When we found this package at our doorstep, with clearly a bad written send to name on it (very fun Paul!), we did not expect it to be one of the new hotness releases coming to you this Spiel 2018. This title is released by one of our favorite Dutch publishers, Quined Games and it is nothing else but Carson City the Card Game by the popular French designer Xavier Georges and illustrated by Alexandre Roche. You can imagine what we did next right? We grab us a bottle of good old scotch, sorry there was no bourbon, and unpacked this beauty as soon as the first drink was in! Like every story before, from there it took off and let’s see where this Wild West ride will take us, shall we?
But first let me introduce you to the Cowboy Code and my question to you, should we reintegrate some of those customs back into our habits?
Cowboy & Cowgirl Code
The cowboys of the Old West had an unwritten code that they lived by. The code included such rules as being courteous, always saying “howdy“, don’t wave at a man on a horse (you should nod), never ride another man’s horse without his permission, always help someone in need, and never put on another man’s hat.
Sounds like a code we may have to re-introduce? But, that’s something for a whole other discussion. Let’s get to the meat, shall we?
Designer: Xavier Georges
Artist: Alexandre Roche
Player count: 1 – 6 players
Playtime: 30 – 45 minutes and some extra time for score counting
Mechanisms: Bidding, Card play, Tile placement
- With an easy set of rules and just a few components, you will have a Wild West Carson City experience.
- Beautiful artwork from Alexandre Roche.
- Clever use of the back of the character cards. They are used to change priority ever round or kill characters of back into the deck.
- Out of the box, a solution to get a bigger player count experience with low player counts. Read, smart integration of the use of the spare bidding decks.
- It plays one to six players and that’s just an achievement on its own and it does it well too.
- While thematic, why black border cards? For non-sleevers a poor choice.
- Deck knowledge is a power and will set first-time players a little back against people who have played Carson City the Card Game before them.
- Scoring can be a little fiddly and takes time to get used too. After some play’s though, it’s on par with something like 7 Wonders, but it does take a little practice.
- We do miss that central board where you compete on land grabbing, making use of other players buildings and settling one big area with each other.
Which story are we telling
That of explorers of the West and settlers of the Wild. You start out with just dust to make your dreams come true by building houses, mine mountains, ranch kettle on your ranches, sell your goods in the stores, make money by funding a bank and defend yourself against outlaws. With all western stories, you will feel like sitting in a saloon, playing some poker and judge the folks around the table for their worth.
With the inlay provided by the publisher, you will have an easy time setting up this game. Sort and shuffle the 2 era terrain cards, provide players with their chosen symbol auction cards, set-up possible virtual players with less than four players and shuffle the character deck. Now hand each player a player aid for reference of the characters when they can activate and information on the number of buildings each era holds.
The flow of the game
The game is played over two Eras, each of which takes nine rounds. On your turn, you will play one of your 9 auction cards in an attempt to buy some terrain or scoop up one of the available characters.
The dealer, one of the players, reveals four terrain cards (5 with 5 – 6 players) and one character card. Now some character abilities may trigger, see the handy-dandy player aid for that or a character is just drawn gets killed when the top card of the deck is a Skull. Replace it with a new one.
You now pick your auction card in secret and play it face down onto the tabletop. Those will get revealed simultaneously. Starting with the highest card, and then in descending order, players pick their terrain or character. You will only use every auction card once per Era, so make sure you make those high cards count. Players who want to make use of character cards in this stage, need to announce that to other players and execute its effect now. Again, make those character actions count because the effect is only allowed once per Era per character. This continues nine times which will end the first Era. Rinse and repeat for the second Era, with of course now the second Era terrain cards.
Building your town is done in an 8 x 8 plot maximum fashion, which is 4 times 4 terrain cards (1 terrain cards holds 4 plots) placed out on the table. Joined terrain needs to touch at least one side, not just at a corner. You may not rotate terrain cards and cannot slide a card under one or more cards. You may place it fully or partially to cover one or more cards. At least, only when that chosen card covers empty land or three exceptions: mountain over a mountain, building over an identical building. House over a house or by Townhouse. When you have the Sheriff or a prison, you may cover Outlaw plots.
