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Most Wanted

This town ain’t big enough for the two (or eight) of you! Not when it comes to competing for the coveted title of the most wanted outlaw in the west.

A Poker inspired card game from North Star Games, Most Wanted has players competing in robberies and duels, and occasionally partaking in a little honest labor, as they climb the ranks of infamy.

Gameplay

The board shows a scoring track leading from the bottom up to the ‘most wanted’ location. The goal of the game is to be the first player to reach this spot. Each player selects a character token. During the game they will be moving their characters up this track. Different locations on the track are numbered one through three depending on how close they are to the ‘most wanted’ location.

Six action cards are placed on the table. These show the actions you can choose from on your turn. The deck is shuffled and each player is dealt five cards to start the game. Cards come in one of four suits and range from six through ace.

On your turn, you choose one of the actions to perform that are shown on the action cards. After the action is completed, all players who participated draw cards until they have five in hand, and it is now the next player’s turn.

Three of the actions are robberies. Depending on the robbery you select, you place two-to-four cards face down. The active player may never back out from the robbery, but they can swap their cards around before they are revealed. The other players at the table then decide whether to play the same number of cards facedown as well or to sit the robbery out (these players may choose to withdraw from the robbery up until the point the cards are revealed). Once everyone has finished deciding and playing cards, all cards are revealed and the player with the best hand wins the number of points shown on the robbery’s action card (moving their player token that many spaces up the scoring track). Any player who participated in the robbery and lost must pay bail, which means they must pay one-to-three money tokens (based on their location on the board) or move their token back a number of spaces equal to what they cannot pay.

When determining the best hand, it goes in this order: four of a kind, three of a kind, two pair, a single pair, and finally high card wins. The special exception is that if, and only if, someone plays a hand that consists entirely of aces, then a hand which consists entirely of sixes would beat it.

There are also three non-robbery actions you can choose from. There is the church action, which allows you to discard any cards from your hand and draw up to seven, there is the honest labor action, which allows you to play any number of matching suit cards and earn two money bag tokens for each card, and finally there is the duel action.

For the duel action, you select another player and choose to play either a hand of one or two cards. You both play this number of cards and reveal. The player with the best hand wins and earns points equal to the opponent’s location on the score tracker (one-to-three points) and the loser must pay bail.

When the draw deck is depleted you shuffle the discard pile to form a new one. The first three times this happens you flip over one of the robbery cards. The reverse side of these grants you bigger bonuses for victory.

         Most Wanted Components

Review

Most Wanted does a great job of taking the core ideas of Poker and distilling them down to a simpler, more accessible game that both kids and adults can enjoy, and that still offers plenty of opportunities for strategy, bluffing, and player interaction. This is particularly true as players can swap out cards, or even back out, during robberies up until the point the cards are revealed.

The action cards provide an extra layer of choice and force the active player to balance the risk/reward of the various robbery types. You’ll earn more points for a train robbery, but is your potential four-card hand as strong as your two card hand that might win you the pony express robbery? And what do you think your opponents are holding? Meanwhile getting money tokens allows you to compensate for losses in the robberies or duels, but also won’t move you up the scoring track. But the church can help you to maneuver yourself into a better position to participate in another player’s robbery. Choosing your actions and when to use them adds depth to the game.

The game has lots of player interaction, from the choices you make on your turn to the choices your opponents make. You are always watching to see what other players are doing and getting involved on each other’s turns. This gives the game a great flow and really keeps it moving.

There are also alternative action cards that you can swap into the game, which provides some variety to the game setup and the choices players can face each round. The game has good components in general and is bright and colorful, with a fun theme.

If you’re a fan of Poker, Most Wanted may disappoint you with its stripped down deck and fewer hand types, however for players looking for something more casual it has a neat and tidy design, with more depth than you might expect at first glance, and its familiar gameplay makes it easier to teach people less familiar with games.

Pros: Multiple action cards to adjust setup, lots of player interaction, little downtime

Cons: Likely to disappoint Poker fans

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.