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Subject: Brook City: Deck Overview and New Player Suitability Ratings rss

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What is this?

This is a two-part guide designed for new players. Two features currently missing from the game are a mechanical overview of all the different decks and suggestions for their difficulty and/or complexity. The back of the card dividers have excellent lore and motivation for each deck, but they aren't focused on explaining what a certain deck is trying to accomplish mechanically. Additionally, a simple rating of difficulty and/or complexity like those given in Sentinels of the Multiverse or the upcoming Street Masters Aftershock expansion is absent.

Part one of this guide is a simple one or two sentence description of each deck's mechanics. This part is intended to help decide which cop/criminal/case you'd like to play without needing to thumb through their decks.

Part two of this guide is a rating of both the mechanical complexity and difficulty of the deck. These ratings are blended together into one overall rating of either: starter, intermediate, or advanced. The designers have mentioned in several places that the suggested starting game is Gabe Fulton against Slade Harper with The Slain Diplomat case. So clearly, they think these decks work well for new players. However, there are some decks that are clearly not well suited for beginners. This guide is my attempt to rank each of the decks and offer my explanation of how I've determined that.

Disclaimer: This ranking is purely subjective based on my own experience. If your experience differs, please respond below! I'm very interested to hear everyone's thoughts. Additionally, these rankings are based on the decks considered in isolation. Due the modular nature of the game I literally cannot enumerate every single combination and give it a rating. There are some combinations of decks that will be much easier or much harder than the sum of their components, so please bear that in mind when considering these rankings. For reference, I would recommend starter decks to someone who has played roughly 2 games or less, intermediate for someone who has played roughly 5 games or less, and beyond that you'll probably be fine with advanced. Keep in mind that your mileage may vary. Some people will master the game faster or slower than others. Also keep in mind that just because you've played 5+ games of Brook City doesn't mean you should only be playing Advanced decks. I'm merely saying that beyond that point you're more likely to be equipped to handle the complexity and/or difficulty associated with those decks.

2nd Disclaimer: For those of you familiar with my attempt at a guide like this for Brook City's predecessor, there is an issue that I want to be transparent about. First and foremost is the time frame and number of plays. When I wrote the guide for Street Masters, the game had been out for months and I had played through every deck several times. I had started writing the guide in advance of the 2nd printing so that new buyers had a place to start from but refused to post it until every single deck had an entry. This time around, I knew I wanted to get Brook City's guide out as soon as possible. This guide is most useful to new players, so waiting until months after the game's release isn't very optimal. Unfortunately, this means I'm not able to give each deck the same level of editorial care that I could for Street Masters right away. Many of the entries will be based on only a few plays with that deck. I'm going to release this now and periodically update this article as my perspectives evolve. For now, this guide should be considered a work in progress. I'll do my best to document any major changes between versions in the comments below and I welcome any and all feedback.

Part 1: Overview of each deck

Cops
From the core game:
Gabe Fulton - Leans heavily into reckless encounters, with bonus movement to back it up.
Moira Banks- The squad's resident gear-head, specializing in all things related to vehicles.
Lester Nelson - A cleric in a detective suit who can discard stress in a myriad of ways.
Selena Gonzales - A sniper who gains versatility through continually resolving her prepared effects along with several ways to deal with targets from great distances.
Meryl Jones - Voluntarily takes stress to boost her abilities.
Ricky Lu - Discards cards from hand or his cop area to boost abilities and has some recursive effects within his own discard pile.
Renae Benson - Maintains a large sphere of influence via hacking tokens to encounter targets anywhere on the board.
Wilson Fox - Specializes in dealing with Crime cards, primarily via bonus 'direct damage'.

From KS1 Stretch Goals:
Mallory Dawson - A pseudo-support who generates and exploits hunches.
Morgan Hall - Intercepts influence placed on crimes to power various effects.

From Delta Keys:
Axel Murdock - Supports the team by passing out leads like candy and using them to boost his abilities.
Rhys Murdock - The definition of reckless: discards cards he controls to do all kinds of crazy things.

From Keys to the Kingdom:
Ying Hua - Discards cards from hand to boost abilities, draws extra cards easily, and enjoys recursive effects within her own discard pile.

From Velocity:
Chance Mitchell - A method actor who can choose his approach along with discarding hunches to power various abilities.

From The Sixth Cycle:
Earl Thompson - An all-around cop with a knack for gaining hunches and staying on top of crimes.

Criminals
From the core game:
Slade Harper - Uses investors to funnel influence from three different types of crimes in his dirty pockets.
Gus Ferguson - Drives around town picking up influence from crimes and assets.
Micky Scott - Spreads tapes all over the board that cops must clean up.

From Delta Keys:
Anatoly Volkov - Blackmails cops, forcing them to suffer stress or draw extra criminal cards.

From Keys to the Kingdom:
Ah Long - A compulsive gambler who seeks to collect assets that give him a chance to gain influence

From Velocity:
Leeta Wix - A slippery bomber who's trying to blow up the city, all while escaping the inside of her jail cell.

From The Sixth Cycle:
Mercy - A psychopathic cult leader who's abducting and murdering people.

Cases
From the core game:
The Slain Diplomat - Solve a murder by using your hunches to soften up clues before encountering them.
Jewel of the City - Rescue a kidnapped child by putting hunches on a ransom note and tracking down the leads that come out of it.
Shadow Theories - Collect matching sets of event cards from the case deck to acquire busted clues.

