#607 – Tumble Town [Preview]

Box

Base price: $29.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: ~45 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter!
Logged plays: 3

Full disclosure: A preview copy of Tumble Town was provided by Weird Giraffe Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game. 

Still giving away a copy of Dale of Merchants Collection to a lucky reader in the US (or with a US mailing address) thanks to Snowdale Design. For more information on that giveaway, check out this link!

Another Kickstarter preview! I keep saying I’m going to stop, and I never do, because I love them. Mostly. Sometimes. Who can say. Either way, there’s more this week, more next week, and likely even more after that! Something to look forward to, if I weren’t already behind (writing reviews on Thursday for a Monday launch isn’t my best look). Weird Giraffe Games is our latest publisher with a Kickstarter, so let’s see what they’ve got going on in Tumble Town, the latest from Kevin Russ, designer of Calico!

In Tumble Town, you’d normally say that this town isn’t big enough for the 2 – 4 of us, but it, in fact, is totally equipped to accommodate you all! The problem is that they want one of you to be mayor. Rather than having a fair election (they’re kind of out of vogue, I hear), they’ve decided to task you with local development, and if you do a good enough job, they’ll make you the mayor! It’s a bit like Animal Crossing in that you’re doing local development but you do all the work. Naturally, your opponents have their eyes set on municipal power, as well, so you’re going to have to be quick-witted (and a bit lucky) if you want to seize power in this town. Will you be able to construct the best Western … town?

Contents

Setup

Game’s not too bad to set up. Set out the dice:

Dice

You’ll want to put a certain amount of each back in the box based on how many players you’ve got:

  • 2 players: Put back 12 of each color.
  • 3 players: Put back 6 of each color.
  • 4 players: Use all the dice.

Give each player a random set of starting cards:

Easy Cards

These should include a Horse with a gold scoring condition on one side, as well as Main Street Cards with Easy and Hard Mode:

Hard Cards

Have all players play on the same side of Main Street, and join the cards together such that the icon is complete and between them. Set aside the tokens:

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Prepare the Building Plan Cards by shuffling each deck:

Cards

And placing the three decks (sorted by the number of cacti on the back of the cards) on top of the Rainbow Cards:

Rainbow Cards

Now, you’ll remove some of these cards, as well, leaving a certain number of each type:

  • 2 players: Use 9 of each type of the Building Plans.
  • 3 players: Use 11 of each type of the Building Plans.
  • 4 players: Use 13 of each type of the Building Plans.

Then, reveal four cards from each deck. Finally, give each player their starting dice:

  • First player: 2 Brown
  • Second player: 2 Brown
  • Third player: 2 Brown, 1 Gray or 1 Black
  • Fourth player: 2 Brown, 1 Gold

If you have a dice tower, set it out:

Dice Tower

Roll the dice, because why not? And then add them to your Storehouse. Either way, you’re ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

A game of Tumble Town takes place over several rounds, as players compete to build up their own Main Streets to prove that they deserve to be the new mayor. Once the game ends, the player with the most points wins!

Gameplay 2

To start your turn, take a card from the Building Plan area and add it to the left of your Horse. These will be your incomplete buildings. Next, claim the dice indicated on the back of the top card of the row you just took the Plan Card from. Take those dice and the dice in your Storehouse and roll them. Now, you may Construct and use your Building Powers.

When you Construct, you must follow the requirements on the card you’re trying to build, and you may only build cards that are in your incomplete Building area. Some cards want dice with certain values, some want straights or sets or all different values or certain colors; doesn’t matter. Certain cards, once completed, will give you the ability to reroll or modify your dice; you may use the ability as soon as the card is completed. Other cards have scoring abilities or one-time bonuses, so, those are less useful in the moment.

Gameplay 3

If you’ve got dice in the configuration the building has asked for, assemble them as pictured on the card (vertically, mind you, like a real building) and add them to a spot on your Main Street. Note that Main Street gives you bonus points for meeting a space’s requirement. You can place on that spot without fulfilling the requirement; you just won’t get any points.

If you want, you may ignore a requirement for a die when building a building. If you do, for each requirement (color or value) you ignore per die, you take a -2 token as a penalty. Place it on the card so that you don’t forget.

Gameplay 4

Ultimately, you may only keep one die on each space in your Storehouse between turns. You must return the extras to the Supply or exchange them according to the exchange rules. Up to you. Either way, reveal a card from the top of the row’s deck to replace the one you claimed at the start of your turn to end your turn. The next player goes immediately after.

Gameplay 5

The game ends when any two dice colors have two or fewer dice left. Finish the round, so that all players get an equal number of turns, then add up your scores, including points from buildings, building abilities, Main Street, Main Street bonuses, and penalties. The player with the most points wins!

Player Count Differences

This isn’t a particularly destructive game, so, you likely won’t notice other players beyond seeing how quickly players power through dice at higher player counts. Higher player counts make it a bit more difficult to plan, since you likely won’t be able to guarantee quite as many cards in the Building Plan area will stay the same between rounds. That said, each player can only take one card per turn, so, out of 12 cards, 9 of them will be there on your next turn pretty much no matter what (unless there aren’t enough cards in the deck to replenish) at even the highest player count, so this isn’t exactly what I would call a problem. The only major difference, then, is that Dance Hall cannot be used at two players, so you’ll need to comb through the deck and remove it. Despite the game not having a ton for players to do when it’s not their turn, I don’t actually notice turns taking all that long, so it doesn’t feel terribly long as a result. I have a gentle preference for the lower end of the player count spectrum, but that’s a very, very slight preference.

