Saloon Tycoon – Mini Expansions – Van Ryder Games – Review


Saloon Tycoon - Mini Expansions - Van Ryder Games - Review 1

Publisher: Van Ryder Games

Game Type: Tile Placement, Resource Management

Designer: Robert Couch

Initial Year of Release: 2018

Artist: Agnieszka Dabrowiecka

Theme and What is it?

*Note* Copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes.

I’m going to look at a couple of mini expansions that expand on the tile placement game of empire building in the old west. There are two expansions, Dead or Alive and Boomtown. I’ll look at both and see how they stack up and fit into the empire you’ve built from a single saloon.

Gameplay Mechanics

Saloon tycoon is a tile placement game. I’ve covered it and its Ranch Expansion elsewhere. You can find my review for the base game here. and the Ranch expansion here.

I’ll do a very basic overview here followed by a more detailed look at each expansion. The long and short of Saloon tycoon is that players will attempt to build a Wild West town. You start with one or two buildings, depending on whether you’re playing with just the base game or have added in the Ranch Expansion. On your turn you lay tiles to represent buildings, play action cards, collect characters, herd animals, and work towards having the best town.

Both of the Mini Expansion have several module in them. The modules are denoted by a special symbol in the corners. The symbols show up on all associated cards, tiles, and characters. This makes it easy to use the ones you want and leave the others out. Both expansions add outdoor tiles for the main player boards. Outdoor tiles are interesting in that you can’t build next to them but you can build them next to something else. They also break the rule of having to build next to something else. You can put space between an outdoor tile and the rest of your structures.

The first expansion, Dead or Alive, has four modules. Two of them require the Ranch Expansion. The expansion adds a few buildings, some goal cards, and a few new people to collect. While it doesn’t add any new mechanics it does add a few effects. One of the citizens you can collect will remove another character card in play from the game. One of the other buildings you can construct will allow you to collect any unclaimed character with the drawback that anyone who meets the requirements for that character later will take it from you.

The second Expansion, Boomtown, adds six modules, none of them require the Ranch Expansion and can be added directly to the base game. As with Dead or Alive there are no new mechanics, but there are new effects. There are a couple of things that let you move characters around or remove one from the game. There is a building and character that function as wild cards. These are allowed to count as any other one of their type for the purposes of completing Claims Cards. It adds a couple of new roofs, one you can buy for a two floor building and one for the first person to complete a third floor building. It also adds basements. The basements must be placed on ground floors and offer some new rewards for finishing.

Game Build Quality

Saloon Tycoon - Mini Expansions - Van Ryder Games - Review 2

The quality here matches the others. I have the same praise and issues. The cards have a nice linen finish but I wish they were thicker. The tiles are sturdy. Everything color matches so the cards fit right in.

The rules are well written and explain most things pretty well. There was a bit of a hiccup with the rules on building outdoor buildings and how they scored. We were able to guess that you had to buy supplies to complete them. They are also worth the same points as similarly sized tiles in the game. We were able to verify this online. This could have been clearer in the rules, but it’s not a huge detractor.

Artistic Direction

The art matches the rest of the games and I still like it. I think they did a good job on the character cards. There was a slight bother with the visuals on the building tiles. Overall I think they look great and keep with the rest of the game. However, the graphic design on the base game placed the squares for the supply cubes off to one side or in the corners. On these the squares are placed together and cover some of the art. I wish they had done the art on the cards to show where the cubes were going instead of covering part of the image. It’s a small complaint and didn’t ruin the game. I just felt it was a shame.

Fun Factor

Saloon Tycoon - Mini Expansions - Van Ryder Games - Review 3

I’m honestly just going to copy this over from my review of the base game because it’s still identical. This is a nice engine builder. You want to get the right buildings and cards into play to give yourself a good turn where you get to take two or three actions. Balancing that against when to go after the claims cards for the victory points makes this game a bit thinky. You will spend some time waiting for other players as they try to figure out how to maximize the one action they get.

There is a small amount of take that in the game. It’s not too bad. It’s the lighter end of take that so I didn’t find it too rough.

Age Range & Weight

The box says 13+ and I still think that’s a good range. I don’t think the new effects will over complicate the game at all and you should be fine playing with whoever you want. If they could handle the game before they should be fine here.


I like Saloon Tycoon. I don’t think these expansions add any complexity to the game and will most likely leave them in pretty much all the time. If we don’t play with the Ranch Expansion I can see leaving the bits that need it out.

The real question here is are they necessary or worth it?

They are not necessary. I don’t think they change the game enough to make them must haves. However, if you grab them I don’t think you’ll be upset. As I said, they fit in nicely and work very well with everything else.

Are they worth it? Boomtown costs $15 and Dead or Alive costs $10. I think that amount is reasonable for what you get.

In the end I think that if you like Saloon Tycoon you’ll like these. If you haven’t played it yet then try the base games and then come back to these. If you’re trying to figure out which to get first, then I’d go with Boomtown and is it doesn’t require the Ranch Expansion.

On the other hand we’re entering the end of the year and quite frankly these games would make great stocking stuffers if you can point folks in their direction.

These are good expansions. I’d give ‘em a gander if y’all get the chance.


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