ZOCH 2009

No. of Players:
2 - 5



G@mebox author Marco Klasmeyer writes about the game:


Wanted - Dead or Alive! Your face has been on wanted posters for a very long time. Your exploits are legendary. Compared with you Jesse James, Billy the Kid and Calamity Jane were just rookies. No town west of Missouri River is safe from your smoking colts. Saloon keepers, horse barons and gold mine bosses get wet hands if they hear your horses approaching. Even the sheriffs gather some colleagues before they dare to get into your way.


El Paso comes in a small box consisting of a game board showing the seven cities, 48 crime scene cards (with values from 1 to 8 in 6 different colours), 50 wooden nuggets (the currency, worth 1, 5 or 10), 36 loot tiles (paper chips), 5 dice (displaying a cattle brand, a sheriff's star and the value six) and a cotton sack. The colours of the crime scene cards are representing the six possible places for a good robbery: the bank, the hotel, the gold mine, the horse meadow, the saloon, and the cattle pasture. Each colour set is shuffled and placed next to the game board at the equally coloured markings. At the start each player gets one card of each pile. In the course of the game each player has to decide which places he wants to plunder. The value of the cards may decide in which order the loot will be distributed given that two players enter the same place in the same turn.


The game starts at "Deadwood" and each round a new town is entered clockwise until the seventh city of "El Paso" is reached. At the start of a round, 18 loot tiles are drawn out of a cotton sack. The 18 loot tiles are only placed into the current town if the correspondingly coloured field exists. There are cities with all six different good types and there are towns with only four of them. If a good cannot be placed it goes back into the cotton sack. The remaining goods are placed in piles of each colour with the highest value at the bottom and lowest at the top. After setting up the stage of a town the plundering can begin. Each player chooses one crime scene card from his hand to select a place he wants to plunder. If a player wants to leave the town instead, he must not place a scene card. All participating cards are placed face down and are then simultaneously turned over.

[IMAGE] The player who was last visiting the bank is the "guard" and has to roll the dice. If a dice shows a sheriff's star it is placed immediately onto the sheriff space. As soon as all dice are placed there, the players which have not left the town yet loose all their loot tiles. All dice not showing a sheriff's star allow the players in town to continue their raid. For two places there is a special challenge that they can be looted this turn: The cattle pasture and the saloon.

  • If no dice shows a brand no cattle can be branded and stolen. All players who have played a cattle pasture card leave empty-handed.
  • If no dice shows a value of 6, no saloon is looted. All players who have played a saloon card leave empty-handed.
All other goods can be plundered with just the appropriate card laid out and taking the topmost card. If more players have played the same card type, the higher value of the crime scene card determines the order of taking the topmost loot tile from the selected crime scene. All played cards are discarded at the discard pile of the same colour and all players draw immediately and simultaneously a new card (1,2,3, draw!). Please note, that the discard pile is not shuffled when it replaces the supply pile.

After this turn each player has to decide if he wants to stay in the town and continue looting it or if he wants to leave the town and thus can turn the collected loot tiles into cash resp. nuggets. He has also the option to take an amount of loot tiles with him to the next town. How much this is depends on the number of players who have already left the town. The first player leaving can only keep one loot tile the second player can keep two and so on. If more players are leaving in the same turn, they all can keep the same amount of loot tiles. The only exception to this rule is when all players are still in the town and all loot tiles have been taken from that town, all players are allowed to keep two instead of one tiles for the next town. All loot tiles the player cannot or does not want to keep are sold at two different prices. If the looted good exists in the current town, the player gets nuggets at the town's specific exchange rate (4:1 to 1:1), if not he always gets the best rate of 1:1. For example, there is no bank in Santa Fe. So if a player has brought a bank loot tile with a value of 5 from a previous raid to Santa Fe he gets 5 nuggets for it. But a saloon exists in Santa Fe, so any saloon loot tile can only be traded at a rate of 3:1, e.g. a saloon with a value of 5 would bring only 1 nugget (5:3=1, 2 have to be just discarded). Players who have left the town only participate in the next town. Players who stay in the town continue looting with the next turn by laying out new crime scene cards.

[IMAGE] The looting of a town ends, if:

  • all 5 dice show a sheriff's star and the remaining players in the town are "gently" kicked out.
  • all players have left the town and turned their loot into nuggets.
  • all loot tiles of the town have been plundered which forces all players to leave the town now.
The game ends when the seventh town "El Paso" has been plundered.


El Paso is a nice quick card and dice game for gamblers. There is no real strategy to win the game but to just make the best move at your turn and try to get a good balance between the greed for money and a sane portion of reason. You are too often tempted to stay longer in a town and to plunder the one or the other good just to find yourself being caught by the sheriffs and loose all your current loots. Find the right moment to leave the town and turn your "hot goods" into cold, hard cash is the most challenging task in this game. Because when you leave too early and do not take the risk while your opponents do so, you will not win the game with the most cash. If you are good at memorizing cards and their order you might have a slight advantage, because each scene cards' discard pile is not shuffled but just flipped over to replace the supply pile. So if you know the topmost cards you should be quick at drawing the best cards. This element of drawing cards really at the same time alludes to the duels in the Wild West (remember: you are a bunch of bandits and gunslingers). One thing to mention is that El Paso can be played with two or up to five players. For more than three players the game works quite well, but for only two the game is not that challenging. The number of loot tiles to be placed in a town does not vary with the number of players participating, which would in my opinion be a better solution. The number of turns for plundering is "limited" by the dice rolls and the sheriff's stars regardless of the number of players. So for two players there are too many goods in a town to plunder and you rarely get in the way of your opponent. The only interesting thing in the two player mode is who leaves the town last and can carry two goods to the next town instead of one. Keeping certain goods to be carried to the next town is one additional way to get some extra nuggets due to the highest exchange rate of 1:1. In the two players the plundering of goods is quite balanced, so by that no player will really get an advantage. But by bringing more precious goods to the next town and selling them at a high price after the next looting has taken place can make a big difference. In four/five player mode it is more interesting to survive the plundering and try to stay "just a bit longer in the town" to bring quite a treasure of two or even three goods to the next town and make up to 15 nuggets at once (3 goods of a value of 5 at a rate of 1:1). Ok, this sounds as "easy" like a hole-in-one, but these are the big points which decide the game at the end.

The design is quite nice but with the given size of the box and the game board not too detailed: cards, dice, loot tiles and wooden nuggets. What I like about the game is that it is explained very quickly and after having played it two or three times the rounds get quicker and quicker. So the there is no need for strategic thinking. It is just playing cards and drawing quickly those cards you need for plundering the town efficiently. And keep an eye on the sheriff's place whether you can risk another turn gathering goods. At the end all that counts are nuggets.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2010 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany