On July 24th, people in Utah celebrate Pioneer Day. This day commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Due to the lack of inclusiveness for non-Mormons, a counterculture movement has created “Pie and Beer Day.” With that in mind, it seemed like a good time to review Tasty Minstrel Games‘ latest release, appropriately entitled Pioneer Days!
In Pioneer Days, you and up to three other settlers will guide your wagons along the famous Oregon Trail. Build a capable team, gather your resources and equipment, and see if you will survive the perils of this harsh trek. Pioneer Days plays 2-4 players, ages 14+. It takes approximately one hour to play and retails for $60.
1. Randomly assign the horseshoe (start player token) to a player.
2. Place the 36 Gold Tokens into the gold bag.
3. Place 1 set of dice (yellow, green, blue, red, and black) and 1 set of dice per player into the black bag.
4. Set the two game boards (main and score) side by side in the center of the table, placing each player’s wagon (Scoring Marker) at the beginning of the score track.
5. Put the four Disaster Markers (yellow, green, blue, and red) at the beginning spaces on the disaster track of the main board.
6. Put the 20 Wagon Cards near the game boards.
7. There are 60 Townsfolk Cards (five sets of 12 cards). Pick two sets and shuffle them. Then, deal out six in the spaces under the main board.
8. Shuffle the 22 Town Cards and place nine in the spot indicated on the main board. Return the remaining 13 to the box. Then, flip two of the nine cards face-up in their spots on the main board.
9. Give two Player Boards to each player. From the two, they will pick one and return the other to the box. One side of each board has a standard pioneer. The other side has a unique pioneer. Take your starting resources listed on your Player Board.
10. Put the cattle, medicine, wood, damage, silver, and favor tokens near the game boards.
11. Mix the 27 Equipment Tiles face down and stack them on the General Store section of the main board. Turn one face up and an additional one for each player in the game.
Game Play – The game is played over four rounds (called Weeks) with each round being comprised of five turns (called Days). I guess they didn’t have weekends in Pioneer Times! Each Day each player will select a die and use it. Each day proceeds as follows:
1. The starting player draws one die, plus one more die per player and rolls them.
2. Beginning with the starting player and going clockwise, each player will take a die and note the image on it. Check if you have a Townsfolk Card or Equipment Tile that triggers the die. (Note: You may pay three silver to change the die face.) You will then use the die to take silver, take an action, or recruit a townsfolk. Then, discard the die to the appropriate space on the board.
3. After everyone has taken a die, one die will remain. Advance the Disaster Marker on the main board of the matching color. If it is a black die, advance all the Disaster Markers. When a Disaster Marker reaches the end of its track, a disaster is triggered. (Note: Multiple disasters can be triggered.)
4. Pass the starting player token, and repeat the first three steps. After five days, the dice bag is empty and you perform the following end of the week actions (also known as visiting town). Resolve card effects. Score one victory point per cattle. Satisfy the needs of face-up town cards to earn favors.
After each week, refill the dice bag and reset the main board with two new Town Cards, new Equipment Tiles, and six new Townsfolk Cards. If it’s the end of the fourth week, before visiting town, advance the Disaster Markers one more time and resolve any triggered disasters. Visit town, calculate your final score, and see who the winner is!
This game has a lot of components in the box. From tokens to tiles to cards and lots of dice, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth in pieces if you buy this game. But does the game play itself warrant the price? For starters, the game feels like a Tasty Minstrel Games, and that is not a bad thing. If you have ever played Harbour or Harvest, then you will be familiar with double-sided characters. On one side, everyone has the same character and on the other side, everyone has a different one. This same side gives everyone the same footing when learning the game and the different sides gives that little bit of asymmetry that will give you different games and different strategies every time! The different sides are also highly thematic and will provide you with a gambler, a tracker, a prospector, and a trader just to name four. This is a big positive!
Another big positive is the Townsfolk Cards. As I stated earlier, there are five sets, and you only use two of those sets every game. This means that there are ten possible combinations you can play with and again creates more variety in the game. In one game, you might encounter a carpenter, a doctor, and a cowboy, but in a different game you might encounter a swindler, trader, or even a bride! Knowing the cards are different each game and knowing that they will appear in different orders each game, means no two games will ever be the same and you’ll have to constantly adjust your strategy.
Playing through the game was fairly quick and pretty intuitive. Turns did not take long, and there was little downtime for players. The art was cartoon-y but fit in well with the game and the component quality was high. As for the theme, it fell a bit flat for me. I have seen several people compare this to the old computer game Oregon Trail, which we all know and love. I did not feel that way with this game. Sure, you are traveling the Oregon Trail, but I didn’t feel the sense of travel or journey with this game. It felt more like solving a puzzle of optimizing my different cards, tiles, and dice I chose. With that said, it is still a solid game and an under-represented theme in the board game world. I look forward to exploring it more, trying new strategies, and hoping there are small expansions that give us more players and townsfolk.
This game was provided to me by Tasty Minstrel Games in exchange for an honest review.
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Copyright 2018 Stuart Dunn
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