“TEX – Fino All’Ultima Pallottola” by Cranio Creations and Sergio Bonelli Editore Review

Theme and What is it?

Second half of the XIX century. Somewhere in the Far West where no borders yet exist, lies a western, a Spaghetti Western.

Tex Willer is a ranger with a strong sense of justice who has a mission: saving honest people from bandits, swindlers, immoral traffickers and harsh businessmen and defending the Native Americans from oppression. His adventures are narrated in the Italian comic series Tex – originally created by Gian Luigi Bonelli and published in Italy since 1948 by Sergio Bonelli Editore – which has been translated into many languages all around the world.

Tex: Fino all’Ultima Pallottola, which could be translated into “Fighting Until the Last Bullet”, is a 2/4/6-player card and dice game set in the western world of the comic book Tex where players take on the role of one of six characters and duel in teams, the “good guys” vs. the outlaws. Tex Willer and his Pards – the Navajo warrior Tiger Jack and the Egyptian warlock El Morisco – fight against Mefisto (Tex’s nemesis) and two other villains, El Muerto and Lucero.

Tex is a cooperative game characterized by two main phases: quick dice rolling simulates the speed of a duel in the first one and card dropping is the means to wound the opponents in the second one. Players need to join forces with their teammates to mutually defend each other from the enemy fire or to attack their adversaries at full power. If someone gets seriously wounded, the rival team wins a point. A team can win the game either scoring four points injuring its opponents or being ahead on the Points Track when the last Event takes place.

So… wear your cowboy hat and boots and load your weapons! Are you ready to immerse yourself in the universe of Tex Willer and his sworn enemies – a world of duels, Indians, special powers, but also of deep friendship and love for justice? Who will be the fastest gun in the West?

Gameplay Mechanics

Tex plays over rounds and each one is characterized by 4 phases. At the beginning of each round, an Event card is flipped over. Its effects can be positive or negative and impact all characters. Then, all players simultaneously start rolling their 6 dice and keep going until they’re satisfied with the result they obtain. Each die has one blank face and 5 different symbols (star, cowboy hat, horseshoe, gun, totem pole) which players can spend in the next phase to play or buy cards, buy extra bullets or flip an Event card. The more the players are fast at rolling their dice and accepting their results, the more it is likely that they will play first and the more bonuses they will earn at the end of the round. On the other hand, if they roll slowly or cannot make up their mind about which faces to keep, chances are they will play last and get a penalty at the end of the turn. It’s a fast duel, so don’t waste your time! And remember that sometimes settling for symbols you don’t need but getting to play first and with no penalty might be better than insisting when bad luck strikes.

When all dice are rolled, players decide how to spend the faces in turn order. The main way to wound opponents is through cards. There are two types of cards: Personal Actions cards and General Actions cards. Personal cards are different for each of the six characters and can be used only by that hero or villain; they provide the player with stronger and unique attack/defense powers. General cards are accessible to any player and provide common powers. Each character has access only to 7 Personal Actions cards during the whole game and will have to use them wisely and at the right moment.

Players can also buy extra bullets which count as wild symbols to perform other actions. They are very useful, especially when you need that specific symbol to play a card preventing a deadly gunshot!

Dice represent the player’s health. When characters get wounded, they lose one or more dice from their supply. If a player ends the round with two or less dice, he is considered “severely wounded” and his team loses a point on the Points Track.

Tex mixes successfully different mechanics which are typical to card and dice games such as hand management and action programming. Nevertheless, the most original thing about the whole battling system is the double role of each die, serving both as currency to “buy” actions and as players’ strength.

Initial Impressions

At the beginning I thought that people who didn’t read Tex Willer’s comic books and weren’t familiar with his adventures couldn’t really understand this board game. But then I realized that the theme and the whole setting are so strong here that even those who haven’t heard the name of Tex before can fully appreciate it. Even if you are not a huge Spaghetti Western fan, I’d suggest you give it a shot.

Moreover, players who dislike luck-oriented games might turn up their nose in front of a title implementing quick dice rolling and blind card drafting as the main mechanics. However, I must admit it all contributes to that feeling of unpredictability typical of old western duels. After all, the most powerful gun can misfire… and good guys don’t always win.

Game Build Quality

Tex is surprisingly full of more than decent materials. I had expected rather spartan components and I was proved wrong.

The board is thick and vividly colored on both sides. It’s a collage of different strips from the Tex comic books while being extremely clear about where to place the different cards decks, extra bullets, dice and tiles.

