Gold West (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: J. Alex Kevern
  • Artist: Adam P. McIver
  • Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times Played: 4

Howdy Prospector, welcome to the Gold West. Do you think you have what it takes to thrive and build the ultimate prospecting empire?

In Gold West two to four players compete to build the biggest and best mining empire, fighting over the resources of the new Western Frontier. You have to carefully use those resources or they may go to waste, thorough planning is a must.

As with a lot of Tasty Minstrel Games’ titles Gold West has a really nice modular, puzzle piece board. This is one of my favorite ways to make boards, no warping, no folding. It lays out in a really nice looking, overhead map style where you can clearly see the differences of all the terrains. Each puzzle piece for the board has a mixture of four different terrain spots on it, Forrest, Gold, Silver and Copper and each of those spots has a random tile of that terrain placed on it, each terrain token will have on one side of it, a mix of two to three resources. Also on the board are a couple spots that we’ll talk about a bit later, the Boomtown and the Shipping Track.

Each player will receive a player board that houses their twelve camp pieces and twelve influence tokens. The player board will also be used to keep track of your resources, on the Supply Track. Players will also keep track of the influence that they have over each of the terrain types for end game scoring as well on their player boards.

Along the bottom of these player board a player’s turn is spelled out for them in three easy steps:

  • Activate Supply Track
  • Use Metals
  • Build or Loot

The Supply Track on the left hand side of your board is made up of four compartments. This is where you store your resources as you gather them. Each player gets a starting setup tile with their starting resources listed on it and where they go on the track, but after that, as you acquire resources, you place them into one of the bins and then score victory points based on which bin that is, either zero, one, two or three points. What does it mean to “Activate Supply Track”? While the resources are in the bins, they are not available to use, so when you activate you pick up one bin and all the resources in it and move them upward as many spaces as possible, leaving one resource in each space as you pass. The resources that end up above your player board are available to be used this turn, and they must be used this turn or they go to waste. Kind of a neat little Mancala mechanism there to complicate your resource usage planning.

After you have completed the first step of your turn, you now may use any metals that you have available to be used. How does one use the metals? Remember those two spots on the board mentioned a bit earlier, Boomtown and Shipping Track? This is where they come into action, plus the eight random investment cards that are randomly chosen at the start of the game. When you use metals, you can ship any number of them and move your stagecoach along the appropriate Shipping Track, scoring any of the accrued bonus points along the way. You may also fulfill an investment card. The Investments are public goals that any player can claim on their turn, in order to claim the Investment Card, simply discard the appropriate resources and take the card, scoring any victory points and taking any bonus special abilities allowed by the card. A player may claim only one Investment Card per round. Last thing a player can do with metals is to claim an office in Boomtown. The Boomtown offices are variable, there are twelve tiles in the box and you only use four per game along with a single four victory point tile. The five tiles are placed in the three by three Boomtown grid. In order to activate a Boomtown office the player will need two metals. The three different metals are located above the three by three board and along the side. So you choose one metal along the top and one along the side that you have and you place an influence disc where the two metals intersect, gaining that benefit at the end of the game.

The final step of a turn is to Build or Loot. You must do one of these actions. If you have either a wood or stone available you may build a camp. To place your camp, you choose a revealed Mining Token and replace it with one of your camps. The player will receive the resources on the Mining Token and place them on your Supply Track, you then take the Mining Token face down on the proper Influence Track to track your influence. If you have both a wood and a stone the player may build a Settlement. Everything works the same for the settlement except that you also place an influence token down underneath the camp and when you place the Mining Token for Influence you skip one space when placing it so it shows two influence in that terrain type. Lastly, if you have neither wood nor stone you have to loot. You take a campsite from your player board and place it in the Wanted section of the board, immediately lose one victory point and then the player may take a revealed Mining Token from the board and receive the resources, but you discard the token from the game instead of placing it on your Influence Track. At the end of the game, the player with the most camps in the Wanted section loses 1 point for every camp they have in there and the second most loses one point for every two.

