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Highwaymen Preview – Fat Chance Games

Pros

  • No zombies, fantasy dragons or post-apocalyptic theme. A refreshing theme based on the post-Napoleonic
  • The rule book and the rules within are easy to understand
  • Nice modular tiles that are weighty and solid to hold and place
  • It was nice to have models of riders to move around, it felt more thematic than pushing different colour cubes around.
  • The setup of the game is very quick. Place eight tiles to form a road, place your riders and the coach/escorts and the game is ready to go.
  • Once people understand the rules, the game does not take to long to play and can move quite fast.
  • Even though it is not official, I cannot see a reason why this cannot be played solo.

Cons

  • No matter how well you play, if you have poor dice rolls, then it can go out of the window. If, as a player, you like to have total control over your actions, then this game might not be for you.
  • Can be a bit fiddly to remember the damage to the coach and if playing as 2 players, which rider has reduced movement.
  • Gameplay can be repetitive

Highwaymen

Have you ever pretended to be Dirk Turpin, Snow from ‘Once upon a time’ (Spoilers: she was a bandit at one point) or even Adam from Adam and the Ants?

No?
Good, because stealing is wrong and illegal. You should be ashamed of yourself. Instead, why not pick up a copy of Highwaymen from Fat Chance Games where you can rob stagecoaches and each other without the worry of going to jail.
Highwaymen is a modular tile board game where players are tasked with attempting to rob a stagecoach that is laden with gold and other spoils. Each player works with the others  to disable the stagecoach before it leaves the forest. It won’t be easy as there are military escorts surrounding the carriage who have no qualms about stopping you by any means necessary. One dead bandit is not going to ruin their day.
For this review, I used a prototype reviewers copy, but this not affect my thoughts about the game.

Contents

You tear off the shrink wrap, you marvel at the cover depicting a highwayman shooting behind him and you look at the contents inside. What I saw were modular tiles, lots of dice and prototype pieces.What you, will get in the retail version are, the modular boards that depict the road and the forest. There are twenty road tiles and six forest tiles. Unlike me, who had red cubes to represent the escorts and coach, you, the player will marvel at the detailed coach and escort miniatures.

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There are two types of tiles, road tiles, these tiles make up the route that the stagecoach and the military escort take to get out of the forest. Each tile has arrows that depict the direction that the coach will be moving. The road tiles also have obstacles that block the line of sight as well as prevent movement across the grids. There are also forest tiles that can be placed for the bandits to go into to hide or ride across to ambush the coach.

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Compared to most games, there is a fair number of dice in the box, in total, there are nine dice. 3 dice for movement, 2 dice for shooting and 4 dice of various colours to depict the four highwaymen in the game.

Last but not least are the coins, the spoils, the reason that you as a bandit get up in the morning.

Gameplay

The setup of the game is straight forward, each player lays out a road tile after the initial road placement and continues until the road is eight tiles long, the riders are placed on the corresponding starting positions and the coach and horses are placed on the respective starting points.

The wife and I have played this game numerous times to the point where we can flow through the game quite quickly. In Highwaymen, the turn order is basically

  • Bandits Shoot twice, move and then attempt to shoot twice again – Repeat until all bandits have taken their turn.
    • Roll 1D6 twice to shoot – 4 or over is a hit, Target has to be within 4 hexs with line of sight established. If an escort is hit, then it is removed, if it hits the coach, then the coach health is reduced by 1 and spoils are dropped.
    • Roll 3D6 to move – Add all dice to determine total movement
    • Roll 1D6 twice to shoot
  • Coach moves to the next tile and shoots at the nearest highwayman
    • Roll 2D6 to shoot nearest highwayman – Six is a hit, highwayman must -1 movement die
  • New military escorts arrive and to protect the coach
  • Previous escorts catch up with the coach and attempt to shoot the nearest highwayman
    • Roll 1D6 per escort – score six to hit the nearest highwayman in line of sight.
  • Determine who goes first and repeat from the top again.

As you can see, it’s not complex so the players can concentrate on rolling dice and determining whether they want to get rid of the escorts or focus on the coach itself. Each time the coach is damaged, it drops spoils behind it so that a highwayman can come along and pick it up.

This is repeated until the coach reaches zero health or it escapes from the forest road (it leaves the eighth tile).

The game progresses, and you as a player notice that your “friend” has quite the loot on them, the coach is getting away and you know that you only need a couple more spoils to be the richest highwayman in the land. So, as an upstanding citizen, what do you do? You decide to rob your fellow highwayman. It’s a high risk venture, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
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Strategy

I’m sitting here thinking about what sort of tactics you can apply to a game of Highwaymen and I’m thinking it all depends on how you play it.

This game is semi-cooperative in that even though you are working together, at some point you do have to keep an eye on your fellow players to take their gold and come out on top as the winner.

As a full cut throat take-that game, the highwayman can let others do the hard work, as they damage the coach and cause it to drop the gold. They then swoop into grab the gold before running off back into the forest or stopping in such a way that their opponents happen to be the closest to the coach and the escort. It’s not nice but such is life.

The strategy that the wife and I take is that we focus solely on the coach. Yes, this means that the potential of getting shot at is high, but since the act of banditry is not exactly a long term career, we take the risk of shooting and positioning our fighters in such a way to ensure that we have line of sight on the coach. Yes, it is harder considering the amount of escorts that eventually turn up, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

To reduce the number of new escorts arriving, the players can use their movement to move to the spaces where the new escort spawn on the new tile grid. This could potentially mean that out of six escorts that arrive, four could be prevented from spawning. If the players have reduced the previous escorts, then the line of sight on the coach is greatly improved. If Lady luck is looking down on the players, then 16 points could potentially be knocked off the coach’s health after the initial tile. It can be done, but extremely unlikely.

Conclusion

This game is for you if you like the theme of highwaymen on horseback chasing down the stagecoach trying to get the spoils. It’s for you if you like to play with miniatures and like looking at painted representations instead of pushing cubes around the board.

For our family, it was nice to play a game where we were not zombies (I do like zombies), or trying to kill each other with Viking clans or praying to the ancient ones. It’s a theme that I’ve never really come across in my short time within the board game sphere, and it’s a good change.

If you like the take that element of games, then this game does deliver in that you do have the chance to swoop in and take the spoils of war that the coach has dropped.

The only two main downsides that I have is that it while simple to understand, the actions are the same in that it is roll, move, roll so for some people, that can be repetitive in nature if they are looking for a really heavy game. For me, I would place this game in the top end of light. It has enough strategy in that you do have to think about where you want your riders to be in order to maximise the chances of winning the game.

When it comes to the dice, I’m in two minds. It makes sense that to hit, you and the escorts/coach have to get a certain number to score. In that, back in the day, having gun deals was down to luck, it wasn’t a sure thing that your bullets would hit. The dice represents that. However, in my opinion, the best strategy that you have formulated all comes down to the dice rolls. If you keep rolling 4 and under for the majority of the game, you are not going to have a good time. Luckily, this is mitigated by the fact that you can swoop in and take the gold that has been dropped without firing a single shot. This is a nice touch by Fat Chance Games.

One thing that would be nice to include is a track that charts the coach health, it’ll reduce the need for pen and paper.

To conclude, this is a game that has been around with me on my travels, it has come with me to hotel rooms (we played it during the evenings at the Expo) and we have played multiple games in one evening trying to find that strategy that will make us win every time. Do we go straight for the coach and be overwhelmed or do we tame the number of escorts to ensure that we don’t get crippled by their shots.

I hope that I’ve given you a balanced view of Highwaymen – A game of robbery on the open road! If you like what you have read, then pledge on Kickstarter.

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