- Designer: Corey Koneiczka
- Publisher: Unexpected Games
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 12+
- Time 60-90 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Asmodee NA (distributor)
- Amazon affiliate link – https://amzn.to/3F8Tj9W
Well, thus far in its short existence, Unexpected Games has provided the gaming public with games that are well…. unexpected. Their first game was The Initiative, and this game was hailed as a breath of fresh air to the co-op puzzle solving genre. Thinking about what to do as a follow-up, as stated in a designer diary, “Not only did I need a good game, I needed something unexpected. One of our studio’s guiding principles is to create new experiences that do not supplant games that already exist, but offer something fresh and exciting. For our second title, it was essential that the game provided a different experience than The Initiative. I worried that releasing another cooperative puzzle-solving game as our sophomore effort would typecast the studio into making “only those types of games”. I had always wanted to do a game with a courtroom theme, so I took some time to explore this idea.” And, the result is Voices in My Head – which we reviewed earlier this year.
The next game to come from the design house is 3000 Scoundrels. In this game, players assume the roles of rival leaders attempting to steal precious technology left behind by the Traveler. “The Traveler brought much change to our small frontier town in the last five years. He showed us marvels beyond imagination and taught us how to use his strange machines. Now that the Traveler has vanished, a storm is coming. Who will control the destiny of the American Frontier?”
By overlaying clear cards, you create unique scoundrels and use them to outsmart your foes. In short, hire scoundrels to build powerful combos, steal technology, and outsmart your foes. Each leader has a unique perspective and motivation in the conflict of Graystone Gulch. Are you driven by money, fame, or the deep-seated desire to improve the world? So, you are trying to lead your faction to recover the most futuristic Tech in this Old West setting so that you can control the fate of this alternate American Wild West universe… (See, I told you it was going to be unexpected)
Each player chooses a leader, takes the sheet for it – as well as the marks, henchmen and poker cards matching the leader’s suit (0, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). The deck of poker cards is shuffled and 4 cards are drawn into the player’s hand. The Job and trait decks are constructed. Job cards are clear plastic, and they start in a colored card sleeve. Trait cards are later slid into this card sleeve to make a composite card, and this combination of job+trait is a scoundrel. The top 3 scoundrels are created and placed into the Saloon. Safe cards are shuffled and placed randomly on matching colored spaces on the game board.
The base game is played over 2 days. In each day, players will each get 4 turns. In a turn, a player will go through 3 phases: Plan, Use Abilities, Hire a Scoundrel/Use the Sheriff’s Office.
In the Planning phase, the player chooses any poker card from his hand and places it face down in any open slot under his leader sheet (slots are numbered A(1) to 6). Ideally, you would like the card to match the number of the slot; but there is no obligation for the cards to match. You’ll have to bluff at some point in the game. For instance, the 0 card in your deck has no matching slot; so each time you play it, you must bluff.
As you are playing your cards, your opponents decide if you are bluffing. They can place Henchmen tokens on any cards of yours that they think are bluffs. They can play this at any point on your turn. Any played henchmen remain on the card until the end of the day.
In the Ability phase, use any scoundrel and leader abilities that match the slot that you just played. The leader has abilities on the board for A,2,3,4,5. Scoundrels have abilities on their cards, with icons telling you when they are triggered. You can choose the order that you wish to perform your allotted actions in, but each ability can only be done once per turn. You must fully resolve an action before starting the next one.
In the third step, you can hire a scoundrel – taking one of the three available in the saloon and paying the cost seen on the right side of the card. Add this Scoundrel to your player sheet on one of the five spaces; at this time, you can freely re-organize your scoundrels on your sheet. Otherwise, they are fixed in place. Then, shift all the scoundrels in the saloon to the right, create a new scoundrel and place it in the leftmost space in the Saloon.
If you choose not to hire a scoundrel, you can use the Sheriff’s Office to gain $2, to free your henchmen from jail, or (if it is the final day of the game), pay $12 to bribe the Sheriff to let you steal any safe.
Let me talk about safes for a bit – these are the main ways to gain tech for the end game scoring. There are a number of actions that let you scout safes. If you scout a safe, pick up a safe card and look at it. You then MUST place one of your mark tokens on it (values from 2 to 7). At the end of the game, any marks whose number matches the value of the safe will be worth an additional 1 tech. But, of course, you might want to bluff with your mark to either entice or discourage others from wanting it. You are always allowed to look at a safe which you have marked. When you use an action to steal a safe, you can generally take any safe from any location. You are limited to no more safes than the number of days in the game.
