Pappy Winchester is the brand new auction, bidding and set collection board game from Blue Orange Games. Designed by Jérémy Pinget, featuring artwork from Sylvain Aublin, the game sees 3 – 5 players squabbling over their share of inheritance from Pappy. Lasting around 40 minutes land will be sold, cash with change hands and visits to the saloon will occur. However, is there enough for players to get excited about? Let’s find out!
With Pappy Winchester sadly out of the picture it is time for his descendants, the players, to split his money and land. At the start of the game each player takes their cut of the money, gaining $8,000 in $1,000 bills. Placing a bonus token randomly onto each of the 19 plots of land, the mines and ranch also get a randomised card placed on them face down – worth a secret amount to whomever purchases them. Plot tokens, 1 for each of the 19 land areas, are piles face down. The train takes to the tracks and the boat is placed on the river, with the specific placement not meaning anything at this stage. Finally, each player draws two secret objectives, keeping one, and a duel token.
On a turn the active player chooses one of the plots tokens – revealing which is being put to auction. Starting the bid at a minimum of $1,000 each subsequent player must either raise the price by $1,000 or drop out of the auction. The auction ends in one of two ways. The most common way is for all bar one player to drop out, with the final player paying the end cost. Instead, when the auction gets down to only 2 players one of them can choose to spend their single use duel token. This locks the auction price and sees the two players randomly choose a duel card. One is a bang, the other a click, with whom ever getting the bang getting the auctioned plot for the locked price.
Any spent money is not returned to the bank. Instead, as evenly as possible, it is split between the other players – as if they are splitting the inheritance. Any left over money is placed on the saloon. Each land area comes with a bonus token, and some a card. If a card was on the plot, either being the ranch or a mine, that card is cashed in. These range from $5,000 down to $0 so there is a risk to them.
This risk can to some extent be averted, via one of the bonus tokens. The rumour bonus token allows the player to instantly look at any secret card – be it an opponent’s secret objective or a card on the board. The movement token allows the player to move either the boat along the river or train along the tracks. Wherever the moved vehicle moves to all adjacent land areas gain their owner $1,000. The final token is the saloon, which sees all money at the saloon earnt by the player – excluding any they had just placed there.
As well as their secret objectives, which score money based upon land or tokens collected by the player, 5 public objectives are available. These range from the first player to have 1 bonus token of each type to winning the final auction. Whomever completes these first grabs the pile of money below them. This is a nice way for additional money to be injected into the game, as it isn’t from another player.
The game continues clockwise around the table with a different player choosing a face down plot token, regardless of whom brought the previous land. At the conclusion of the 19th auction, once the land is purchased and money distributed, it is time to score. A bonus of $5,000 is awarded to whomever has the most land, with this added to money in hand and from secret objectives. Then, whomever is the richest is the best descendant of Pappy Winchester.
Blue Orange’s games often have strong production values and Pappy Winchester is no different. The game board is bright and easily legible. This is somewhat impressive given that the plots are a vast range of shapes and sizes. The boat and train pieces are a little over the top, being 3D cardboard models – which someone needs to put together before playing (taking a matter of minutes). A fair amount of iconography is used to keep the cards language free, though once a few cards are explained the rest become easy to read for new players.
One aspect that may be divisive is the paper money. The way money is splashed out and passed around the table it feels like the right call has been made though. It also leads into the theming of splitting the inheritance money, as it feels more like money than cardboard tokens or poker chips would. The only nitpick about the components is that a few plastic bags could be included to separate out the player, plot and bonus tokens. Being all stored together this results in a couple of additional setup minutes, sorting through to split out the tokens.
Each round may be a simple auction but there is slightly more to the game than just bidding. Players need to work out when to push opponents, to squeeze more money out of them, and when is a bad time to bluff. The various objectives, both public and secret, also make each auction decision have more weight to it, as players deduce what others want most. For variety ten different public objectives are included while only five are used each game. This changes the importance tokens or plots of land from one game to the next.
The duel aspect is the one part of the game that seems forced. While it somewhat matches the theme, the shot player isn’t out of the game, merely contention for that auction. It does add a special action that is exciting to participate in, and the infrequent amount it occurs helps maintain its spark. While the game does slightly benefit from this spark it just doesn’t marry up with the rest of the game perfectly.
Pappy Winchester, unlike the character, is far from dead – providing plenty of entertainment. The core of the game is simple enough that anyone can be taught the game. Despite this, from the mixture of objectives and bluffing there is something for gamers to get stuck into. Decisions are given an interesting twist as you’ll be paying the money directly to your opponents. It can certainly be painful to hand over large stacks of money when you’ve splashed all of your money on winning one plot. The game may be a little long for a filler but Pappy Winchester can be ideal for in the middle of a games day or at the end of a game night. Time to get bidding!
(Editor’s Note: Pappy Winchester was provided to us by Blue Orange for the review at Essen Spiel 2019.)