The dusty streets of the desert town of Sweetwater Gulch grew quiet as Sheriff Garrett and his deputy stood waiting. The Leroy gang had ridden into town to rob the bank. Time seemed to stand still as the two groups faced off. The hot summer sun was directly overhead, casting little shadow on the ground. It was high noon. All of a sudden, with blur of motion and the sound of iron sliding across leather, the silence was shattered by the sound of gunfire. Welcome to High Noon.
What Is High Noon?
High Noon is a miniature tactical combat board game set in a fictional Wild West World. Players take control of individual posses of two to five characters as they attempt to defeat the posses of the other players. High Noon Game, Inc.’s first Kickstarter launched on May 5th. High Noon is seeking funding with a pledge of $89 for the core game which includes everything you need to play the game. Higher pledge levels include the core game and one or more expansion packs. A new, lower priced pledge level was added. For $40, backers can get the core game without the miniature doors and windows and the gold bars and chips are cardboard counters. It still includes the 14 character miniatures. There are also Kickstarter exclusives that will be unlocked during the 30-day campaign. The core game can be played by up to four players, 9 years of age and up. Expansions can add even more players.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
High Noon Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy of the game, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
Here’s what’s included in the base game, not including stretch goals:
- 14 Character miniatures
- 1 Bank tile
- 1 Jail tile
- 6 Road tiles
- 4 Alley tiles
- 9 Window miniatures
- 3 Door miniatures
- 1 Double door miniature
- 1 Vault door miniature
- 4 Tombstone miniatures
- 14 Character Sheets
- 18 Loot crate counters
- 108 Loot cards
- 143 Posse Cards (divided into 4 posse decks)
- 40 Gold bars
- 61 Chips
The core came of High Noon comes with 14 characters which are divided into four different posses. The number of characters in each posse varies from two to five. Each character has a miniature as well as a character sheet which contains all their stats including how many spaces they can move during a turn, the range of their default weapon as well as the type of weapon, the amount of loot they can carry and the reward earned by the player that kills them. In addition, there is a health tracker.
The map is created by assembling map tiles. Each posse comes with their own starting tile. For example the Sheriff and his Deputy start out at the jail while the LeRoy Gang begins in the bank. There are also street tiles as well as alley tiles to help flesh out the site of the shootouts. The core game comes with a total of 12 tiles. However, higher tier pledges come with more tiles to allow players to create even larger towns. Door and window miniatures are placed in designated locations on the building tiles to help players visualize access points for each building.
Each posse comes with its own deck of posse cards. These cards are used to attack and perform other types of actions. Each card lists the character or characters for whom they can be used. There are two types of cards: basic and special. Basic cards have an attack value and a defense value. Special cards may also have these values as well as other types of actions which the character can take. These special cards are customized for the posse and help make each posse truly unique. For example, the Deputy has a card that increases his attack value if he is targeting an outlaw.
Loot crate tiles are placed in specific spots on the posse map tiles and are also placed around the map during setup. There are three types of loot crates: weapons, supplies, and rations. When a player loots a crate, they draw cards from the corresponding loot deck. Loot cards can be used by characters to heal and recover health, add new, more powerful weapons, and even modify character’s default weapons. For example, exploding bullets increase the damage caused by a pistol. Going after loot can really give a player an advantage during a game.
Gold bars are collected for damaging and killing other player’s characters. They are essentially the victory points of the game. The player with the highest number at the end of the game wins. There are also three different colors of chips. Red chips are used to keep track of characters’ health on their character sheets. Blue chips are for loot cards to keep track of limited numbers of uses and timers on them. Finally, green chips represent poisoning of a character or the locations of objects and effects on the map.
How to Play High Noon
Each player picks a posse at the start. They then take their posse decks and shuffle them as well as collect the character sheets for their posse. The loot cards are then separated into three decks based on their type and shuffled. Next the loot crates are shuffled with their “looted” side up so player’s can’t see why type of loot they provide.
