game concludes when the draw pile is depleted. Players total their gold, the production value of their mines, and add 5 points for each mayor position they hold. The wealthiest player is victorious and becomes a legend in the old west.

I’ve actually grown a bit weary of the auction mechanism, but here there are additional considerations to factor into your bidding choices. Not only must you consider the ultimate selection order, which determines the card you are likely to acquire and the money you will receive, but you also must ponder the “mayor” implications. Further, when event cards surface, the possible effect on your plans must also be considered. These multiple factors help make the auction process much more enjoyable.

Some have complained that there aren’t enough dice rolls for the “luck of the dice” to even out regarding production. I’m not a mathematician and this may well be true, but I simply don’t care. I play the odds, make my choices, and live with them. In a game that is clearly intended to be light and fairly short, I can live with the occasional run of poor or good luck. I honestly feel that my choices and actions effect my ultimate fate more than the luck of the dice.

Boomtown is a fun, atmospheric romp, wherein players must formulate a strategy, seize opportunities when they arise, play the odds, and hope for a bit of luck along the way. Sometimes your decisions are richly rewarded, while other times lady luck abandons you in favor of an opponent. Such is the life of a prospector in the old West! Fortunately, there is far less at stake in this entertaining game!

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