From KS1 Stretch Goals:
Jump Start - Bust five car thieves as they're driving their stolen vehicles around the city.

From Delta Keys:
The Seaside Five - Taking down this gang of bank robbers requires you to meet each member's individual condition to encounter them.
Trouble from Paradise - Spend hunches to dig through the case deck for clues, then try to pin them on the suspect.

From Keys to the Kingdom:
Keys to the Kingdom - Investigate the Syndicate's ties to the Kingdom by following up on leads to encounter your own personal clue.

From Velocity:
Velocity - Evacuate and disarm a bomb on a runaway bus, which can explode if it ever gets stuck.

From The Sixth Cycle:
The Vitruvian Man - A narrative case featuring a serial killer with a deranged art style is on the loose; investigate the victim's remains and try to wait out the clock until the killer slips up.


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Part 2: New player suitability ratings and commentary

For those of you not interested in the more detailed descriptions, here are some simple tables that summarize my ratings.

Cops
Starter
Gabe Fulton
Selena Gonzales
Lester Nelson
Axel Murdock
Intermediate
Moira Banks
Meryl Jones
Wilson Fox
Morgan Hall
Mallory Dawson
Chance Mitchell
Earl Thompson
Advanced
Ricky Lu
Renae Benson
Ying Hua
Rhys Murdock


Criminals
Starter
Slade Harper
Ah Long
Intermediate
Leeta Wix
Anatoly Volkov
Mercy
Advanced
Gus Ferguson
Micky Scott


Cases
Starter
The Slain Diplomat
Jewel of the City
The Seaside Five
The Vitruvian Man
Jump Start (1-2 Players)
Intermediate
Jump Start (3-4 Players)
Keys to the Kingdom
Advanced
Shadow Theories
Trouble From Paradise
Velocity


Cops:
From the core game:
Gabe Fulton: Starter
Gabe is the designer's recommendation for starting cop. Movement is a huge part of Brook City, so the bonus movement you get with Gabe is great for new players who may have trouble understanding how to effectively traverse the board. Gabe can further boost his movement with a tactic, which also lets him suffer stress to move even further. With so much movement outside of his move step, this affords Gabe the opportunity to skip the move step, thus healing 1 stress. So, Gabe can heal himself while still moving about relatively uninhibited. The skipped move step can also be useful to heal the stress from several of his effects that let his suffer stress to place progress directly on targets. These are all great abilities for a starting cop. Gabe's only drawback comes with his basic action being a reckless encounter with the standard 2 dice (which, generally speaking, lots of crimes and criminals have a high resistance to). But even this is relatively minor, as Gabe has two tactics that boost Reckless encounters to a much more advantageous level.

Lester Nelson: Starter
Lester is all about a low stress job. After all, he's getting too old for this ****. Lester is a great cop for beginners because it's so difficult to get fired when he's around. Lester is essentially the healer of the starting cast. He starts off with only 8 'health’ but has a way to discard stress from himself on almost every card in his deck. His basic action also allows you to take stress off other cops which helps keep them gainfully employed as well. He also has a tactic that can effectively act as 3 extra health for either himself or other cops. This allows you to suffer stress more freely from negative effects whereas otherwise you might opt for the alternative (which is usually worse). Lester can gain passive hunch generation through one of his tactics, which can be translated into bonus dice through an exhaust effect. Finally, Lester has a smattering of other various helpful support abilities (such as drawing cards or exhausting crimes) on his one-off cards. The only real downside to Lester is that he's a bit mediocre when it comes to movement and encounters. This isn't surprising once you understand his role as a support character, but new players who want to play that role couldn't ask for a better cop than Lester.

Selena Gonzales: Starter
One of the most important things to learn about Brook City is just how important Tactics are and Selena teaches that lesson on her basic action. By getting her all her tactics out, Selena can continually resolve the prepared effects on those tactics, which gives her a consistent way to gain hunches, draw extra cards, or discard stress. In particular, both Determination and Shared Knowledge have a very nice internal synergy with Selena's basic action to allow her to roll an extra die on encounters via some small cost and then completely pay back that cost be resolving the respective prepared effect. Selena also has several one-time use cards that let her encounter or directly place progress on something anywhere on the board, provided she's in a location (i.e.: inside a building). Brook City is a big place and these cards can save you a ton of effort in busting something that pops up in a distant corner of the city.

One small caveat to note: Brook City does away with the mulligan system that Street Masters had, primarily due to the addition of the "prepared" mechanic and the ability to forgo the card step in lieu of drawing a card. This means your opening hand is what it is, and this can be especially devastating to Selena who relies on her tactics more than other cops. Make sure new players who draw an opening hand without any tactics are aware they can skip playing a card to draw a card.

Moira Banks: Intermediate
Moira specializes in vehicles and gains all sorts of bonuses for being in one. Vehicles are a major aspect of Brook City, so this sounds like it should make Moira a shoo-in for a starter cop. But upon closer inspection, some of Moira's most powerful effects can be a bit unintuitive for a new player. Because Moira is so heavily dependent on vehicles, it incentivizes players to never be without one. This makes players a bit more hesitant to ditch a vehicle, even if it's advantageous to do so (such as for the BCPD Cruiser's 'move anywhere' effect). The "At Home Behind The Wheel" tactic mitigates this, but also swings the pendulum too far into the other direction where it incentivizes grabbing a new set of wheels every turn. Another small oddity is Moira's "Focused Patrol" ability, which lets players move and place progress on targets they pass. A new player will come to the logical conclusion that this is great for dealing with multiple targets in close proximity, but one of the most effective uses of that card is to "do donuts" between two streets adjacent to a single target and rack up the handcuffs. Moira is a great cop and would probably do perfectly fine in the hands of a new player but getting the most out of her is going to take some experience.

