26 February 2019
Does the cowpoke party game leave us rootin' for lootin' and shootin'?
Deadwood 1876 is the third in Facade Games’ series of ‘Dark Cities’ games, after Salem 1692 and Tortuga 1667. They’re handsomely presented in facsimile hardback-book boxes, with high-quality components – games you’d be proud to show to non-gamer friends. Would you play them with friends? That depends on your friends.
If you thought Deadwood was a pretend cowboy town where Lovejoy swears a lot then no, it was a real gold-rush frontier town and bad things happened there. In the game you’re part of a gang holed up in one of the town’s three hostelries with some safes, about to engage in a short life of crime. Specifically you want your gang to steal enough gold to reach the final showdown, and then be the last member of the gang standing.
Along the way you can rob other players of their safes, duel with different types of guns (dice with different numbers of pips) and force people to switch to a different location, and thus a different gang. It’s fast-moving and dynamic, with fun choices and lots of dice-rolling. Do you help your gang accrue gold, or hoard guns for yourself? That depends what sort of varmint you are.
Then the final showdown starts, and it falls apart. You’ve been drawing cards that have guns on them, and using them to rob safes, which contain gold and… different guns. You can only use guns from safes in the showdown, and it’s the same gunfight mechanic as before, and it feels like the designer’s imagination has run out. It works, but not well.
Deadwood 1876 is a bunch of cowboy clichés with great production values. If you like dice-rolling and take-that games, it’ll sit nicely on your shelf. But like the actual Deadwood, you may find there’s a lot of swearing involved.
Designer: Travis Hancock
Artist: Sarah Keele
Time: 20-40 minutes
This review originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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