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Subject: Snitch First Impressions (based on PnP copy) rss

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Jake Staines
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Snitch is a fairly quick to play pick-up-and-deliver eurogame for one to four players. CMG recently made Print and Play files available to a number of people - myself included - and I set about building my own copy; this review is based on my impressions of the game after reading the rules and playing my first game. As of time of writing the game is on Kickstarter, with about a month left on the clock.


The game set up for four players

What's the game about?

There's a big crime lord in town (see box cover; you can tell they're evil because they're holding the gun in the downward "I just shot a guy for no reason and I don't care" pose instead of the authorised "heroic protagonist" elbow-bent, gun-straight-up pose) and the DA wants to take them down. Apparently all the local detectives don't want to get murdered and thrown in a ditch by organised crime, because they've bussed in a new group from somewhere else who don't know the lay of the city and have to work everything out from square one. Sound good? That's you.

Anyway, as a fresh-faced detective you need to investigate around town finding areas of criminal activity, establish relationships with the titular snitches - reliable informants who slowly feed you with information about the kingpin's illicit acts - and report it all to the DA before anyone else takes all the credit (and presumably the accompanying promotion and/or convenient transfer to another district somewhere else where you won't get murdered and thrown in a ditch by organised crime).

In a game turn, you have an allowance of action-points which you can spend to move around town (picking up or dropping off cubes of juicy crime-info as you go), recruit snitches, pump other people's snitches for info, all with the ultimate goal of delivering varied batches of cubes to the DA's office in order to be rewarded with Status Points, which could basically be renamed Victory Points if it weren't for the theme.


This is one player's starting material, ready to go

So far, so very euro pick-up-and-deliver. So what does Snitch do differently?

Well, one difference between Snitch and other pick-up-and-deliver games I've seen is that the city basically doesn't exist when you start playing. There's a disembodied Police HQ/DA's Office/Jail, and the rest of the city is laid down tile-by-tile by the players who can draw tiles (an action) or place tiles (also an action) as part of their turn. This positions the 'zones of influence' that mark areas of criminal activity, so the player has more of an influence on the length and/or spread of their pick-up points than in some other games.

The other - and to my mind, nicer - difference about Snitch is that there's a lot of ways a player can spend their Victory Status Points in order to better their position in the game. Don't have that fifth different info type to recruit a level-3 snitch? You can always go and beat up some guy in prison to force some details out of him, but the DA frowns on such behaviour so it costs you ten points. Don't want to spend any info cubes at all? You could recruit him by spending thirty-one points instead; presumably he wants you to rob a corner shop or something to prove you're not a cop before he talks to you and it turns out that the DA frowns on that kind of behaviour, too.

Now, this isn't a million miles from your average trading game where you win if you have the most money at the end of the game - but games like that that I've played generally have the game end after a number of turns have elapsed, while Snitch ends as soon as a player reaches 60 points. You can spend those Victory Points money Status Points to better your position, but you're also taking yourself further away from victory as you do so. And only some of your status points are 'liquid' enough to spend in this manner; recruiting snitches and levelling-up your detective get you status bonuses, but these only exist in an intangible unspendable number-on-the-corner-of-a-card form, so you can't use them for anything. Well, except winning the game, I guess.


The end state of a game in which my girlfriend beat me 70-48

You're waffling too much. Did you like it or not?
I liked it enough to back the KS campaign after playing it once, if that means anything? It's a solid game, and since I don't have a euro cube-pushing pick-up-and-deliver tile-laying game about police informants in my game library already...

Importantly, Snitch has some strategic and tactical scope. On the strategic side, you have to carefully choose which zones you recruit your snitches from, because when your piddly low-level informant who can only hold two cubes keeps feeding more info that he can't hold, it spills out into the street and just anyone can come and pick it up, so if you can't get to him regularly your information pump benefits other players as well. There's also decisions to be made about whether it's worth upgrading your detective (to carry more info) or going for high-level snitches or whether you'd be better off just running for points by cashing in information at the DA's office as quickly as possible.
Tactically, since you have a limited number of actions per turn and a limited carrying capacity, the places you take and the places you leave cubes become increasingly important as the game progresses. Variety of evidence gets you more points from the DA than volume, so sometimes it's worth shuffling cubes around between your snitches and not cashing in everything you have in order to make the evidence you bring in next turn more valuable... and that's the kind of thing I take a shine to in games.