Meryl Jones: Intermediate
Meryl works a bit like a stereotypical berserker class might in other games. Most of her cards offer the option of suffering stress to improve their efficacy and she always wants to have at least some stress. While Meryl does start with more 'health' than other cops do, it should be obvious this mechanic is a double-edged sword. When used pointedly it makes Meryl one of the most effective cops in the game but using this mechanic too often is either going to get Meryl fired in a hurry or severely cripple her movement while she skips move steps to discard stress. It can be tough for a new player to walk this fine line. After a few games they'll have a better understanding of the general ebb and flow of stress. Meryl does have a few ways to manage her stress, most prominently through the "Cool Under Pressure" tactic, but she benefits from having a supporting cop like Lester around.

Wilson Fox: Intermediate
Wilson is a bit of a funny one. He's this game's version of a direct damage dealer, but only when it comes to Crimes (note that there is a distinction between crimes, clues, and suspects). Furthermore, his basic action only allows for 'direct damage' on his own crimes, not any other cops. Several of his cards gain bonuses if he has crimes in his crime area. So, you really, really want Wilson to draw all the crime cards, but that's not something you have control over. This can make him very hit or miss. One thing he does have going for him is pretty good hunch generation. With a particular tactic in play, he gains hunches every time he busts a crime. His encounter cards also let him use hunches more effectively, either by converting hunch faces to criticals or automatically converting hunches to success without having to spend a hunch. He also has some decent support ability cards that benefit all cops.

While there's nothing inherently complex about Wilson, I just find him to be a very situational cop. He's at his best when used to keep the board clear of crimes, but a bit mediocre when it comes to clues and suspects. You (generally) can't win the game by busting crimes alone. At some point you need to deal with the clues and suspect, which I think keeps Wilson from finding a home among the starter cops.

Ricky Lu: Advanced
Ricky's specialty is discarding cards to boost his effects. This is primarily cards from hand, but sometimes from his cop area. This alone should make him a tough sell for new players, as handling this mechanic poorly can severely hamper Ricky's options in a given turn. Ricky mitigates all the discards in two ways: he has several ways to draw additional cards and has ways to interact with his own discard pile. More so than some of the other cops, Ricky really needs his tactics in play, especially Martial Arts Training. This tactic can be exhausted to play a tactic from Ricky's discard pile. This enables two combos that may not be immediately intuitive. First, it allows Ricky to discard Tactics from hand or the cop area without sacrificing the ability to get them into play. Second, it allows Ricky to recursively resolve prepared effects by playing a discarded tactic that's already in play. This second combo is particularly effective with the prepared effect of Disciplined, which lets you put a card of your choice from the discard to your hand, allowing recursive access to any encounter or ability cards you need. However, this also leads to a strange quirk in his gameplay. According to the rules, when a deck is empty its discard pile is reshuffled to make a new deck. This means Ricky's recursive abilities can effectively reset if he ever decks himself, which is more likely given the extra card draws. Ricky is an excellent cop and very satisfying to play, but the complexity involved with his deck makes him difficult to recommend to new players.

Renae Benson: Advanced
Renae is an interesting cop to play, but she's very complex. This should be apparent enough because she comes with her own setup card. Renae places hacking tokens anywhere on the board and can encounter targets near them. This gives her an absolutely enormous sphere of influence. But it’s also important to point out that this only works for her actions. In fact, Renae cannot encounter a target nearby her actual cop figure using an action unless a hacking token is nearby. Her encounter cards still require Renae to be nearby, so movement still matters. Renae can gain bonuses on various effects by manipulating hacking tokens, either by discarding them from the board or just having them nearby, so tactics are very important to get out and keep out. Renae's hacking tokens can be very powerful, but her hyper focus on technology leaves her lacking in several other key areas. She has limited ability to gain hunches outside of encounters, movement is mediocre, and most importantly her 'health' is low with only one way to discard stress without outside intervention. This makes Renae a very brittle and complicated character, which just confirms our suspicions from seeing the reference card that Renae is not going to be new player friendly.

From KS1 Stretch Goals:
Morgan Hall: Intermediate
Morgan depends heavily on getting his tactics into play. Once he does, the secondary effect on his action makes a lot more sense. Morgan can steal influence headed to a Crime and place them on his tactics to power various exhaust effects such as movement, healing stress, and adding a die to an encounter. This is incredibly powerful. Not only does he gain these beneficial abilities, but he can also effectively negate up to 3 crimes each round by stealing the influence they would generate. With the bonuses from the exhaust effects and the added breathing room that comes with effectively ignoring up to three crimes, Morgan can cover a lot of bases at once. The reason I've bumped him to intermediate is two-fold. Tactics are absolutely vital to Morgan's success. Without them, he has the potential to make crimes even worse. Secondly, the added complexity of stealing influence from crimes may be just enough to confuse a brand-new player. He's definitely a borderline starting character, but I think he falls just barely over the starter-intermediate line.