Play goes just as described above for thirteen rounds, in the final round no one will have the ability to build as all of their camps will be in the game already, either on the mining board or in the wanted area. Once the final round is over, end game scoring takes place. Each player scores two points for every camp or settlement in their largest contiguous grouping on the map. Players score their Boomtown Offices and take any Looting penalties from the Wanted Board and then Terrain bonuses are given for majorities. Player with the most Victory Points wins the game.

In a nutshell, that’s a game of Gold West. There are minor things that we didn’t talk about, some bonus points, but literally the game can be taught in five minutes or less. But just because it can be taught fairly quickly and it plays relatively quick as well, don’t let that belie the game play, which is fairly tight and competitive.

Component wise, Tasty Minstrel has knocked it out of the park, the game looks fantastic, the cardboard is nice an thick and heavy duty and the wooden pieces are great, my only complaint would be the really cool Stagecoaches that really don’t fit all that well on the Shipping Track if you are playing with three or four players, you end up having to stack them and move them around to make them fit, but otherwise Gold West is a knockout.  Oh, and I can’t stress this enough, I love the puzzle piece board, no need for the Unabridged Dictionary to flatten the board before playing or even riskily bending it backwards.

You start the game knowing the resources on only twelve of the Terrain/Mining tiles, but as people make more camps and mine the resources, you reveal everything in the surrounding area so the available choices continue to get bigger as the game progresses.  That ever expanding board is a lot of fun and makes those decisions on where to build increasingly more meaningful.

Planning how to properly use your Supply Track is where most of the complexity lies, and even that is not all that complex, just a bit of a different way of thinking. I really enjoy using that Mancala mechanism to move my goods up the conveyor belt in the proper order to maximize every turn, because you really do need to maximize every action in a game that only allows for thirteen turns. While the initial reaction is to just throw everything in bin one so you have access to those materials every turn, you can’t cheat yourself that way, you need to build up resources in different bins in order to properly fill those Investment cards and you need those points you would cost yourself doing that. I will say, there are multiple ways to score points so you don’t necessarily always need to concentrate so hard on doing one thing in particular, you can do a lot of different things and still do really well and be competitive.

This one gets a thumbs up from me, it’s not going to blow the minds of any of your regular gaming group I don’t think, but I do think it’s entertaining and “thinky” enough that it’s a good 1 hour game for almost anyone. Just keep in mind, that where this one is really going to shine is for those people tackling the Ticket to Ride type games and maybe ready to move on to something just a bit more dramatic, a bit more complex. Gold West is not a Gateway Game, the multitudes of ways to score really can hinder teaching new players, and the supply track mechanism takes a bit to wrap your mind around, but I think it’s a great step up in complexity from those type of games for players who want to take that next step without too much investment.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers:

Patrick Brennan: A nice mid-weight Euro with a few games in it. I really like the mini-Mancala mechanism that forces players to choose between allocating the resources you gather onto “quick” spots for no points now but quick benefit in the various VP races, or onto “long term” spots which offer the tradeoff of getting extra points now and bigger turns later. This tempted me to up the rating, but in the end I suspect that even though this decision making is interesting throughout your 10 turns, each playing may end up feeling a bit same-y given the game is a relatively themeless accumulation and spend of resources, which is of course a heavily traveled path.

Dale Y.: Gold West exceeded my expectations.  The game is very engaging, and the intertwining mechanisms have you constantly watching the game unfold so that you can plan your next move.  The resource track is a nice twist, using a somewhat familiar Mancala system, and I’ll admit that it took me the better part of two games to figure out how to position my resources correctly to get them out in the right time/resource combination.  You’re always having to balance out needing resources on a current turn (possibly just to avoid having to Loot) with having a glut of resources on a later turn in order to buy investment cards, etc.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

  • I love it.
  • I like it. Brandon, Patrick Brennan, James Nathan, Dale Y.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…
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