Once Upon a Time in the West

Tiny Epic Western

by: Scott Almes
published by: Gamelyn Games

It’s the wild west complete with gun-slingers, sheriffs, and hanging out on porches drinking moonshine - all in an exciting and very fun game.  This version of Gamelyn Games designed by Scott Almes and illustrated by Adam P. McIver was Kickstarted in 2015 and arrived in fall of 2016. It’s a fun combo of a variety of game elements including worker placement and poker hands.  Through a series of six rounds, you’re mobilizing your “posse” to visit various establishments in a western town in an effort to gain resources (law, force or gold) that you can later use to buy some other properties and secure victory points. Each round, you’re simultaneously playing a three-card poker hand that could let you cash in on other “pots” of resources if you win the game at that site. But this town ain’t big enough for everybody! If another player wants the same thing as you do, then a duel breaks out, using funky little bullet dice, leaving one player lying on the floor with nothing but his cards to keep him warm.
Mike and Susan: Not so tiny, plenty EPIC! (well in truth, she IS kinda tiny!)

How we came to play this game:
Susan kickstarted this game after we really liked “Tiny Epic Galaxies.”

This reminds us of:
Susan: This game is a very clever mash-up of several game mechanics.  You are doing meeple-placing to attempt to acquire resources and you’re playing a (simplified) version of poker. The point mechanism is similar to Tiny Epic Galaxies, but they threw in some twists to vary how bonus points might be acquired, which really adds to the strategy of this game.

Mike: It has all the hallmarks of the Tiny Epic franchise. Multiple avenues to victory, miniaturization of a wide and familiar “real world” space, very cool representations of resources, but then adds POKER! For real!
..and a little gun play!

Game art:
Susan: I like the basic artistic themes of this game and the design of the playing surface with the location cards is well done, but the print is super tiny.  It’s a “cheaters glasses” kind of game.

Mike: The game art is wonderful. Conceptually is really compelling, the cards are designed to represent the buildings in your classic “western town” complete with porches! But the design does suffer from one of the other “tent poles” of the Tiny Epic franchise which is the sliding of cards under other placed cards that may or may not have pieces on top of them! It’s incredibly annoying. It’s almost always a mess, and even though the final outcome looks cool, the mechanic itself is ALMOST not worth the effect! And like Susan points out, you either need to be under 30 or super-sighted to read the damn text!
Full disclosure: YOU will NEVER be able to lay this game out as pristinely as this pic! Just so you know!

Best part:
Susan: I just love the replayability of this game - there are lots of different characters with different abilities and with the multitude of buildings that can come up and the stochasticity of the poker element, I don’t see us getting bored of this for a long time.

Mike: As the member of this duo who suffers from analysis paralysis chronically, I am at my most engaged with this game when I am weighing choices. The game does a really excellent job of setting up scenarios that force you to do a fair amount of calculating to assess maximum reward. It feeds right into my psychosis!
Mike: "OK I'm almost ready! This game is awesome right Suze? ...Suze?? ...Susan!!??"

Worst part:
Susan:  I think this game is fun for just two players, but it takes on a distinctly different feel when it’s three or more.  That’s not all bad, though.

Mike: I mean I don’t really have to repeat this right? It’s like I gotta be this dude to pull off a key (albeit pedestrian) component of the game without trashing the entire setup! UGH!!

Mistakes we made:
Susan: Frankly I’m amazed at how well we did in learning this game because I think both Mike and I were pretty hung-over after a holiday party when we broke this out.  The “rival” element during poker matches can be a little tricky and I know it took me a while to get used to the powers of the Sheriff’s Office that let you change suits or values

Play again?
Susan:  Absolutely.  I think this will be a long-time favorite.  It’s a small game so easy to travel with, but it does need a fair amount of surface to set up.

Mike: Yeah, it’s a fantastic game all the way around, and will be even better when we evolve our hands to become spatulas so we can SLIDE ONE CARD UNDER ANOTHER!
But seriously, I love this game, it’s deeply satisfying after a go. Leaves you with the “hey let’s do it again” or “man that was great, let’s have a ciggie” feeling!

You know, like fun, but messy... (to further extend this uncomfortable metaphor!)

Times played:
Mike: We have been terrible at keeping track of this because we’ve both had some lifestyle changes in the last year so we are less diligent than we were, so let’s say more than 10 times, less than 20? 

Game record – Mike: I’m gonna go on feel here and say I’m winning!

Saddle up, posse
We need to get us some gold
Straight flush beats 'em all

Click on the movie to learn how to play, the drop some duckets on it! This is a lot of fun!