Mallory Dawson: Intermediate
At face value, Mallory can keep the squad from experiencing a dearth of hunches. But there's more than that hiding under the surface. Mallory can use her hunches in some very interesting ways, such as gaining leads, encountering targets from distance, and moving around the board. She's also got a movement sub-theme, where gain hunches can translate into movement. This last mechanic can be a bit hard to use consistently, as you often aren't interested in moving at the exact moment you gain the hunches. But at minimum it combines well with the other tactic that can be exhausted to gain a hunch, essentially upgrading that exhaust effect into 'gain a hunch and move 1'. One Mallory has reached a critical mass of hunches, she can also outright bust crimes through the "Now That's Peachy" ability. Mallory is a versatile cop, straddling the line between a support and damage dealing role very well. But she requires a bit of finesse to get the most out of and her interactions between tactics aren't perfectly straightforward.

From Delta Keys:
Axel Murdock: Starter
Axel's specialty is gaining and exploiting leads. Leads are usually a rare commodity in Brook City, typically only picked up when it's convenient to do so and even then not often used for their ditch effects because you often need to control a lead for one reason or another. Not so with Axel. He passes out leads like they were candy, allowing cops to more freely ditch leads for their printed effects because they know a replacement is on its way soon. With tactics in play, Axel can also use leads to power up his own or other cop's encounters by exhausting his leads. Fully upgraded, Axel's basic action can routinely roll 4 dice every turn. Although he's primarily interested in leads, Axel also dabbles in some other support abilities on a one-off basis, like stress management, hunch generation, and card draw. Overall, Axel is a great cop for new players because he affords easier access to leads for all players.

Rhys Murdock: Advanced
Rhys is a powerhouse, but he causes himself and other cops a lot of grief in the process. His basic action rolls a whopping 3 dice but forces himself to suffer stress or discard a card he controls. New players may often forget that this include leads and vehicles. Rhys' tactics have bonus effects that trigger when they're discarded, so he's got that going for him. He can also neutralize his basic action by getting "Relax, Pewee" onto the board and using it to heal off the stress caused by the action. There's a lot to like about Rhys, but ultimately his brand of discard-centric gameplay is going to be very taxing on a new player who may have trouble deciding what's worth keeping. They may also have trouble picking up on some of the subtle combos that interact with the discard pile, like chaining "Forget the Details" (wiping all your tactics and gaining their discard benefits) into "What's the Score, Babe" (returning all those tactics to hand). Rhys is also prone to getting fired, as he doesn't start with any extra health to counteract his stressful lifestyle like Meryl does. Rhys is a lot easier to play when flanked by a support character like Axel, Lester, or Ying Hua, who can prevent or undo the damage Rhys causes to himself. But measured in isolation, he's someone new players should avoid.

From Keys to the Kingdom:
Ying Hua Wong: Advanced
Like her Street Masters counterpart, Ying Hua loves to play in the discard pile. Many of her cards give the option of discarding cards to boost their effects. This is counterbalanced by her many ways to draw extra cards. But Ying Hua really starts to shine when she can recursively interact with her discard pile via the Pushing Limits tactic. Ying Hua's basic action doesn't encounter on its own, but it lets her draw a card and then play an encounter card. With the exhaust effect of Pushing Limits, Ying Hua can put an encounter card from her discard into her hand. This effectively allows Ying Hua to play the Encounter card without losing it. After a few rounds of drawing, the player should have all three encounters and can always tailor their encounter to the weakest resistance of a target. All of this makes Ying Hua very powerful, but it's a lot for a new player to wrap their head around. Furthermore, Ying Hua shares a strange gameplay quirk with Ricky Lu. According to the rules, when a deck is empty its discard pile is reshuffled to make a new deck. This means Ying Hua's recursive abilities can effectively reset if she ever decks herself, which is very likely given the extra card draws. In many ways, Ying Hua and Ricky Lu are two sides of the same coin. Both rely heavily on discards and recursion, but in slightly different ways. In either case, the complexity involved with Ying Hua's deck makes her difficult to recommend to new players.

From Velocity:
Chance Mitchell: Intermediate
Chance, like Mallory, specializes in hunches. However, Chance takes a bit more of a self-centered approach to using hunches. His basic action lets him discard a hunch to change the approach of the encounter, which gives Chance a lot of versatility in dealing with different targets. With tactics in play, Chance can also burn hunches for extra movement, bonus dice, exhausting Crimes, or even drawing a lead. This is all great, new players may struggle slightly with juggling using his hunches for cool powers and their more basic uses. Many cases and criminals also force cops to lose hunches. While this is less of a problem for Chance with his passive hunch generation, hunches are a resource that get discarded for a lot of reasons. Giving the player more avenues to spend hunches makes Chance someone to pick after you understand the basics.

From The Sixth Cycle:
Earl Thompson: Intermediate
Earl is a jack-of-all trades, master-of-none kind of cop. A lot of his bonuses are situational and it's tricky to always use them effectively. For example, one of Earl's tactic lets him add a die if a target has no progress. This is fine, but it’s a bit lackluster compared to many other cops who have bonus die conditions that are more easily repeatable. Earl does have a small subtheme of hunch generation, which can be coupled with "Moves and Countermoves" to place progress on crimes when they gain influence. Again, this is fine, but still feels a bit lackluster compared to some of the other cop's combos. Earl's most powerful ability allows him to encounter any crime on the board if he's nearby a crime but comes at the cost of increasing the distant crime's resistances. This can be useful as it allows Earl to skip his move step to make up for his slightly below average health, but the increased resistance can be slightly troublesome to overcome if you aren't using an optimal approach. I don't think Earl is terribly complex, but I'm having trouble deciding where his niche lies, and I think a new player would as well.

