Ever wanted to saddle up and ride out into the Old West to become the most legendary personality there ever was? Now’s your chance, with the hugely enjoyable Western Legends by Kolossal Games.
Western Legends is a board game for 3-6 players (with a variant for two players that adds an AI Man in Black), in which players take on the role of a real life Legend and attempt to accrue Legend Points (LP) until they reach a pre-agreed target to trigger the end of the game. After all players have added their endgame bonus LP to their totals, whoever has the most LP wins the game. Sounds simple enough right?
The cool thing about Western Legends is just how open it is; as a sandbox experience, there’s absolutely tons to do and plenty of ways to earn those coveted LPs. Want to pan for gold to earn money and fame? How about hunting bandits, arresting other players or wrangling cattle to get yourself known as a Marshal? Or going the other way and robbing banks or even other players, thereby getting yourself Wanted by the law? Maybe that money’s burning a hole in your pocket, so you take yourself off to the cabaret and splash the cash, spend that hard-earned (or perhaps dishonestly acquired) cash at the General Store or even partake in a few rounds of poker at the casino? There’s a lot to do across the beautifully designed Western Legends board – and with three actions per turn including movement (which can be improved once you’ve got yourself a trusty steed), you have relative freedom to do what you want at any point.
Though it can be a little overwhelming at first – given the sheer number of options available – each action is really straightforward to carry out. Resolving fights – whether they be arrests, duels or dastardly robberies – are done using poker cards, which are also used, as you’d expect, when playing poker at the casino. Some cards have special effects on them too, making them worth more than just as their card value.
The characters are well implemented, with their real life histories briefly summarised on their cards and – if you’re playing the more advanced version of the game – their goals are thematic to their personality/history too.
That’s something Western Legends gets incredibly right: the theme is just so wonderfully implemented – and the freedom to roam and exploit the opportunities on offer in the West is difficult to resist. There are bonus story cards that trigger when certain conditions are met in-game and these come with their own little narrative snippet that further reinforces the feeling that you’re creating your very own Western Legend, as you’d hope.
With the ability to decide the length of the game and slightly increase the complexity, it does feel as if there’s enough customisation to appeal to all ages and abilities too; the only complaint I have is that once you’ve spent a few games roaming the Wild West, the different activities you can indulge in can start to feel a little thin. There’s lots of them, but not much depth to much of what you’ll do.
Still, for a game with such an open structure and so many options, Western Legends does a great job of distilling and summarising the great Western experience into a game that rarely outstays its welcome. It’s well supported by expansions too, a few of which add significantly to the experience with trains, extra activities at the casino and even a risk die that can see you run the risk of getting wounded by pushing your luck in trying to get rewards by rolling a new, blood red D6. The base game’s components are beautiful too, with some pleasingly tactile plastic gold nuggets and an excellent General Store display structure that really add to the overall atmosphere and theme.
It’s a fun game and though it may lack the strategic depth that more serious board gamers are drawn to, the genuinely impressive choice that’s on offer on each and every turn – with LPs, Marshal points and Wanted points soon being thrown around at quite a pace – means that it’s an incredibly satisfying few hours at the table for more casual players.
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