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Game Review: Legends of the American Frontier: An entertaining, storytelling game
Legends of the American Frontier is a game where players take on the role of early American settlers building their legend as frontiersmen, explorers, soldiers, businessmen and statesman as they progress through their life's journey from the 13 colonies in the East, across the plains and to the West. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
A storytelling game is one that is dripping with theme. In the past, these types of games require players to play plot, character or item cards to the table to steer a central narrative. Often it's clunky or forced, and the right type of person has to play. Although imaginative, these games are so obscure and rules light, they are hard to categorize as board games.

However, Legends of the American Frontier by Game Salute is an adventure, storytelling game by experienced game designer Richard Lanius. It has the perfect blend of gaming and storytelling to still be considered a board game. It accommodates 3 to 7 players and lasts about an hour.

The setting of the game is the 1780s to the early 1800s in post-Revolutionary War America. Players represent new citizens of the growing nation. The events and stories of the new nation are part of the lives of these citizens and players get to be part of it. Awesome!

Each player takes a beautiful player board featuring a character from the time period (ladies or gents). On the character board are six skills the character possesses such as fight, personality and providence with an accompanying value from zero to seven. At the beginning of the game, the players draft upbringing cards that begin to flesh out their characters by adding to these skills and introducing story elements about why they have these skills.

For example, during the upbringing card selection, a player selects a card that indicates she went to a boarding school and that increases her knowledge skill by one point. Several cards are selected during upbringing and the starting character is ready.

As the game progresses each turn, the history of each player's character unfolds through adventures. Adventures are historical event opportunities and allow players to receive rewards such as wealth, fame, happiness or status to improve their lot in life. Will a character be a sheriff, be elected president, go on a mission to the Indians, find gold, go into the military or help build the White House?

Every player has a hand of cards with different numbers or special abilities on them. Each adventure has a specific skill challenge value that must be beaten. For example, to become sheriff of a frontier town, a player must beat a fight value of 15.

Players use cards from their hands adding the values to their character's appropriate skill in that area along with a blind draw from the deck. If all the values exceed the adventure challenge number, it is a success. If not, it is a failure. Success provides benefits such as a skill increase or wealth token to spend later.

It's important to note that adventures come in two flavors: group and individual. Sometimes players will need to bond together to complete an adventure and then share in the benefits. One of the cool things about completing adventures is that the adventure card can be taken as a reward and put into a character's personal history for end-of-game scoring.

Successful adventures deliver rewards that can be used to purchase reward cards that further develop a character. Adventures and rewards often have victory point values and these will increase the players score at the end. But things are not always smooth. There are hardship cards and failure cards that subtract points from a character's score or penalize them in a certain skill or ability. All of these cards represent the heart of this storytelling game and add flavor to a character's history.

After a certain number of rounds, the adventure cards will run out and the game will end. Legacy awards are given for those who have collected the most cards of a certain type such as locations and skills. Then players get to tell the story of their character by looking at their cards and reading their history. And, boy, is it fun and entertaining to hear the stories. An optional rule allows an extra bonus to be given to a player who gets voted to have the most impressive American legend. The player with the most points wins.

For those who love games and storytelling (like me), Legends of the American Frontier is a must have. It's unique, entertaining and beautiful to look at. Go get it now. Tons of love was put into the components, cards, character boards, dice and rules of this game. The artwork is stunning and perfect for the time period.

This is definitely a different board game than one typically imagines but whoa! it is something special and refreshing. Click here to find out more.
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