Criminals:
From the core game:
Slade Harper: Starter
Slade is the designer's recommended starting criminal. Slade is pretty easy to keep under control. He has three investors, each of which is associated with a certain type of crime. Each turn, the investor will collect all influence on crimes of that type and once they reach 3 influence will grant Slade 1 influence. Crimes will also pass 1 influence along to Slade if they ever gain 3 influence. Unlike some other criminals, Slade and his investors never move around the board. This makes encountering them easier since you don't have to chase them around. By keeping his investors off the board, Slade's operations slow down considerably, giving cops a chance to either focus on the case or clean up crimes.

Gus Ferguson: Advanced
Gus is a medium difficulty criminal that suffers from a lot of complexity. In a nutshell, Gus drives around town collecting influence from various errands. Cops can put a damper on his activities by impounding his car, busting crimes right before he reaches them, or moving nearby assets to a random location. But Gus starts with 5 cards worth of effects to sort through. The subtle distinctions between collect and gain along with the precise timing of interactions between collecting influence and cooking the books and moving to the next errand (let alone constantly needing to determine the closest errand) make Gus' bookkeeping a bit more complex than a new player should be expected to handle.

Note: According to Brady Sadler (one of Brook City's designers), Gus has a typo that's supposed to be fixed in an upcoming errata. Gus gains influence from crimes instead of collecting it. This change is to prevent him from getting stuck in infinite loop that can happen with him constantly collecting influence from a Dealer crime, but never being able to gain it from Cooking the Books. As you might imagine, this make Crimes much more dangerous, and Gus a whole lot harder. Unlike most other criminals, there is absolutely no way to discard influence Gus has gained. So, this change definitely secures his spot in the advanced category.

Micky Scott: Advanced
Micky can be a rough criminal to keep up with because there’s no simple way to slow him down. He distributes tapes all over town, and once all the tapes are on the board, he'll start gaining influence every time another tape would be placed. You're guaranteed to see at least one new tape per round with the threat of more if the cops can't keep their crimes in check. Getting rid of the tapes only costs a single hunch once you're near but finding the time to get to them while balancing crimes and trying to work the case deck can be tough.

Other than constantly having to draw random locations, Micky's about moderate for complexity. There are some clauses, like preventing placement of influence on a trendy crime or Micky retreating to his card after an encounter, that boost the complexity above a starter rating, but the difficulty and lack of consistent ways to interrupt Micky put him squarely into Advanced.

From Delta Keys:
Anatoly Volkov: Intermediate
Anatoly spends a lot of his time on his suspect card. He attempts to blackmail the cops every turn, which forces them to suffer stress or draw extra criminal cards, which cops can prevent by losing a hunch. Then he tries to place an asset on the board. If he ever gets 3 assets on the board, he arrives in the city and begins to gain influence. Cops can kick nearby assets off the board and place up to 2 of their hunches on the card that distributes assets every round. This slows down Anatoly's asset generation, buying the cops time to deal with other things. Anatoly is backed by several crimes that will slowly try to blackmail the cops if they reach their max influence. Anatoly can be challenging, but he's manageable. Outside of needing to remember what blackmail does, he's not too terrible complexity-wise.

From Keys to the Kingdom:
Ah Long: Starter
Ah Long can be a decent starter criminal, although he can be a bit swingy at times. This sort of fits with the gambling motif. Ah Long will be looking to gain assets which he then uses to roll dice. If he rolls a critical (note: these do not explode like normal), he gains an influence. Then, no matter what the outcome of the roll, he will lose assets proportional to the number of cops. Crits only have a 1/6 chance, so it's likely that many of his rolls will come up empty. This means cops can be more cavalier about letting Ah Long gain assets until he has gained enough influence for it to be too risky. Cops have the option of busting Ah Long to peel back some of his influence and exhaust some crimes, which can help prolong the game if lady luck favors Ah Long.

My only concern with recommending this as a starter deck is that Ah Long is all about luck, which sits a bit at odds with the design philosophy of luck mitigation in Brook City. I'd worry an unlucky loss with Ah Long might give new players the wrong impression that Brook City is one of the dime-a-dozen dice chucker miniature games on the market, but I think this is just a personal concern that shouldn't affect my final recommendation. I'd love to hear other people's position on this matter.

From Velocity:
Leeta Wix: Intermediate
Leeta starts off in custody at the BCPD. She's not much threat to anyone while she's there, but she will eventually break out of jail. Once she does, the cops will need to drag her out of hiding and bust her to throw her back in jail. While she's out and about, she's going to decrease the time before bombs explode, which is her main win condition. Leeta's deck only has two types of crimes: bombs and diversions. Bombs slowly gain influence and explode, gaining Leeta an influence, while diversions help get Leeta out of jail quicker or otherwise slow the cops down. Leeta has some mild complexity with moving her around to the hideout and random locations, but she fall into the intermediate range mostly for her difficulty She's challenging, but manageable. Pro-tip: Put as much progress as you can on her while she's in custody without busting her. When she inevitably breaks out, that progress will still be there, which makes getting her back into jail a lot easier.

From The Sixth Cycle:
Mercy: Intermediate
Mercy has a bit of an intimidating setup with the Ritual deck, but she's only about moderately complex. Mercy wins by sacrificing 3 victims that she's abducted. Mercy herself has a slow timer, taking 4 turns to abduct a new person and get 1/3 of the way to sacrificing any current abductees. Her cultist crew can speed this up if left to their own devices, especially the Kidnapping crimes which gain influence proportional to the number of other Kidnapping crimes. You definitely want to avoid letting Mercy get influence when there are assets in play, as an influence on Mercy also puts another influence on each abducted victim. If you keep up with clearing the crimes and assets, Mercy is manageable. But she can be tough to recover from if you ignore her. Each slain abductee will penalize the cops, either with a strong one-time debuff or a permanent ongoing penalty. Depending on the penalty incurred, this can easily spiral into a second killing and ultimately the loss of the game. For players with some amount of experience managing criminals, Mercy should be a reasonable challenge, but new players may quickly lose control of the game.

Cases
From the core game:
The Slain Diplomat: Starter
The designer's recommended starting case. All clues start in play, which gives players some much needed initial direction for their first game. Additionally, clues can be 'weakened' in various ways by placing hunches on them after each successful encounter. This means cops can spend time busting crimes or the suspect while still making meaningful progress toward solving the case. The other cards in the deck are all events with comparatively simple effects. The most complicated events are ones that persist in a player’s crime area, but they're generally dispatched through easily achievable means, like busting a crime or visiting a specific location (that's near one of the clues). The events aren't particularly punishing either, mostly making you suffer stress or discard a hunch from a clue.

Jewel of the City: Starter
Unlike many other cases, there are no clues to encounter. Instead, cops will need to visit City Hall to place hunches on the ransom note. This is a free, once per turn action, but cops are limited to only placing 1P hunches at a time. With enough hunches on the ransom note, a clue token will move to the active lead, which the cops can collect as normal.

This case is not complex and fairly easy. I think it falls a hair above Slain Diplomat in difficulty because cops need to travel to a specific location to drop off hunches. The cops are generally free to pursue crimes and the suspects without diverting much attention to the case outside of stopping by city hall to drop of clues and swinging by the occasional lead with a clue on it. The only thing to watch out for is stress, which this case can apply quickly if you get unlucky with the rolls on Mina's card.

Shadow Theories: Advanced
The hardest case in the core game by a wide margin. There's also a fair amount of complexity involved with the Dig Deeper effect and keeping control of the different case event cards. The basic premise is simple enough: bust clues and then pick them up by discarding 3 matching event cards you control. But getting and keeping these event cards is a huge hassle. The primary way to gain control of these event cards is through the Dig Deeper effect, which allows to search the top X cards of the case deck and gain control of 1 event, where X is the number of hunches you have. This means you’ll want at least one cop to have a large stack of hunches lying around so you can card you need. Controlling event cards gives you another way to manipulate the case deck or grab cards events from the discard pile. The clue card activations let you discard a lead to grab a card from the discard pile, but only when they're in play. This leads to one of the biggest dings against this case, which is that you can enter a fail state if you bust the last clue when you don't control any events that let you gain more events. The case is unwinnable at that point but doesn't explicitly say so. That's terrible for a new player, who may keep playing without knowing they've effectively lost. The subtle fail state and high difficulty make this a case for new players to avoid.

From KS1 Stretch Goals:
Jump Start: (1-2 Players)-Starter (3-4 Players)-Intermediate
Clues in this case are thieves driving stolen cars towards some sort of stash house. If the clue makes it to the destination, it's shuffled back into the case deck and each cop will suffer some stress. This also means any and all progress on that clue is completely wasted and the cops will have to start over when the clue surfaces from the case deck again. This problem is compounded in multiple cop games, since the clue health scales with the number of cops. Each clue will take exactly 5 rounds to reach its destination, no matter the number of cops in play. So, players will want to decide quickly whether they're going to let a certain vehicle get away, because otherwise they may end up wasting a lot of effort trying to bring it down.

Edit: After some consideration and discussion, I've decided to split this case up into two ratings. Compared to some of the core game's Starter cases, Jump Start has very low complexity. The reduced complexity should make the case suitable for teaching new players. With only 1-2 cops in play, the mobile clues you're chasing down aren't too difficult to defeat using a single cop, so my concerns listed above aren't as pertinent. It's only once you get to 3 or 4 cops that the clues become difficult to bust and you're going to be forced to coordinate more to take them down at the risk of wasting lots of progress.

From Delta Keys:
The Seaside Five: Starter
Each clue relates to a different member of the Seaside Five, a gang of bank robbers. All clues start in play, and cops can encounter a clue if they meet the conditions on the clue (which ranges from driving an Aquatic vehicle to discarding a hunch). Busted clues can be picked up for free. I think this case might even be a little easier than the Slain Diplomat, as busting a clue and picking up its token negates the events associated with that member of the gang.

Trouble from Paradise: Advanced
This case has the easiest setup in the game, but the case itself is a bit of bear. You don't start with any clues in play and each round that ends without a clue card costs the cops a stress. The cops have the option at the start of their turn to discard X hunches to reveal the top X cards of the deck. Any clues found this way are put into play, and any events get reshuffled into the deck. This can be a huge drain on the cop’s hunches, as failing to find any clues this way essentially wastes the hunches. You don't even get the benefit of thinning the deck for the next cop's turn. You can wait and draw clues naturally, but that may cause a lot of stress while you're waiting. Once you do find the clues, they all come with high resistances. These resistances can sometimes be lowered by meeting a condition (usually suffering stress), but they're otherwise a pain to bust. Busting the clues isn't the end of the story though, as you'll then need to bust the suspect to place the clues onto their suspect card to win. Hopefully you haven't spread the clues around to multiple cops, as that means you'll need to bust the suspect multiple times.

