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Rattlesnake Valley is in ruin. Formerly a thriving location, the area underwent an epidemic, with the survivors abandoning the city. Little by little, the buildings collapsed, leaving only the cries of the vultures and the banging of open doors to replace the neighing of horses and the laughter of children. Nature overran the town...
Until it was discovered that the old gold mines of Rattlesnake Valley still held treasure. The lure of wealth has started to attract adventurers who are ready to risk their holdings to rebuild saloons and take advantage of those hungry for gold. Keep your revolver close at hand because duels, bank robberies, and shady poker games will all play a role in the town's revitalization.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com
Players: 2 - 6
Time: 45 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 785 grams
Language Requirements: An English translation of the rules is provided. Game components contain some foreign text, possibly requiring occasional reference to rules translation.
Average Rating: 2 in 1 review
Rattlesnake City (La Haute Roche, 2007 Sylvie Barc) held for me a lot of potential. Not only was the theme about the Wild West, something that has spawned several terrific games, but the artwork and components looked neat, and the game offered chances to fight, play poker, and more from the Old West. I was very excited about the game; and after a quick glance at the rules, I was eager to get it to the table.
But the simple truth is that Rattlesnake City was a huge disappointment to me. I was eager to play the game, but I soon realized that the game was just one gigantic mound of luck. The varied buildings had very few differences, the special cards were completely random, and - even in the advanced game, which added poker - it still was just an unnecessarily bland game attached to some poker. The problem for me most was that I could see the potential in the game; but sadly, it wasn't realized. Rattlesnake City is a simple game that yearns to be something more.
The board has six groups of seven squares - each forming a city, with one spot for a train station next to a network of railways that connect the cities. There are a few squares of broken track on the railways as well as four squares for mines on the board. Eleven prairie zones are also on the board, and the entire board is surrounded by an income track, that goes from $0 to $29,000. Players place a token on the "0" space and start with $10,000 cash. Players then take turns placing their saloon token on an empty square in one of the cities, which becomes their city. A pile of tokens is shuffled in a cloth bag; and two decks of cards, Action and Shot, are shuffled and placed next to the board. Players draw five action cards, and the game begins with the last player to place their saloon.
On a player's turn, they first draw a tile from the bag, placing it on the board. Railroad tracks must be placed on a broken spot on the railway: mines in the appropriate spot, train stations at the end of a track, ranches in a field, and most other buildings in an empty space in a town. Most buildings give the player whose saloon is closest a boost of $1000 a turn, although some buildings (like schools and churches) give no benefit. Mines also give a $2000 income boost to the player whose bank is closest; Cemeteries give a $1000 boost to a player if they are the Undertaker; and Train Stations give an additional $1000 for each other station in the rail network. Rulers are provided with the game, in case players aren't sure which saloon is closest.
After placing the tile, all players adjust their revenue tokens accordingly; and the player, whose turn it is, draws either one Action card or two Shot cards. Action cards are either a numbered card, which is associated with a specific Poker hand, or a card that allows a special action to be taken. Shot cards simply show one to three bullets on them. Players may then play as many cards as they can, each with a different effect. Some can be played in front of a player, giving a benefit or disadvantage. For example, Slippery Joe gives a player +1 shot in each combat, while the Mexican Cook causes a player to lose $1000 a turn. Players may also trade or sell cards to other players.
Players then have the option of robbing an opponent's bank and/or starting a Poker game. When robbing a bank, a player picks an opponent who has a bank; and "attacks" that player by placing a Shot card face up in front of them. The attacked player must either give up or fight back. To fight back, they must play Shot cards that have a total of at least one more bullet than the opponent. This continues to go until one player can't/won't win, and all Shot cards are discarded. If the attacker wins, they get half of the banker's money; otherwise, nothing happens.
When playing Poker, the player picks an opponent and places an amount of money on the table, challenging that player for the money. If the challenged player happens to have no poker card in their hand, they may draw the top action card; and then the match beings. Other players may join in by throwing the amount of money on the table. Each player places one card face down in front of them, which are then revealed simultaneously. The player who has the best hand (highest value) wins all the money. However, if an Action card played by a losing player has a picture of a revolver on it, that player can declare a fight, which happens in the same manner as robbing a bank. The winner of Poker (or the ensuing fight) gets all the money in the pot, and all played cards are discarded. There are some special cards, which affect Poker.
