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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Tuesday 20 August 2019

Taming the Wild West:-Old West Empresario

Game: Old West Empresario

Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games

Designer: Stan Kordonskiy

Year: 2019

Old West Empresario is a 2-4 player tile laying game in which you play the part of the leader of a fledgling town in the Wild West. You'll use dice drafting to claim blueprints to build your town or to activate your buildings in order to reap the rewards of the infrastructure you have build. Can you be the first to fulfill the wanted posters? Can you  build the most prosperous and efficient town?

In each round, two dice per player plus one will be rolled and added to the board matching its number. Each of these boards is associated with 2 un-constructed buildings at all times. On your turn you choose one dice to take, you then use this dice to either take a blueprint of a building associated with the rolled number, or to activate all buildings in your town that match the number on the die. When you take a building blueprint you add it to your town face down next to any built building. You'll need to activate a building later that can build in order to construct it. There is one exception, the native tiles, which come pre-built and offer a way to quickly expand, at the cost of not having any lasting abilities.

If you choose to instead use the dice to activate your town then every building of that number will get to use its powers. Buildings have set abilities based on their type. Some will gain you money, while others will consume money in order to build buildings or attract new people to your town. It is tempting, then, to focus on one number so that all your buildings can activate in one fell swoop, however this will cost you when that number isn't rolled. You can always change a number on a die by one pip by paying money to the back, but that rather dampens the strength of your engine. At the end of each round every player can activate a single building based on the last leftover die, and after this the next round will begin.
At the start of the game all you have is your Townhall, it's not very powerful, but you can activate it on any number

A huge part of the game is building your town based on card's adjacency bonuses. Distilleries and taverns love to be next to each other, while churches and graveyards prefer to be on the outskirts of town, you'll get bonus points based on how well you fulfill these objectives. But you'll also be in a race to complete the wanted cards, these have certain targets for you to aim for such as having buildings with odd numbers or building a diagonal line of 4 buildings. The first player to get these gets the lions share of the points, with some for the runner up and nothing for 3rd place. Combine these with in game points scored by attracting people to your town and end game points earned from specialised buildings and you'll get your final score.

Old West Empresario combines a solid tile laying game with the charming art previously seen in Pioneer Days. The dice drafting adds some forced flexibility in your strategy that prevents you from always getting what you want and occasionally lets you block your opponents from getting to power their engine as much as they'd like. But since you can manipulate the dice a little you rarely feel completely screwed by the hands of fate. Where that can be an issue is in the tiles that appear, if there is an objective that rewards certain numbered buildings and they just aren't appearing it can feel rather hopeless. Similarly sometimes you are after on building to slot into the specific slot in your town and it's just not there. Old West Empresario is not a game where you have plan a strategy from the start, you have to remain flexible and willing to take opportunities as they come.

If you can get a few buildings of the same number you can build up impressive engines.

My favourite element of the game was the unique player powers. Usually these feel like an added bonus, but in Old West Empresario the unique player powers give you a huge bonus. But since everyone has their own personal game-changer it remains balanced. Of course you can always play as a generic character if you want everyone on a level playing field, but these characters do such a good job of throwing unique twists in the game that I'd highly recommend them! In fact overall I'd highly recommend Old West Empresario, the tile laying is fun, managing your town is simple enough to easily pick up, but complex enough to sink your teeth into and the dice drafting does a great job of adding some player interaction into an otherwise fairly solitaire game.


Old West Empresario was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £57.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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