So there's nothing wrong with this game at all, then?
I didn't say that! While Snitch is a solid game, it's not a perfect game. My issues with it are largely unrelated to gameplay, though.

The prototype tiles are a bit hard to read at a glance (the game is still under development and the artwork may yet change - and this could also have been a colour-profile issue with my printer - so hopefully this won't be an issue in the KS/retail version), and some of the nomenclature is a bit odd (you 'build' snitches and pass off 'information' that you then no longer know yourself). Graphically the Snitch pieces are a huge step up from CMG's first published hobby board game (Police Precinct) so it's clear that they understand these issues, but there are still some areas where information could be presented a bit more clearly.

The player count is also a little disappointing. It could just be the groups I play with, but while four players is a fairly normal count, it's not unusual to be playing in groups of five or six, and only supporting four is a bit limiting. I can recognise that the game would start to be quite chaotic and cramped with more than four, but it will limit my opportunity to play. The solo rules are also really just a "play by yourself and note your high score", which a lot of soloists are going to be a bit disappointed by. (The solo rules also lead to some odd play; the game ends when you reach 60+ points and you lose three points from your "solo score" for every turn you took to get there, so if you're on 59, the game actually rewards taking an extra turn or two to get a larger amount of points to end the game with.)

All in all, I don't think any of the flaws really detract from the fun of the game, for us fans of cube-shuffling euros... and hopefully some of them will be sorted out by the time the game is released anyway.

So, PnP? How does one PnP?

Firstly, you'd have to ask very nicely in the PnP sign-up thread. I don't know what criteria Common Man Games are using to determine whether or not a chap gets a set of PnP files - maybe everyone gets the link, maybe they're being super-selective - but you have to ask.

Snitch is a fairly easy build for a novice Print'n'Player, particularly if you don't mind cutting a few corners to get a functional, playable game as opposed to a pretty one. To get playing as soon as possible, I'd recommend:

- Skip the pages with the live/dead counters; you can use head/tails coins or any other double-sided marker instead... or even just four tokens per player that are placed on the detective card when 'primed'.
- Print all the pages with cards on regular copier paper, cut-and-fold the two halves of each card together, and stuff them into sleeves.
- Print all the pages with map tiles on full-page label paper, stick down to some card and cut the pieces out. The info-type tokens ('blood', 'locale', 'guns' etc.) are supposed to be double-sided, but so long as the backs of the tokens are indistinguishable from each other, it doesn't matter.
- You'll also need meeples in four colours (preferably blue, purple, green and orange - but it doesn't matter too much so long as you can remember whose is whose) and six colours of cubes (preferably blue, black, brown, red, green and yellow; I had to substitute orange for brown in my build because I didn't have any brown cubes).


All the PnP components of my build

A little discussion about my build process (which is a bit nicer than the above steps) can be seen here if you're interested.
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Common Man Games
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Thanks Jake for taking the time to do this.

Very appreciated!!!

And quite nicely written with humor and thematic flavor!

I will comment on a couple of things you said in a second.

Thanks again!

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Manuel Ingeland
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A very nice read, Jake!
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Bichatse wrote:


While Snitch is a solid game, it's not a perfect game. My issues with it are largely unrelated to gameplay, though.

The prototype tiles are a bit hard to read at a glance (the game is still under development and the artwork may yet change - and this could also have been a colour-profile issue with my printer - so hopefully this won't be an issue in the KS/retail version), and some of the nomenclature is a bit odd (you 'build' snitches and pass off 'information' that you then no longer know yourself). Graphically the Snitch pieces are a huge step up from CMG's first published hobby board game (Police Precinct) so it's clear that they understand these issues, but there are still some areas where information could be presented a bit more clearly.