Then, the next player takes their turn, going through the same 3 steps. When all players have taken four turns, the day is over. Now, all bluffs are called. Any cards with Henchmen on them are revealed – each player who successfully called a bluff gains one reputation and gets their Henchman back. Each bluffing player who was caught loses 1 reputation for each of their cards which was correctly suspected. If a Henchman wrongly accused a card, that henchman is placed in jail.
Players then pick up all their cards from this turn, shuffle them, and place them on the bottom of their deck. Players then draw cards from this new deck until there are 4 cards in hand. Then, play another day. The player with the highest reputation at this point gets to decide who takes the first turn of the second day. At the end of the second day, the game will be scored.
After the last day is complete, all safes are revealed. Players score tech for the value of their safes, with an additional tech being given for each mark on the safe that matches the value of the safe. You also score tech based on your position on the reputation track. Finally, if your scoundrels have tech icons on them, you also score for these. The player with the most tech wins. Ties broken in favor of the player with the most money at the end.
My thoughts on the game
So, I was really excited when I first saw 3000 Scoundrels at GenCon. I love the idea of crafting the cards to get all the different characters; and the bluffing idea seemed interesting – though it is a gaming skill that I absolutely suck at.
The game came soon after, and it quickly hit the table. It is quite cool to see all the different characters formed for each game, but I’ll admit that I was a bit personally disappointed that it isn’t an active process. The two halves of the scoundrel cards are mostly pre-determined; as you shuffle the decks and then simply put together the top card of each deck when it’s time to make a new Scoundrel. I had secretly hoped that there would be on-the-fly modification of the cards on the fly. That being said, it’s still a really neat system, and one that ensures that every game is different, and that you have to constantly remain on your toes as the combinations of the card parts can lead to some unexpected strategies.
It’s fun to try to get combos of scoundrels that work well together. Depending on who you are able to hire, you can set up some powerful plays. Of course, due to the bluffing system of action selection, you can possibly do those actions extra times… However, as there are only 2 days/8 turns, you don’t have a lot of time to create your lineup of Scoundrel actions.
We had to take a minute to understand how the arrows worked on the Scoundrel cards that point at other cards for their effect. Be sure to read the rules carefully on this part; there is a very helpful example in the rules showing you how this works. I’d try to make this as clear as possible during the rules teach or leave yourself a mental note to explain it when the first arrowed Scoundrel shows up in the Saloon.
In the end, you have to get some safes to get points to win the game. As you don’t have many opportunities to do this, it is probably worth your while to do some fact-gathering in the earlier days to try to learn the numbers within some of the safes. You can also try to rely upon your ability to read other people as the game does have a intriguing system of having players label the safes that they look at. Players are incentivized to place the correct numbered chit down as that will lead to bonus points at the end of the game; though, it might be better for them to lie about the true value – whether it is to stop other people from being interested in it or perhaps to have someone take a flyer and choose that safe without looking at it beforehand…. Only to end up with a low valued safe.
The art direction is very nice and holds the theme well – this seems to be a trademark for Unexpected Games. The illustration of the scoundrels are all very detailed and emotive; and it’s often humorous to see the combinations of descriptors/jobs. The player aid is succinct and keeps everyone on task. So far, we have also found that the card sleeves are sturdy and have held up well to our initial plays; we have only had a single sleeve fail thus far, and it should be noted that they do provide you with plenty of extras in the box. Though it doesn’t say for sure, I’m assuming that the sleeves are from Gamegenic, so you’d be able to replace them easy enough were you to play the game so much that you ran out of extras; though I doubt that would happen as they do seem pretty durable.
Our games now are taking about 80-100 minutes. It’s a touch longer than what I’d want for a game that involves so much bluffing – again, this might be because I’m just really really bad at it. But, even without the bluffing, the end result ends up being due to a combination of careful planning, skillful bluffing, and sometimes good old fashioned luck in getting a good safe draw or scoundrel draw. If your tolerance for this amount of luck variance is ok, this is a thematic game that you will enjoy. I’m happy to play it whenever anyone asks – though due to the bluffing, it’s not one I’d regularly suggest to play.
FWIW, this is the favorite of the initial Unexpected Games thus far, and I must say that each game in their line is so very different from the others, and this certainly has me looking forward to what comes next from this publishing house.
Amazon affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3F8Tj9W
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale Y, John P
- Not for me…