From Keys to the Kingdom:
Keys to the Kingdom: Intermediate
This case is simple in complexity but can challenging in difficulty. Cops each have a clue assigned to them that only they can encounter. But cops can only encounter their clues when next to the active lead, which then gain the cop the lead and moves it to a new location. This makes chipping away at the clue slowly a poor idea and cops should try to gain as much progress on the clue with each encounter. Clues also generally have high bust thresholds and it's possible to get unlucky with the resistances (such as a reckless cop getting a clue with high reckless resistance). Since no other cops can help with your clue, it can make toppling these clues difficult. Moreover, a busted clue needs hunches to flip to its inactive side, and certain events can force you to flip them back to active.

The upside to all this is that since the case strongly incentivizes going to leads, cops will gain lots of lead cards throughout the game. Blending one of the often-overlooked ways to power up the cops into the case requirements keeps the difficulty from getting out of hand.

From Velocity:
Velocity: Advanced
Velocity instantly takes a hit in the new player rating because you're forced to play with Wrecks. Not that there's anything wrong with Wrecks, just that it adds a level of complexity that new players probably don't need in their first few games. The case itself is fairly challenging and can unfold differently depending on where the bus starts. If the bus starts north of the Jersey, there's a big long loop that players can send the bus on without having to constantly babysit it. If it ever gets south of the Jersey, someone is going to have to babysit the bus while it navigates the tight corners and get it back on track. Stress can wrack up quickly with this case due to all the wrecks and events, and players may not find a lot of time to sit still and heal. The case alone would probably be intermediate, but the forced inclusion of the wreck deck bumps this up to advanced.

From The Sixth Cycle:
The Vitruvian Man: Starter
Despite featuring the darkest theme of all the cases, this case is great for new players. Setup is very simple, and the case will automatically roll out clues over the course of the game. The case itself isn't too hard either, with only a few small difficulty spikes where several case cards can resolve in quick succession. Since this is a narrative case, I don't want to spoil anything, but the basic premise is just to reach the end of the case deck in order to win. The pacing and events are all well within reason for a new player to be able to reasonably accomplish that. To top it all off, players gain benefits whenever they successfully encounter a suspect, so they're rewarded for keeping the criminal in check while still making progress towards the case.

---
Check out my other Brook City articles!
Brook City, List of Contents
Brook City Tuckboxes
The Mathematics of Brook City
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Jens Leber
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Thanks for your work! Like the street masters guide, thats very helpful! Can't wait to get the game myself and play it.
 
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Scottie Mick
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Nice write up Doc! Keep em coming!
 
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Yan Bertrand
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Yay! Thanks, Joe!
 
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hello there
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Thank you sooooo much for doing this!

Very useful and much appreciated.
 
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David Lockwood
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Fantastic. Wish this could be pinned!
 
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Dob Razil
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Thanks for your work !
I've just played Gabe Fulton against Slade in the Slain Diplomat case yesterday, and just took a look at your thoughts about them.
I'll keep on first playing and discovering the decks by myself, before coming here to see your thoughts.
 
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Tobias Arnold
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Thank you! Got the game yesterday and just finished the rules. This is immensely helpful.
 
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Thank you very much!
 
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Mike Yacullo
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This is great, thank you! There's so much content and this is a huge help.
 
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Elijah
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You think that's air you're breathing?
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We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant That We Should voyage far.
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Thank you!!!
 
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Simon Taylor
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Amazing - picking up the game this week, will be a massive help!

Thank you!
 
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George
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I've played solo:
Jewel of the City (2 cops)
Keys to the Kingdom (2 cops)
Jump Start (2 cops)
Velocity (1 cop)

And I recently introduced 2 newbies using The Slain Diplomat.

I don't think The Slain Diplomat is a very good one for teaching. Each of the 5 clues has a different condition which makes it extra complicated when you are just trying to figure out how the turns and actions work. Several of the clues right off the bat need hunches so they are unavailable at the start as well. So there's this extra mechanic of needing to place hunches on clues.

I think Jump Start is much friendlier as all clues work the same and all cops can focus together on one at a time. You just Encounter and Place progress from what I remember. Very straight-forward. Yes they are on timers but that is a small complication, imo.

So I would personally rank Slain Diplomat as Intermediate and Jump Start as Starter.

But I've only played each once and have not gone back to double-check the mechanics so that's just my 2 cents.

Excellent guide btw, thanks very much for the work you put into it!
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Doctor Bandage
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soosy wrote:
I've played solo:
Jewel of the City (2 cops)
Keys to the Kingdom (2 cops)
Jump Start (2 cops)
Velocity (1 cop)

And I recently introduced 2 newbies using The Slain Diplomat.

I don't think The Slain Diplomat is a very good one for teaching. Each of the 5 clues has a different condition which makes it extra complicated when you are just trying to figure out how the turns and actions work. Several of the clues right off the bat need hunches so they are unavailable at the start as well. So there's this extra mechanic of needing to place hunches on clues.

I think Jump Start is much friendlier as all clues work the same and all cops can focus together on one at a time. You just Encounter and Place progress from what I remember. Very straight-forward. Yes they are on timers but that is a small complication, imo.

So I would personally rank Slain Diplomat as Intermediate and Jump Start as Starter.

But I've only played each once and have not gone back to double-check the mechanics so that's just my 2 cents.

Excellent guide btw, thanks very much for the work you put into it!