All in all, I don't think any of the flaws really detract from the fun of the game, for us fans of cube-shuffling euros... and hopefully some of them will be sorted out by the time the game is released anyway.



I agree with Jake on this assertion that SNITCH is not a perfect game.

SNITCH is highly refined project in certain regards and a work-in-progress in others.

In the areas where it is more of a work in progress, I feel that YES it will be nurtured along until it is "perfecto!"

That is the goal and we have a process for this.

We are a very process-based company. The process is to involve the community in our design in real-time.

We have learned from mistakes made and now we use this approach to avoid making more (mistakes).

A great example of this is the evolution of the 2nd Edition of Police Precinct, and the prime example of it is with the board. We have a thread that is 13 pages (and 315 posts) long. In this thread we post our work and ask fans of the game for guidance every step of the way.

This is one reason we have been partial to long Kickstarter campaigns. It give us time to involve the community in our creative process. This allows backers (and other fans of the game) to choose how involved they want to get and gives us all the best opportunity to create the most "perfecto" end-result possible.

So, the point is that...

While NO the game is NOT perfect, we have a process that we are now and will continue to apply to it (just like we have with Police Precinct) that will allow it to evolve into a truly great game.

So please come join us for this process one and all.



PS - if you want a look at this thread referred to above (about the PP 2E board), here it is...

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1079292/the-big-discussion-a...

(that actually jumps you to the last page, but feel free to look around to get a feel for what Common Man Games is all about)
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magneheeli wrote:
A very nice read, Jake!


Hey Manuel!!!!

Great to see you!

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Bichatse wrote:


The player count is also a little disappointing. It could just be the groups I play with, but while four players is a fairly normal count, it's not unusual to be playing in groups of five or six, and only supporting four is a bit limiting. I can recognise that the game would start to be quite chaotic and cramped with more than four, but it will limit my opportunity to play. The solo rules are also really just a "play by yourself and note your high score", which a lot of soloists are going to be a bit disappointed by. (The solo rules also lead to some odd play; the game ends when you reach 60+ points and you lose three points from your "solo score" for every turn you took to get there, so if you're on 59, the game actually rewards taking an extra turn or two to get a larger amount of points to end the game with.)



On this I would say...

All the 5th and 6th player action will come our way.

1. It can be unlocked in this campaign (stretch goals).

or...

2. If we don't reach this level it will come about anyway at some point. More about this...

We are building our company slowly one critical brand at a time.

What I mean by this is based in our approach to product selection and development: We release a game, and then immediately start building that brand with expansionary items, and we NEVER stop. I can tell you that our plans for Police Precinct are going to unfold for decades to come. SNITCH will be the same. Even if stretch goals do not make it happen right now, it will happen!

What you can expect to see with Common Man Games is NOT a huge number of games, but instead a very carefully selected few that get a lot of attention and fan involvement.



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I would like to explain to anyone reading this thread a little bit about how Jake will be helping SNITCH to further develop...

Jake (though he does not know it yet) will play the critical role of Creative Adviser on this project.

He is actually playing this role already, but what he doesn't know is that he will be involved throughout.

How is he doing this already?

He has sent us an email (actually several) that give advice and ideas for how to evolve the game. We take advice from him very seriously because we know just how helpful his guidance can be. We learned this with Police Precinct.

At one point in time, Jake was "just some guy" posting ideas in a thread about Police Precinct.

That is how we got to know him. Once we knew him, through his guidance and direct involvement, a totally new look and feel for the Event Deck was created. This came just in time for some expansionary items (Rioting Gangs & Dirty Bomb) and has been critical to the shift in the game from 1st to 2nd Edition. Jake is a great graphic artist and we can all celebrate his involvement any time it comes no matter what the form.

I don't think we need Jake to be quite as heavily involved in a specific (single) component of SNITCH, like he was with Police Precinct, but YES to a more broad project-wide role. That is what I see for Jake with regard to SNITCH.

