Have you ever heard the term, “Shelf of Shame”? It refers to things (games) you purchased and put on a shelf without having opened or played. If I’m being honest, I have an exceptionally large Shelf of Shame. More like a Room of Shame. There are only so many hours in a day, and with COVID disrupting our gaming lives, only so many people to play with.
A good example of a game I recently rescued from our shelf is Tasty Minstrel Games‘ Old West Empresario. I picked it up in 2019, because I need to own one of everything they make, but never got around to playing it. Now, nearly 18 months later, I realize the error of my ways. This western-theme game is easy to learn and quick to play!
Old West Empresario is part dice game, part city-building game. Up to four players will each be building their new town in the western territories. All participants are given a Town Hall tile to found their city, which they place in front of them. Additionally, they are dealt three building tiles at random and will choose one to place face-down orthogonally adjacent to the Town Hall. Face-down tiles means you’ve broken ground but haven’t yet built the structure.
Players will also choose a character from two randomly-dealt Character Cards. Each personality has a different ability and helps make every game different. The rest of the components are put in the center of the play area per the layout in the instructions. Most importantly are the dice tiles, which are laid in numeric order with two tiles populated directly below each one.
There’s not a lot of complexity to the turn rules. At the beginning of each round all the dice (twice the number of players plus one) are rolled and put on the corresponding dice tiles. The active player will choose one of the dice and remove it from the tile. They then will decide on whether to spend a coin to adjust the dice value +/- one point, including making a six turn into a one.
The last part of a player’s turn in Old West Empresario is another choice. They may choose one of three actions to take. First, they can simply claim a tile from the column matching the die result and place it face-down in their town, orthogonally adjacent to a constructed (face-up) tile. The empty spot under the dice tile is immediately filled from the remaining tile pile.
At some point you may find yourself running low on coins, so instead of building you might choose to discard a tile and collect three coins. This is an excellent way to prevent others from getting a tile they want and one you don’t really need. Again, this chosen tile is replaced by a new one.
Lastly, instead of claiming a tile for either purpose, you may elect to activate your town. This allows you to utilize the bonuses printed on each tile which match the die result. As you can see, having many of the same number, and being able to activate that particular result, can give you multiple things to do on your turn which you can do in any order. This also includes the Town Hall, which activates on any die result!
Once everyone has selected two of the dice for themselves, there will be one die left over. Players may activate one constructed building in their town which matches the number on the die. If any player has fifteen constructed buildings, the supply of population tokens (victory points) is exhausted or there are no more tiles left in the supply, the game of Old West Empresario ends and proceeds to final scoring. An included color scorepad is used to tally points for building types, wanted cards (end-game points you can earn by fulfilling their requirements during the game), leftover coins and icon grouping. The back page of the rules has a handy cheat sheet to see how each item scores!
We’re happy to have Old West Empresario off the Shelf of Shame and into our game bag rotation. It’s not as difficult or intimidating as some other titles from Tasty Minstrel Games like Aquasphere or Luna. Fortunately, it does have the same quality as you have come to expect from this publisher – thick chipboard, quality dice and nicely done art.
Even though Old West Empresario was published two years ago, it is still available brand new on Amazon for under the MSRP. You can also ask your favorite local game store to order a copy for you! Want to see what else Tasty Minstrel Games has been building during the pandemic? Check out their website and be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook to learn the latest!
What game is on your Shelf of Shame that you wish you could get to the table next?