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Homesteaders title

The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed Americans to claim 160-640 Acres of undeveloped land by living on and farming it for 5 years.

Also in the 1860s the Transcontinental Railroad was built across North America, linking rail networks between the east and west coasts. The development of the railroads accelerated the spread of Homesteaders colonizing the west and lead to the rapid cultivation of new farm lands.

Become a Homesteader with a new claim and help develop a Township into a thriving City! The player who contributes the most will be declared the winner and have the city named after them!

Description of Homesteaders

Homesteaders is an auction and resource management game in which players bid on the right to build certain types of buildings, and then build their desired building of that type. Each round features an income phase, where players acquire resources, and an auction and building phase, in which players bid for available land, and then spend their resources to develop a building on that land.

Each piece of land that is available for auction is suitable for certain types of buildings, such as:
  • Residential land for buildings such as Farms, Housing, and Ranches.
  • Industrial land for buildings such as Steel Mills, Mines, or Forges.
  • Commercial land for buildings such as the General Store, a Bank or a Train Depot.
  • Special land for buildings such as a Rodeo or Fairgrounds.

In each round, the auctions determine what land is available, and players will bid to acquire the type of land appropriate for the building they wish to build that turn. Players who do not acquire a piece of land will instead contribute towards the development of the railroad.

The game is played over 10 turns, made up of 3 stages. Turns 1-4 comprise the Settlement stage, turns 5-8 comprise the Town stage, and turns 9-10 comprise the City stage. The buildings which are available for development vary through the stages, as buildings that were important when the settlement started, such as Farms and Markets, are no longer needed and new buildings become important as the city grows, such as a Train Station and Railway Terminals.

After the final round is over and the City is built, players assess their contribution by counting the victory points earned during the game, as well as bonuses from buildings they have in play, and subtract a penalty for unpaid debt. The player with the largest score has contributed the most to the thriving city, and will then lend their name to it as well, as they are declared the winner of the game!

User Reviews (9)

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Eminent Domain Fan
Went to GenCon 2011 Beta 1.0 Tester
29 of 30 gamers found this helpful
“New Fun in the Old West”

Homesteaders is an excellent combination of bidding, resource management, and yes even a bit of civilization building –all wrapped up in an old west theme that works well and doesn’t feel “pasted on.”

The bidding mechanism is much like “Vegas Showdown” — folks bid for one of three types of lots (we are “homesteaders” building up a new town) in order to develop that lot. If you are out bid you may continue to bid on another lot or bid higher. Those who drop out are rewarded with a tech advance which helps with resources.
The resources in the game are fun and challenging –as there are quite a variety and they are represented by a nice, colorful assortment of bits (ranging from cows to apples to money…).

The game moves quickly as players vie for key lots so that they can build what they need and is tense and tight –but not too much. There is a lot of game in this box and everything is done in less than 2 hours. I highly recommend it.

Note on Components:
The first edition had some production issues due to failures by the manufacturer (Tasty Minstrel’s Michael Mindes documents all his frustrations with this process on his blog) but the bits and the cards are great. The board and player screens were subpar. The second edition addresses all this and more and is fantastic. So get the 2nd edition if you care about such things. If you don’t then you are in luck, because lst edition copies are floating around at excellent used prices and the game is great either way.

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I play black
Knight-errant Gold Supporter
33 of 35 gamers found this helpful
“Not only a great game, but it has Cowples!!!”

This game is right in my wheelhouse: an economic building game with multiple paths to victory and gorgeous bits. I have the first printing, bought directly from Michael Mindes at BGG two years ago, and fortunately had no problems with my copy, other than the misaligned counters. I hate the cardboard, and absolutely love the wood. None of that really matters, as the gameplay is the true star of this rodeo.

The game centers around two phases each turn: income/auction bidding, then resolution and building. The auction scales with the number of players, but I think it works best with four players. There is always one auction available less than the number of players (so one to three possible auctions per turn) and all bidding is concurrent: bidding begins with the starting player, and continues clockwise. When it’s your turn to bid, you basically pick an auction and place your marker on the bid that you make. You can only bid if you have no bid down, or have been outbid; if you have a current bid you are locked into it. If you don’t want to bid, you can pass, and advance of the tech track for your compensation, where you get something for nothing: ranging from a Trade token, through a railway, a resource of your choice, up to three VPs.

When all bids are locked in, you resolve each auction in turn. Winner of the first auction is the next starting player. Pay your bid, taking loans or selling goods as needed, then do what your auction bought you: generally each auction is for a zoning permit to build a building type: residential, industrial, commercial, or special. There are other types, or bonus options, but it’s quite simple to figure out.

Most of the strategy, other than the auction bidding (and passing), is in exactly what building you choose to bid, and what economic engine you strive to build up.

There are many ways to get VPs: high end resources are worth two each at the end of the game, building can be worth VPs when you build them, others generate VPs during income, you get a VP for every good you sell; heck, you can even get VPs by passing!

There are some nice synergies that you can get with different combinations of buildings. Really, I find this one of my perfect games, and I love introducing new players to it.