Sorry Jake, you have no choice!



We have someone who does this for Police Precinct. It's Dan King (Game Boy Geek). We (Katie and I) work on some aspect of the game, and then send him a sample of where we're going. He gives us feedback, and we repeat the cycle. Once an item is "Dan-Approved" we post it on BGG for everyone to see and gather feedback there also. This then helps us to refine any final aspects of the design.

For some time now, we have been so focused on the board that, we have not sent Dan anything. But that is about to change. As we finish up with the board, he will be much more involved again as we work through the other aspects of the game.

That is basically what I see Jake doing with SNITCH!

By the way, this is...

Great News for fans of SNITCH!

Because...

Jake will guide us to fantastic places!
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Manuel Ingeland
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This is good news, Karl!

So it's gonna be Jake who will eventually intoduce

- grey misinformation cubes,
- corruption ("breaking bad" as an optional mode),
- the King Pin in a more active role via an event deck,
- a coop mode
...and the like?

Brilliant, that's what I was hoping for!

Well, he doesn't know yet...
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magneheeli wrote:
This is good news, Karl!

So it's gonna be Jake who will eventually intoduce

- grey misinformation cubes,
- corruption ("breaking bad" as an optional mode),
- the King Pin in a more active role via an event deck,
- a coop mode
...and the like?

Brilliant, that's what I was hoping for!

Well, he doesn't know yet...


Shhhhh...

quiet.

Please keep this plan for Jake a little more secret if you could.

I don't want to scare him.

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Alejandro Bedoya Gonzalez
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Hi, I have one question.

Reading the rules for setup there is a point where it needed take six cubes (one of each color) and randomly distribute one to each player. But in the first image (set-up 4 players), I don't see that cubes in investigator tiles. What I missed?

Really I don't understand that point of setup, can you explain that?

Count out the number of info cubes to be used in this game session (see the set-up chart), then place them to the side of the playing area. Select six (one of each color) of the info cubes and randomly distribute one to each player. Place any undistributed info cubes back into the general supply. There is a scarcity of information in the city. If a player earns a cube but the general supply has run out of that type of cube, the player is “out of luck”. For example, if a player earns 3 black info cubes, but there are only 2 black info cubes left in the general supply, they would receive those 2 black info cubes, but nothing else.

And whats mean a player is “out of luck”.

Thanks a lot.
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Hi Alejandro!

Great to hear from you!!!

Let me take this one thing at a time:

In regard to...

Reading the rules for setup there is a point where it needed take six cubes (one of each color) and randomly distribute one to each player. But in the first image (set-up 4 players), I don't see that cubes in investigator tiles. What I missed?

I say...

You are correct that a cube goes to each and that the cube is not in the image above. I had not noticed that, but good catch!

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Now in regard to...

Really I don't understand that point of setup, can you explain that?

I say...

You are asking how the set-up works with regard to cubes I believe, and I will phrase it a little differently by saying... "Take one cube of each different color and randomly give one to each player, such that each player starts the game with one cube. Place left over cubes near the board in the general supply. Now you are ready to play." Let me know if that helps.

 
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Manuel Ingeland
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His other question was about being "out of luck"...
 
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Now in regard to...

And whats mean a player is “out of luck”.

I say...

This means that if a player hopes to get a cube and normally would get one, but the general supply is exhausted, they are "out of luck". Just meaning that they don't get a cube because none are available.

Let me know if that helps.

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Jake Staines
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efrit wrote:
But in the first image (set-up 4 players), I don't see that cubes in investigator tiles. What I missed?


Sorry - to me, that kind of thing gets done after players sit down to play, so it's not part of what I would set up in preparation for people to come over for a game. The setup I photographed is just the parts which are always the same for every game, and therefore can be set up in advance. Sorry for the confusion!

efrit wrote:

And whats mean a player is “out of luck”.


