- More than anything else in a game, I value fun. If a game is just
pure fun to play, then I don't care if it has great mechanics, a solid
theme, etc. Fun is worth the price of a game alone. Boomtown (Face 2
Face Games, 2004 - Bruno Faidutti and Bruno Cathala) is one of those
games that provides a lot of fun. Of all the games that I brought
back from Origins, it's the one that I see people playing repeatedly.
A few people enjoyed it so much that they took over my job of teaching
games and started to teach it to others.
That, of course, is an excellent thing; as I love when games "grab"
those I teach them to. Boomtown has a lot of luck, and the auctions
each round are extremely important; but I haven't seen it bother
people too much. It's so much fun to win an auction, or get the
property you need, or have someone pay dearly to you because of one of
your saloons. The artwork, theme, and mechanics are all secondary to
the enjoyable time we have playing the game.
A deck of sixty cards is shuffled and placed in a face-down deck in
the middle of the table. Each player receives $10, in poker chips,
with the remainder of the chips placed in a "bank" in the middle of
the table. A pile of mayor pawns (one each of five different colors:
purple, green, blue, yellow, and red), town tokens (two each of the
same colors), and two dice are also placed in the middle of the table.
One player is chosen to be the first player, and the first round is
ready to begin.
In each turn, cards equal to the number of players are turned face up
in the middle of the table. Starting with the first player and
proceeding in a clockwise manner, each player must bid (higher than
the previous bidder), or pass. Once all players but one have passed,
that player wins the auction and pays the amount they bid to the
player on their RIGHT (counter-clockwise). The player gives half of
the money they receive to the player on their right, until either
there is nothing left to give or the bidding player is reached (they
don't get any of their own money.)
Once the bid has been paid, the highest bidder takes any of the cards
from the middle, with each player following in a clockwise order,
until they have taken all the cards. The cards that can be taken are
of the following:
- Mines: Mines have a production number in their top left-hand corner
(from two to twelve), a number of gold pieces on them (from two to
seven), and a town they are associated with printed on them (which
matches one of the five colors). If a player is the first person to
get two mines of the same color (town), they take the corresponding
mayor token. If another player gets MORE mines of that color, they
can take the mayor token for themselves. Either way, if a player
takes a mine card that another player has the mayor of, they must pay
that player one gold piece for each mine that the mayor's owner has of
- Dynamite: The player who takes this immediately destroys one
opponent's mine or saloon.
- Saloon: The player who takes this card puts a town token of their
choice on it. From now on, whenever a mine of that color produces
gold, the owner must pay the saloon's owner two gold.
- Holdup: The player who takes this card immediately chooses another
player and a number from two to twelve. They roll the dice; and if
they roll the number that they chose or greater, they steal that much
money from the target player.
- Governor: The player who takes this card changes one of their
mayors to "Governor" and now receives double payments whenever another
player takes a mine of their color
- Expropriation, Card Shark, Mustang, New Vein, Saloon Girls,
Stagecoach Robbery, and Telegraph all also have a variety of effects.
Once all players have taken a card, the first player rolls the dice.
Each player checks their mines, and receives gold for the mines that
have the same production number as the number rolled. The players
receive gold equal to the number of gold pieces on the producing
mine(s). A couple of mines automatically collapse if a two or twelve
are rolled. Once production occurs, the next turn occurs, with the
first player being the winner of the previous auction.
When the last card from the deck has been drawn and auctioned, the
game ends. Each player totals their points, adding their money, the
production value of all the mines they control, and five points for
each mayor token they control. The player with the most points is the
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: Boomtown packs quite a few components in the small,
colorful square box it comes in. The cards feel like thin plastic,
which is unique for a card game, but I like them (they're washable and
more durable). The artwork on the cards is very evocative and
thematic, although some people may not like a few of the provocative
pictures. The wooden mayor pieces are big and chunky wooden pawns,
and the town tokens are thick wooden discs. I'm not sure how easy to
tell the colors (on the wooden pieces) apart would be for a
color-blind person, but we had no trouble at all. The gold coins come
in three denominations (white, red, and blue mini-poker chips), and
the dice are - well, normal six-sided dice. Everything fits in a
custom made plastic insert in the box. Great components - changing a
simple card game into something more, just by how it looks!
2.) Rules: The rules come in several translations (including
Korean!), with the English rules in a seven-page booklet. The rules
are formatted very well and are easy to understand, although I think
an example or two wouldn't have hurt. Still, the game is extremely
simple to teach. I just explain about the mines and mayors at the
beginning of the game, and then just explain each special card as it
comes up. We had no real rule ambiguities when playing the game;
everything was very easy to work out.
3.) Bidding: The whole game revolves around the bidding. Players
have to realize that the other players are getting the money that they
bid, in a system similar to the one used in Traumfabrik but a little
more clever. If I let the player to my right win, for example, I may
get the second pick, but I won't get much of the money he's bid. The
player who picks last gets the majority of the money, so players are
constantly (at least in my games) kibitzing as to who should win each
4.) Taking: While bidding is an important aspect of the game,
choosing the correct card to take is also rather important. It is
occasionally obvious what card to take, but players are often
presented with a few tantalizing choices. They might want the best
producing mine up for grabs, or they might want another mine in a
specific color so that they might get the mayor of that color (or
prevent another player from getting it.) Sometimes players take the
strategy of not picking a color that they have a majority in, just so
that someone else has to take it. They are taking a slight risk,
because that player might eventually steal the mayor from them, but
they get some quick cash on the way. Each mine is worth a different
amount to each player, depending on what mines they already have; so
it's tremendously important to take the right card.
5.) Strategy and luck: Bidding and taking are the strategic parts of
the game, while the production rolls and effects of some of the
special cards add the luck. Some players will be irritated that their
mines never produce because certain numbers are never rolled (like in
Settlers of Catan). However, the production, while it certainly
affects the game, isn't always necessary for a victory; I've seen
players whose mines never produced the entire game win! Besides, it's
not too difficult to get an entire range of numbers, so it's fairly
probable that one of your mines will produce each turn.
6.) Fun Factor, Time, and Players: The game plays equally as well
with three to five players, although I much prefer the five player
game. Either way, Boomtown only lasts about forty-five minutes, which
is an excellent time for a game of this magnitude. No one is every
really "out" of the game, because everyone gets at least one card a
turn; and if you don't bid on much, you'll still get money from the
other players. Everyone is involved at all points in the game, and I
can't really put my finger on it; but something just makes the game a
lot of fun for all. There's a bit of "Take that!" with some of the
cards and tactical moves (forcing someone to pay you), but not too
much to make the game mean. Everyone I played it with, which has been
fairly man, has enjoyed the game; and it's requested often.
Bruno Faidutti is known for his chaos in games, and I enjoy them for
that reason; it just gives them the "fun factor" that Vasel enjoys so
much. Boomtown is certainly one of his typical games, yet plays
quickly and tightly, and is frankly a good auction game. There's more
strategy in the game that initially appears; and while luck may
determine the winner, superior play will usually supersede it.
Boomtown is one of those games that is quick enough, fun enough, and
clever enough that I don't care if I win anyway; it was fun just to
"Real men play board games."