Game Review: Deadwood 1876 from Facade Games
Facade Games has worked wonders with the first two games in its “Dark Cities” series: Salem 1692 and Tortuga 1667. Salem is a Werewolf-like game where 4-12 players accuse each other of being witches, while Tortuga lets 2-9 players pirate their side to the most treasure at game’s end. The beauty of these games is that they are simple and relatively quick, yet very thematic and full of tough decisions, resulting in a super fun time for large groups of gamers. For my review of Salem, click here.
Here we are playing Salem, no apologies:
Based on my love of the previous games in the series, I was excited when Deadwood 1876 was released a couple of weeks ago and grabbed a copy, stat. In Deadwood, 2-9 players are gunning to be at the wealthiest location in town when the game ends, so that they can participate in the Final Showdown to win all the gold for themselves. I got a chance to give it a few plays during the Thanksgiving holiday and it definitely lived up to the legacy of its predecessors. And the western theme permeates everything, from the excellent art to the game play itself.
Each player gets a hand of four cards which will be replenished as cards are played. Each card contains a gun at the top or a useful item at the bottom. On your turn you must play one card. A card can be played for either its top or bottom feature, but not both. Each player starts the game with two cards face down in front of them, representing safes which contain gold, guns, or badges. On your turn you can use a gun from your hand to try and rob a safe from another player, taking it for your own. You can also use a gun to duel a player to try and boot them off of your location or switch locations with them. The defending player will use a gun from her own hand to thwart the attack. Other players may offer one of their own guns (if their card has a holster) to assist either the attacker or the defender. There are five different guns in the game with differing levels of firepower. Each gun uses a die with probabilities reflecting that firepower. The attacker and defender roll their respective dice (re-rolling ties) until the higher rolling player wins.
Deadwood is semi cooperative. There are two or three locations where players will keep their player token (a sheriff star) throughout the game. At the end of the game all players’ safes are turned face up, and each location is scored with all players at a location adding any gold from their safes together. The players at the location with the most pooled gold advance to the Final Showdown and players at the other location(s) are immediately eliminated from the game. So, in order to have a chance to win the game, you need to end up in the location with the most gold. But there is a lot of missing information in determining where the best location to be is, as safes are kept face down until the end of the game. Information about their contents is only really known by the owner (or someone who has seen it using a specific card that allows) and though they may tell anyone what’s inside, they can also lie like dog. And they will. Because keeping your cards close to the vest allows you to hide certain guns (which have zero gold value) in one of your three safe slots to help you win the final showdown. If everybody at your location has stored guns instead of gold, you’ll all lose. So there is a fine line between teamwork and self preservation, which adds the perfect amount of tension in Deadwood. In the Final Showdown, the “winning” players will have to gunfight until only one remains, and that person is the winner. The showdown is fought pretty much the same as a regular duel, but this time all players at the winning location roll simultaneously. The lowest roller takes a wound. Two wounds knocks a player out. The last guy or gal standing wins the game.
We had a blast with Deadwood. There was a lot of western-style smack talk, hooting and hollering that ensued when dice were rolled, and enough deception to make a politician blush (yeah, I wish.) A game should last 45 minutes or less, regardless of player count. We played with anywhere from 5-8 players and it was fun at all counts. I think the game would work best with five or more players, but the rules seem to scale it so that lower player counts may be alright as well. Our group was engaged throughout, and even eliminated players enjoyed watching the Final Showdown, which is exciting and quick. With Deadwood 1876, Facade Games (once again) has put a solid game into a beautiful package. The result is great fun for all those around the table. Fun, I reckon, you shouldn’t be missing.
Thanks for reading. Keep nerding on.