Players’ boards are shaped like the typical doors of a saloon; they are thick and intuitive about how to use them. Moreover, those of the good guys differ from the boards of the villains. Analogously, all paper tiles (characters’ figurines and Speed tiles) are functional and strong. The 36 wooden dice are nicely engraved.

The rulebook is clear, full of images and examples. I really appreciate all the nice details which remind me that nothing is left to chance in this super-themed game, like the number of pages depicted as those round water bottles generally used by cowboys in the desert and the “End of the Episode” sign on the last page.

The box contains a basic paper insert which is needless to store the game materials, but it looks like a black and white comic strip, so I’d say its purpose is actually to contribute to the overall feeling of the game.

Artistic Direction

Fabio Civitelli, the actual illustrator of Tex comic books, took care of all drawings and graphics. His outstanding skills are what make this game credible and incredible. Everything is just so perfect and consistent with the general Spaghetti Western mood of the game.

I particularly appreciated the graphics on both the General Actions and the Personal Actions cards. A part from the great pictures, they explain the card’s effects clearly and they are enriched by a line taken directly from the comics. Players can have fun reciting those lines to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the game even more.

Fun Factor

I can see players of any game tastes having fun with Tex. The quick dice rolling dynamic is hilarious when all players excitedly try to obtain the faces they hope for and they shout, laugh and have a good time. And if luck doesn’t come your way, there’s no need to worry: your teammates will do their job and help you so that you don’t feel picked on and you don’t lose interest in the game.

The Instant Effect cards are my favorite part: they can suddenly turn the situation around – saving you from an attack or strengthening your friends’ fire, for example – and raise the tension of the duel. Fun is really something this game doesn’t lack.

I also appreciate the fact that even when you are severely wounded, you don’t “die”, meaning you are not eliminated from the game: the rival team scores a point, but you can pick up all your dice and try to get back in the game. It would be annoying watching your friends playing while you just didn’t have the right card at the right time to heal your wounds.

Age Range & Weight

The age range for Tex is 14 and up, but I believe younger kids could have fun with this game, too, as long as they can quickly understand what the effects on their cards are. Since it’s a cooperative game, I wouldn’t see any problem in assigning one child per team and they could have a lot of fun with the dice rolling phase.

Average time for a game is estimated around an hour, but since the end can come as soon as a team reaches four points, some games could actually be shorter. It all depends on how cards are drafted and played. On the other hand, if the two teams are quite balanced, games are longer, because the duration depends on the Event cards deck.

Tex is conceived to be a cooperative game for two teams made up by one, two or three players each. However, I really don’t know how it could work in a one-to-one game, since many cards are thought specifically to help your teammates and they will have no sense if there are no teammates to save or help. A 6-player-game can become a bit too long for a fast-paced game as this one. Therefore, I think its ideal number  is 4.

Tex is a light and easygoing game. It doesn’t require any deep thinking, any long-term strategy and any cautious decisions. It’s a quick, messy and fun game where players end up adjusting their actions to their dice rather than focusing on rolling to obtain the right faces. This is not thought to be a heavy game, just a chaotic and entertaining title as only Italian Western movies can be.

Conclusions

I am honest, I didn’t think I would like this game much, but I actually enjoyed it a lot! Even if I never read Tex comic books, I acknowledge this is one the most themed board games I have ever played. The excited duel-like dice rolling and the cooperative aspect make you feel like you are really in one of those dusty streets in the Old West fighting for your life and that of your teammates. This is one of those games where the mechanics and the theme blend successfully.

Materials are perfect for the type of game Tex is and the artistic side has absolutely no flaws. I am sure that Sergio Bonelli Editore wanted this game to be perfectly in line with the overall feeling of the comic book and Cranio Creations, one of the most prolific publishers in Italy, was surely up to the expectations of millions of Tex Willer’s fans around the world.

Replay value is very high; as any board game depending on luck as far as dice rolling and card drafting are concerned, every game can vary from the previous ones. The right symbol and the right card drafted at the right moment can totally change the course of the game. Moreover, the six characters interact in a slightly different way and a lot depends on who is fighting against whom. You definitely won’t get tired of Tex if this is what you worry about.

The gameplay is smooth and fast, as it should be in a real duel. The game experience is rather satisfying for the kind of game Tex is. Don’t expect deep thinking or cautious planning ahead: none of this here and that’s how it ought to be.

Any fan of Western movies, duels in saloons and cowboy hats out there? If I were you, I wouldn’t pass on this game.

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