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30 of 34 gamers found this helpful
“Frequently Requested by All”

I think the thing I like most about Homesteaders is that on the edge feel, that each move by yourself and others can effect gameplay. It is that edginess that really delivers on the “homesteader” experience. You can just imagine Pa with his family and wagon heading out to the undiscovered country to scratch out a living on virgin soil. With nothing but options ahead of Pa, what does he do to ensure the survival of his family?

I think of Homesteaders as a slow burn. This is not a game with big moves that have big consequences. In this game, each round builds upon the last and leads to a very satisfying conclusion, even if you are not the victor.

The components are of excellent quality, and I even got one of the moisture damage copies. Still it has held up through repeated gameplay.

My group found it a bit of a challenge to learn, but after a play or 2 it is steady as she goes. There is a fair amount of set up (though not as much as some games), and for the sake of future plays I am always very careful about how I put it away. Nonetheless, these minor issues do not take away from the excellent experience. It is often requested by my gamer friends, and always delivers.

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Gamer - Level 3
32 of 38 gamers found this helpful
“Good bidding/worker placement, just a little dry...”

I’ll start with this: I’ve only played a friend’s copy of Homesteaders and the copy he got may have been an older print, but the original print of this game (I know that there was a second printing on the horizon) is kind of a mess. Apparently, they got the components made for cheap in China and so not only do a large number of copies have mold on a lot of the wooden pieces, but it has the cheapest game board I’ve ever seen. The wooden pieces are nice, and as it’s been said, there are sweet cow pieces, but the printing/cutting/all around manufacturing of this game was of the cheapest quality. But we all know that getting a game made and published isn’t easy, so I chose to look at the game as having character. If you’re interested in Homesteaders, make sure you get the newer printing.

Best part about this game: it’s got lots of euro strategy and only takes an hour. Or less. The rounds are short, and it doesn’t take 20 min for each player to plan their move. I learned and played my first game in under the estimated playing time. Basically you have a worker placement phase, a bidding phase and then a buying phase. Really simple. If you’ve played Cyclades, the bidding feels a lot like that.

All in all, I enjoy Homesteaders, but its largest drawback to me is the theme- or lack thereof. It barely feels present. I know I’m supposed to be bidding on properties, but I just felt like I was bidding on cardboard. Just one more step up in production value might have done it for me. Homesteaders is fun, it has good strategy elements, but it’s not one that I’m overly eager to play unless I’m looking to fill an hour.

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Gamer - Level 1
27 of 32 gamers found this helpful
“great brainburner in about an hour”

I have played a few times and absolutely love this “little” game. I say little because it seems so unassuming, in a smallish box, no flashy components, no real gameboard except the tiny auction board, and yet there is a surprising amount of depth to this game. The choices can instill analysis paralysis in some gamers easily right from the get go. I have not mastered this game at all, and each time have tried varying staregies with differing success. What I also love is that it plays so quickly. We generally finish in just over an hour, which I always find astounding because of the depth and number of decisions to make, as well I always love auctions in a game because it adds that unpredictable element that can vary a lot from game to game, depending on your group.
Overall, I really love this game. There is a reprint coming shortly, so if you missed it first time around, be sure to check it out, (considering the reprint should have substantially improved component quality, i cobnsider this a must buy)


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31 of 39 gamers found this helpful
“Nearly Perfect”

I expected a lot from Alex Rockwell, famed strategy maven for Puerto Rico, and he managed to somehow exceed my expectations. While the game comes with a large but finite number of buildings, the possibilities, paths, and gameplay vary immensely. I’ve played 10 times or more, and I’ve come nowhere – nowhere – near to exploring the game space, and nowhere near formulating a perfect strategy. Yet, the game still rewards experience.

The pieces are mass produced but cute. The game requires a lot of resource swapping and can get a little finicky as it comes to an end. The board and player shields are a tad flimsy, which may be my only negative comment.

I absolutely love this game.

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23 of 43 gamers found this helpful
“A good solid auction game.”

The game is based around the auction mechanism. You are building towns in effect. Each turn you bid for the right to build a particular type or types of building and possibly to earn a game bonus such as an extra worker, etc… The number of options available is 1 less than the number of players playing so someone will always have to drop out. Money and/or trade tokens are needed to perform most actions and are of course always tight. There were no real surprises in terms of new mechanisms in the game, but it was put together well and the components are colorful and fun. If you like auction games you will like this one. I play games with my son who is an avid gamer and as a casual gamer I would say this borders on my limit for how “serious” a game I would ever play. It plays in about an hour and was not overwhelming me with rules and strategies.

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6 Beta 1.0 Tester
20 of 40 gamers found this helpful
“Dry and crunchy.”

But like a nice cookie (biscuit in the UK) rather than an unappealing crust of stale bread.

The game presents a tight little optimization problem: each turn there’s an Amun-Re-style auction for a building permit; the game arc comes from a gradual change in the structures available to build. Buildings provide various opportunities for your corner of town. The trick is getting the synergies right – or, at least, more right than your opponents managed. Money, workers, and resources are pretty tight.

All told, it’s pretty cool – if a bit on the penny-counting edge of the game spectrum.

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1 of 28 gamers found this helpful
“Great, but not played much.”

We really like this game, but it can be a bear for some of our friends. We don’t play it too much, but we always love it when we do!


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