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Board Game Review: ‘Deadwood Studios, USA’

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Deadwood Studios, USA from Cheapass Games is one of several titles reborn from the “golden age” of the discount gaming company that is charging ahead into the 21st century. Cheapass operates under the principle that good games should not come at great cost, producing electronically delivered print-and-play games that have thrilled thousands across the world. Creator James Ernest also launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that brought the previous black-and-white printed box for this title into a new polished color version with art by Phil Foglio of Girl Genius.

deadwoodstudiosThe premise for Deadwood Studios, USA is that you are part of an old film studio churning out Westerns as quickly as possible with more worry about how to separate theater-goers from their dime than scripts. Each player is a no-name actor looking to work his or her way up through the ranks and become a big Hollywood star (or at the very least make some quick cash). There are only a few rounds to get points, making for a fast-paced and hilarious game.

Gameplay may seem complicated as DSUSA is not quite like any other board game out there, but it is a quick learn and the rounds follow easily once players get a handle on it. Each player is represented by a six-sided die starting with one pip face-up to represent a rank of one. Through the course of their turns, players move across the board in any direction they choose and take up roles in scenes being acted all over the studio with cards being placed to explain the scene. They “act” out the role by rolling dice, with bonuses being available for rehearsing or being a star, just like real life.

The mechanic behind DSUSA is a great mix of luck and strategy. Players can earn Money as well as Fame, which are counted differently to make up points for the win. Background roles “off the card” are solid money-makers with the staring roles “on the card” giving more return with more risk. Raising one’s rank gives bonuses in-game as well as at the end during final scoring, making it profitable to invest, if players choose to do so at the proper time. Players need to be mindful of others as well, perhaps taking lesser roles to end a scene quickly and block another player from cashing in big.

With a solid mechanic behind it, the overall hilarious motif of DSUSA is what makes it really fun to play. Scene cards are labeled with nonsensical movies like “Gun! The Musical” that play best in the imagination. Some scenes are serious, while others like “Shakespeare in Lubbock” describe “William decides that it is time to be movin’ on, anon.” As players act the roles, they are encouraged to say their lines: “What ho!,” “Waaaak!,” and “Have you tried soy cheese?”

Deadwood Studios, USA is a game for two to six players aged 12 and up. It takes about an hour to play through a game, though players could always break it out for a one-phase quick game rather than the three or four phases in a full game. Fewer players make it more about strategy while larger groups tend to create a madhouse of acting with players clambering over each other to grab roles, just like real life.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.
  • Marco Guizar

    Great game i will be trying it soon.

    Marco Guizar