Bluffing games are a pretty popular genre in the board game industry, but I personally wouldn’t say that it is one of my favorites. This is probably partially because I wouldn’t say that I am a good liar and I am not particularly good at detecting lies. There is also the fact that many games in the genre feel like they are basically the same game as there is only so much you can do with the genre as it basically comes down to telling strategic lies and catching other players in lies. Despite not being a huge fan of bluffing games, when I picked up OutLawed! in a clearance sale I was intrigued as it kind of reminded me of Love Letter. Basically all of the players are competing to become the next deputy which involves trying to capture the most valuable criminals while the other players are trying to sabotage you to help themselves. OutLawed! doesn’t drastically differ from your typical bluffing game, but it does a good job streamlining the best elements of the genre into a fun and quick little game that fans of the genre should enjoy.
How to Play OutLawed!
- Choose whether you are going to play the normal or beginner game. If you are playing the beginner game remove any Outlaw Cards that do not have the badge icon in the bottom left corner.
- If you are playing the two player game remove any Outlaw Cards that don’t feature the bullets icon in the bottom right corner.
- Sort the Outlaw Cards by the back of the cards. Each player takes one of the decks of cards.
- Each player shuffles their deck of cards and randomly discards one card. The card that is discarded should be kept secret from the other players.
- Choose a player to be the starting player. This player will be given the Deputy Badge card.
Playing the Game
OutLawed! is played over a number of rounds. Each round consists of three phases:
Starting with the first player for the round (the player with the Deputy Badge) each player will choose one of the Outlaw Cards from their hand and place it face down on the table. This card is referred to as the “Played Outlaw”. The player will then tell the other players the name of the outlaw that they played. The player can either tell the truth or lie about the card’s identity. The identity that the player claims is the “Claimed Outlaw”.
The next player clockwise will then choose a card and repeat the same process. This continues until all of the players have played a card.
After everyone has played their card all of the cards will be revealed. Each player will then look at the Outlaw Card they played to see if they met the “Apprehend If” condition.
If a player successfully met their outlaw’s condition and another card didn’t prevent them from apprehending their outlaw, the player will place the card they played face down in their jail pile. Players should place their jailed cards in a way that each player can see how many cards each player has in their jail.
If the player did not meet the condition or another card prevented them from apprehending their outlaw, they will add the card back into their hand. The player can use this card again in a future round.
The player who has the Deputy Badge will pass it to the next player clockwise who will become the first player in the next round.
Here are the cards of OutLawed! along with their conditions to be apprehended.
“Bandito” Pandito – One of the other players told the truth with their claim.
“Bluffalo” Bill Bison – “Bluffalo” Bill Bison will be apprehended if another player played the card that the player who played this card claimed it to be.
“Bulletproof” Betty – Nobody played the same card this round.
Croc Holliday – Anyone else who lied during their claim cannot apprehend their outlaw. If the player caught one or more players lying they will “apprehend” Croc Holliday.
“Dirty” Duke Tigre – “Dirty” Duke Tigre blocks any other player from apprehending “Noble” Lionel Manesworth in the round. If another player played Lionel, “Dirty” Duke Tigre will be apprehended.
“Eagle Eye” Hawkins – One of more other players lied about their claim during the round.
“Lone” Wolfgang McClane – Only one player played “Lone” Wolfgang McClane during the round.
“Noble” Lionel Manesworth – When a player plays “Noble” Lionel Manesworth they claimed the card to be “Noble” Lionel Manesworth.
“Stretch” Tannen – Everyone’s claim during the round (including your own) was a lie.
The Vixen Twins – If two or more players played the same card this round, the Vixen Twins will be apprehended.
The Wild Bunch – Two or more players played “The Wild Bunch” during the round.
End of Game
The game ends when one player gets seven Outlaw Cards in their jail (four for the beginner game). Players will then turn over all of the cards from their jail and count up the reward value on each card. Stretch’s value is worth $150 per player in the game. The player who collected the largest reward value from their jailed cards wins the game. If there is a tie the tied player who discarded the lowest valued card at the beginning of the game will win. If there is still a tie the player closest to the player with the Deputy Badge (in turn order) wins.
Instead of counting up reward value players can also choose to have the player who jailed the most cards win the game. If there is a tie the player closest to the player with the Deputy Badge (in turn order) wins.
My Thoughts on OutLawed!
In a lot of ways OutLawed! feels like your typical game from the bluffing genre. In each round every player will play one card and either tell the other players the truth or lie about its identity. All of the players have access to the same cards (outside of the card each player has to discard at the beginning of the game) so the key is to find the best time to play each card. Each card has a special condition that has to be met for the player to apprehend the outlaw. Some of these cards rely on other players telling the truth or lying. Others rely on another card being played/not played by another player. To figure out what card to play each round you need to try to read the other players to predict what they will play as well as read whether the other players are lying about the identity of their card.
While the comparison is not perfect, I was actually a little surprised by how much OutLawed! reminded me of Love Letter. While Love Letter relies on more deduction a lot of the elements in OutLawed! are similar. In both games the key is figuring out what card to play at any given time. Each card has its own strengths and weaknesses where there are certain times that it would be best to play each card. This relies on reading the other players and doing a good job lying when you have to. You also have to take advantage of turn order when you can as some cards are much better to play at the end of the Claim phase versus the beginning.
