Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Monday, 22 January 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Boomtown Bandits

Game: Boomtown Bandits

Publisher: Breaking Games

Designer: Issac Epp

Year: 2015


You're all bandits trying to rob this boomtown blind! On your side you have two sharp shooters but also  coward, or 'the liability' as you call him. Take down the bank, train, stagecoach, and even the brothel in your quest for the best loot. Be careful though, there are plenty of rival gangs in this town, lurking in the same lucrative spots, with their pistols at the ready.

Boomtown Bandits is a quick game for 2-5 players in which you are rolling dice in consecutive shoot outs to fight over loot cards at different wild west locations. It relies on some bluffing as you secretly asign shooters or the coward to different locations, but overall it's a fast paced real time dice rolling game.



Gameplay

To set up Boomtown Bandits you lay out a number of locations equal to the number of players +1 and then give each player their dice and bandit tokens. A first player is selected via the chunky plastic bottle being spun, this player chooses one of the locations to block off for the round. Starting with the first player each player will place one of their 3 bandit tokens face down on one of the locations, continuing until all bandit tokens are placed. At this point pla


yers will flip over their bandits to reveal which bandits have been placed where.

Any location where you are the only player you will get to immediately take one of the loot cards, not only is this worth money (end game points), but most loot cards have a special power that you can use on future rounds. However if another player has placed a bandit token in the same location as you then you have to have a gunfight. Gunfights are simple roll offs, you get 1 die per bandit in the location and roll them, if you don't roll a face then you pick up your dice and reroll. If you roll a face on the dice then you shout hit and everyone ceases rolling. Any bullets rolled allow you to kill off an opponents bandit, bringing you one step closer to the loot. However when using your cowardly bandit you can roll a run-away action, meaning that your token leaves the gunfight, and the loot, in his dust as he flees the scene. Once only one player has bandits still standing they get to take the loot for themselves.

Each location has it's own unique loot, some are best for large number of points, while other have more powerful special abilities. Once any one location is emptied of loot the game will end, at which point players count up money, the player with the most wins.

A 2-player game of Boomtown Bandits, there are three locations available, but each turn the sheriff guards one, so you won't have any chance to loot from there.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Boomtown Bandits is not in any stretch of the imagination a game designed for two. If you do try to play this way then you will soon find out that every round is simple a pair of roll offs, sure the location might change, and some rounds it will be a pair of 2v1 rolls, while others it's a 1v1 and a 2v2, but when a game only really has 2 possible situations then you have to question how much of a game it even is. The dice-based combat is functional, but very prone to luck swings, there is some "skill" in being able to roll quickly, but victory is ultimately down to random chance. On top of the randomness of the dice, the value and powers from loot seem to be wildly variable, some treasure cards have a high value and a power which will almost guarantee that you win another loot in a future round. Others have a low value and a power that achieves little to nothing.

With a larger player count there becomes a larger play area to access at any one time. As soon as you reach 4 or more players each player cannot be in every active location even if they wanted to. At this point assigning 2 bandits to one location becomes an expensive gamble compared to spreading out your risk and hoping you get lucky. Many of the loot powers are clearly designed for these higher player counts, such as relocating an enemy bandit. In a two player game all this power would do is make one of your fights easier at the cost of making 1 harder, in a 3+ player game then you could easily be giving yourself a free piece of loot while simultaneously causing your opponents to fight somewhere else.

So, yes, Boomtown Bandits is not a good two player game, they never should have claimed it played two player, we all know by now that I get very annoyed when games advertise being two player games but blatantly aren't. But even with more players Boomtown Bandits is little more than an excuse to throw dice around. A simple game of who can roll a 5 or 6 first, occasionally interspersed with who can roll a 6 first, but not roll a 1. If that sounds like a fun time for you then go right ahead, there are so many better filler games available, many of which without the disadvantage of being in a huge box.

In addition to loot cards and their powers, players can ear end game points for looting every location, or for being the best looter at each location.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

It was obvious from the moment we looked at this game that it wasn't going to excel with two players, however, we're reviewing it from that point of view since you shouldn't write it on the box if it just doesn't really work for that player count! The game does scale so that you play with more locations with more players, so I imagine that the scale of the tug of war over each location is similar - it's either 1 dice vs. 1 dice or one dice vs. two dice and that's why luck is just too big a factor in this game. Rolling one dice is just luck - you don't have any statistics on your side.

Some of the cards that you obtain at different locations allow you to take actions that don't mitigate the luck, but often mitigate the need to roll the dice all together eg. make your opponent run away. However, you need some luck in the early fights to start building up a collection of cards to play with.

Rolling dice can be fun. Rolling dice and always rolling a blank face is not fun. With more players round the table I still don't think the game will be more fun, but perhaps just having more people round the table trash talking would make the experience a bit more entertaining. It's a shame that Boomtown Bandits does not live up the components. It's a good box insert with chunky custom dice, although the sheriff badge and first player whisky bottle are pretty low quality plastic toys. Personally, I will never be playing this game.

A gunfight at the stagecoach. The red player has rolled a bullet and may remove one of the yellow tokens, to add to the yellow players misery their coward has decided to run away!

The Good
  • Card effects allow you some manipulation of your luck.
  • Boomtown Bandits is a game that serves the tricky 5 player count, but only as a quick, light option.

The Bad
  • There is a bit of a runaway leader issue. The player who does best in the early rounds where it is simply a game of who rolls the 'hit' icon on a dice, gets cards with abilities that then make it easier to win future shoot outs.
  • Your bluffing doesn't seem to have a significant enough impact on the game.

The Verdict
4/10 Boomtown Bandits is certainly not a two-player game, even though it says so on the box. Nevertheless, even with more players, it's just a series of 'roll-offs' that might be 20 miuntes of fun with 5 players round the table, but ultimately there are just better 20 minute filler games.


Boomtown Bandits was a review copy provided to the Board Game Exposure reviewer collective.

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