Cheap, bad movies can have a certain appeal (case in point: the Syfy original movie), and Deadwood Studios USA takes this to the next level by having the players working as actors on a B-Western movie studio.  This is an expanded version from Cheapass Games, which used Kickstarter to add new art from Phil Foglio and new rules.  And the game remains fun, if somewhat repetitive.
Players are represented by six-sided dice, starting at rank 1.  Over the course of several "days" the players want to get the highest score, which is the fame and money they accumulate, plus their rank multiplied by their final rank.  The board consists of: 10 movie cards (face down), roles for extras, and 1-3 shot markers; the trailer (where the players start); and the casting office (where players can spend money or fame to increase their rank).
When a player moves onto a space with a face-down card, the movie card gets flipped over. Each movie has a budget (from $2 million to $6 million) and 2-3 roles (between 1 and 6).  A player can take an available role on the card (as a star) or as an extra (off the card) equal to or less than their rank; other players can move to that space and take any available role as well.  Once a player takes a roll, on their next turns they try to advance the scene by rolling the budget or higher on a six-sided die.  If a player on the card succeeds, they advance the scene (remove a shot marker) and get two fame; if they fail, they get nothing.  If an extra succeeds, they advance the scene and get one fame and one dollar; if they fail, they still get a dollar.  When a movie's last shot marker is removed, the movie wraps.  Players on the card get paid by rolling a number of six-sided dice equal to the budget, then spreading the money from high-to-low value among the roles.  (So for a $6 million budget with 3 roles, the highest role gets the 1st and 4th highest dice, the 2nd-highest role gets the 2nd and 5th highest dice, and the last role gets the 3rd and 6th-highest dice.)  If a movie wraps with at least one actor on the card, extras get paid the value of their role; if no actor is on a card when a movie wraps, they get nothing.  A player can also spend a turn rehearsing, which means they don't roll to advance the scene but do get a token giving them +1 on all future rolls for that particular job.

Players stay on a role until the movie wraps, after which they can move to a different movie.  They can also go to the casting office, where they pay fame or money to advance in rank.  Each day ends when the 9th movie wraps: All players go back to the trailer (anyone working on the last movie gets nothing), they keep their rank, 10 new movie cards go face-down on the board, and the next day begins.  The game ends at the end of the 4th day (or, for 2- or 3-player games, the third day).

Deadwood Studios USA is a silly, enjoyable little game.  While the strategy is pretty basic (be a star on movies that will wrap quickly, be an extra on movies that will take a while to wrap), being able to rehearse means you won't spend the whole game on a $5 or $6 million movie.  The movies are pretty funny, with titles like "How They Get Milk" and "Support Your Local Quilt Maker," with roles ranging from Man on Fire and Judge Robert to a Talking Corgi and Pharaoh Imhotep.  And each role has its own line, which are fun to say out loud (the first time -- not after rolling 8 or 10 times).

The downside is that the die rolling can get repetitive, especially when on the same role for numerous turns.  There's also not a whole lot of strategy involved, especially at the start when everyone has to go for roles that are rank 1.  That said, Deadwood Studios USA is a nice, easy, fairly quick game that's good for some light playing.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch


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