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Subject: They're out to nab someone - make sure it's not you! rss

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Justin Castillo
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(It may be important to note: I won a Facebook raffle for a prototype of this game - my experience may be slightly different from production version.)

1920s. Height of underground crime. You and your buddies just nabbed a big one.
The deal went south, and the cops are hot on your trail. You're holding the not-proverbial smoking gun. You don't want to get caught, so ditch that evidence any way you can, and who cares if that means your partners go in for it?

The mood is set well with grungy sepia tone art. Splashes of single colors across various scenes help to direct your eye to important details as you scramble. The Investigator is after you, all of you, so use your resources in the Speakeasy, on the Streets, and in the offices of your favorite bribe-friendly Lawyer to get away.

With many components - bids, favors, tiles, characters, and of course, lots and lots of dice, play may seem daunting and confusing at first, but after a few rounds it picks up nicely. Which works well, because the play starts out slow and only after a few rounds does anything of any merit happen.

Your evidence is also your power. Coming in three varieties, they can all influence everything, but red influences the Streets, blue the Speakeasy, and white the Lawyer (they all equally influence the Investigator, who is not on your side). Your goal is to ditch the evidence, but with less and less as the game goes on, your power is reduced and you may find yourself at the end of your rope. The further you fall behind, the more power you have to make up for it.

The Investigator is out to make an example of... someone. He doesn't care who. If he has collected any evidence, conveniently handed to him by your ex-partners hoping he'll nab it on you, but he can just as easily unload it on any of your buddies, he doesn't care which. Better bribe that Lawyer if he's mounting the evidence, as only his legal influence can keep the dirty hands of the Investigator off of you. Not only does the Lawyer protect you from the not-so-legal tactics of the investigator, he also can help out in the favor department, with exclusive +4 favors.

Then there are the streets; ditch that smoking gun in an alley somewhere, and they'll reward you by helping your influence anywhere of your choice. Each piece of evidence lost to the streets is gone for good, but it's not out of play. Choose carefully which evidence to ditch, as the streets will influence the plays of whoever controls them in the direction of their evidence. If you give them the finger, and your buddy nabs the streets right out from under you, they have more power to send the investigator your way.

Finally, you have the Speakeasy. Controlling which evidence you have is crucial to maintaining the power you desire, so the ability to switch out evidence for others with influence of your choice can be the difference between doing time in the slammer and walking away.

Each of these locations can only be used if you control it, and you can only control it by taking it. As you can only do one each turn, you may find yourself playing tug-o-war for control of the Speakeasy for quite a few turns before anyone gets to swap their pieces of evidence for the advantage, but then you regret it as those turns could better have been utilized elsewhere.

All in all, it boils down to strategy, and a good one at that. You are forced to choose when to lose your power in order to lose your evidence, and you never know when it may come right back to you. Playing all four locations efficiently is key to winning this game.

Characters are also very well balanced, with two main powers. The first is unique to each character, and the second is their favor influence. The more powerful a character's ability, the less favors they get, and you may find yourself choosing a weaker character in order to have a larger hand, or sacrificing hand size/play ability for that great ability.

The biggest flaw in this game is the two-player mode. Rather than being about a criminal balance in the city's underground, it devolves to a brawl over the Streets, with the Speakeasy, Lawyer, and Investigator reduced to background elements as the ever-growing power of the streets is too enticing for only two.

Overall, the game is moderately quick to learn, but the strategy is hard to master as long as your goal is to ditch your source of power and influence. Turns go quick, and the game (usually) plays quickly. You may be winning for the first twenty turns, and lose it all in one fell swoop. You never know what's going to happen when you're dealing with Gangsters.
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