Thanks for your thoughts! I'm always interested in discussing these ratings.

I admit the hunches mechanic in Slain Diplomat is an extra thing to get your head around. But the fact that you can place these hunches while encountering crimes is what makes the case a good fit for new players. One of the things I've seen and heard new players struggle with the most in this game and it's spiritual predecessor Street Masters is finding the balance between working the win condition (solving the case) and keeping the enemies in check. Slain Diplomat's hunch mechanic lets you do both at the same time. By busting up crimes, you're also working the clues. It's not the least complex Starter case (that honor probably goes to Seaside Five or Vitruvian Man), but it's definitely one of the easiest to win no matter who the criminal is.

Jump Start should probably get a dual-rating. At low player counts it's trivial to bust the vehicles before they reach their destination. A single cop can do it in one to two turns. But at high counts, Jump Start is a different kind of beast. Since the clues scale by player count but the time to bust them doesn't (you only have 5 rounds per clue without help from events), it's almost mandatory that cops coordinate to take down a single clue. It's far more likely to waste your time trying to bust a clue with 16 health than 4. And wasted time on a clue is time not spent busting crimes and otherwise keeping the suspect in check.
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Yan Bertrand
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soosy wrote:
I think Jump Start is much friendlier as all clues work the same and all cops can focus together on one at a time. You just Encounter and Place progress from what I remember. Very straight-forward. Yes they are on timers but that is a small complication, imo.

So I would personally rank Slain Diplomat as Intermediate and Jump Start as Starter.

But I've only played each once and have not gone back to double-check the mechanics so that's just my 2 cents.

Excellent guide btw, thanks very much for the work you put into it!

+1 for Jump Start being the easiest to understand Case in what I have (i.e. base, stretch goals and Keys to the Kingdom). It is my likely go-to to get folks into the game without overloading with information at first. I'm with you on the potentially higher difficulty with 4. At the same time, the 3 games I've played so far (always with 2 cops) have been fairly easy, and I know my group likes a bit of a challenge. So it could be a good match. Not sure I'll get Gus into the same town... We'll see.
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Doctor Bandage
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Based on both of your feedback, I have split Jump Start into Starter for 1-2 players and Intermediate for 3+ players.

Our first crack at it was with 3 players and we lost two of the initial thieves off the edge after having sunk a handful of actions and cards into those clues. We still managed to win, but that is what gave me the initial impression this wasn't a great starter case. I ran through it again recently with 1 cop and properly trounced the case. It's possible this is due to the difference in skill level between when I first played this case and now, but I still think there's something to the different player counts. You actually had to chase down the thief and devote several turns in the former, where in the latter you could just pick them off as they drove by while you were dealing with something else.
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Philippe
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agree with jump start being a good starting case for 1-2 cop.

An easy way to make it just a bit more challenging is to do on purpose the mistake I made during my first game against it : instead of choosing clues from the deck along the game, I took them all out each time and then randomly picked one.
 
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Sherri Fillingham
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Thank you so much for this! Just picked up EVERYTHING at Origins yesterday and must admit to feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

I know I will be returning to this guide again and again.
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Tom R
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slfillingham wrote:
Thank you so much for this! Just picked up EVERYTHING at Origins yesterday and must admit to feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

I know I will be returning to this guide again and again.

I printed out the little complexity matrix and use it all the time. It's very useful!
 
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Philippe
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Played my first game with Morgan Hall 2 days ago. I felt the influence "stealing" mechanic was incredible, to the point I felt it was a bit OP. I'm interested to know what is the feelings of other players with him ?
 
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Philippe
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Played another game yesterday night with him, vs Leeta/Jewels + a random rival (Lester) and... it was too easy :/

Finished the game really quickly and with 1 stress. The tactics are powerhouses.
I'm gonna try tonight or tomorrow against some harder combo of case-criminal (why not the dreaded micky-shadow theories), but I have a hard time not to see Morgan a bit OP
 
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Doctor Bandage
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I would definitely agree that Morgan is probably the strongest cop in the game with Axel as the runner up. His only downside is when he can't find his tactics (remember that unlike street masters, mulligans of the starting hand aren't allowed), but there's enough card draw available to make that unlikely.
 
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Philippe
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On Morgan, all his tactics are obv very nice, but the one over the top for me is the one that gives +1 dice to the encounter, making his basic action an almost automatic 4 dice.

I was lucky enough to get it quite early in my 2 games with him so if you don't get it so soon obv the game will be harder.
But all 3 tactics are so trong to slow down the criminal that it doesn't really matters... as soon you've got one out it's great, and with 2 out you're slowing down the criminal so much that it doesn't really matter if you don't always bust on the first roll.
 
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Philippe
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also, even if it's a bit off-topic, I asked myself the following question : when using Morgan main action (encounter with the possibility of putting influence on a crime), can you in response put the influence on the tactic the lets you roll an additional dice and exhaust it immediately ?

I’ve vetted against it, as I thought that all my “effects” to gather additional dice shouldn’t depend on each other, but I wasn’t sure if that’s the intent.
 
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Doctor Bandage
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I believe you can combine "Bending the Rules" and "My Own Way" together to roll 4 dice. Normally you can't use an exhaust to interrupt an effect in progress, but "My Own Way" has text that supersedes that rule. And due to the wording of "Bending the Rules" placing the influence before the encounter and "My Own Way" using that exhaust during the encounter, I believe you're free to use both effects in tandem.
 
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