Gunslinger: Legends of the Dusty Trail
While I’ve played quite a few video games that are set in the “Wild West” (“Call of Juarez Gunslinger”, “Sunset Riders”, etc.), I can’t recall ever playing a board game that captured that “shoot-em-up” feeling I get when I play the aforementioned games. “Gunslinger: Legends of the Dusty Trail”, a board game that’ll be available on The Game Crafter in April 2015, allows players to assume the role of one of seven notorious gunfighters of the old American West: Kid Rango, Chief War Wind, Pablo ‘The Pistol’ Perez, Walter Winston, Raging Arrow, Luther ‘The Lawman’ Hale, or Little Pancho. From there, players will be recruiting a posse in order to rob banks or trains, collect bounties on mercenaries, and engage in gunfights against one another. Before I start letting the John Wayne jokes fly, I’d like to quickly thank Game Designer Tim Droegemueller for reaching out and providing me with a press copy for review purposes.
*Editor’s Note: There are three game modes, each with different average play times.
Setup & Gameplay
Editor’s Note: As I mentioned above, there are three different game modes. To keep the review moving, I’ll opt to only cover the primary mode: “Gunslinger: Roundup”.
Each player will choose one of the posse bosses (the names of which are mentioned in the introduction) as well as the three clutch cards (special abilities) they come with by default. Any posse bosses that are not used will be shuffled in with the mercenary deck, which is placed onto the game board. Each player also gets three passage cards, face-down. The order of play is predetermined in the rulebook with Raging Arrow going first and Walter Winston going last. There are a few other miscellaneous steps that I didn’t mention, but that’s the jist of it.
On a player’s turn, they will either:
Move One Space – The current player can only move one space per turn. The board itself is separated into territories, so in order to pass from one to another, the player will need to discard the appropriate passage card from their hand. Moving onto a space occupied by another player or a hideout will result in a gunfight. Moving onto a space occupied by the Union Pacific Railroad, Texas Cattle Drive, or Bank of the Nation will allow the player to attempt a robbery.
Recruit a Gunslinger – In order to recruit a gunslinger, the player must be on a town site. The player will simply draw a card from the pile of available gunslingers from that town site. That card will be placed in a player’s posse, face-down, onto any of the five positions they want. A player cannot recruit if they have a total of five gunslingers (including the posse boss). During combat, the gunslinger in the last position (positions are numbered one through five) is always the first to be eliminated…in essence, they act as “meat shields” in that they protect your posse boss. Each gunslinger has different stats (attack, evade, etc.), so it’s generally a good idea to put gunslingers with high evade and low attack stats in the last few positions.
Combat occurs when a player lands on another player’s posse or a hideout (assuming there are still mercenaries and unused bosses in the mercenary pile). During a gunfight, each individual gunslinger will perform a series of steps to see if they land a hit. The “draw” value is used to determine the gunslinger attack order (ties go to the attacker). When a gunslinger attacks, it’ll roll a die check against their attack skill. If successful, the opponent rolls an evade check in the same way. A successful hit means that the gunslinger in the last position is eliminated and the shooter gets to collect the bounty on his head. This continues with each gunslinger in the posse until one posse is either eliminated or retreats. All three robberies simply involve roll checks, though posse members can be killed in the attempt.
Players continue taking turns until all but one posse is eliminated from the game. Play immediately stops and everyone will compare the gold they’ve earned from collecting bounties, performing robberies, and etc. The player with the most gold, wins!
Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.
Firstly, “Gunslinger: Legends of the Dusty Trail” is the type of game that encourages aggressive play. It’s all about getting your posse around the board as quickly as possible and engaging in as many successful fights and robberies as you can. This has the potential to create some hard feelings in a competitive group setting, especially since the game ending condition involves wiping out the other players. Players who are eliminated early on will have to suffer significant downtime…it would have been ideal for a player to be able to come back by spending so much gold, which in turn would make them less likely to win the game. Players could instead play to a certain gold point value, since the game ending condition would no longer be achievable. It might not be realistic, but at least a player wouldn’t have to sit on their holsters for twenty minutes waiting for the game to end.
I appreciate how easily the turns play out as all you’re doing is moving a space and taking whatever action is appropriate. This gave me more time to think about where I wanted to go and how I wanted to arrange my posse. Speaking of which, I also like the fact that each posse boss has unique clutch cards that give them special abilities. The “Eagle Eye” clutch card, for example, lands an automatic hit with no die roll necessary. The “Sun at Back” clutch card is more defensive, forcing a gunslinger to lose their attack that round. Players can earn more clutch cards by defeating mercenaries at hideouts, but there’s still a sense of rarity in the sense that you’ll only want to use them when you absolutely have to. Finally, I also liked that each gunslinger had unique stats as it kept each gunfight different. It also made me “care” more about the ones with stats I liked, which in turn made me want to keep them alive.
The two other game modes, “Gunslinger: Shootout” and “Gunslinger: Showdown” play a bit more quickly and focus on combat. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details here, but suffice it to say that it’ll give players another way to satisfy their craving for a shootout without having to play the economic and area control portions of the game. The components themselves were pretty sharp in terms of color scheme, making the board and the pieces fun to look at. With that said, I most certainly have a problem with the $54.99 retail price (per the developer as of 2/23/15). It just doesn’t do anything remarkable enough to warrant that kind of price. There are plenty of Euro-games out on the market that feature more components and a higher degree of in-depth gameplay that sell for half as much. I can’t claim to know the costs that come with producing a board game, but a $20-$30 price point is a bit more realistic for what you’re getting here.
Do I recommend “Gunslinger: Legends of the Dusty Trail”? At its current price point, it’s rather hard to. Don’t get me wrong, this game is filled with some great ideas and incorporates an easy way to get your “shootout fix”, but the retail cost is just too steep for my tastes for me to be able to recommend it to others on a budget. As someone who lives from paycheck to paycheck and supports a family of five people (and four animals), I factor the price into my review score heavily. Had this been twenty or thirty bucks cheaper, I’d probably tack on a point or two. If money isn’t an issue however, then by all means don a really bad John Wayne accent and “draw, pilgrim”.
Final Verdict: 5/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Gunslinger: Legends of the Dusty Trail” here: