Everyone wants to believe they are the hero of their own story. That’s what makes games like Most Wanted by North Star Games so much fun. They offer a chance to cut loose and be as bad as you can.
You start in Louis, the Gateway to the West. You play one of eight lawless characters, trying to become the most wanted outlaw in the west. To do so, you must pull off heists without getting thrown in jail.
Starting with the youngest player (or you can play a quick hand of poker to determine who goes first), each person takes a turn picking an action they think they can pull off. After announcing their action, they lay down a number of face-down cards the heist requires. Some of the actions are only for the active player, such as going to church to get a bigger hand or doing honest labor to pay for your bail later, but most of them anyone can challenge the active player to a Duel.
Duels are where strategy comes into play. You can dump a bunch of low cards on your initial bid and change them if someone decides to challenge you. All players can switch up their bids until they are satisfied and then the cards are flipped for all to see. High cards beat out low, a pair beats high card, two pair beats a pair, and so forth. Sixes cause a double cross and win if someone else’s hand contains all aces. It does pay to try to read your opponents, just like in poker.
The winning hand wins the action and moves up the outlaw tracker a number of spaces equal to the value of the action. All losers must pay bail equal to the value on their place on the tracker or move backward that number of spaces. When the draw deck has been depleted, shuffle the discard and flip over one of the Robbery Actions to make it worth more points. The first player to the Most Wanted space wins all the fame and notoriety they deserve. May the best outlaw win!
We sat down and immediately had a bunch of different strategies going on. Philip decided to cycle his hand with Honest Labor to gather enough money to pay lots of bail (he couldn’t seem to get a decent hand to save his soul). Rachel went to Church to up her hand size to seven. Jennifer went for the throat and hit every robbery she could. I played somewhere in the middle where I robbed as many stagecoaches and pony expresses as I could while cycling my hand with Honest Labor.
I’ll be the first to admit, we played really nice for a bunch of outlaws. No one challenged another do a Duel. We were so focused on gathering money and racing up the tracker that we forgot we could challenge each other (that and we’ve played enough competitive games with each other that we know what will cause an argument with our group).
After you’ve played a few times, there’s another rulebook and group of action cards hidden under the tray in the box, taking you father into the lawless west. Follow the Las Vegas Trip through Denver to the fabulous city of Las Vegas. Las Vegas switches out the Train Robbery for an old-school Bank Robbery worth extra movement.
Denver adds the Casino and General Store into the mix. The Casino allows you to break out those straights to win money and move up the board, while the General Store allows you to buy additional cards for your hand.
Want to head to Tombstone instead? Take the Santa Fe Trail. Go through Independence and Holdup your fellow outlaws. Hire out another player in Dodge City to get some of their cards. In Santa Fe, dump some of those terrible cards in the Shanty Town in a Worst Hand Challenge. Tombstone alternates between daytime and nighttime actions every time you shuffle the discard deck. Finally, or you can mix and match the Action cards to make your own towns, inspired by your favorite spaghetti western, or your imagination!
One of the things I really enjoyed about this game is that it never felt like you were just waiting for your turn to come back around. Even when we were doing things that no one else could join in on, the actions were still quick and kept the flow going. We were ready to play another game as soon as we finished the first.
How do you imagine yourself in the Old West? Tell us in the comments below!
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Image Credit: Dawn Dalton, North Star Games