The Mother Lode of Sticky Gulch
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There's gold in them there hills! And it's sittin' there like persimmons in October, ripe and sweet for the pickin'. You gotta bring your smarts, 'cause you and everyone's uncle is prospectin' for the mother lode at the same time. Organize your team and choose wisely where to dig. Hire Drifters to help you out. Whoever hauls out the most gold wins!
One of the things I enjoyed most about Penguin Ultimatum and Monkeys on the Moon was the artwork in both games. So I was interested in playing The Mother Lode of Sticky Gulch, The Wild n Woolly Prospectin Game (Dogtown Games, 2003 Scott Starkey), since the game was designed by this artist Mr. Starkey. On an initial overview of the game, it seemed to be permeated with the same humor that Scott puts in his drawings, so I had high hopes for this inexpensive game.
And I was not disappointed, because Sticky Gulch (have to shorten that long name!) is a fun and short game. Its very similar to many offerings from Cheapass, except that I think it has more lasting power than most of their games. Theres a heap of luck in the game, but we still found it a lot of fun, as players seek to enhance their odds of winning.
A deck of sixteen location cards is shuffled, and the same amount as the number of players is placed on the table face up. Another deck of twenty-seven drifters is shuffled and two are given to each player (who must then choose which one of them they will begin the game with). Each player also takes eight tokens of a color, and receives $10 (both not provided with the game). A pile of neutral tokens is placed near the two decks of cards drifters and locations, and the game is ready to begin. The players roll dice to determine the starting player. The player who will go second then places one token on any location, the player who will go third places two tokens on two different locations, etc. Play then starts with the first player, and proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a turn, a player has three action points to spend. They have four different actions they can use these points on, with the first time an action occurring costing them one action point, and the second usage of the same action costing them two action points.
- Hire a Drifter: If a player chooses this action, they may take two drifters from the top of the drifter deck, choose one, and replace the other on top of the deck.
- Draw a Location Card: The player draws the top location card and places it in the middle of the table. Location cards have from one to six lodes on them, each with a letter (Lode A, etc.) and a value. (from $1 to $20) There is also six campsites on each card, numbered from 1 to 6. (Sometimes the fifth and/or sixth campsite is marked with an X.) The player who draws the location card may place one of their tokens on any one of the campsites for no action points.
- Place a Campsite: A player may place a token on any empty campsite (except Xs) on any location on the board. This only counts as one action point as long as each new campsite the player places is on a different location. A player cannot (usually) have more than 8 locations on the board.
- Prospecting Roll: A player may roll for any of the locations on the board. They roll one die, and the player whose token is on the number rolled is able to claim the next lode on that card. A neutral token is used to cover the lode up, and the value of the load is given to the player who claimed it. If a number is rolled that has no token on it, or an X, nothing happens. If the last lode on a card is claimed, the card is retired (discarded), and all players who have tokens on it receive them back.
After a player uses their action points, they MUST make one free prospecting roll on any location, after which their turn ends.
Drifter cards can be played on a players turn for no action points but cost the player a certain amount of money (specified on the card from $1 to $8). Some drifter cards can even be played on opponents turns. Drifter cards add a degree of chaos to the game, and allow players to a multiple amount of things, from stealing lodes from other players, to adjusting die rolls, to get two additional camp tokens (up to 10!), etc. Before the game begins, players decide on the length of their game. This is determined by amount of locations retired. When this number is reached, the current round is played out, and then the player with the most money wins!