OutLawed! is not the most original game, but I had quite a bit of fun playing it. The game succeeds because the interaction between the different cards seems to work really well. Pretty much each card has situations where it should be played and others where you should avoid playing it. The gameplay is pretty simple as you only have to choose one of ten cards and then determine whether you are going to tell the truth or lie. Despite this you can actually put a decent amount of strategy into the game. Which card you choose to play in each round has a pretty big impact on your success. The game will always rely on some luck (unless you can read the other players’ minds), but it feels like you have quite a bit of impact on your own fate.
I think this is because the cards are well designed. The apprehend conditions on the cards are really straightforward as you should have no trouble comprehending what you need to have happen in order to apprehend each outlaw. Accomplishing that task is quite a bit more difficult though. This comes from all of the cards requiring different conditions to be met. Some of the conditions are quite easy while others are quite difficult. This is balanced out by the fact that each card is worth a different value. For example Croc Holliday is pretty easy to “apprehend” as you only have to catch one player lying. Croc Holliday has no reward value though so he won’t help you with your final score. This tradeoff leads to some interesting decisions that you have to make. The easiest cards to claim are also worth the least so you can’t rely solely on playing the easiest cards as another player will likely earn more reward money than you. The more valuable cards are harder to apprehend though so if you try too many of the hard cards you might end up not apprehending that many outlaws. In order to do well in the game you need to really balance these two extremes to get a good mixture of outlaws to maximize your score.
I am guessing that the randomly discard one card at the beginning of each round rule was added in to add some variety to the game as players couldn’t know for certain what cards the other players have in their hands. I am not a fan of the rule though. While most of the cards are pretty well balanced between how easy they are to apprehend versus their reward value, I think the card that a player discards at the beginning of the game could have an impact on who ultimately wins. I honestly think the game would have been better off ditching the rule and allowing players to use all of their cards from the start.
For the most part I would say that OutLawed! is surprisingly easy to play. The basic gameplay boils down to choosing a card to play, either telling the truth or lying about the identity of the card, and then checking each card’s apprehend conditions to see which cards are apprehended. Due to its simplicity you could teach the game to new players within minutes. The most difficult part of the game is reading and understanding the various apprehend conditions. The game has a recommended age of 10+, but I think kids younger than that could play the game as long as you don’t care about the lying aspect of the game. OutLawed! also plays quite quickly. Unless players take way too long analyzing what card to play I think most games could be finished within 15-20 minutes. This makes the game a great filler game or you could easily play a couple games back to back.
While OutLawed! is really easy to play, it is the type of game that you have to play a couple of times in order to get a good grasp on what you are trying to do. This is because to do well in the game you need to be familiar with what you need to accomplish to apprehend each of the criminals. None of these tasks are difficult to understand as they are really straightforward. The problem is that it is hard to keep track of what each of the cards do. Unless you have a really good memory in your first game or two you are going to have a hard time remembering what each card’s apprehend condition is. Therefore you are regularly going to have to reference your cards to see what each one does. You will have to do this when choosing your card especially if you choose to lie and claim you played a different card, but you will also likely have to when you hear the cards that the other players claim. After a couple games you should be familiar enough with all of the cards that you will only have to occasionally reference them. This does lead to a learning curve for the game though as you won’t remember what each card does for your first couple of games. This could impact your strategy as well since when you are more familiar with the cards you can better think of how you want to utilize your cards.
For this reason I really think the game should have included cheat sheets that each player could reference throughout the game. The game gives players reference cards that list all of the different characters which is helpful especially when you try to bluff. The problem is that these cards give you no indication of what the apprehend conditions are for each character. The game should have included a small sheet for each player which gave you a brief explanation of each character’s apprehension conditions. This would have made it much easier on new players that weren’t as familiar with the game.
Other than the lack of reference sheets I thought OutLawed!’s components were pretty good. The components in the game are basically what you would expect as the game only comes with cards. I would say that the cardstock is pretty good as the cards should last if you take care of them. For the most part I liked the game’s artwork. While the theme is pretty light and doesn’t really connect too much with the gameplay, I think the designer and artist did a good job giving the game character. On top of all of this the game comes in a really small box which is about as small as it could of been. Even if space is not a big issue for you, I always appreciate a game that doesn’t waste more space than it needs to.
Should You Buy OutLawed!?
OutLawed! doesn’t revolutionize the bluffing genre, but it does a really good job at focusing on what is enjoyable about the genre. The game is quite simple as players just take turns playing cards, telling the truth or lying about the card, and then checking to see what cards met their apprehend conditions. The game can be taught in minutes and can be easily played by people that rarely play card games. Despite being simple to play the game has a decent amount of strategy as you need to figure out what card to play each round by analyzing what cards the other players claimed to have played as well as figuring out what conditions you think will be met in the round. This is pretty fun and actually reminds me quite a bit of Love Letter. To fully appreciate the game though you may have to play it a couple times to familiarize yourself with what each character does.
My recommendation for OutLawed! comes down to your opinion of bluffing games and games like Love Letter. If you don’t really care for either OutLawed! probably won’t be for you. Those that like a quick simple bluffing game with some hidden depth though should enjoy and consider picking up OutLawed!.