Players can use a predetermined map or make one of their own. If they are making one of their own, they must use the starting tiles for each of the posses being played as well as at least 5 additional tiles. Now place the characters in their starting positions as listed on the tiles. Next place loot crates on all of the green spaces on the map. Players then take turns drawing a random loot crates and placing them on the map so they are at least six squares away from any other loot crates or their is no more spaces available on the map. Each player can place 3 loot crates. All remaining loot crates are discarded and not used for the game.
Place the three loot decks so all players can access them or next to a player who will deal them out. The chips should also be placed near the map. Finally, each player draws six cards from their posse deck. The LeRoy gang always goes first. If no one is playing as this posse, then players can choose who goes first. You are now ready to play.
The gameplay is fairly simple and straightforward. Each player takes turns controlling the characters in their posse. The turns are divided into three phases: Movement, Action, and Draw Cards. A player must complete one phase for their entire posse before moving to the next phase. Once all players have taken their turn, a round is completed.
Movement is the first phase. Each character can be moved on the map up to its movement allowance as shown on their character sheet. Moving to an adjacent square costs one movement point while moving diagonally costs two points per square. It costs two points to move through an obstacle, but a character can’t end movement on obstacle squares. While they can’t move through a wall, characters can jump through windows, but take one damage as a result. Characters do not have to move their full allowance or even move at all.
Once movement has been completed, each characters in the posse can take a single action. There are six possible actions. The first is to play a card. Since there are no dice in the game, you use attack cards to attack opposing posses. Not all cards are attack cards. Some are marked Free Action which allows you to use them without it counting as your one and only action.
Another option is to loot a crate. If a character is adjacent, not diagonal, to a crate, they can loot it for their action. Draw three cards from the matching deck and then select one to keep. Discard the other two cards. The chosen card is placed next to the character sheet of the character who looted the crate. Then flip the crate over to its looted side. It is not removed from the map but continues to serve as an obstacle as well as cover.
When a character is killed in the game, the miniature is removed and replaced with either a green chip or a tombstone marker. An adjacent character can loot the body and take any or all of the loot cards from that deceased character. Once this is done, the chip or tombstone is removed, even if not all the loot was taken.
Another action is to equip an item. Some loot cards have items which must be equipped before they can be used. These could be armor, a rifle scope, or other item. Place a blue chip on the item to show that it is equipped.
If a character is adjacent, not diagonal, to another character, they can pass as many items to the other character as they want. However, they can only pass items to one other character, even if adjacent to several. This can be important if a character gets a loot card they can’t use, but another character can.
Finally, you can spend an action dropping an many loot cards as you want. They are not left on the map, but instead the cards are discarded to their appropriate decks.
For the final phase, players must draw three cards. Since they can only have a total of 12 cards in their hand at a time, before drawing, they must first discard down to nine cards. You don’t get to look at the new cards before you discard.
In order to attack an opposing character, you must play a card from your hand with an attack value. The target must be in range. Each character sheet lists the range of the default weapon. If you are using a weapon from a loot card, then use that weapon’s range. Range is determined by counting squares to the target just like in movement. Diagonal squares count as two spaces. Once the attack card is played, the defending player can play a card with a defense value. The defense value is subtracted from the attack value to determine damage. The red chip on the target character’s sheet is then move that many spaces along their health track. If the chip reaches the final square marked with a skull and crossbones, that character is killed.
Some objects on the map have an orange border around their squares. These provide cover. Here is how cover works. If an object is between two characters, but neither is adjacent to the object, all attack values between these characters are halved, rounded up. If only one character is adjacent to a piece of cover, that character does not suffer the penalty. If both characters are adjacent to the same cover, neither suffers the penalty. If both characters are adjacent to different objects that provide cover, both have the penalty to their attacks.
Ending the Game
The game ends after 12 rounds. The player with the most gold is the winner. There are two ways you can earn gold. The first is inflicting damage. If a player inflicts any damage on an opponent during a turn, they get one gold, no matter how much damage is inflicted or how many opposing characters are damaged. The most you can get is one gold per turn for damage. The second way to get gold is killing an opposing character. Each character has a gold value on their character sheet. Whichever player delivers the killing attack collects that much gold.
