Skip to content
If you like Solo "board games", visit our sister site

Home » Leads » The Road Leads West Review

The Road Leads West Review

Welcome to New Hope, Colorado Territory, in the year 1867. You’re 15, practically an adult, almost but not quite ready to venture out on your own.

In this game, you’ll start out still living at your parent’s homestead with your little brother Tom.

Over the course of three Acts – powered by a standard deck of cards – you’ll grow up, fall in love, and hopefully find your fortune out here in the wild, wild west.

– Description from the game author

How to Play

The game is broken into four phases

  • Setting up the story deck
  • Readying your character
  • Drawing cards and following leads
  • Optional scoring

The rules sheet goes into quite a bit of detail explaining how to set up the story and gambling decks. It is not the same as a traditional LEADS game, so experienced LEADS players will need to follow the rules more carefully than usual. (for one thing, the deck is setup in reverse)

The character starts with 5 Health, 5 Wealth, and zero companions. These values will change as the story progresses.

Each card represents a period of time in the story. Your story is built as each card is drawn.

The cards have quite a bit of detail, so you won’t have to think hard to make the story flow.

After writing your journal, check the cards for leads (written in bold) and any adjustments to health, wealth, or companions.

If you decide to follow a lead, select an appropriate card from the clubs you put aside earlier and assign the lead to its value (you will need to make a note on your character sheet). Don’t read the prompt associated with the lead yet. You will do this when you redraw the card as part of the story.

Next take the top few cards (normally 5) from the story deck, and shuffle the club card into it, before placing the newly shuffled cards back onto the deck.

Continue drawing cards as usual. But when you come across the club again, it is time to read the prompt related to the lead.

If your health or wealth reaches zero, or you run out of cards, the game is over, and you can calculate yuor score.

The Card Prompts

Hearts – Relationships – A lot of these cards also change your Health. You better hope you don’t die.

Diamonds – Labor and Chores – A lot of these cards either increase or decrease your wealth

Spades – Action and Death – You have to be careful you don’t end up in a duel or lose money playing cards.

Clubs – The clubs represent the leads you come across while creating your story.

If you like interacting with other characters in your stories, you will be excited to discover that all of the face cards in the story deck are predefined characters that can be woven into your story. Each of the characters have their own personality – some good, and some bad.

When a card is played, it is normally put to one side. However, in this game, the “duel” and the “cards” lead can be reinserted into the pack multiple times throughout the course of the story.

Note: I don't post actual prompts in my reviews. This is to protect the IP of the designer. You will need to buy the game to read the actual prompts.

What makes it different?

The Road Leads West doesn’t follow the standard LEAD rules when it comes to building the Story Deck.

In a standard LEADS game, you create a story deck and keep the spades to one side to act as the leads you discover along the way.

In The Road Leads West, you will set up a story deck, a leads deck, and a gambling deck.

The deck is also built in reverse, with the end of the story being selected before the start (Which makes more sense considering the deck is stacked in bottom to top order)

The character sheet has three additional stats for health, wealth, and companions.

Like other LEAD games, you pull the top card off the story deck and look up the associated prompt to write a journal.

However, many of the cards will also increase or decrease the Health, Wealth, and number of Companions on your character sheet.

When the health reaches zero, your character has died. If your wealth reaches zero, you will be thrown into the poor house, and the game will be over.

Like other traditional LEADS game, some of the prompts have bold wording to generate lead options for you to pick from.

In a traditional LEADS game, the Ace of spades is placed at the bottom of the pack to mark the end of the story.

The position of the Ace can change slightly when leads are introduced near the end of the game.

Using the Ace of Spades gives a fairly predictable story arc. You will always know roughly where the end card is located. It’s position can’t be affected early in the story, and the movement will be very small when you get to the end.

The Road Leads West doesn’t use this mechanism. Instead, the health and wealth triggers the end of the game. They work better than expected and can end the game at a moments notice. (Very much like life ended in the wild west)

What I liked

There are so many things to like about this game that I don’t know where to start.

Having predefined characters adds a lot to the flavor of the game. If you take the time to write a journal, they can be woven into the story in so many ways. I hope to see more LEADS games do this in the future.

The gambling deck works well in the context of the Wild West, as does the idea that you can play the “cards” and “duel” leads multiple times throughout the story. (Small note: having to refer back to the original prompt when playing the leads, means you need to keep a good track of the prompt that instigated adding the lead into the deck in the first place)

I really liked the idea of introducing stats (or even one stat). Having a way to end the game unexpectedly is a good addition to the LEADS system (as long as it doesn’t happen too often).

Being able to play out a full story arc is good, but the chance you could fail or die along the way adds that little bit extra to the story. I could imagine that this could introduce the ability to add more horror and action stories to the LEADs catalog.

What I didn’t like

I imagine the original idea of the LEADS system was to get you to discover something (a lead) along the way, and then only figure out what the lead meant later as the story progressed.

The idea of discovering a lead (and reflecting on the limited info you have at the time), and then inserting a market card into the pack (to resolve the lead a few cards later) works well in the mystery or crime genres.

In The Roads Lead West, a lead is not really a “lead” in the true sense of the word. The reality is that it wouldn’t matter if the card was played out immediately or delayed a few steps (cards) in the flow of the story.

Each lead prompt is self contained and doesn’t rely on the idea of discovery.

Instead, a lead is a way of introducing multiple paths through the story arc that are controlled by the player. Given that the story deck is normally assembled semi-randomly, providing the player with a way to make decisions on the way through is probably a good alternative.

Note : This is only a small observation that doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way.

My second comment is that setting up the deck is quite long winded. You need to pick out specific cards of each suit to build the final story deck.

However, when you understand how the gambling deck works, it makes complete sense why the author did it this way.

Overall Impression

This is a really solid game. The prompts are excellent, the story is good, and the characters add a lot of flavor along the way.

There are some innovative ideas that are not included in a standard LEADS game.

The idea of keeping track of health and wealth moves away from the idea of the game being stat-less. But it is a great addition to the system when you consider you can die at any point.

Verdict : GET IT NOW


Because this game is designed to be accessible to any player and any play style, care was taken to ensure that key companions – friends and lovers – had sexually ambiguous names. Jackie could be long for “Jack” and short for “Jacquelyn”, for instance, allowing the characters to be flexible enough to fit into wherever you want your narrative to go.

Likewise, issues of politics and race have been almost completely ignored. They are powerful and important issues, but are not the focus of this game. This game’s intent is to provide a relatively neutral and safe place (as safe as gunslingin’ goes, at any rate) to live out a fantasy snippet of what it was like to live in the West.

– Safety note from game author

This game includes themes of fighting, gambling, love, poverty, wealth, and death.

Read and play with caution, keeping in mind that you can take a break or stop completely at any time. Your mental health is important, and this is just a game.

If you ever select a prompt that makes you uncomfortable, discard it and select again.

Remember that you can change, ignore, rewrite or abandon any part of this game that you want.

– Safety note from reviewer


The LEADS SRD is licensed for use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license ( The LEADS logo is a creation of Nicolas Ronvel, and is used with permission.

How to get the Game

The Road Leads West was written by Andrew Steele

Web :