Sylvie Barc


No. of Players:
2 - 6




Over the years, the "Wild West" has become a quite popular background for various games, but today it has been some time since the last boardgame on the topic had been released. Coming with upbeat Comic-artwork made by Gerard Matthieu (known for his illustrations in games like Supergang or Ca$h'n Gun$), it is now the French newcomer LA HAUTE ROCHE who has published their new game Rattlesnake City to revive the topic with a bit of new energy.

Opening the gamebox, the players find a small gameboard, two decks of cards (Action and Shooting), two rulers, some tokens, money and an assortment of Building and Railtrack tiles. All the Buildings and Railtracks are placed in a grab bag, with the exception of the Saloons from which each player receives one together a starting capital of 10,000 US$ and five cards from the Action deck. The (comparatively small) gameboard is placed on the middle of the table and it shows several derelict ghost towns, a ruined network of rails which once connected the towns, four former mines and several patches of grassland. Each player chooses one of the towns as his hometown and places his Saloon on one of the six available building spaces in his town, and then the players finish the setup by placing a token of their color on the 1,000 US$ space of the income track which runs around the gameboard.


A player's turn always starts with the drawing of a tile from the grab bag. As said, this bag contains a various assortment of Buildings and Railtracks, and the player then must place the tile he has drawn somewhere on the gameboard. The Buildings may be placed in any town (with the exception that no building can be built twice in the same town), Farms may be positioned anywhere on Grasslands, and Mines and Railtracks go onto the fitting spaces on the gameboard. The placement of a building usually will increase the income of a player, since most of the buildings generate an income of 1,000 US$ per turn which will go the player with the nearest Saloon. In case of doubt which Saloon is closer, the decision is made by using one of the rulers to measure the distances, and only the player with the closest Saloon will be allowed to add the appropriate amount of money on his income track.

However, not all buildings are positive, so that a School, a Church or a Cemetery does not generate any income. Even worse, the general limitation of one Building per type does not apply to Cemeteries, so that a player actually may end up with several worthless buildings in his town. On the other hand, a seventh building space in each town is reserved for a Railroad Station, and apart from the basic income of 1,000 US$ the Railroad Station generates a further 1,000 US$ income for each other Railroad Station to which it is connected. Likewise, a Mine generates 1,000 US$ income for the owner of the nearest Saloon, but it also generates 2,000 US$ income for the owner of the nearest Bank, so that good combinations can yield a considerable income.

After drawing and placing a tile, the active player next takes either one Action or two Shot cards. The deck of Shot cards contains cards showing either one, two or three bullets (= shots), whereas the deck of Action cards is subdivided into Poker cards and Miscellaneous cards. After drawing new cards, the active player may play, buy or sell any Miscellaneous cards, and most of these cards offer either a benefit which the player will use for himself or a detriment which he consequently will place with another player. Thus, a "French Cook" or a "Cancan Girl" will be played in front of the active player since these cards increase the player's income, whereas "Adulterated Whiskey" or "Bedbugs" have a bad influence on business and will be placed with other players. Likewise, there exist Characters which give or take from a player a permanent quota of one Shot, or special cards like the "Dynamitero" which can destroy a Building or the "Undertaker" which actually can turn otherwise useless Cemeteries into a source of capital.

After the active player has finished with the Miscellaneous cards, he finally has to decide whether he actually wants to rob an other player's Bank or whether he wants to start a round of Poker. For the Bank-Robbery, the robber and the defending player in turn play Shot cards from their hand until one of the players either cannot or does not want to play more shots than the other player. Nothing happens in case the defending player has played more shots, but if the robber has played more shots he will receive half of the money owned by the victim.

As said, the active player also can chose to challenge the others to a round of Power, and here the rules provide for this round of Poker to be played in one of two possible ways:

  • As said, the stack of Action card contains a lot of 36 Poker cards among with the other Miscellaneous cards. Most of these Poker cards show a hand of five cards with a winning combination for Poker, starting with a small pair and going up to a Royal Flash. Each of these cards has a value corresponding the hand of Poker cards, and once all players who want to participate in the Poker round have placed their ante on the table the players simultaneously will play one of these cards and reveal them. The pot then goes to the player with the most valuable Poker card, unless the outcome of the Poker round is influenced by a special card like a "Cheater" or a "Pro Player".
  • A charming alternative actually is the fact that the players also may choose to use a real Poker-deck to play a full round of Poker (Texas hold'em etc.) This way, Poker is introduced as a "game in the game", although the players quickly will discover that these real rounds of Poker will take a considerable amount of playing time. However, even this variant makes use of the Poker cards included in the deck of Action cards, since every Poker card actually shows a small icon of one Poker card so that a player may decide to substitute any of the cards from his Poker hand with a card from his hand of Action cards. Likewise, the "Cheater" and the "Pro Player" retain some meaning in this Poker variant as well, since they allow a player to exchange some cards after all players have revealed their hands.

However, if a Poker round has been won by dishonest means, it is possible that one of the losing players reacts with a "Tar and Feathers" card which will expose the cheating player and take the winning from him. Even more, some of the Action cards also show the icon of a small gun, and if such a card had been used in the Poker game each of the loosing players may decide to stay with his loss or to start a gunfight for the pot. This gunfight is handled similar to the Bank-Robbery with each player playing more Shots than his predecessor, and in the end the player who last played Shots will have won the gunfight and the pot.

The game ends when either one of the players has earned a certain amount of money or when the last tile had been drawn from the grab bag. In the latter case, the winner will be the player who has earned most money.

A friend of mine from France has told me that it would be interesting to read my opinion on Rattlesnake City once I had finished playtesting and written up the review. He said that the game should be some sort of a surprise, since it would not turn out to be a "German-style game". However, to my mind the term "German-style game" does not just belong to one category of games with either a high influence of strategy or sophisticated playing mechanisms, but instead this term applies to a game which meets certain production standards and offers a good degree of entertainment which is not just restricted to rolling a dice and moving a token. It all depends on the fact how well the different parts of a set of rules work together, and here Rattlesnake City certainly can keep up with the products of many other companies.

As I said at the beginning of this review, quite a few games had been released over the years which had chosen the "Wild West" as a thematic background. Here Sylvie Barc has chosen a new angle to approach the topic, since the playing of Poker which is so important in many Wild West movies has found an important position in the game's general mechanics. However, it would not do Rattlesnake City justice to propose that the game is merely a vehicle to present an enhanced variant of Poker. While playtesting, I rather got the impression that the game is a light level family game where players have to try to establish a successful way of living in the Wild West, involving the different "traditional" aspects like Poker, Gunfights and the building of Frontier towns. What I really liked was the smoothness how the game of Poker blends in with the other parts of the rules, and even the palpable degree of luck which influences the game when drawing new tiles or cards is spread somewhat equally since all players will profit or be thrown back during the course of the game quite equally. Thus, the casual comic artwork actually captures the spirit of the game quite well, and if you approach the game with the expectation to find an easy-to-learn, entertaining Wild West simulation you will not be disappointed.

Note: Although Rattlesnake City is a French game, an English set of rules exists and there is only very few text on the cards themselves.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


Copyright © 2007 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany