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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
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:
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...
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!
"Real men play board games."
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!