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This is the Wild West! The newly settled prairie where cowboys and Indians have frequent run-ins, where vigilante justice is the only kind of justice, where bank robberies are a daily occurrence, where the riches of hidden gold draw fortune hunters from near and far, where the saloons are populated by a motley crew of card sharks, con men, and everyday cheats. In short, this is a world ruled by the laws of the frontier, and even those are made to be broken. It is here, in this pitiless land, where you must try to make your ranch the biggest, most successful spread in the whole, wild, West, and earn yourself the respect a tough hombre like yourself deserves.
In order to build your ranch (and your reputation) you must take over the largest number of ranges, round up the most herds, assemble the largest number of cowboys and amass the most money possible. To reach this goal, you can act wisely, or call upon slightly more unsavory methods... in this environment, the ends ALWAYS justify the means. Just don't attract the attention of The Law....
This is an enjoyable mixture of card games like Bohnanza and Witch Trial. The overall gameplay is easy to figure out (although there are several nuances in the rules to remember). It is a great game that involves ruthlessly selling out every one of your friends.
The scoring system in the game made it difficult to focus on who was winning at any given point. This actually made it quite nice because everyone enjoyed playing without worrying about who was in first.
As someone who plays many games, I found this to be one of the most enjoyable games I have played.
I played this game last night for the first time. I had never heard of it before but the group I was with at a recent Magic draft that never happened due to lack of participants, had it and the 5 of us decided to play.
The game took around an hour or so and was VERY enjoyable. Lots of fun learning a new card game, and entertaining. I didn't win, but had a great time. This is a game I will definately purchase for myself.
As a fan of the Old West and from a state with rodeos, I always enjoy playing a Western card game or boardgame. From previous review reading, I discovered this game was better than most. The game lived up to its advertising.
The object of the game seemed to be the accumulation of ranches with prestige points being the governing factor. The game was played with the two-player version (up to six can play) of each player controlling two different ranches.
You receive three cards at the beginning. Five cards are turned over and kept replenished by moving the previous cards down to new and lower numbers on the game board labeled from 1 to 6. Each player can spend up to six action points on any one turn. After a thorough shuffling of the cards, it became apparent too many Scrub ranges were available from the point values of 1-6. If a player cannot afford a card from the game board of six rectangular spaces, the individual can draw the rest of the action points as cards. Let's say the individual cowhand spent three action points and prefers the rest in card draw. That is a legitimate move.
Along comes the nasty part of the game, the Surveillance Difficulty Index. Once the range cards are placed for the two different ranches of each player, cowboys have to maintain the herd. Usually, I drew greenhorn cowboys and was thankful for that draw. My partner drew and bought more experienced hands and veterans to maintain his herds. It is quite amusing to see the clever drawings of 'Poor Quality Herd,' reminding one of a cow out in the desert too long and ready for the buzzards. One prefers in the game the prize winning herds. However, as I discovered, if one does not have enough cowhands, the prize winning herd cannot be placed on the range. The Surveillance Difficulty requires the player to roll a die and compare that roll to the number of cowboys and fences already placed on the table. The number of herd cards and the die roll creates the surveillance index. If the player's result of the cowboys present is greater than the surveillance difficulty index, the herds are safe for that turn. Would you believe my partner (who always rolls for me in the game rules) created four sixes and my greenhorns did not have enough saavy to maintain the herds? I kept losing herds every one of those turns? To me, that is a slight flaw of the game when the die rolls so wreck the ability to build herds.
Anyhow, the first game (two were played)proceeded to a new level with my partner and me buying sneaky trick cards to even the playing ground. If one can afford the action points on the sneaky trick, your opponent may have difficulty maintaining certain herds. By this time, my opponent had successfully acquired veteran cowhands and substantial range holdings.
Therefore, we now ventured into saloon, railroad, cattle raid, and working girls cards, to name a few. For example, for five action points you can steal a herd from your opponent. For five action points and a saloon card you can cause your opponent to lose one of his cowboys. These cards and their cleverly drawn symbolism add to the momentum of the game.
The game ended mercilessly with my opponent scoring 20 points and my measly 5. I thought more points could be scored, but my gold mine card came too late in the game. As you probably guessed, the scoring values are arrived at with the largest number of ranges, herds, cowboys, and the wealth (gold coins) of the player. With players at the mercy of die rolls and ranges available on the game board, the game lost a little luster.
Still, I would play the game again, if, for no other reason, than improving the herds and finding better ranges. My partner did comment that he thought a secret to better play would be to pay more action points in each round to acquire better cowboys to manage those herds. In my own case, I bitterly looked at a hand with two prize winning herds that had no cowboys. Again, I was reminded of that famous saying from the television production, Rawhide, Head 'Em Up. . .
