This review is based on a retail copy provided by Breaking Games for the Board Game Exposure group I am a reviewer for. You can see opinions of the same game from other members on this facebook group.

Saddle up pardner and let’s….not do a typical review of a western themed game shall we. Let’s instead cast our critical eye upon a game of bandits, robbery and frantic dice rolling from Breaking Games called Boomtown Bandits and ask if there is gold in them thar boxes. Ok, so I might slip up here and there. What you going to do, shoot an old cowboy?

Rollin, Rollin, Rollin

Looking across the dusty plains of the Wild West you cast your eyes upon the local town. There are some interesting locations in this backwater and all are ripe for a robbery.

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Using all 6 locations in a 5 player game

Each player gathers up their posse of 3 wooden tokens, and sets their mind to what they want to take. Avoiding the sheriff in town, a badge put down by the first player that stops a location being used for that round, you set about your plans, putting your 2 shooters and 1 coward down where you think they can prevail. This happens one token at a time, face down, so that no one knows exactly what is at each location until the guns are drawn.

Once the various cowboys are liberally scattered about the town it’s time to get down to brass tacks, or in this case bullets. One at a time a fearsome shootout will happen at each location with 2 or more posses represented. The players present will pick up dice depending on who is there, shooters or cowards, and put their hand on their pistols.

See what happens next friend is that these badass robbers are going to roll as fast as they can till one of them scores a ‘Hit’. The shooter dice have two bullets and 4 blanks whereas the coward has one bullet, one ‘Scarper’ and 4 blanks, a Hit is when ANY symbol shows.

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Shooter to the left of me, coward to the right….

If the hit is a bullet well then someone is eating lead and you get to remove a token from play at that location. If it’s a coward then your guy scarpers along with any other player’s coward if their dice are showing the ‘Scarper’ symbol. The last man standing at the location gets the top card of that particular deck.

This Shootout part of the game is definitely the most fun as one person counts down to the draw, and the combatants all tense their hands ready to roll as frantically as possible, hoping to gain an advantage they can leverage into a victory.

The loot cards that are at these locations varies a bit: the Train gives you cards that mess with timing, the Saloon cards to help out using your coward etc. Each card may do something immediately when taken, or it may have a power you can use it a particular moment in the game. These vary widely and there can be some strategy in how you use those cards to your best advantage.

Not only do the cards have powers but they are also worth money and this in the end is what robbery is all about: cold hard cash. The person with the most loot at the end of the game is the winner, and although there are some cards that might count as negative cash at the end of the game, the majority give you some points towards victory. You’ll also find some end game bonuses relating to who has the most cards from a particular location and a bonus if you are the first person to get one card from each location.

All the things I’m missin

Sit down young gun and let me tell you how it is. Boomtown Bandits is a light filler game with an awesome little shootout mechanic but a lot of the fluff around that mechanic feels unpolished. We ran into several timing issues that the rulebook couldn’t answer, and in a game that is taking 30 minutes to play that seems like a bit of a problem.

The decision to have all the loot cards face down seems odd to me, I feel like having the top one showing would make people fight over the good cards more, leading to more interesting shootouts. If you could see the power and money coming from cards the choices of where to put your posse would have more significance, making you feel more invested in your decisions.

The game is very luck focused as you might expect but I never felt that I had much control over that luck, no real way to control the risk.  I also found that once someone started winning there was little catching them as not only did they have points, they also had powers to help them win more. Now in a game that is lasting 30 minutes that is not so much of a problem, but let’s compare and contrast for a moment.

King of Tokyo hit the table later the same night and is a game I’ve always loved. This is a dice focused game as well and although it’s a very luck based game to an extent unlike in Boomtown Bandits I feel I have control over the luck, a say in the risks I am taking. There are choices with every throw of the dice in King of Tokyo, and although someone can get ahead of the pack, it feels like they made better choices than me, not purely because Lady Luck smiled upon them that day.

Are waitin’ at the end of my ride

Although we all enjoyed chucking dice around like lunatics, I never felt much in the way of connection to the thing I was supposed to be doing in Boomtown Bandits. I had the worst reaction to Boomtown Bandits which was a shoulder shrug and a ‘meh’. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either it just left me feeling cold and in the end games should make us feel something, anything.

So that’s the deal, pardner, I’m a straight shooter and I’ve told it like it is. Boomtown Bandits rode into town all promise and swagger, but rode off into the sunset with it’s head low and what looks like a gut shot. Not everyone gets to be a hero of the story, and this old cowboy is done with his tale.