Tasty Minstrel Games is on a roll this year with their Kickstarter games, particularly their line of “Pay What You Want” minigames. Coin Age managed to raise a whopping $65k on an area control game that was essentially a single card (though stretch goals added on more stuff later). Burgoo was a cooking game that raised a more modest $20k—still not bad. Their current project, with less than a week to go, has one of my favorite titles yet: This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us.
This Town is an area-control tile-laying game (a la Carcassonne), where you’re trying to stake out land in the wild west. There’s actually a free print and play available if you want to give it a shot, though the finished product will have nicer graphics. The game is, as the title suggests, for 2-4 players, takes about 15 minutes, and costs—well, whatever you want. (Minimum pledge is $3 including worldwide shipping, with a $5 suggested pledge.)
The game includes 25 tiles, and thanks to some stretch goals it’ll also come with a scoreboard, and the Stinkin’ Badges expansion. If the funding reaches $22,500 the Hired Guns expansion will be added as well.
There are four different brands—each player picks one. It’s a nice touch that the brands have different shapes and images, so it works for color blind players, too. Each tile shows some pattern of fences and brands, and some also have silver ingots on them.
The starting tile has an X fence on it with one brand in each section, and this is placed in the center of the table. Players then take turns drawing a tile and placing it, always adjacent to another tile already on the table.
Whenever you complete a town (by fencing it in) then you score that town. Whoever has the most brands in the town gets points based on the number of brands that the second-place player has. For example, in the picture above, Bell/Circle has 2 brands, so they’re in first place. Second place is Bull/Triangle with 1 brand, so Bell/Circle gets 1 point. Other players can also score based on the number of brands fewer than them (not in this example), but last place scores nothing. Completing a town with a silver ingot (whether or not you’re first place) lets you then move a tile—but only if it doesn’t break up a completed town.
That’s basically it: you play until all the tiles are used up, and the highest score wins.
I love tile-laying games. Carcassonne was one of my first board game loves, and is still one of my favorites. But for whatever reason I haven’t played a lot of tile-laying games that stay simple while providing depth in strategy. While This Town probably won’t unseat Carcassonne for me, it does have a similar flavor and I think it’ll be great for a quick fix.
The scoring mechanic is pretty clever: to score big, you want to build a big town, but not only do you need a lot of your brands in it, you also need somebody else to have a lot—but not quite as many as you. That tension is what really makes the game interesting: start a town with a bunch of your brands in it, and somebody might just cap it off when you’ve got only one point (or none). But get a big town going where you don’t have a clear lead, and somebody could steal it away from you. Unlike Carcassonne, though, it’s hard to score much by finishing little tiny towns, because if there are only two brands in a town then nobody scores anything.
The silver ingots also make it possible to pull off some great turns. For instance you might be able to close off a town that scores a little bit for somebody else, but then use the silver ingot power to move a much-needed tile to give you the edge somewhere else. Or, even better, you might be able to score twice (or more!) in one turn.
In short, This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us is, in fact, big enough for a nice tile-laying fix when you need it. And since you get to pick your price, you can choose something that seems fair—it’s definitely worth the $5 suggested donation, particularly if some more of those stretch goals get unlocked. Check out the Kickstarter page for more details.