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Coming the Week of January 18th (17 Jan 2020)

First Impressions of Return to Dark Tower.
Reviews of Clank!, On the Underground, Cover Your Kingdom, and Arkham Horror LCG: Circle Undone Core Box.
It Came from the Tabletop's take on Sanctum.
Part 3 of The Others.
And more TBA

I'm your Huckleberry: A Western Legends Board Game Review

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11 Dec 2019 00:01 #305001 by WadeMonnig
At first blush, it looks like the role of the...

 

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” The old west looks like an infinite expanse until you have a lawman hot on your tail, then it becomes a small world with no place to hide. And like the old west, Western Legends is a game of perspective. It is a pick-up and deliver game...where you don't have to pick-up and deliver. It is also a game of outlaws where you don't have to break the law. It is a game of bringing someone to justice...until it's not convenient to do so. At it's heart it is an adventure game, one that allows you to (mostly) do what you want, when you want while trying to become the most legendary character in the old west. And if you do that by becoming filthy rich prospecting or you climb to the top on a pile of bodies of the “just not quite quick enough” foes, so be it.

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11 Dec 2019 09:44 - 11 Dec 2019 09:45 #305002 by Gary Sax
This is one of *the* games that has such a tremendous difference between how much people on TWBG like it and talk about it and how much it is liked and discussed elsewhere on the internet---this review being another positive TWBG voice on it.
Last edit: 11 Dec 2019 09:45 by Gary Sax.
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11 Dec 2019 11:05 #305011 by Jackwraith

Gary Sax wrote: This is one of *the* games that has such a tremendous difference between how much people on TWBG like it and talk about it and how much it is liked and discussed elsewhere on the internet---this review being another positive TWBG voice on it.


Is it taking criticism? I noticed on BGG that it's still ranked pretty highly overall and most of the complaints are aimed at Kolossal's production problems (art and iconography changes/errors between printings, etc.) As I mentioned to Wade in the Playing thread, I liked my first play but wasn't blown away by it, mostly because it seems like a Western Merchants and Marauders. There's nothing wrong with that. I just don't feel driven to play again ASAP because I feel like I've played that game a few dozen times by now.
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11 Dec 2019 11:07 #305012 by Gary Sax
Not at all. The intensity of the love for it on aggregate is much higher here is all I'm saying. I read your comments too, I recognize it's not universal.
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11 Dec 2019 11:48 #305014 by Jackwraith
OK. I was asking because I was genuinely unaware. I thought it had been highly regarded pretty much everywhere. It's kinda rare for something to be hailed here more loudly than elsewhere. It's usually the converse (see: Wingspan.)

Thinking about it, I guess one of the things that bugs me is that there doesn't seem to be anything that you're compelled to do because there's so much to do that all of it, collectively, doesn't seem important. Take cattle wrangling. It doesn't earn you much in the way of points or currency... but just about as much as everything else you could do. On the one hand, that's great for variety and just enjoying what you're doing. OTOH, it seems to sap the urgency from the game. In M&M, for example, there's tension because your moves are so limited. But the payoff when you finally complete your task is pretty huge. You feel a sense of accomplishment because you took the risk and now here's your reward. Most of the rewards in Legends seem smaller, so the feeling of success isn't nearly as great. It's also because the risk seems smaller, so the energy in the game, in general, seems less. (with the obvious caveat that I've had all of one (1) play of Legends.) It didn't seem like I was moving toward any kind of exciting turn. I was just accumulating points doing... stuff. It was generally entertaining stuff, but still just stuff. I didn't see any turns that even approached the Doc Holliday moment that Wade described.

The biggest contrast I noted between what I saw and what Wade mentions are those story cards. I get that they're present to inject some variety in the game (IIRC, you use 3 of the 5 for each character) but variety for its sake is different than variety that serves a purpose. I played Bloody Knife and one of my goals was to wrangle cattle. Why? Bloody Knife was an Arikara scout for the US Army who hated the Sioux. Having a goal of wrangling cattle serves about as much purpose as Wade's cited "Finish your turn in a space outside of town." Why? What does that mean to that character, that story, or that player? I guess that Bloody Knife's special ability- cross mesas in exchange for taking a wound -is useful when it comes to finishing that cattle goal, since you can get to the train faster from the ranch. But you can also get there faster by obtaining a pretty easily acquired horse of some kind and it still doesn't say anything about why a personal goal of Bloody Knife would have anything to do with cattle. It's just a casual reason to do more stuff. It's the equivalent of "Finish your turn in a space outside of town." Why? Because.
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11 Dec 2019 12:13 #305016 by charlest
I don't agree that there's a lack of tension. The tension arises because it's a race. As Legendary Points accumulate there's a definite sense of pressure. If you're behind you get desperate and perhaps even more likely to break the law - which is fitting.

Ultimately the game is a very neat clash of efficiency of actions with sandbox adventure narrative.
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11 Dec 2019 12:26 #305018 by ubarose
I agree, the personal story cards are a bit lame. They seem to be the same for everyone, and there is nothing particularly personal about them. The Ante Up expansion has some other things that give you those legendary tokens. I have no idea if this is true, but I feel like the legendary tokens were in the works from day one (the spaces for them are on the original player mats), and the personal story cards were put in as balance, so if a player couldn't snag one of the big payouts in Ante Up that provided a token, they weren't out of the running score wise in the game.