The last thing a player does on his turn is to collect their revenue, with play passing to the next player. The game continues until either the last tile is placed, or if a player reaches a certain amount of money. The player with the most money is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
- Components: I'm especially happy with the artwork of the game;
Gerard Matheiu does a nice job portraying the Wild West in a cartooney
way. The cards and board are of high quality, although the paper
money is a bit flimsy (I really wish people would stop using it!).
The rulers seem like a nice touch, but it's almost always obvious
whose saloon each building is closest to. The tiles themselves are
functional but are fairly small, and we often had to squint to see
what they were. The game is not in English, although you can download
a translation of the rules and card descriptions online. Everything
fits inside a medium-sized box with more of the great artwork.
- Rules: The seven pages of rules, which are translated on the
'net, explain the game but do so in a sometimes, disjointed way. Most
rules are only mentioned one time and are in different places, so it
was a bit before I was able to completely understand how everything
fit together. Still, once I got the game down, it was fairly easy;
people who have played Bang! before will pick up on a lot of it fairly
- Luck: I can tell you right away that my biggest problem with the
game is luck. If a player draws better tiles than their opponents (or
better special cards), they are simply going to do better. If I draw
the biggest Poker card hand and have a lot of bullets, what's to stop
me from betting all my money against an opponent? We just found that
one lucky Poker hand or gun battle can really change the face of the
game, and drawing the tiles was more frustrating than anything else.
To draw tile after tile that doesn't help you, while your opponent
builds up their town, is really quite frustrating. Then to finally
build a building, only to have an opponent dynamite it can really
raise one's temperature. Sure, I don't mind luck in a game, but here
it seems a bit overdone.
- Buildings: When initially going over the rules, this was the part
of the game that I was really excited with. Placing buildings and
having them have affects on the towns that they were in sounded like a
neat mechanic, and I thought the rule used to find proximity to the
nearest saloon was a nice touch. But in game play, it really is quite
boring. Almost all of the buildings are identical, and a player
simply puts the good ones close to the saloon and the unnecessary ones
near the opponent's. Railroad stations are tremendously difficult, as
most of them need at least four tiles to even start working; and
that's often too late in the game to matter. The only building that
offers a player a real choice is the bank. Taking a bank is fairly
lucrative but offers a real danger, as other players will want to rob
it. Many times it may be a better deal to place a bank in an
opponent's town and then rob it. If only all of the buildings offered
this kind of choice, this would dramatically improve the game, giving
it a feel to Way out West by Martin Wallace.
- Poker and Gunfights: There are advanced rules that allow players
to use a real deck of cards for the Poker matches, supplementing them
with "cheating" cards from the Action deck. This dramatically
improves this phase of the game, and indeed, the Poker and fights are
the most fun and interesting part of the game. The only problem with
them is that the stakes are high enough to completely put one player
out of the game, and therefore, not fun if you can't compete. The
dueling concept is fairly simple, but a player can simply save bullet
cards for many, many rounds, and then simply unleash on an opponent.
There are some action cards that change things slightly, but the game
is mostly straightforward, and it's usually obvious who's going to win
a duel before it starts.
- Fun Factor: I love the Wild West theme and am always glad to see
another game pick it up. Rattlesnake City tries to cram a bunch of
this theme into the game via Poker games and gunfights. But even
though the theme seems to work on the onset, the game really becomes a
drudgery to play because of the luck factor and the feeling that
everything is really the same. I wanted to see combinations of
buildings and people who offered real strategy, but instead I got a
bunch of named buildings that were all identical. Even role-playing
the character of a gunslinger from that period just didn't do it. The
Poker concept was fun, but why not just drop the game trappings and
play ordinary Poker then?
It really pains me to not recommend Rattlesnake City, because I believe with a few modifications it could have some real potential. As it is, the funny artwork and Western theme are not enough to fix the blasé feeling the game evokes. The designers tried to pour a lot of the Old West into the box, but they also forgot good game mechanics and fun.
"Real men play board games"