There are a few alternate ways to play. In Last Posse Standing, you don’t keep track of rounds or gold. Instead, you play until only one posse has characters still alive. You can also play using only weapons crates or by placing as many crates as you want, each within 3 squares instead of 6 of anyone or anything.
Why You Should Play High Noon
I had the opportunity to play several games of High Noon using a prototype that was provided to me. High Noon is really unlike any other game on the market. It is focused almost entirely on combat. You score points by attacking and inflicting damage on your opponents. I was surprised how tough it was to actually kill characters. Due to the ability to play defense cards to limit or prevent damage, and the abundant amount of cover on the map tiles which halve attack values, it can take several turns to send a character to the undertaker. As such, maneuvering around the map becomes very important as you want to keep your characters in cover while flanking or denying cover to your targets. Furthermore, the rules are fairly simple so players can focus on playing the game rather than constantly referring to the rule book for clarification.
The map tiles are very detailed, especially the buildings. The bank tile has several windows, double doors at the front, a teller’s counter that provides inside cover and limits movement, the bank president’s office, and even a vault with vault doors. The jail tile has tables and two small jail cells. Even the street tiles have objects such as a broken wagon, a cart, and bushes which provide cover. The ability to rearrange these tiles allows players to create a number of different maps. The default layout for Sweetwater Gulch has the bank and jail across the street from each other with a wagon in the middle of the street as well as crates providing cover. However, players could put open road tiles between the buildings or even widen the road to make crossing the road much more dangerous. Expansions to the game include even more options such as saloons, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and more.
What really makes High Noon are the posses. Each one is unique and plays a bit differently. I was able to play the four posses that are included in the core game. The second tier pledge comes with four more posses and the all in pledge comes with a total of 12 posses. Additional posses can be unlocked during the Kickstarter campaign as stretch goals. Let’s take a look at the four posses from the core game.
The Lawmen posse consists of Sheriff Garret and Deputy Gates. These two characters have more health than most other characters, but that helps balance that there are only two in the posse. This posse deck has some great special cards in it. The Sheriff can draw cards or even fire back at an enemy when attacked with special cards. Since each character has more health, players can send the Lawmen to go after their opponents rather than sit back and shoot from the jail, thus allowing for a more aggressive play style. One tactic I found useful was to have the Sheriff play a card that allowed me to search an opponent’s hand and discard two cards of my choice, specifically cards with defense values. Then I used the Deputy’s card that doubled damage from 4 to 8 if the target can’t defend. Both characters in this posse are fairly equal in ability.
The LeRoy Gang consists of Quentin LeRoy, the leader off the gang, his brother James, and three gang members. While this is the largest posse, the gang members only have 5 health compared to 13 and 10 for the brothers respectively. With five characters, this gives the gang the ability to attack five times if you have enough cards for your posse. Plus you can spread out and flank your opponents to deny them the benefits of cover. Quentin has cards that let him attack twice, allowing him to double his attack on one target or attack two different targets. Another card increases damage he inflicts based on the amount he has taken. James has a card that allows him to play a second attack card as well as one that gives Quentin a free move if he is close to James. The deck also has some Whiskey Shot cards which can restore health as a free action to help keep those low health gang members in the fight.
Colonel Benjamin Rodgers and his Rough Riders are veterans of the Civil War that takes place in the alternate universe of High Noon. As such, they function like a military unit. Rogers has 16 health, but his three Rough Riders have only 6 to 8 health. Each of the Rough Riders carries a rifle which has a longer range than a pistol. Plus, with a rifle, if you inflict damage, you add one additional damage to the target due to the piercing round of a rifle. The Rough Riders have special cards that allow them to move after they attack as well as volley fire which lets them attack through each other without having to take a cover penalty to their attack value. Colonel Rodgers can play a card that allows all characters to move up to three tiles as a free action. He can also focus the fire of the posse on a single target so that each attack value against it that turn is increased. There are also cards that can heal your wounded Rough Riders. For this posse, you want to keep the leader, Colonel Rodgers, alive. If he is killed, many of your posse cards are useless.
