Monday, November 28, 2005

First Impression: Boomtown

Today at lunch we played Boomtown, a very nice game by "the two Brunos": Bruno Cathala and Bruno Fiadutti. This game has hit the table at game night many times over the last few months but I always seemed to be involved in another game so this was my first time to play it.

Boomtown is an auction game at heart. Each round, one card is produced for each player in the game. Players then bid to see who will have first choice. The winning player passes his bid to the player to his right, who keeps half the bid and hands half to the player to his right, who keeps half the bid and passes the other half to his right, and so on. Then the winning player chooses his card and the other players each choose theirs clockwise. In this way, the players choosing last end up with the worst card but the largest share of the money bid. It's a lovely balancing mechanism that I would love to see used again. Very impressive.

Most of the cards are mines that produce a certain amount of income when a certain number is rolled on two dice. The dice are rolled once after each set of cards is taken. As players collect more mines, they are more likely to score income with each roll of the dice. We played with a variant where the dice are rolled twice instead of once after each round. This doubles the amount of potential income but it also tends to even out the luck and I think I prefer it this way (although I've never played with the rules as written).

The Brunos have a reputation for creating slightly luck-heavy games and Boomtown is no exception. Some of the cards in the deck are arguably a little too powerful and the randomness of the dice (particularly if played as written in the rules) could be a little overwhelming. Still, I enjoyed the game quite a bit and none of that really bothered me at all. The randomness makes the game lighter than it might otherwise be and it also makes the game more family friendly as it allows a poorer player to win every now and then. And it is right in keeping with the gold mining theme (which is quite well done).

All in all, I found it to be quite an enjoyable game and I'm looking forward to playing it again. Hopefully I'll be able to pull out another win. That's right! I'm currently undefeated in this game (with a record of 1-0).


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