Publisher: S.P. Hansen Games
Game Designer: Scott P Hansen
Artwork: Manolis Frangidis
Ages: 13 & up
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $34
Posse: Wild West Justice is a fast and easy to play card and dice game for 2-4 players currently on Kickstarter with a project end date of March 10. The goal of the game is to round up a posse to build your dice pool and powers,draw warrants and hunt down gangs of outlaws to bring them to justice, collect bounties and the player with the most money is declared the top lawman!
Summary of Content
Posse: Wild West Justice is the latest of several Kickstarter projects I’ve reviewed recently and as such, the game I played was in rough prototype form. In fairness, I cannot score the game’s components or final art quality, so we’ll stick with just the gameplay.
Nearly all of the components were lacking final art but after seeing some of the completed samples by artist Manolis Frangidis, I’m confident the final quality of the art will be excellent.
The game comes with 100 cards with more planned as unlocks for the Kickstarter, 10 blank dice that need stickering and a rules sheet. Originally the plan was to get engraved dice but since The Game Crafter does not offer engraved dice, the decision was made to use stickers instead.
Game designer Scott P Hansen is a well-known and established video game developer who has done work on consoles, PC/MAC and the iOS platforms for over 17 years and recently turned his design skills to the cardboard realm. This is Scott’s first outing in the tabletop arena as he continues to work on developing social games for iOS and Facebook.
To get started, players take turns drawing posse cards until they have a posse with a total value of at least 20 points, indicated by the point values on the bottom right corner of the cards. Each player receives five warrant cards, reveals the top one and draws as many outlaws from the outlaw deck as shown on the warrant card and you’re off on your first manhunt!
The warrants in Posse: Wild West Justice indicate the number of outlaws in and any bonus awarded for catching the gang. The outlaw cards list requirements for capture and any special powers the outlaw has, written in easy to understand text. The outlaw’s with powers are generally the higher value ones, making the payoff harder to earn but also more lucrative.
Each posse member adds a pair of custom d6’s to your dice pool in green, yellow, red dice or a combination of any of them. The dice vary in ability with the weakest being green and strongest are red; green dice only give you two successes where red gives you four. Successes are marked by a bullet or handcuff icon, one each for green and two each for red with the failures shown as horseshoe prints that count as ‘escapes’.
The members of your posse will vary from deputized townsfolk worth a meager three points, giving you two green die to tough hombres like Wild Bill Hiccup who is valued at seven points, gives you two red die and can capture outlaws with one less bullet result.
Some tough gals get in on the action too, like Six Gun Gertie and her two red dice who also adds an extra yellow die to your pool or my personal favorite, Barb Wyre. She can capture all outlaws dead or alive and this can be very helpful since some outlaws can only be either killed or captured, with Barb you can ignore that.
Players roll the dice available to them from their pool and attempt to get the right combinations of either bullets or handcuffs to bring the lawbreakers to justice either dead or alive. Each outlaw card shows you how many bullets or handcuffs you need to capture them and just as with the posse, some outlaws have powers that can alter the result of your rolls.
Sister Six Gun forces the strongest posse member’s roll miss on the first attack, so you’d remove those dice from the roll for the first turn only. Momma Buckshot removes one red die from your pool until caught and Big Nose George changes one yellow die to a green die.
Once any player has captured their final gang, the game ends immediately and players tally up their winnings. I’ve won even without having all five gangs captured because I had a couple of high dollar collars that helped me take the win while the first player to five had small pickings.
The gameplay of Posse: Wild West Justice is pretty simple as you can see and when you get a good posse it is very fun but not so much when you have a weak posse. As with any random draw, players can end up with heavily skewed results, either good or bad. A good draw will allow you to plow through the outlaws fairly quickly thanks to a stronger dice pool whereas a bad dice pool from a weaker posse will see you burning turns trying to capture all but the lower end outlaws and this can be frustrating.
Here’s an example of a weak posse that I’ve had on more than one occasion, a 23 point posse made up of five value 3 deputies and two value 4 deputies. This gave me a dice pool of 12 green dice and 2 yellow dice and made for a very long and unsuccessful game for me thanks to poor dice and shabby rolls. The green dice offer just a 33% chance of successfully getting a bullet or handcuff roll. The yellow dice increase to a 50% chance of two handcuffs and a bullet, as you can see it can make for a tough row to hoe if you have a weak hand.
I think the posse draw would be better served using a drafting mechanic, giving the power to the players to pick and choose their posse’s. This eliminates the luck of the draw factor that can be a potential turnoff while adding some strategy to the game. Random is good for the outlaws and warrants but for the posse can do more harm than good. There is already enough chance at play with the dice rolling, adding a layer of strategy with a draft can only be beneficial.
There is also no direct player interaction, making the game multiplayer solitaire which doesn’t always resound well in a party game. Since I first received the Posse: Wild West Justice prototype, Scott Hansen contacted me to let me know of some new rules being tested out in an attempt to alleviate a few of the issues, including the lack of player interaction. The new rules are a step in the right direction but still need some work.
One of the proposed rule changes allows you to draw a completely new posse but again, I think a draft would work best here.
The ‘sacrifice’ rule would allow you to discard a posse member to capture one outlaw. While it could come in handy to sacrifice that lowly value 3 card, should its discard equal grabbing a high value outlaw worth $450?
‘Sabotage’ allows a player to free all of one of another player’s outlaws, forcing them to be recaptured. This can be done only every two turns but seems overpowered to me and can cause the game to drag on needlessly.
I’m happy to see Scott so responsive to feedback and trying new things. I’m looking forward to his further developments and improvements to the game.
Posse: Wild West Justice shows promise as a light filler game but the enjoyment factor of the game right now is too heavily dependent on the posse that you end up with. Since this is random and beyond the gamers control, it doesn’t engage the player or make them feel invested as it could, which hurts replayability.
Despite the issues I’ve talked about, I do like the game but it needs work. It can really be a fun game when players have fairly equitable posse’s and with some added player interaction, better than what’s been proposed so far, could be even more fun.
I really think the answer to the posse draw is a draft, taking away the randomness and giving the power back to the players. Adding a couple light layers of other strategy through player interactions would eliminate the isolated feeling of multiplayer solitaire as well. I view this game as still in development, so with some fixes the game will definitely improve.
It has potential to be a pretty fun little game; it’s just not there yet.
Company Website: http://www.possewwj.com
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/SPHansenGames
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to me.