The latest blue box game is a card game about the Wild West - or perhaps a Frenchman's view of it. It feels like a relative of da Vinci's Bang! card game, which I suppose it is given the subject matter.
Rather than focus on individual roles as in Bang!, Lawless shifts the attention to the generic feel of the old west.
The aim is to gain victory points, which are scored for having the most ranges (farms), cowboys, most gold and number of herds on these ranges. This sort of feels almost incidental to the game, as the game has more flavour than direction. The best feature about Lawless is that it has lots of Wild West things to do. The central feature is cowboys who are required to marshal the cow herds. Their presence helps to stop the herd dispersing, and they are not upset if there's a gunfight to take part in. All of this game is set in a deck of 117 cards.
Players are dealt a hand of three cards, and then have 6 card buying/action points on their turn. Six cards are laid out on a track, with the most expensive being 6 points to buy and the least 1 point. So you could buy the three cheapest for 6 points (1+2+3). This would leave you with no action points, as the points not used for buying can be used to play cards. Each card has it own action point cost.
After the cards have been bought, the rest slide down the track to occupy the cheapest positions and are replenished at the most expensive end. So one obvious issue is that by buying cards for yourself, you also bring the price down of the current set of cards and your neighbour will get a better price on the remaining cards.
The main actions include laying out a range, putting herds of cows on the range and then securing them with cowboys. Since this is the central theme, it deserves a more thorough assessment.
There are three types of range, herds and cowboys. The ranges differ in the number of herds they can support (from 1 to 3) and there are more cards at the lower end than at the higher. The herds also vary from 1 to 3 points and when multiplied by the number of turns a herd has spent on the range (from 1 to 4) can be sold for this amount of gold. So the top value herd can reach 12 gold after 4 turns (which seems like a long time in Lawless). The distribution of herds is weighted towards the middle type of herd (Good) so you are most likely to pick up a 2 point value herd. The cowboys also cover a 1 to 3 point scale, but this time there are very few veterans (the 3 point value cards) and many more of the other two types. The points are used in determining how secure the herds are at the beginning of a player's turn. The cowboys cover all ranges, and the player compares their dice roll modified by the positive points from all cowboys to one from another player modified by the number of herds. If the cowboy's roll matches or equals the livestock surveillance check, then no herds leave. On failure the most expensive herd leaves the range.
Then you need to consider whether to sell existing herds or retain them. The longer that you keep them, the more valuable they become, but the more surveillance tests they will need to face. And other players may spot this and play cards on you to reduce your number of cowboys, such as through the saloon, which attracts a random cowboy from each player. Alternatively the railroad may come and some vicious 18XX player may destroy one of your good looking ranges. Of course, that will cost points to acquire those cards and then play them, so you need to keep a sharp lookout for such cards being picked up. For 3 action points a sneaky player may risk getting a card from the top of the pack just to keep you in the dark.
Collecting other income comes next and players with gold mines may rake the gold in unless they use too much dynamite and destroy it. (This happened on my second game, when with a roll of 10, the mine imploded and my whole strategy went with it.) Otherwise the gold flows in with the number thrown as your earnings for that turn.
The game ends when all the gold is exhausted or there are no more cards to draw and the victory points are then totalled. This seems almost secondary to the game which has more to do with fun and flavour than adding up points. The special cards add so much variety, whether through Indian raids, the sheriff, cattle raids, card sharks and the undertaker (who cleans up when the hired gun starts the shooting). Hired guns are a great way of adding money in the pot and reducing the number of cowboys in the game. They only cost 3 action points to play and get a +4 bonus on a die roll to shoot their victim, who rolls a die and adds their own bonus. So the odds are usually in their favour unless the sheriff is around. He has to be killed first and he has a +5 bonus. Successful reductions in the population of cowboys result in a small fee being paid to the controller of the hired gun, who can use him next time as he goes back into the player's hand.
Since ranges, cow herds and cowboys only cost one action point to play, they are the bread and butter of Lawless's view of the Wild West. Sooner or later though someone will do something different and players will have to react to the situation. Usually that someone is the person who hasn't got much of a range or whose herd of cows vamoose at the earliest opportunity.
Lawless provides lots of laughs, some frustrations and many ways of enjoying the game. The cards are of a high quality, the English rules are in full colour and clearly illustrated, and the game is destined to be a fun one to begin or end your evening of games. While 2 to 6 can play, I think it is better with about 4 players as you want your turn to come around quickly and follow your plans. The time between turns can be amusing though especially if someone starts a gunfight. If your game crowd can enter into the spirit of Lawless, then go and get this game. But bear in mind the luck of the draw.