Simply that if a player is ever entitled to a number of cubes from the supply and there aren't enough cubes in the supply to fulfil his entitlement, he takes what's there and loses the entitlement to the remainder - he's unlucky, because he was entitled to cubes that don't exist and therefore he can't take them.
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Bichatse wrote:
...and some of the nomenclature is a bit odd (you 'build' snitches and pass off 'information' that you then no longer know yourself).

Can you explain a little more about the theme, and how that plays into using information cubes as a resource? Are these cubes supposed to represent physical packets of evidence or physical proof of information that has been obtained? Or are they abstractions of information a person knows, so losing them means the person no longer believes the information is accurate for some reason (maybe gaining a lie, rather than forgetting what they knew)?

And I have to apologize if this has already been explained in the rulebook -- I do have the PNP, but haven't had time to do much more than glance at it. The last couple weeks were a lot busier than I anticipated.
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The cubes are actual intangible information given from person to person in a verbal way.

I will PM you with more details in a second.

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Common Man Games wrote:
I will PM you with more details in a second.


Thank you! For others interested in the theme, CMG reminded me to take a look at their website -- http://www.commonman.com/snitch/ -- if you scroll to the bottom of that page, there are links to the Rules and more about the Theme which addresses my question about how information is used as a resource.

A quick interpretation is that having good information is an advantage with real value, but only if that information is not commonly known. When information is given, the information-giver doesn't forget what they knew, but they do recognize that the information becomes worthless if given to others. Giving information in Snitch is represented by cubes because you're not just telling someone something, you are actually giving someone the value of that information by allowing them exclusive control over it. Effectively, the information-giver agrees not to share that information with anyone else, so that the information-receiver gains the advantage of knowing something secret.

Information in the game is abstracted as cubes, and a specific number of cubes are available in each game. Players who are really into theme should be able to come up with their own stories about what secret is being told when each cube is gained or given. Or, if you just want to play and not tell a story, just call it a cube and leave it at that.

I like the abstraction -- I think it makes the game a little more interesting and quick-flowing, instead of trying to complicate matters by dictating what each piece of information specifically means and giving different rules for how each piece of information may be played (as might happen if this were a card game).
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Well said!

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James Bentley
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I'm really interested in this game, BUT, a lot of my play of it would be solo.

Is there any chance the solo rules are going to be tweaked so that it's not just a "try to beat your previous score" situation? (At least, that's what I got out of Jake's description of it.)

I really hope so, this would have a big impact on me deciding if the game is right for my situation.

Thanks,
jrbentley
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Manuel Ingeland
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I'd get completely wild, mad and ecstatic about a full solo mode with the KING PIN as your opponent!
 
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jrbentley wrote:

Is there any chance the solo rules are going to be tweaked so that it's not just a "try to beat your previous score" situation? (At least, that's what I got out of Jake's description of it.)


Yes, that is what it's like at the moment. Given the tile-laying and the random draw of info types, in solo mode it plays very much like a reactive puzzle; you look at the situation, think for a while about how best to play out the next few turns until you need to do something random again, then execute your sequence of moves.

I have a couple of ideas about how solo could be turned into more of a win/lose game than a beat-the-score game (that is to say, more like I like my solo games!), but I'm waiting for my PnP copy to return from its trip to London before I put much time into it.
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Manuel Ingeland
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A combination of a round tracker and a King Pin action deck perhaps?
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by the way, have you-all seen this...

http://boardgamegeek.com/article/15819901#15819901

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Common Man Games wrote:
by the way, have you-all seen this...

http://boardgamegeek.com/article/15819901#15819901



Yes, I've seen it, and I'm gald CMG is doing this.

(But to be honest, I myself am not interested in it because, with it's current solo rules, I'm not interested. And before someone blasts me, no, I'm not expecting CMG to completely alter a game just to suit me. There are plenty of games that I'm not interested in playing and that's fine. I do wish there was an alternate solo version of Snitch!, but I don't expect anyone to change anything just to accommodate me...I'm a big boy now, I can handle that. )
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