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Lords of the Sierra Madre
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Weight: 700 grams (estimated)
Average Rating: 2 in 1 review
Lords of the Sierra Madre is set in the American Southwest and Northern Mexico in the year 1898 through the Mexican Revolution. Briefly, each player takes the role of a Mexican or American power-broker of time. Players can invest in mines, hospitals, newspapers, stores, casinos, smelters, banks, railroads, spend money to influence polititians, the military, police, Indian bandits, robbers, etc. Players can run for Governor of a Mexican or American territory, run for President of Mexico or the U.S. or have a person they control run for such an office.
Each turn is a quarter of a year, each quarter there is one card turned over. First, the players receive the amount of gold pictured on the card.
Secondly, players receive money for any enterprises they have invested in that are up and running. Interestingly, the profits are at the location of the enterprise until they can be transported to the owner in the movement rounds. This gives bandits a chance to steal the profits, or Mexican troops can tax the profits if they can intercept it. Bandits can steal a small amount hoping for the owner to keep the business open and producing or, they can steal a large amount, in which case the owner may shut down a mine or store. It is therefore wise to send money with an armed escort that you control. If a bandit steals money he keeps it with him until it can be transported to the controling player. Therefore, bandits can use their cash on hand to buy polititians, guns, etc.
Thirdly, each player pays to develope each card that is not mature (I expain this in the next paragraph).
Fourth, the players bid on the overturned card, unless it is an event. The card may be any of the items I mentioned in the first paragraph, among other things. The highest bidder then pays for the card (players may cooperate on a bid to split the profits and costs, or whatever agreement they reach). That card generally can't be used right away, it must be matured. This means that the controlling player must spend money each quarter (2 quarters for a plantation and 8 quarters for a mine, for example) to develope the property. Investing in mines is a crap-shoot. After a mine has been developed the dice are rolled to determine what it produces(gold, copper, silver, or nothing) and how well it produces. Investing in police or troops is risky also, if another player is elected governor of a territory they gain control of the units in the territory. A smelter's profits are based on how many mines are connected by rail.
Fifth, the common cards are auctioned. These include police, troops, rifles, railroads, etc.
Sixth, cards that have just matured are placed with other operating properties, this includes common cards that don't need to mature.
Seventh, M cards are played. M cards include such things as assasinations and mine strikes. Mexican courts may be influenced to wrest away control of other players enterprises, etc.
Eighth, units can finally move, conduct combat, arrest a bandit, raid a mine, etc.
Lastly, when all players agree that movement is over, burned cities and bridges may be rebuilt, players may pay to refurbish depleted units, troops are returned to their home fort etc.
Laissez-Faire is a big factor of the game. Players are free to buy and trade mature and inmature businesses and polititians as they want. Players can cooperate, or stab each other in the back freely. The winner is the person with the most money at the end of the game. The game ends when the bank runs out of money, or the Mexican revolution occurs. Some event cards (such as the stock market crash) have a red fist on them, these are placed to the side, after the year 1907 the dice are rolled each turn. If the total number of fist cards added to the die roll is greater than 13 revolution occurs.
This is a very short run-down of the rules, for an overview only. The rule book is 20+ pages long. The rules are very complex (yes, I am an experienced gamer), and the rulebook is not put together well, making the game more difficult yet.
The game does not play smoothly, rules are often vague or contradictory. Often play is suspended to determine the legality of some move for several minutes.
The game-board is not a board. It is a very large sheet of paper depicting a map of the region. This low quality board is surprising because the cards and other game components are of high quality. The paper game-board gets bumped and units displaced way too easily. Additionally, all the symbols on the map (jails, bridges, forts, etc.) are often way to hard to find because they are crowded into small city areas. Each player also gets a sheet to keep track of his enteprises and units. Between the large board and the large player sheets you need a lot of room to play this game.
The developer of this game was very ambitious. This game has a lot of thought put into it and could be a great game. He needed more play testing before production, and a few (quite a few) rules revisions. He really needed an editor to rewrite the rule book (this is the biggest weakness of the game). A second edition of this game could easily be 5 stars.