Shadows of Brimstone is one of my favorite games. It has a campy cowboys-vs-Cthulhu theme, RPG-lite persistent characters, fun dungeon crawl mechanics, and it tells memorable and often hilarious stories. Thanks to an extremely successful Kickstarter, the game is very well supported and has seen the release of numerous enemy packs, and two expansions to date, with plenty more planned for release in the future. The first released expansion, Caverns of Cynder, is an exactly run-of-the-mill more-stuff style expansion. If you want another Otherworld and some more stuff, then get it, but that’s pretty much all that it offers. The Frontier Town expansion on the other hand, is excellent, and changes Shadows of Brimstone for the better.
Frontier Town gives the Town phase of Shadows of Brimstone a complete overhaul. The Town phase of the game was fun in its original incarnation, but it could end up feeling same-y after a while. Town was a known entity, and, while there were still a few variables, the happenings in town would rarely take players by surprise once they’d played through the Town phase a few times. Frontier Town changes things up by adding in three different town sizes; different types of towns that have their own theme; six new town locations; new daily town events; a new, expanded Travel Event chart; and a big, thematic board to play the six new town specific missions on.
When the hero posse finishes a mission, they now have the option of choosing the size of town that they want to travel to. Small towns are relatively safe to travel to but only have four locations to visit. Medium towns are a bit more dangerous to find and have six locations, while Large towns can be very dangerous to travel to, but with the added benefit of having eight locations. Since town locations are now drawn (mostly) at random, players now have to weigh their need to get to a specific location (the Doc’s Office for example) against how dangerous the journey to a larger town that has a better chance at having that location will be. The Travel Hazard chart has been expanded out to a D36 table now. With so many more possible dangers awaiting the posse, it makes the decision to always push for a Large town a more difficult one than it would have been otherwise.
The type of town that the players will find is randomized now too. Chances are that the posse will find a typical Frontier Town, but there is the possibility of coming across one of the 8 new town types as well. The towns can also be friendly or hostile to players based on their keywords, and may even pose dangers to certain posse members. Each special town type has a small set of special rules, and they can also require that a specific location be set up in that town.
The new locations are fun, and while some have similar functionality to the locations included in the base game, they are different enough to avoid being retreads. Even the locations that are similar are nice to have, as it increases variety and replay value. As with the original locations, these new locations offer a plethora of new items for purchase, including seven new Sidebag tokens.
Frontier Town also comes with six new missions, including the obligatory High Noon Duel, and a large, glossy board to play them out on. The new setting and different feel of the town missions are a welcome addition to the standard dungeon crawl gameplay, and most are really fun. The High Noon Duel can actually be triggered during a town stay in various ways, yet it only features one hero at a time. The duel is both fun and disappointing at the same time. It’s a great fit thematically, but it is a one-on-one fight for just one hero, so it can be cumbersome to stop everyone else mid-visit to play through a duel. It’s exciting the first time it happens, but it can get old pretty quickly if it happens too often.
Another highlight of Frontier Town is one of the games that can be played in the new Gambling Hall called The Devil’s Wheel. The Devil’s Wheel gives players the chance to earn money and Artifacts by gambling, but instead of abstracting it into a simple roll of the dice, the game requires that players set it up in the box top and actually play The Devil’s Wheel using the rules provided. It’s a simple game, requiring players to bounce dice off the of wall of the box lid in an attempt to land them on The Devil’s Wheel, or one of the Artifacts beneath it, but it’s a fun game with great rewards, and adds just enough extra immersion to really make it enjoyable.
Playing the Devil’s Wheel and partaking in other town activities can take quite a while, and Frontier Town actually adds in a new Unwanted Attention mechanic to discourage players from hanging out in town too long, especially if they spend the majority of their time gambling. On top of the threat of looming Town Events, Frontier Town sees players accrue Unwanted Attention tokens for certain activities, such as winning money while gambling. If players end up with too much Unwanted Attention, they can get jumped by local ruffians, and even have the potential to be killed outright. Character death can usually be avoided, but it’s a nice deterrent to have for those players who like to spend just a little too much time in town.
The bottom line:
Frontier Town revamps the Town phase of Shadows of Brimstone, which is roughly half of the game experience, and beefs it up and improves it in almost every way. The new locations, town sizes, town types and Travel Events all help to add spice and life to the game. The six new missions are fun, especially since it gives the world a more lived-in feel, although too many High Noon Duels can cause the game to bog down. It doesn’t really add much to the dungeon crawling aspect of the game, but Frontier Town does wonders for the storytelling and role-playing parts that, personally, were my favorite part to begin with, and are now only better.
The copy of Shadows of Brimstone: Frontier Town used for this review was purchased by the reviewer.
Frontier Town is a must have for any fan of Shadows of Brimstone. While it doesn't really benefit the dungeon crawl aspect of the game, it makes the Town phase better in just about every way.