I also agree that you are not compelled to do anything in particular in WL. You really need to assess your character's strengths and choose a path. For the big payouts you have to gear up and specialize. Due to the fact that you can't ditch items once purchased, and you are limited as to how many items you can hold, you need to choose wisely. It's difficult to switch from prospecting for gold to wrangling cattle if your slots are filled up with a map and a mule.
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11 Dec 2019 12:29 #305019 by ubarose

charlest wrote: I don't agree that there's a lack of tension. The tension arises because it's a race. As Legendary Points accumulate there's a definite sense of pressure. If you're behind you get desperate and perhaps even more likely to break the law - which is fitting.

Ultimately the game is a very neat clash of efficiency of actions with sandbox adventure narrative.


LOL. I've seen this happen so many times. You get too far behind, and you're like, "Screw it, I'm robbing the train."
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11 Dec 2019 16:49 #305028 by Jackwraith

charlest wrote: I don't agree that there's a lack of tension. The tension arises because it's a race. As Legendary Points accumulate there's a definite sense of pressure. If you're behind you get desperate and perhaps even more likely to break the law - which is fitting.

Ultimately the game is a very neat clash of efficiency of actions with sandbox adventure narrative.


I guess so. My single play was more a combination of just "doing stuff" than anything else. I started out near one of the mines, so I went in and mined. I did well and then went straight to the bank to cash in and bought a gun and the fastest horse. I ended up upgrading both and dumping money on other stuff(!) that wasn't important, as much as that I just wanted to dump the cash so I wouldn't be a target and so I would gain the LP for earning and spending it. This was another contrast between WL and M&M. In the latter, there's a basic tension between spending and saving. You earn VP on the Caribbean for stashing your loot. But you really want to spend it on ship upgrades and rumors. In WL, you earn points for spending money on stuff that you may not even want and might never use. There's no decision to be made there. It's not the basic life choice of spending or saving. You just spend because that gets you closer to winning. If that means that WL was intended to be faster-paced, so you're not spending turns going all the way across the sea to stash your loot, where it does you no other good but getting you points at the end, I can see that. It just takes away from what is often a crucial choice in M&M (and many other games.)

After being equipped with the best stuff money could buy (I, too, ran right up against that $120 limit rule, which does seem completely arbitrary. Why that amount? Why not $150, given human predilection to centenary and half-centenary numbers? Why have a money limit at all?), I started out on my story cards, hoping to pull enough points from the bag to catch up to the roving lawmen. In the process, I ended up "Get[ting] into a fight outside of town", which was, of course, with bandits, so I ended up moving up the lawman track incidentally and gaining on the leaders. I did the cattle wrangling thing but, like I said in the other thread, the bonuses for advancing on the law track were both so easy and so large that there was no hope of catching up.

One thing I did really like was the card play and how everyone could participate in town if someone started a poker game. I won a couple hands just by being in town (and, uh, understanding poker a bit better than most people at the table...) That decision between using cards for fights or poker or saving them for their abilities is one of those basic choices that I'm missing from the money side of it.
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11 Dec 2019 18:07 - 11 Dec 2019 18:16 #305032 by ubarose
You "stash" your loot by buying points at the saloon. Traveling to the Saloon maxed out on money makes you a mark for the outlaws. So you have both the efficiency puzzle of maxing out your $$ and not wasting actions getting to the Saloon, and the threat of being robbed on your way there.

I agree that most of the tension in the game comes from how to use your cards rather than how to use your money. Once you gear up, money is relatively unimportant other than to make that push over to the Saloon to buy points.
Last edit: 11 Dec 2019 18:16 by ubarose.
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11 Dec 2019 21:18 #305034 by WadeMonnig
I assume the $120 Limit is a artificial way to stop you from buying too much LP with one action (throwing an epic party/buying LP). We didn't even realize this rule our first few plays and, if I recall, one of the Ante up expansion characters has a "power" that lets you carry more than $120. We've considered just ignoring that rule in our plays but I'm not sure if that would unbalance the game. The risk of carrying that much cash definitely makes you a target and it works well with the Gold Nugget Limit. I'm always the guy at the table who worries about balance and such and everyone else seems to be in the "Free Parking" camp of "Let's just see what happens!"
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12 Dec 2019 00:37 #305040 by Jackwraith
I'm sympathetic to both viewpoints. Sometimes you just ignore rules because it's more fun to play the other way. No one actually plays Wiz-War without using Big Book of Spells, right? It's not a variant. It's the game! Chaos! And, certainly, I get that the number is probably based on playtesting to certain limits and you're probably exactly right that the limit prevents people from just rolling into the store and finishing the game, Monty Haul-style. It is kind of funny how it contrasts (again) with M&M, though, since the whole point is to win with a flourish when you pick up your chest and the 50 Gs comes spilling out.
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12 Dec 2019 08:49 #305046 by charlest
The difference is money comes much easier in WL. I think the real reason is to keep things more dynamic. Since money caps, it pushes you towards the general store and saloon. This creates movement and reaction.

If you didn't have a cap you could basically gamble until you had enough money to win. It would create degenerative strategies.
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