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Yee-haw! Circle the Wagons!

Posted by Ryan Sanders on

Button Shy is excited to announce Circle the Wagons, a 2-player map-building game that transports you back to the time of wagon trains, boomtowns and gold-rushes. Designed by Steven Aramini (Yardmaster), Danny Devine (Ghosts Love Candy) and Paul Kluka; featuring the art of Beth Sobel (Herbaceous, World's Fair 1893 and Lanterns) and logo design of Bryan Fischer (Chicken Caesar). Circle the Wagons is the winner of the 2016 Button Shy Wallet Design Contest, beating out over 70 other games.

The Rundown

Setup is simple - just place the cards in a circle and flip the final 3 cards over to their backs to reveal the scoring goals that will be used in this game. Players will take turns going around the circle taking a card to place in the boomtowns they are building. You can skip any number of cards to take the card you want, but any cards that are skipped are given to your opponent who MUST place them in their boomtown. When all the cards are taken and placed, players score each of their biggest groups in the six different territory types and also score the three scoring goals. The winner is the player with the most points.

Breakdown of a Boomtown: A Look at the Front of a Card

In Circle the Wagons there are six different territories or terrain types: Mountain, Forest, Desert, Snow, Water, and Plains. Each card features four quadrants each with its own territory type. You will also notice on the forefront of each territory, one of six map symbols: Cattle, Fort, Bottle, Covered Wagon, Mining Pickaxe, and a Six-Shooter Gun. The map symbols are used in conjunction with the three scoring goals.  

Looking at the card above you will notice that the follow territory and map symbol pairs :

Top Left: Forest and Cattle
Top Right: Plains and Bottle
Bottom Left: Desert and Bottle  
Bottom Right: Forest and Pickaxe

Also notice that each territory type (background) has its own unique art that is done is a way that color-blind players can still play along.


Get Out Your Hammers: Building a Boomtown

Now that we have looked at what the front of the cards looks like, we can discuss what you do with them. You use them to build a personal boomtown map. When placing a card, you may place it upright or upside down (but not sideways) in a way that the edges line up (no diagonal placement). You can even cover part or all of a previous card laid card. As players take cards they place them, trying to form groups. A group is a collection of connected matching territories. At the end of the game, you will score 1 point for you biggest group in each territory type. However, just matching up territory types would be too easy, hence you have to keep the map symbols in mind when placing depending on the 3 scoring goals.

Let’s take a look at a small sample boomtown:

If the game ended right now, the boomtown above would score the following  for territories (going left to right, top to bottom): 3 points for Plains (because the biggest group is three cards in that territory type), 3 points for Mountains, 3 points for Water, 2 points for Forest, 6 points in Desert, and 1 point in Snow for a total of 18 points. At which point you would move on to the scoring goal cards and see what points you would add on to your score.


There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills: Adding a Skip to Your Step

When drafting cards from the circle, players can skip cards - however, be warned any cards skipped go to their opponent for free. Why would one skip then? Skipping in Circle the Wagons is done for both offensive and defensive reasons.

OFFENSIVE: Perhaps there is an awesome card coming up - maybe 2 or 3 cards away. You really want this card in your boomtown either due to territories on it or most likely due the current scoring goals. Do you press your luck and hope your opponent doesn't take it on her next turn or do you skip two cards giving them to your opponent to make sure you get your treasured card?

DEFENSIVE: Budding boomtown architects shouldn't forget that if you skip any cards, your opponent has to add to their boomtown. This can come in handy with some of the scoring goals where you don't want to take certain cards or want less of a certain map symbol (like One Too Many where you want to have fewer beers in your town than your opponent has).

When to skip and when not to skip is one of the most important decisions you have to make in Circle the Wagons.

Stampede!: 4,896 Scoring Combos

Each of the 18 cards in the game have their own unique scoring goal on the back - but only 3 are used each game, making 4,896 different scoring combos in the game. The scoring goals are where the map symbols on the forefront of the card come into play. Here is an example:

So if these 3 goals were in play in the game that you were currently playing, you may want to keep the following in mind:

BADLANDS: One of the more common types of cards in the game are those that require you to match up symbols or a symbol and a color. The most straightforward strategy with this card is collecting as many deserts and guns as you can if it means skipping a card to do it. However, when making a group of desert territories you may want to keep in mind is a way to lay down guns between the desert while keeping the group connected. To fulfill this goal effectively you may have to overlay cards with your guns.

BOOM OR BUST: One of only two scoring goals that use a chart. This one is based on how many pickaxes a player has. Note a few things with me first after you collect 8 you have topped out on the score for this card and to focus on other scoring objectives. However, for cutthroat players, you may still have to keep in mind how many pickaxes an opponent has. Which brings me to the second point - the mid-range number 3-6 scores you zero points, if you pay attention to what your opponent has, you may be able to skip cards with pickaxes they then must place, putting them within this mid-range.

ONE TOO MANY: One of only two scoring goal cards in the game that allows you to give negative points to an opponent. The most obvious strategy with this card is to pay attention to your opponent's boomtown and make sure you end with exactly one bottle less for maximum points negative points for your opponent. Keep in mind that the bottles are not bad, just leading in them is. Watch out for opponents skipping cards, leaving you with cards that have multiple bottles on it. Do not forget you can cover the bottles up with future cards, so be careful not to place them in a way that you will cover up things you may need.

This is just a brief look at 3 of the 18 scoring cards, so you can see that there is a lot of gameplay packed into a small package when it comes to this game.

Yee-haw, it’s Coming Soon

Circle the Wagons will be on Kickstarter on April 4th, 2017 for as low as $12 (US shipping included) and will come packaged in our standard vinyl wallet for maximum portability. We hope you'll wrangle yourself a copy during the campaign.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for some strategy articles by Benny Sperling (designer of Yakitori and our very own Board Game of the Month games ArchiWrecks and Pocket Pairs) here on our blog. And we will have Circle the Wagons at upcoming events, including Unpub in Baltimore, MD, March 17-19, 2017.




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