It’s Stampede season here in Alberta, that means the rodeo circuit is in full swing, as are the associated carnivals, concerts, and cowboy hats (also pancake breakfasts, but that doesn’t start with a C). So, while unintentional, it’s fitting that I’m reviewing Boomtown Bandits this week.
Boomtown Bandits is one part worker placement game and one part dice rolling speed game, all wrapped up in a fun old west theme. The game can handle 2-5 players, and is recommended for ages 13+ mainly for content (gunplay, and a Brothel location).
Play happens at up to six old-west locations, with each location having the potential for different Loot rewards if a player wins a shootout and robs that location. The first player (as determined by spinning a plastic whiskey bottle) selects a single location that will not be used in that round. They then place one of their three bandit tokens face down on any other location. Going around the table, each player places a single bandit, until everyone has placed all three of their tokens. Then the tokens are revealed and each location is resolved. If only one player has tokens in a location, they win automatically. If two or more players are at a location a shootout occurs. Each player gets to roll one of their dice for each token they have at that location. If the token is a shooter the die has four blank faces and two Hits; if the token is the coward it has one Hit and one Run Away. On the count of three everyone starts rolling until someone rolls an icon and says “hit” to stop play. If a Run Away was rolled, all cowards that also may have rolled Run Away are removed. If a Hit was rolled, that player chooses a token to remove, and any players left will roll again after a new countdown. The final winner gets the top Loot card from that location. This is repeated at each location, then the first player bottle is given to the next player and a new round begins. The game ends after the last Loot card at any location is won.
I really enjoyed this game. The description on the back of the box focuses on the speed aspect of the game, and that actually worked against it for me. Most of the time, when I’m choosing what game(s) to play next I let the group I’m playing with make the final choice. It results in everyone having a better time, which makes my job easier. But enough of my players dislike speed games, that it took awhile to get this one played. Even I despise most speed games, but the only real “speed” in the game is rolling and re-rolling dice. That’s something that can only be done so fast, and being a bit slower may not even cause you problems, so that’s nice.
The artwork and overall visual design have a very distinctive and unified style to it. I had a passing thought that making the bandit tokens into poker chips might accentuate the western theme, but the simpler tokens actually work better with the overall feel of the game. One really subtle element I enjoyed was that the coward icon is the same on the token and the dice, but the shooter icon is a gun on the token and a bullet on the dice. Nice touch.
As I mentioned, despite my aversion to speed games I very much enjoyed this. I didn’t really go into it here, but there are actually some legitimate strategies that players can use when playing, meaning there’s so much more than just random dice rolls that determine the final outcome of the game.
[Fun Fact: Not once, but numerous times over the course of writing this review, I typed BoomTOON Bandits, and had to correct myself. I’m not sure why, but it was a thing.]