Manufacturer  Alea
Year  2000
Designer  Richard Borg and Mike Fitzgerald
Wyatt Earp cover

Wyatt Earp


Another Rummy variant brought to you by Mike Fitzgerald, (designer of the Mystery Rummy series of games) and Richard Borg.

Background

Players attempt to run up the rewards on eight notorious outlaws, then divvy up the reward money based on the "capture points" they have melded. Special "Sheriff Cards" spice up the gameplay, and nothing is ever certain, as your melded outlaws can be forced to go into hiding, and most of the special actions require a successful "shot" to take effect. The first player to amass $25,000 in reward money is the winner.

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The Gameplay

In Wyatt Earp eight outlaw cards are laid out in a circle around the draw/discard piles, and a starting reward of $1000 is placed on each one. Players are dealt eight cards, one card is turned up to start the discard pile, and the game begins.

The cards consist of two types: Outlaws and Sheriffs. Outlaw cards show the name of one of the eight outlaws in the game. There are seven of these for each outlaw, each with a "capture value" of two. The Sheriff cards are for the most part special cards, and will detailed below. Each turn you must either draw two cards from the draw pile, or take the top discard. You then MAY play cards to the table. You then MUST discard one card.

Playing Cards to the Table

Players may play outlaw cards face up in front of them. However, if an outlaw hasn't been melded by anyone, ("broken" in hearts palance), then three cards of that outlaw must be melded. Whenever outlaw cards are melded, the reward for that outlaw is increased by $1000 for each card melded after the first. So melding three Bob Dalton cards will increase his reward by $2000. Playing a single outlaw to the table results in no change to their reward.

In addition to any Outlaw cards you choose to meld, you can play one Sheriff card per turn. Many of these require a "shot" to succeed for the card to have an effect. To take a shot, the next card in the draw pile is turned over. If the card has a bullet hole mark on it, then the shot was successful. If not, the shot fails. Here is the list of Sheriff cards.

There is one Photo card for each outlaw in the game. These have a capture value of four, and increase the reward on an outlaw by $1000. Whenever the opening meld of an outlaw is played, you may, out of turn, play the Photo card for that outlaw. You may also play one on your turn as you would play any other Sheriff card, adding it to your meld for that outlaw. No shot is required to play Photo cards.

Most Wanted cards allow you to either, ask the other players for a given outlaw, or take an already melded outlaw card from another player, and add it to your melds. Taking an outlaw from the table requires a successful shot, while asking for one from player's hands does not.

Fastest Gun cards require a successful shot. If the shot succeeds, then the reward is increased by $1000 for the outlaw, you gain three capture points, AND if any other player has a Fastest Gun card on the table, it is discarded, (as there can only be one fastest gun in the west...).

Bank Robbery cards have a capture value of two, and increase the reward on an outlaw by $1000. They require a successful shot.

Stagecoach Robbery cards have a capture value of one, but increase the reward on an outlaw by $3000. They require a successful shot.

Here's where things get interesting. Hideout cards are played on one of an opponents melded outlaws. If a successful shot happens, then that entire meld no longer counts towards the capture of the outlaw when scoring at the end of the hand.

Wyatt Earp cards can be used for one of three things. You can use them to draw two cards from the draw pile. You can use them to search through the discard pile for any card you want, and if you take a Sheriff card, you CAN play that immediately, (though you can't take another Wyatt Earp card). Finally you can use Wyatt to try to remove a hideout played on your outlaws. Much like the Photo cards, you can play this out of turn when you get hidden out, or on your own turn. Removing a hideout requires a successful shot.

Play continues around the table until either one player discards their last card, or the draw deck is exhausted for the second time. At that point the scoring takes place.

The Scoring

The scoring is a bit hard to explain, but it is what makes the gameplay so interesting, so bear with me. If an outlaw has at lest eight capture points melded to the table, (amongst all players, including any Sheriff cards), then they have been captured, and their reward money gets divided up. IF one player has more than 4 more capture points than any other player, they get the entire reward, (if Bill has 10 CPs, Ted has 5, Jane has 4 and Jill has 0, Bill gets it all). If a player has more than four less than the player with the most, they get nothing, and the remaining players divide the reward with the player with the most getting $2000, and the others getting $1000. Then each player gets $1000 until the reward is exhausted or can't be equally divided amongst the lesser players. For example:

Bill has 10CP for Billy the Kid, Jane has 6, Jill has 6, Ted has 5, and there is $9000 in reward money on Billy. Bill gets $2000, then Jane and Jill get $1000. Ted gets nothing. $5000 remains in the reward. Bill, Jane and Jill each get another $1000. $2000 remains. Since Bill had the most, he gets to take another $1000. Jane and Jill cannot each get another $1000, so neither gets any more, and $1000 will carry over to the next hand.

After all rewards are divided up, the cards are shuffled, $1000 is added to each outlaw, and another hand is played.

Why this game is so great

The game is great due to the fact that it's a lot of fun. It plays quickly, (some might say too quickly as a game is generally only 3 hands), and has some solid decision making. As with any card game, a bad hand can ruin the best laid plans, and the luck of the draw does come into play. However, the interactions between the players tends to keep the game fairly close, as if someone is getting close to $25,000, the other players will tend to gang up on the leader. Yet this ganging up can't be ensured, due to the iffy nature of the shots. Hideout cards allow for some wild swings, as the player who was going to easily capture the entire reward for an outlaw, can suddenly find themselves out of the money. As there is no bonus for going out, timing your last play is crucial, as by going out, you get the last chance to change the balance of points. Skillful play of Sheriff cards will win more often than not, and the many uses for them allow a lot of flexibility. Should you Most Wanted players hands, to try to get that one outlaw you need to get in on the reward, or take a chance with a shot stealing another player's already melded outlaw, possibly gaining the majority for that outlaw. Should you use a Fastest Gun to get in on the reward money, knowing that someone else can easily swipe that title from you, leaving you out of the now increased reward? And what about Wyatt Earp? Get more cards? Go through the discard and get exactly the card you want? Or save it for the inevitable hideout? Good stuff. Also, the nature of the reward division tends to keep the game close, so rarely is someone totally out of the game. I was once down about $14,000 going into the last hand, and through good play, took out the leader, and beat the second place player by $1000 for the win. The fact that such an event is possible shows that there is enough strategy here to sink your teeth into.

Why others don't agree

Some people will be turned off by the luck aspects of Wyatt Earp, namely the "shots" and the luck of the draw. You can get seriously hosed if your hand is all Sheriff cards, though by playing one a turn, you should be able to get a more balanced hand after a few times around the table. Bad luck in the shots is a killer, but I've had hands where I don't take a shot at all. Some may be turned off by the theme, and the violence inherent in the system, but unlike some other western-themed games, no one actually gets shot...

Recap

Strategy:  7
Complexity:  6
Fun:  9
Overall:  8

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