21 April 2011

Somewhere to Call Home

A preview of Deadwood, the upcoming board game for sharp shootin' cowboys

Jim Teaspoon’s stinking up Boot Hill, buried face down, his boots kissing the sky. Sally Read, his executioner, is polishing her gun across the room. Thanks to their shootout this morning, your cowboys own more than half the town, including the Town Hall. You dig your teeth into your cigar as a devilish grin spreads across your face. You’ve always wanted a bit of land to call home. No one said it couldn’t be the whole town of Deadwood.

Deadwood, the board game for sharp-shootin’ cowpokes, will be released in the third quarter of 2011. In today’s preview we’ll examine the features that the initial set of Deadwood buildings offers players at the beginning of the game.

When you and your rival gangs fall on Deadwood, it is still awaiting the arrival of the railroad, and with it town advancements. The town, comprised of simple folk, relies solely on a Town Hall, a Sheriff’s Office, a Saloon, and for the god-fearing folk, a Church. Of course, there are also four other buildings added to the mix during set up, but these are randomly drawn.

In the game, players control a gang of cowboys and send them into the vulnerable town of Deadwood to control businesses and collect as much money as they can. The player with the most cash at the end of the game is the winner.

Each building in Deadwood has at least one unique ability that is used immediately, with some buildings offering more long-term advantages. A cowboy accesses these advantages by controlling the building. To gain control a player simply places one of his gang on a building tile, “annexing” it. By controlling buildings outlaws gain resources and money, trying to garner enough cash to be the richest cowboy at the end of the game. In Deadwood, finding and controlling the right buildings gives you an edge for the final outcome.

Save Your Soul, Save Your Cash

At the Church, any cowboy wishing to atone for his sins can eliminate a Wanted Poster token from his collection, reducing the final fine, if any, he will pay at the end of the game. The Church also grants sanctuary to any player; no shootout is allowed on its grounds. This prohibition also makes the Church the only building in Deadwood where cowboys from warring gangs can gather together.

A player who is lacking living gang members, or looking for an extra hand, can only recruit a cowboy at the Saloon. By annexing this building, the player can take a free Greenhorn from the game supply, or pay for a Gunslinger or a Trail Boss. Which purchasable fellow with lax morals will hustle up to your ranch? While a good strategy is to keep an outlaw presence at the Saloon, it is also a risky venture. Other gang leaders looking to expand their devious band will most likely not hesitate to instigate a shootout to gain control.

The Local Authorities

While the Sheriff himself protects up to three buildings with his token, his office is not free from being a place of bloodshed. The Sheriff’s Office is both a lucrative and powerful building for any gang leader to control. It allows the controlling player to move the Sheriff Token to any intersection of plots in the game, provided that at least one of the plots has a building tile. The controlling player could decide to protect buildings that are occupied by his own cowboys, or he could protect buildings that have or could have rival cowboys, accessing the other benefit the Sheriff’s Office provides: any cowboy on a building protected by the Sheriff Token must pay the controlling player $1. The cowboy’s monetary gain raises the question, is the Sheriff weak...or dirty?

Other buildings provide advantages that could help a player hasten the end of Deadwood; the Town Hall provides a direct method: it allows the controlling gang leader to build part of the railroad. When the railroad is completely built the game ends. The Town Hall also offers two other advantages: a player can eliminate one of his Wanted Poster tokens, and place three new buildings. The three buildings are chosen randomly, but the controlling cowboy can decide on which open plots to place them. The Town Hall is a double-edged sword; while it provides the unique ability to grow the town of Deadwood and offer more building options during play, annexing it will eventually end the game. But remember, every new building is a new chance for crime, money, and gun-slinging.

These buildings and unique abilities are awaiting you in the upcoming release of Deadwood. Stay put, more previews for Deadwood are a short pony ride away!

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