The hot sun shines brightly overhead, its rays baking the collection of dusty, ramshackle buildings below. Though it’s midday, the town seems deserted, except for a single figure riding slowly down the silent center street. Despite the scorching heat, he’s dressed all in black – from his ten-gallon hat to his dirty leather boots. His face is obscured by a faded bandanna tied over his nose and mouth; only his eyes, dark and dangerous, are visible in the shadow of his tattered hat. Small, curious faces appear at the windows as he passes, but they’re quickly hidden away by frantic hands and scolding ‘shushes’. The town is silent ‘cept for the creak of leather, and the soft clinking of the bridle.
Another figure appears at the end of the street – a tall, grizzled man, well-dressed, with a silver star glinting on his breast. “I’m surprised you dared come back to these parts!” The sheriff shouts.
The rider stops and dismounts smoothly, feet landing firmly on the ground, eyes never leaving the sheriff. His horse nickers nervously. “Get,” the rider growls, and the horse retreats to the safety of a nearby side street.
Now it’s just the two men, standing stiff in the scorching heat, fingers hovering over holstered pistols, eyes narrowed against the desert sun. For what seems like an eternity, they stand there in perfect stillness. Then, as if some unseen signal was given, both men draw their weapons with incredible speed — and fire.
In Western Legends, players take on the roles of famous figures from the Old West (like Jesse James, Annie Oakley, and Wild Bill Hickok) and lead them to legendary status by living the best western life they can! Will you strike rich panning for gold? Or will you make your fortune by robbing the town’s finest bank? Will you become the most notorious outlaw in the west, taking what you want and gunning down anyone who dares get in your way? Or will you become the most feared marshal – chasing down lawbreakers and bringing the outlaws to justice? In Western Legends, you get to decide what legacy our character will leave as they make their mark on history.
Western Legends is kind of like a choose-your-adventure game set in the wild wild west. The mechanics are simple, but the decisions made run deep.
On a turn, a player gets 3 actions they can use to move around the map, visit locations, or interact with other characters. At its heart, Western Legends is really simple: just pick something you want to do on your turn and just take actions to make it happen. For example, maybe your pockets are feeling a little light and you’re currently at the river. You can make some nice money by panning for gold and depositing it in the bank! To make that happen you would use your actions to: 1. Roll the gold-panning dice. 2. Move your character to the bank. 3. Deposit the gold and collect the cash. This is just one example, but really all the turns in Western Legends are similar in straightforwardness and simplicity.
The excitement in the game comes from how the decisions you make will affect your character’s story. The actions you choose to take will either set your character on the lawful path of the Sheriff and his marshals, or the unruly path of the outlaws.
The marshal’s path is straightforward and simple: Keep the law and protect the town from outlaws and no-good dirty brigands. As a Marshal moves up the ranks by driving cattle to the dusty train station, dueling bandits, and arresting shady outlaws, news of their deeds will spread across the west, earning them fame and legendary points. If a marshal ever breaks the law though, they immediately lose all of their marshal fame and become an outlaw, starting out on the bottom of the bandito totem pole.
The way of the outlaws is more . . . lax. It pays, A LOT, to be an outlaw. More money from robbing and thieving, and more legendary points at the end of every turn (everyone loves an outlaw, right?). But as the outlaws gallivant around the desert, rustling cattle, robbing banks, stealing from their fellow players, and picking fights, they’ve got to avoid capture by the Sheriff and any of his marshals. An arrested outlaw loses almost everything – their wealth, status, cattle – they’re stripped of their pomp and power, and thrown into the town jail to consider their actions quietly for a time. When they’re released, they leave a nobody – a blank slate. A fresh start. Will they use this fresh start to change their ways? Join the marshals, or live a quiet life of gold mining? Or will they strap on their bank-robbing boots and jump right back into the fray?
At it’s core, Western Legends really is surprisingly simple. So much so, that when reading the rules you might expect it to be duller than a homeless heifer. But beneath the minimal rules and seemingly straightforward actions, you’ll find a fully-filled reservoir of intriguing decisions, exciting choices, and magnificent gameplay.