Strategy

  • Don’t skip straight to Tier 2. A lot of players will head there right after building their first building, and I’m generally inclined to think that that’s a mistake. The early buildings give you a lot of reroll / dice modification powers, and they’re relatively inexpensive. It’s not a bad idea to grab two or three of those so that you’re well-set-up for success on your future builds. Missing a build on a turn can be … pretty bad.
  • It’s not necessarily the worst idea to take some of the -2 penalties. It’s worth considering whether or not you will make more points (than 0) doing this. If so, then go for it. If not, perhaps hold off and wait for a more potentially lucrative turn?
  • You really want to be building approximately one building per turn. On average, at least. If you’re missing multiple turns in a row, you risk clunking up your Storehouse and having to lose dice back to the center. Nobody wants to do that! That’s wasteful.
  • Set yourself up for success on Main Street. You really want to try and fulfill as many of those location requirements as possible. And you want to create alleys! So many alleys.
  • Keep in mind that the Tier 3 buildings all have bonus scoring conditions, so you should try to take the ones that set you up for success. Watch out, since the cacti kind of look the same and it can be hard to identify chimneys and different window shapes without looking closely. You don’t want to invest all that capital and end up with a building that isn’t particularly valuable! Your money can be better spent elsewhere.
  • You should also go for the bonus points from your Horse. You can usually get 5 or 6 points that way if you’re pretty blatant about it; that can be essentially another building’s worth.
  • Be careful about telegraphing which type of building you’re going after too much, though; it makes Dance Halls really valuable. I had a game where a player just went, ham, on green, and the player next to them grabbed a Dance Hall for green and scored a ton of points that way. Not much that they could have done about it beyond grabbing it for themselves, I suppose.
  • Using some abilities to cycle dice around can give you effective rerolls if you need them. Some dice let you exchange any non-gold die for any non-gold die. You can, if you need to, exchange a brown die for a brown die (which must then be rolled), giving you a free reroll in exchange for that one swap.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • A nice spin on Western-themed games. They’re usually about shooting each other. This one’s not, and I appreciate that. It reminds me a bit of a less-complex Saloon Tycoon, honestly. They both have the same verticality, but this one’s a much lighter game.
  • Pretty easy to learn. You basically just roll the dice and use the values to build buildings, Yahtzee-style. It’s a bit like a roll-and-build. The buildings give you abilities that make it easier to build more buildings. It’s got a nice progression once you settle into it.
  • I like the verticality of the game. I generally like games with a solid vertical component, though. I think it gives the game a bit better table presence, and that’s something I take very seriously. You want a game that attracts other people when you’re playing it, you know?
  • Not a particularly long game, either. At the very least, it doesn’t feel long, and that’s always a good thing. I think lower down-time is definitely a feature of this game. Can’t really explain why, but it seems to work really well for it. I feel like I’m always either doing something or thinking about something.
  • I appreciate that there’s a Hard Mode for Main Street. Variable difficulty in games is awesome! It also gives you a different way to go after buildings and lay out your road, so that variety is great if the game starts to feel a bit stale. That didn’t happen for me, but, I appreciate it either way.
  • I respect that the preview copy came with a DIY dice tower. It took me a while to get it working, but it was surprisingly effective for something made of cardboard that I threw together.

Mehs

  • The Main Street aspect feels slightly disconnected from the main game. It’s sort of the same thing I mentioned in my Wreck Raiders review last week; it ends up feeling like you’ve got two self-contained elements. One is the dice-rolling and building construction, and the other is the building placement and Main Street management. They don’t feel quite as interconnected as I would like. It would probably feel more so if, say, you had to commit a building to a spot on Main Street when you first took it, but that might junk up other parts of the game downstream. It’s not really a big problem; it’s just a minor disconnect. The fact that you can play without Main Street as a beginner game kind of further illustrates this, for me. It’s not superfluous; just disconnected.

Cons

  • All games with freeform dice stacking worry me. It’s not irredeemable if you knock over the dice, but you can really cause a mess if you’re not careful. It would be kind of nice if they had like, trays for Main Street that would keep the base dice down, or something.

Overall: 8.25 / 10

In Progress

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with Tumble Town! I think, from the start, I was always going to be a bit fond of a game with a stackable dice mechanic (though I worry about having so many of them without some sort of scaffold to hold them in place; one table bump and you’re left with a ghost town). I particularly like that you have to go for simple sets and some dice manipulation to get the dice where you want them to be. It reminds me a bit of Intrepid, in that the dice are more of a means to an end than an actual determining factor (or, even more specifically, they should be if you’re playing well). I think, functionally, dice are going to turn a few players off of this game. After all, dice are fundamentally the emissaries of luck, and luck and strategy can’t coexist! But similarly to Intrepid (I’ll cover it … later), if you’re playing Tumble Town well, you’ll find that the dice aren’t really limiting anything; they’re just forcing you to be strategic with the buildings you try to go for and the powers you use on a turn. I find those styles of games interesting, and I’m glad Tumble Town seems to be in a similar vein. I’m not 100% sold on Main Street, yet, but let’s see how much that changes between now and fulfillment? I think, mechanically, it’s fine, but I’d love to see it become something really engaging. Not sure how to get there, but, it’s good to have dreams. Either way, I’ve enjoyed getting to spend a little time in Tumble Town, and if you’re a fan of dice, stacking, tableau-building, or just Western-themed games, you might be interested in checking this one out! I’ve certainly had fun with it.

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