23rd March 2022
It's a Wednesday night and we're round Simon's for an evening of gaming.
'You see, in this world, there’s two kinds of people, my friend – those who write dodgy blogs about board games, and those who read dodgy blogs about board games. You read dodgy blogs about board games!'
Western Legends is a western themed open-world sandbox board game where players are free to pursue several differing roads to success.
What's in a game?
The quality of the components in Western Legends is high, the cards, boards and tokens are all well made, the dice are plastic but nicely rounded and finished in a cool looking black and gold colour scheme. I like the gold nuggets and always appreciate the usage of wooden components. The plastic miniatures are unpainted but have a reasonable amount of detail.
While essentially unnecessary, the general store tray is eye-catching and looks great on the table.
The use of art is solid throughout the game and fits the western theme very well, illustrations feature on all the cards and are high quality, the character card portraits are the standout here. The board also looks good, with its map-like artwork.
All-in-all well presented.
Quite a few icons are used in Western Legends, most of it is clear and easily comprehended. Players will probably end up referring to the rulebook on several occasions, however, it's likely that this will be as much to get a handle on rules as to decipher the game's iconography.
How's it play?
On to play
Before discussing how a turn plays out, some rules needed to be explained.
Beginning with the first player and progressing to the left, each player takes their turn. The bulk of active player's turn will consist of 3 actions, which can be taken in any order or multiple times. Most of the actions a player can take will be contextual to their location or proximity to other players or NPCs.
The turn order is a follows:
There a large number of contextual actions available in Western Legends obviously depending on the situation.
If the active player is on a space with an icon, they may trigger that action. There several types of location and some have multiple options.
When the active player has finished their 3 actions, the following events occur.
Play continues until someone reaches 15/20/25 Legendary Points (As decided by players for a short/average/long game.) which triggers the game end and all players get one final turn.
After this players tot up their final VP total (Legendary Points.) which comes from various sources.
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
It might seem from this fairly lengthy write up that Western Legends is complex but this isn't the case. There are lots of options and choices in this open world game that players can take but the implementation of this through the rules is actually quite straightforward.
Western Legends has enough flexibility to give players interesting choices to follow and provide a varied experience but doesn't bog them down with too many rules.
This wide variety of choices provides players with several differing approaches to accumulating VPs and one of the interesting aspects is how these elements interact with each other and nudge players into also doing so.
Prospecting can be a good way to go, mining and selling gold nuggets earns both VPs and cash (Which can be spent for even more VPs!), provided that the player can get to the bank.
Outlaws will want to steal that gold for themselves (Or engage in other dastardly behaviour.), which in turn increases their wanted rating. For bandits, this is a good thing, because their wanted rating has the ongoing effect of constantly increasing their VPs.
Consequently, it means that players on the marshal track will be motivated to hunt down and arrest outlaws to prevent this occurring.
Players will want to watch what others are doing and if necessary, adjust strategies to respond to other player actions.
Having said that, the open nature of the game means that players could also simply avoid each other and it becomes a race to get to the Legendary Point threshold.
These differing playstyles means it's hard to describe what a typical game would be like to play because there really isn't a typical game.
Western Legends is also a bit of a RPG-adjacent game but handles those elements fairly simply. There are no experience points or levelling-up here, but purchasing item cards serves the purpose of increasing characters' abilities and thus money is a bit of a stand-in for experience points.
Additionally; from story cards and character objectives to tales that arise from emergent game play, the game is full of appropriate narrative beats. As a result, the game's old-west theme feels strongly implemented.
If I had a criticism, it's perhaps that the playtime feels a little long, however, I never felt like there was too long spent in downtime between turns.
As far as sandbox games go, I definitely think that Western Legends is one of the better examples. The implementation of the western theme is fun and fits well. If sandbox game are what interests you and you like the old-west theme and presentation, it's worth a try.
I play, I paint.