Pack up your pair of boots and jump on the wagon!
Publisher: Board & Dice
Designer: Jonny Pac Cantin
Artist: Jakub Fajtanowski
Artist: Michal Dlugaj
Game Type: Action Selection
Game Type: Modular Board
Game Type: Deck Building
Game Type: Hand Management
Initial Year of Release: 2019
Age Range: 14+
Expected Playtime: 40-60 Minutes
Number of Players: 1-4
Theme and What is it?
In the mid-1800’s, pioneers loaded up their wagons and headed out west. Traversing the Sierra Nevada mountain range into the new frontier. In Sierra West, you will be leading an expedition team along the trail and through the mountains building the best claim and settlement.
Sierra West is an action selection game that has 1- 4 players vying to have the most victory points at the end of the trail. Players will do this by trapping animals, claiming cards from the mountain, moving their wagon, panning gold, collecting apples, catching fish, and/or nabbing robbers.
Sierra West has a unique action selection system which was one of my favorite mechanisms about the game. Each player has a deck of starting cards. 8 standard cards and 1 mode specific card. When a player starts their turn, each turn the player will select their actions using three cards from their personal deck of multi-use cards. Each player will arrange the 3 cards drawn in their player board to show which actions they would like to use that turn. Once they get them arranged, they move two pioneers along the paths on their board to take the different actions. The actions are taking resources, pelt actions, building cabins which provide additional abilities or claiming cards, moving your mountaineer or wagon along the trail. The cards also have summit actions that show what kind of bonus actions you can take after either of your pioneers reached the end of their paths.
Other players do have options in between their turns as well. There is an added trapping and tracking action that takes place on the other players turns. Each player has a set of animals flipped over beside the board. Some of the cards in each player’s deck have animal pictures on them. You can use the trapping and/or tracking action during the opponents turn. This is a nice way to prevent people from having down time between turns. Sometimes it can take few minutes to decide how to arrange your cards for the action selection.
The game progresses as you claim cards from the mountain. There are six trail cards that move the progress along in the game. One of them starts out beneath your wagon and the remaining five are scattered in the mountain with a specific set up. The last turns happens when the sixth trail card gets added to the trail. Each player will continue until the end of that round giving each player has had an equal amount of turns.
The players will total up their points from cards claimed, wagon bonus scoring and appropriate tracks, gold, and pair of boots tokens. There are also negative points values associated with some items. Each player will lose points for each animal that did not get trapped and for each cabin that did got built.
The rulebook was overwhelming at first as the writer tried to explain the game and the cards while sprinkling all four of the game modes through the book. It took a few times through to understand fully but I think it would have been easier explaining set up without the mode specific pieces. Then have a section explaining set up and handling of the mode specific pieces separately.
Outside of this minor issue on the rule book, everything else is wonderful. Separating the cards were very simple as the iconography is easily deciphered. The action selection and arrangement of cards does take a few turns to work out the how your choices work with the scope of the game. The game play is smooth once the game gets started. Overall, I really enjoyed it on first play through.
Game Build Quality
Excellent quality components that came with this game. The cards are put together with a thicker card stock. The cards are labeled to easily differentiate between the different game modes.
The player boards are thick and double layered. The pieces fit very well into the box and owners are given plenty of space to keep all the bits properly divided.
The tray that comes inserted into the box works very well with the items that you are provided. The rule book has very good production value and accurately explains the iconography with the game.
The artwork depicts your settlement as well as a little scene in your settlement. Symbology used on the different sections of your player board make it easy to remember your available player board actions.
The imagery and design of the cards is beautifully done! The backs of the cards have a mountain peak that when combined, make a full mountain and the mountain game board. A neat design to have the pieces of the game make up the game board. With each card having multiple uses, the change in the artwork on cards in the individual modes is subtle but well drawn. Jakub Fajtanowski and Michal Dlugaj did an outstanding job with Sierra West!
The actions are tight with a few different avenues to boost your final score. The actions that you take make you feel like your truly accomplishing your goal. I enjoyed every action selection phase and the artwork in Sierra West!
Age Range & Weight
This was the trickiest rating. Age rating shows at 14+ and I agree that it would be in the 12-14+ range. This is also effected by which of the 4 game modes that is being played. The Apple Hill mode is the lightest of the modes and would be fine at 12+. However, the toughest modes would definitely be better set for a higher age range.
Sierra West is medium weight game at it’s Apple Hill mode and can be moved up to a heavy game with complexity. It can be adjusted based on how heavy a game the player is in the mood for.
Sierra West is an excellent journey through the mountains with a thematic approach. Every journey through the pass is different, full of perils and riches. The tight action selection along with beautiful artwork makes Sierra West a top notch game and one of the best releases in 2019!
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