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Mugwump of the Golden Lurkers
There are games that stretch your cerebral powers to their very limit. Each decision is agonizing because every move can affect the outcome of the game in subtle ways that you will not notice for five or seven turns. Hours upon hours of deep competition eventual lead to a winner in these games leaving the victor feeling triumphant and the defeated downcast in sorrow.
Boomtown is not one those games. In fact if there is an antithesis to the above mentioned games it would be Boomtown. Boomtown is a bidding game with some nice twists and turns and a theme that makes it amusing to play. I would rate this as one of the Kings of the Filler Game category.
Play is simple. Everyone starts with a value of ten in poker chips. A number of cards equal to the number of players are turned face up and the players bid on them. The winner does not give his money to the bank (as you would expect) but to the person on his right, who divides it in half (keeping the larger portion if it is an odd number) and passing to the player on his right and so on. The winner never gets money back though. Then the players choose cards starting with the winner of the bid and continuing clockwise (note: opposite the flow of the money).
What is on the cards? The majority of cards represent mines in several American gold boomtowns of the middle 19th century (that sounds sophisticated, but this game is not). There are five colors that represent those five towns. Each mine has a number from 2 to 12 and a number of gold dots. There are also some specialty cards that include dynamite (blows up one card); saloons (get money when mines of a particular color produce) and various other screw your buddy cards.
Some of the specialty cards have to be played when they are drawn, others can be held until they can be used. After any of these cards are played, then the winner rolls the dice. If you have a mine that matches the dice roll you collect the amount of "gold" denoted by the gold colored dots on the card.
Repeat until the deck is exhausted.
There are a few other things along the way too. If you are the first player to get two mines of the same color, you take a wood meeple of that color to denote you are the mayor of that town. From then on, anyone choosing that color of mine has to pay you an amount of gold equivalent to the number of mines you have in that color. However, if they get more mines in the color than you, they become the mayor.
When the deck is exhausted and the final round played, you add up all your money, the production value of your mines and your mayors (worth five points each). Highest total is the winner.
Components: The cards are big, but kind of limp. Shuffling them is not pleasant. The poker ships are the standard mini-plastic ones that you can get anywhere and the wooden markers are plain.
Rules: They come on one long double sided foldout sheet; about eight pages in all. They are clear and easy to navigate while learning the game.
Value: I got this for about $10 on a clearance table at the mall game store. Considering that I have games that I have that I paid $25-$40 that I have only played once and I have played this one about ten times so far, I'd have to say bang for the buck is good on this one.
So what do I think about this game? Well don't build a game session around it. I played it three times in one day recently and that was too much. However, my group usually requests it while we are eating or waiting for someone who is going to be away for more than 20 minutes. It is a good little filler game that doesn't cost much and does not take up much space in the closet. So the next time you want to blow up some varmit's saloon with some dynamite, this would be the game.