Designed by J. Alex Kevern
Art by Adam P. McIver
Published by Tasty Minstrel Games
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 2-4 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 though, careful planning is a must.
As with a lot of Tasty Minstrel Games' titles Gold West has a really nice puzzle piece modular board, absolutely 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 7 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 2-3 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 also receive a player board that houses their 12 camp pieces and 12 influence tokens. The player board will also be used to keep track of your resources, in the Supply Track and also will keep track of the influence that you have over each of the terrain types for end game scoring.
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
So, the Supply Track on the left hand side of your board is made up of 4 compartments and 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 0, 1, 2 or 3 points. Now, what does it mean to "Activate Supply Track", well, 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 you may be asking, well, remember those two spots on the board mentioned a bit earlier, Boomtown and Shipping Track? Well, this is where these come into action, plus the 8 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 appropriate 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 12 tiles in the box and you only use 4 per game along with a single 4 victory point tile. The 5 tiles are place in the 3 by 3 Boomtown grid. In order to activate a Boomtown office the player will need 2 metals. The three different metals are located above the 3x3 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 1 victory point and then the player may take a revealed Mining Token from the board and receive the resources, but they discard the token from the game instead of placing it on their Influence Track they remove it from the game. 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 1 point for every two.
Play goes just as described above for 13 rounds, the 13th 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 13th round is over, end game scoring takes place. Each player scores 2 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 5 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.
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 3 or 4 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, YIPES!
You start the game knowing the resources on only 12 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 move in a game that only allows for 13 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. But 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. It's not a Gateway Game, the multitudes of ways to score really can hinder teaching new players, but I think it's a great step up from those type of games.