End of the game is when the second time around you played all your nine auction cards and we can start tallying up the score from your town. Count the VP from buildings and those from your characters. The highest one wins the game.
Let’s start with the obvious, and less than ideal choice, black border cards for people who don’t want to sleeve their card games. While thematic and looking wonderful, on a practical viewpoint we don’t think this was the best choice. So we recommend sleeving the character cards and find some which may fit the square terrain ones. Card stock is good, the inlay is working properly, but won’t hold any possible expansions though. Pure speculation on if there ever will be an expansion, but we sure hope to see more. The game comes with a score pad and we hope that there will be a scoring app soon.
We love us our games which play a big range of people, 1 to 6, and that is something which always comes in handy on busy game nights. And especially still having a real game, instead of becoming just a party game, and that is important to us. In most cases with for example 6 players it’s also a very long experience, but in this case, it’s still as quick as with fewer players. We don’t have too many Western style games in our collection, at least, so we thought. We did a search on Boardgamegeek on “American West” and this was the result put in what we think is the complexity:
- Bang The Dice Game
- Carson City and Gold & Gun.
- Gold West
- Forged in Steel
From these, we would scale Carson City the Card Game above Bang the Dice Game and on a same level of complexity as Montana. For being light and somewhat social, but below most others in sense of weight & complexity.
And what about the comparison between the big brother and this new Card game version of Carson City? One of the big differences is that you will build your own terrain instead of on a central map where you will fight for places to get your stuff to build. That is one of the big attractors to bix box Carson City for us. Also, the worker placement part is lost in the Card Game and is brought down to a single fight for those terrain & character cards in the center of the table. So instead of Duels and the agonizing wait if someone is coming for your stuff, all that is captured in that auction phase of the card game. There are more meaningful decisions to make in the big game and also has a lot of mind games going in what we described as those agonizing times when you are unsure if players are come after you for terrain, buildings or with characters.
Boardgamegeek ranks this on a 2.00 out of 5 and we would agree on that. The most complex part of the game is the final scoring and keeping track of what you scored and what is extra with certain characters or situations you gathered along the way. The way the game is played is mostly guessing what others are thinking and wanting to grab from the market.
It’s a compact game and does what it sets out to do very well. The flavor of everything you do is done in a Western style and gives you the feeling of being in the Wild West. From the fact you are quite social with the auction cards, simulating the crowdy poker plays, trying to trick each other and grabbing land as if nobody’s business. Settlers at heart, but greedy or devious people in the execution of becoming the richest lot out there. The artwork helps to pull out that theme and does add very much to this consistency. What takes you out of this experience a little, is the eventual final scoring and the accompanied, number crunching. But with a few plays, you will know where the most profitable combinations are and you can take or deny those to any one eying those.
Playing the social and psychological part here is just so much fun. Grabbing what you want or tricking people into overspending for mediocre terrain which they thought you wanted so bad? The game goes by so quick and is almost certain to give you that table flipping or cheering moments. And those games are in the end, for our taste, often the best.
Besides knowing what is coming out of the deck, which gives a huge advantage if we are fairly honest, this is really an accessible card game with a lot of appeal to many potential players. So we would say, with everybody who likes some interaction around the table while in the meantime laying an optimizing puzzle on your own side of the fence. The gist of the game is easily explained, but it may take a full play for novices to really see which buildings work with which character and besides what other land or building they want to be for maximum scoring purposes.
In Short Our Conclusion
If you want a quick Western game fix and have a just a few or just too many players for a longer strategy board game, this one is a fantastic choice. Mind games are guaranteed, and accompany it with some bourbon, and you have a feeling hanging out in a saloon banging out some land grab with your fellow cowboys or cowgirls.
If you want more strategy out of your Western game fix and want to compete on one board with your competitors, plan ahead for more steps and also have some more strategies to choose from, this is not the game for you.
So? Will you pick up the cowboy or cowgirl code and when you at it, maybe have a glance at this fun little Western card game?
Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to follow along on the blog for more board game fun.
Thanks for dropping by, sticking all the way to the end and we immensely love you for it!
This review copy was provided by the lovely folks behind Quined Games, thanks y’all for this kind gesture!