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Crime Reduced in Brook City. Department Upgrades through Downsizing

Kevin L. Kitchens
United States
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Brook City, the latest release from Blacklist Games and designers Adam Sadler and Brady Sadler, is another great game using their "Modular Deck System". Combining decks for the various parts of the game, in this "case" the cops, the criminals, and the current case (four short of the "7 C's of History"), produces a host of combinations and increases replayability. It's a fun, unique system (bearing only the most superficial similarity to Sentinels of the Multiverse, to which it's erroneously compared).

However, unlike their previous Street Masters (a nostalgic martial arts romp using the same MDS), Brook City is just a tad bit overproduced. The Kickstarter promised and delivered minis galore! Minis for the cops. Minis for each car and vehicle. Minis for each crime boss and his/her henchfolk. Lots and lots and lots of plastic in the game. There is also a large roughly 3x2' board to sit on the table, Card areas for each cop, a card row to be maintained for each criminal, as well as one for the case. A lot of space, especially for the solo player.

In addition, the minis in question violate my two rules for effective use of miniatures. First that they be a 1:1 ratio (not scale) so that one miniature is one entity in the game. A character, a vehicle, etc. Here the game commits a minor infraction as for the most part the minis do represent a single character, except for the criminal's goons where they abstractly represent where a crime is taking place that the cops have to deal with through interaction.

The second rule of minis is scale. All miniatures in a game should be of the same scale to each other. Here the characters are not to scale to the map and certainly not to scale of the vehicles. While some may still find the eye candy appealing, it truly kills any immersion factor.

So far all the minis included (which drove up the price of the game), they are essentially just pawns and could even effectively be cubes. The miniatures for any given criminal and thugs are interchangeable with the others. They are simply placeholders (and a waste of materials really). Each cop can only use a single vehicle at a time, so while it's cute to have the various cars and motorbikes represented, it adds nothing to the actual gameplay.

Halfway through my first game, as this stark truth set in, I decided to fix it and make the game take up less space than it needed. Nothing to affect the actual game play (which is still excellent), but make the game easier to manage and keep 100% of the fun.

First off the board. Since a high resolution image of the board was not available, I resorted to photography and photoshop. I took photos of the board in six segments and then stitched them together with the help of Photoshop's align function. The photos didn't do the text of the locations justice, so I re-added that text so it would scale correctly and took the liberty of making the "street" and "river" areas a little more clear with some overlaid lines in black and blue. That done, I adjusted for skew and endup with a roughly 18x12 board which I printed out and resumed my game in progress with colored cubes for the minis and dice for the vehicles. The transition was seamless.

Switching to prototype mid-game

After finishing that game -- VICTORY! -- I knew I needed to make some tweaks to the prototype. I planned to make the board in two pieces and then connect them for folding into the main box. This would result in a resize to about 11.5" tall. I then realized that I could fit the entire game now into the smaller stretch goals box, so I made the board into three sections which would total about 10.67x16.5" when put together. I printed each section on legal sized cardstock, rough cut and glued to mat board from Hobby Lobby and then gave each piece a finish cut to size.

Creating the new (and improved) smaller board

Additionally I knew that I could do a little better than cubes and dice, so I set to work in 3D printing land, putting my new Ender 3 Pro to the task.

I love the cones in Lord of the Rings and used that as my starting point for custom pawns. For the cops, I added a shield to the top. For the crime boss, I went with an inverted cone on top to create sort of an hourglass figure. The goons were hexes set atop the cone (to be the nuts and bolts of the operation). For the vehicles, I created my own "car" through the carving of abstract shapes.

Printing the new pawns on the Ender 3 Pro

Not all the items on the board are miniatures in the full-size game, some are tokens that go in board spaces. Since my spaces were now reduced to about 1/2" I would need replacements. For the "asset" tokens I used the briefcase idea on the tokens and created a simple representation for that. The current lead token, I used one of the goon pawns in a different color. Finally for the "clues" that appear in the game I created two options. For when the clue is on the board in a location, I split the cone down the middle to hold the clue marker on the board. However that still might get in the way, so the pawns themselves can simply serve are the marker and the token state be maintained off board. In at least one case, the clue moves around on the board with a vehicle. So matching cars in the same color would serve for that.

Cops, criminals, clues and assets.

I painted all the new pawns to coordinate with their respective purposes. Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue for the cops with a gold metallic shield. Each also has a car in the same color. Green pawns with Silver briefcases for the Assets. The boss was black with a red "Sauron-esque" band around the center and the henchfolk were likewise black as was the vehicle they might be using. The lead pawn was painted a light brown to match it's cork-board token, and the clues and their cars were painted to match their token color as well.

The new pawns in use on the smaller board.

All the now extraneous components can store in the main game box and the real meat of the game can be kept in the smaller box and less shelf space.

I'm sure I missed some opportunities and needs as I've not played every case yet. For example, I suppose a few small boats would be better than the car "vehicle" pawn riding the waves... but that's a minor issue in the grand scheme. Don't have the Velocity expansion where wrecks can dot the board either. I can always create new playing pieces if it really seems to be warranted (or use substitutes), but for now being able to set the game up in a smaller footprint, more manageable for a solo gamer is a oversized win in my book.

And that's "Just the facts, ma'am."
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