We were really excited – we’d been looking for a great western themed game, and this seemed like it’d be perfect for us. When we opened the box for the first time, the box was surprisingly empty. If I remember right, there were some punch boards, some minis, and some dice – that’s it. I was confused, because that didn’t seem like enough stuff for the kind of game this was supposed to be. I checked the rulebook for the component list and found that in addition to the dice and minis, there were supposed to be several decks of cards in the box as well! And unless our cards were invisible, they were missing! I was super annoyed, and very disappointed. It must have been some freak manufacturing error. Then (because of my experience with legacy games) I thought I should double check and make sure there wasn’t anything hidden underneath the insert. I lifted up the cardboard flaps, and guess what I found? Cards! All of the ‘missing’ cards were neatly packaged and stored under there for some reason! So if you get Western Legends, and you’re wondering where half the components are, try checking underneath the insert ?
The rulebook for Western Legends was great. The rules were well organized, and everything was clearly explained. And to help with any confusion, there were plenty of examples given throughout the rulebook to help clarify all the different actions.
Setup was really quick and easy too, except for one thing: The general store card organizer. For your first play you have to assemble the general store card organizer, which is a fancy, newfangled cardboard display that holds all the equipment cards players can buy in the game. It’s a super handy thing, but it’s quite difficult to assemble, and believe it or not, there are no instructions! I had to google search assembly instructions, and the only thing I could find was a 15 minute video. So I watched that, learned how to put the thing together, and now I’ll never take it apart because I don’t want to spend another 15 minutes re-watching the video. Luckily, it fits fully assembled in the box!
The component quality for Western Legends is fine, though there’s definitely some room for improvement. The minis are better than cardboard standees and they look really nice on the board, but they’re light and the plastic seems thin. The cardstock used throughout the game for the cards and player boards is also surprisingly thin, but the cards still shuffle well. The board is made of a nice thick cardboard, and the chunky gold-panning dice are engraved and feel really nice in the hands.
There’s an insert, but it seems to mostly serve an aesthetic purpose. It looks nice in the box, but it doesn’t really help with storage. The box itself is made of a nice cardboard, but it seems way too big for what’s inside; there’s ample room for everything that came with the game, and then some.
I love the art style used in Western Legends. I love the look of the dusty red wasteland, cut through the middle by a glistening river and lush desert greens — it hints at the constant struggle for life in the merciless Old West. The cards are illustrated with beautiful watercolor pictures of famous historical cowboys (and cowgirls), equipment, and other old-timey items.
The board is marked with symbols that let players know which actions are available at their location, and the symbols are super clear and very easy to see. There’s also a lot of text used throughout the game on the board, cards, and tokens, that give various in-game effects. All the text is also easy to read and understand.
One of my favorite artistic decisions the designers made was to make the action cards look like well-used poker cards. Not only does this allow them to be used for actions and for actual poker, but it adds so much to the grungy old west theme!
Western Legends is a rootin’ tootin’ good time! From start to finish, players are engaged in their story — rustlin’ cattle, dueling bandits, and fightin’ their friends for anything they can get! There are so many options for what you can do in the game — sure Jesse James was a notorious fugitive back in the day, but maybe this time he’ll have a major change of character and become the greatest marshal the old west has ever seen! Annie Oakley may have been a serious sharpshooter in real life, but maybe in your world she’ll become a poker-playing champion! The stories you can create with your characters are open and endless, and you kind of just want to experience all of it, but you also have to pick out the course that will be most beneficial to your character.
Choosing which path you want to take, the high player interaction, the thrill of evading arrest or dueling a fellow player — all of these things and more are what make Western Legends such a joy to play.
The manufacturer recommended age for Western Legends is 14+ which I think is perfect for this game, though I could imagine younger players who are familiar with board games playing this one as well. It definitely requires some planning and thinking ahead, but it’s actually a surprisingly simple game.
Western Legends is like having the Old West squished down to 2D, folded into an (albeit oversized box) and plopped onto your dining room table. Everything your cowboy self has ever wanted to do — wrangle cattle, high noon duel, brag about your adventures at the local cabaret — you can do it vicariously through little plastic people on a gorgeous desert board! The game is drenched in theme, with solid mechanics and surprisingly simple rules. For a board game to fit all your western inclinations, I don’t think you could go wrong with Western Legends!