Some comments on the game:
1.) Components: Well, in the tradition of many independent publishers today, Sticky Gulch does not come with all the components needed. All that is included with the game are the two decks of cards, rules, and two reference cards (very handy!). The player needs to provide tokens, a die, and money. If one goes to the website of the game, www.dogtowngames.com, they can download both money and tokens, but I found that to be unnecessary. For one thing, money can be kept track of on a separate sheet of paper, which saves a lot of hassle. However, if youre one of the types who actually likes the feeling of crisp bills in your hand, this may not be the best route for you. For tokens, I found that glass tokens, or even better the small cubes that are included in many other games (El Grande, Ursuppe, Andromeda, etc.) worked very well. The die, of course, is very easily found. Im not sure that Im a big fan of providing my own components which is why I dont own every Cheapass game; but for this game, it was fun enough that I dont mind the extra work and the price certainly justifies what you get. The cards, by the way, are excellent quality, and have hilarious artwork on them.
2.) Rules: The rules are very easy and simplistic, and the game can be taught and learned rather quickly. The rules included with the game are small, but have some diagrams and illustrations. The rules are also included on the website, along with some alternate rules (theres a space for errata, but nothing there but I havent had any questions about the game, so maybe theres no need). The variants arent that big of a deal but we added one of our own, one that works well. We played that a maximum of six locations could be on the table at any time. This encouraged more usage of the locations on the table, and made the game run smoother, in our opinion.
3.) Drifters: The drifters added a lot to the game. Each drifter had a strange name and title, like Lucky Ziggy, Feral, Back-woods Prospector, with some flavor text and funny pictures. I was fairly impressed at how the action that the card gave its user matched the theme of the drifter on the card. Very few of the drifters were very powerful, and those that were cost quite a bit of money to play, so that while we found them extremely useful, we did not find them game-breaking. I will say that I feel that the fun of the game does consist of the drifters, and without them the game would be sorely lacking.
4.) Locations and Luck: If I have a campsite on 1,2,3,4, and 5, and Joe has a campsite on 6 the odds are greatly in my favor that Im going to get the next lode. Yet still I can roll a six, which some people find greatly annoying. Yes, the luck factor is high in this game, but usually the odds will work in your favor. This luck will turn some off from the game, but the game is NOT a total luckfest. There is some strategy on where one places their campsites, which campsite they will prospect on, what drifter to play and when, etc. Besides, its a moment of triumph and joy for Joe when that 6 is rolled!
5.) Theme and Fun Factor: The theme of this game is good mining for gold and works with the game greatly. It certainly wasnt pasted on a good mechanic, but the good mechanic is still there. The addition of the drifter cards further this theme, and both of them cause everybody to have a good time. Just like Bang!, the game is enhanced by threats, drawls, and other playacting, and if players take the game very lightly, everybody will have a good time.
Ive been accused of not liking meaty games, which isnt true I rather enjoy them. However, Im still a huge fan of light, fun games. I really enjoy games that the whole family can play and have a lot of fun doing so. I really enjoy games that I can introduce to your average guy off the street, and for them to enjoy and have a lot of fun. Add inexepensiveness and a funny theme, and you have Sticky Gulch! I highly recommend this game to anybody who needs a fun, short (games take about 15-30 minutes), Western themed filler!
This game is a lot of fun. Easy to learn because it's simple in concept. Play is well balanced. Games are pretty quick - usually about 30 minutes or so. Cards are good quality with funny artwork. The feel of the game is excellent considering the simple format.
You can go to the company website and download helpful stuff like money and tokens for free - a nice touch.
This is a great game value. Pick it up.
Deal several Mine Cards faceup. Mines show four to six numbered spaces, and one to six payouts, from $1 to $20. Start with $10, one Drifter Card, and eight tokens (not included) in your color.
Spend three Action Points each turn to: reveal more Mines; place tokens on vacant Mine spaces; select one Mine and roll a die, after which the token occupying the number rolled wins the next payout; or draw a Drifter. Discard Drifters by paying their costs ($1 to $8) to unleash their often nasty actions, such as reducing competitors' payouts or removing their tokens.
Discard a Mine, and return tokens to owners when its payouts are exhausted. Most money wins after seven Mines have disappeared.
Go West, young man, if you want to experience this exciting prospect from another promising first-time designer!