Desperados of DiceTown is a simple game with some interesting strategic twists. Here's the deal.. Each player is assigned a gang of 5. Each of these gang members is shaped like a double sided coaster. If there is any place that the publishers scrimped on it was the thickness of these circular figures that are used so much in the game. I fear that they will wear out quickly, for they are doubtful no thicker than a piece of construction paper. Each of these gang members has an icon-- a bottle, a fist, a knife, a derringer, or a two-gun. The stronger characters (named last) are hardest to get into play but do more against other players once they are in play. The characters start out in jail... Each of them placed in a way where the largest number (on the strongest character it is a six) placed at the top. When the player activates this character he rotates the circular marker to the next number and when he reduces past the number 1 the character is released from jail. Until a character is out of jail he cannot attack or defend, so this is vital.
The game is built around dice rolling.. There are four dice provide and the available faces are one of the five character icons or a big EXPLOSION type icon that indicates an action. A player may roll up to three times, choosing to reroll as he wishes, attempting to collect at last one character icon and one action icon. The number of action icons rolled will always be a maximum of three, but a player may roll two action icons and two character icons and divide up his actions, should he choose. Once the character is out of jail he begins to attack other players. So, the two-gunned characters attack (steal money) has more affect than a 3 numbered character (the fist)... However, if the other players have that character out of jail then his character blocks the attack. This really tends to slow down a 2 player game. So, a player attacking with a fist character attacks all players who have not managed the release of their fist character. This can get wild and wooly in a four player game (the maximum number of players).. Should a player not manage to get an action icon, he or she will be rewarded with a dirty trick card to be played on a later turn.
When money is stolen, it goes to the center of the table (My Doomtown roots has me calling it the town square) and normally will not be returned to the player. (There are two exceptions-- one a special power and one a dirty trick card)... So losing money is very bad. If a player is bankrupt he is out of the game. At any point that a player has all of their characters out of jail and has the most money he/she wins the game. So balancing out attacks and getting your characters closer to release is essential.
The special powers also add some flavor to the game. Each leader has special abilities.. For example, Pedro is able, when activated, to retrieve money from the table).. another leader is able to facilitate the release of his gang faster... yet another leader joins his gang in attacking the bad guys... and finally, the last one picks up extra dirty trick cards. These special powers help advance strategy, which helps make this a bit more than ad advanced yahtzee game. The game has a neat western flavor, and unlike some games I play, that flavor is actually there to enhance the game a bit. The artwork is very well done, and the game components like the money counters (poker chips) are nice, with the exception of the cheap coaster-like character markers. The cards are not full-sized, but neither are they the tiny things found in some Euro games.
Desperados of DiceTown is a neat little quick game, nice for when you are waiting for others to play something more serious and of greater length. It is family friendly, and seriously a lot of fun. Better than one would think a simple dice gang could be.
David M. Wilson is the pastor of Grant Avenue Baptist Church, a long-time participant in the gaming community. He has written for several gaming publications, including Computer Gaming World Magazine and Undefeated. He is a member of the Random Wargamers Southern California Game club and a huge fan of the DOOMTOWN CCG.