Friday, September 12, 2014

Hell-bent for leather

I enjoy most of the genres that fictional media tends to fall into, but I have an undeniable soft spot for historical westerns. There are a fair number of western themed board games out there, but the vast majority of them tend to be either shootout games that revolve entirely around combat (such as Bang!), or Euro-style resource management building games. I had never been able to find a western adventure game other than the Deadlands: Doomtown collectible card game, which has a very overt supernatural element to it and is really more of a location control game, which is typical of most CCGs.

So it didn't take much to convince me to back the Kickstarter campaign for Spurs: A Tale in the Old West. It appeared to be exactly the sort of game I was looking for, a "move around the board and draw a card to see what happens" game in the vein of Talisman or Fortune and Glory. I'm happy to say that Spurs delivers on its promise perfectly, and in a few unexpected ways.

Players take the roles of archetypical western characters such as the cowboy, the outlaw, or the gambler, and travel the board by rolling some really neat proprietary dice with horse icons on them. At any given time, eight spaces on the board contain a tile with a task to be performed, and this is where the game gets really interesting for a fan of western history. In addition to the expected showdowns with outlaws and desperadoes, players can advance in the game by prospecting for gold, hunting wild animals such as bears and cougars, and even by herding cattle or taming horses.

There is a terrific little mini game with its own board for cattle herding and horse taming. It's a hex board with 19 spaces on it, and for the cattle herding mini game, six cattle tokens are distributed randomly across the board. The player chooses a cow and then rolls a number of dice equal to his character's riding skill to. The dice represent different directions the cow can move; from each roll, the player chooses one die and moves the cow in the direction indicated, with the goal being to get as many of them as possible into a single group within a certain number of moves. The horse taming game is similar, with the horse running off in different directions and the player trying not to crash into nearby trees or rocks.

It is this inclusion of the more mundane aspects of life in the wild west that I find fascinating about the game. I love that it is just as viable a strategy (and often more interesting) to tame horses and sell them in town as it is to hunt for outlaws.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) There isn't much story to the game, but I think that actually contributes to the feeling of having the freedom to just explore the world of the wild west.
Date played: July 27, 2014

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