Elsu’s Warband rounds out the four posses. This Native American themed posse is also one of the most unique. Consisting of just three characters, each one is quite different. Unlike the other posses, everyone in the Warband can move six spaces per turn instead of four. Also, while other posses’ characters can carry two loot, two of the Warband can carry only one loot and the third carries no loot at all. Elsu is armed with a bow and has special cards such as poison tip which poisons a target if it inflicts damage, causing additional damage each turn until that character is healed. Fire tip sets a piece of cover and all adjacent cover aflame, causing damage to any characters adjacent to the cover. This is a great way to get opponents away from cover. Qaletaqa is a sharpshooter with a rifle with the longest range of the four posses. While his health is the lowest of the Warband, his special cards allow him to daze a character and prevent them from moving or taking an action in the next turn. If one of the other members of the posse is attacked, Qaletaqa can move and then attack during an opponent’s turn by playing a special card. Kiyiya is the only all melee character. Armed with tomahawks, he can only attack adjacent enemies. His special cards given him extra movement and a second attack during a turn.
Dwight Cenac, the creator of High Noon, was gracious enough to answer several of my questions during a phone call as well as through emails. One of the key points he iterated about the game was their tag line, “Pick your posse.” As illustrated in my descriptions, the posses are really the stars of the game. In describing his goal for the game, Dwight shared, “I wanted to create a game that was super simple to play right out of the box so kids as young as 9 years old could play without any supervision. But I also wanted it to be compelling enough that even the most avid adult gamer could enjoy it.” He also described what makes High Noon different from other games on the market. “Fully realized, High Noon is an entirely modular experience. Other games with expansions generally offer different teams or missions or things that ultimately work within the established game system. With High Noon, there are expansions that completely alter what the game is, and it’s all entirely optional to the end user. If you want High Noon to be a small-scale tactical combat game, that’s what the core game is. Want to grow that out a little but with a few extra teams? There are expansions for that. Want to completely customize your squads? There’s an expansion for that. Want to bring in a marketplace of items to upgrade your squad’s loadout? An expansion for that. Move into epic large scale battles with massive armies? Expansions for that. Want to get more up close and play a traditional RPG where you level up your character? There’s an expansion for that. And so on and so on. Unlike other board games on the market, High Noon’s end game is to be precisely whatever you want it to be.” Finally, he wanted to emphasize that “High Noon is so much more than what is on or even in the box. But we have to start somewhere. The future of High Noon is massive, and it ain’t all cowboys and Indians. We’ve got mad scientists, circus sideshow creatures, magicians and psychics, medicine men and snake oil con artists, zombies and aliens, samurai and ninja, time-traveling cyborgs, from superheroes to the supernatural and those are just the first few expansions. There’s a long term vision for the High Noon universe but it all starts with a little bank heist in Sweetwater Gulch.”
After playing several games of High Noon, I found it to be a breath of fresh air-with a whiff of gunsmoke and sagebrush. The Wild West has always been favorite theme of mine. Growing up, I would spend every summer at my grandfather’s cattle ranch, wearing boots and a hat just like he did. I remember watching westerns on television reading about lawmen, outlaws and cowboys. While there have been other tabletop games with western themes, none really had the feel of a shoot out. I really enjoy games with tactical combat. However, they do not always make it to the table often due to set up time and complex rule systems that require a rule book on hand for constant reference, thus breaking up the feel of an intense firefight. In High Noon, set up is quick and you get right into the combat on the first turn. The only bookkeeping one has to do is keep track of health and looted items or weapons with limited use. You get the feel of a shootout. I played my first game of High Noon with three of my children and had all four posses on the map. I was the only one who had read the rule book, but was easily able to explain the rules and teach as we played. The simple mechanics, move and attack, keep the game moving. There was not a turn that went by that someone was not attacked. I really love the posses. Each one allows for different styles of play. In fact, I would definitely say the the posses make High Noon. There are even backstories for each posse which build up the storyline of the game’s alternate universe. I can’t wait to play as all of the posses and learn their strengths and nuances. If you are looking for a game that really focuses on tactical combat, can be picked up and played by just about anyone, and has a great western theme, I highly recommend moseying on over to Kickstarter and staking your claim, or making a pledge, on High Noon.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a prototype of this game for review purposes..