I am BGG's official honey trap
(Disclaimer: This review, like the game it reviews, is aimed at adults and may offend. This review of MobTies is based on the free P&P version of the game. The following text contains some questionable wordplay, aims to be playful with a wee bit of bescotat poetry and is interested in cured pathos; salt to feel.)
MobTies is a game about rival criminal families vying to stay alive on the outside and get the biggest piece of the action. The game is about negotiating greed, while helping friends and hurting enemies… before feeding your friends to the pigs, both figuratively and literally.
MobTies is a thematic game for 3-6 players. Its mechanics involve:
i) Area control - to get your end of the action
ii) Negotiation - to bribe, threaten or temporarily work with rivals
iii) Voting - to decide who gets pinched and how incomes are paid out
iv) Drawing Fed cards - to see which areas get raided
v) Playing Favour cards in a ‘take-that’ style - to protect members of your crew and whack opponents’ mobsters.
A wee story:
Geek-modding, more often than not, is a mechanical flow-chartable process that takes about 20 seconds per entry.
Is this for the right thing?
Does it follow BGG rules?
Does it look OK?
Is it unique?
If all are yeses; then it gets approved.
One of the few ‘whoa’ moments I’ve had was geek-modding the following image from the then unheard of MobTies:
Whoa! It’s a guy getting his hand put through a mincer… Wh-o-a!
The designers must have been watching Casino and thought; “We’ll see your head in a vice and raise you”. I let the image through on the grounds that I was not offended and that BGG is a site for open-minded adults but jeeze….
Knowing that I had to see what this game was about, I went to the catalogue and saw a glimpse of the game that all us Sopranos fans have been longing for: MobTies. Then months passed, the developers were on the lam or at least busy working on the boring bits.
Forgettingaboutit I went back to playing nice euro games for nice gamers who don’t want conflict, or even direct interaction with friends. That was until I happened upon this thread which offered a free opportunity to get a p&p copy of the game. After printing it off we got to play our first game which ended with a backstab and my own
After six months of bloodshed, the papers’ favourite, Malcolm ‘The Protector’ McKay and his team have bribed, kilt or broken a’ the other crews. The city is peaceful, with only the disingenuous calls of the 24hr Ice Cream vans and the busy queues, outside the a’ night car washes, that don’t wash, making any impact against the clanjamfrie of the thundering rain. The fronts, whether restaurants, nurseries or taxi firms, are busy making money and declaring double. Laundering takes no time and no one wants to know a’hing if services are provided and payoff are made.
In dreich Glasgae toon, Malky sits alane in one of them auld family-run tally caffs just aff Sauchiehall Street. The rain is pounding the pavement - it’s baltic oot. He watches a polis meat wagon wi’ its lights on scream past. His family is late. He’s crabbit, watching the door, listening to the grill and checking the jukebox. The door opens; a lassie enters followed by a wee man in a bunnet. Just as he puts on a tune his other half enters; she looks spent, glamorous and domestic. As she takes aff her rare coat with the chorus coming, he smiles at her, ‘Awright hen?’ “Aye, alright’ she replies picking up a menu. He just gawks at her menu and fingers; they’re together apart but together still.
His eyes return to his own menu, he asks, “Where’s the weans?”
“Ally will be here in a second; Jen’s coming separately. She had to go to the doctor…”, he looks up feart, “…to switch birth control”. Their eyes meet; involuntarily he bites his cheek accepting that a’ birds leave the nest. The chorus kicks in as the wee man sweetens his tea and the rain pelts the Windae. She mentions the coming storm; he sighs.
The door opens two stocky men march in. The first heads to the bar, the second saunters towards them a’ gallus. Malky eye ball’s him, it’s his laddie, a’ grown-up and ready to fly. As his boy seats himself doon at the table, Malky hands him a menu. Then, he grabs his lad’s hand and squeezes with pride. A father and son’s reunion as different equals of the same loving fragile whole. The big man taps the bar while slowly turning, a wee keek at the family, he keeps his jaiket on.
Outside in the pissing rain Malky’s daughter tries to park her car, she’s struggling. Shit, late and running out of time. Inside as the glasses of ginger arrive, they couples laugh and the big man at the bar again clocks the family, all while the music plays on. His son complains about his legit work, concluding, “ye just have to focus on the stoating times”. He wasnae being sarcastic, how his son has grown.
She still cannae get the thing parked as the big man at the bar walks past the family and into the lav. Twa mair punters come through the door as she successfully parks the car. Outside, the machine is a brand new Lexus IS. In the lav, under the big man’s jaiket it’s a Carpatzi, manufactured in Romania, deactivated and shipped to the UK, reactivated in a shed in Leeds and delivered to a peaceful rival firm on the outside of Glasgow many years after it was made.
He eats an onion ring, she exits the car, the door opens, a’hing goes black and the music plays right up to the end. You probably dinnae even hear it when it happens.
Don’t - stop - believing
As my copy is p&p I can’t talk about the overall quality of the official production but can talk about the contents and graphics.
MobTies has some of my favourite images in any board game, the art is a joy… well possibly a misery, but it’s great stuff which really sells the theme to the players, while displaying the designers’ love for the genre.
Clearly the images are not the magical dreamlike art of Dixit’s Marie Cardouat but they will likewise draw some serious discussion. Not so much sweet dreams but sleep with the fishes.
All the images are inventive; some are totally new, while others include strong winks and tributes to certain thematic scenes from film and tv. This only drew us in closer. Playing as villains from our favourite classic American cinema in a game that’s been produced by folks who are clearly fans of the genre is a great way to spend an hour, co-creating perfect fan fiction that’s accessible, memorable, interactive and fun.
Discussions based on the cards should include whether Heat, Point Break or Eraser are watchable films, whether Brick Top or Mason Verger brought the criminal use of pigs to the masses, who shot first in the Mos Eisley Cantina, which Godfather film included the airport assassination, is Oz too stressful or too stupid to watch, did Nicky order Ace’s car-bombing and have we seen ‘this’ in the Sopranos. These discussion topics are pretty much inevitable and very much enjoyable.
The board is a mock up of a police surveillance wall akin to the type you see in programmes like the Wire. Included on it are ‘photographs’ of the different locations in the game that players are competing to control. Most locations just offer a payoff, but the Don’s house and the Diner give some special abilities. The morgue and prison are both worth a miss.
In the top left hand corner is the Heat Meter which increases the number of Fed cards that are drawn in response to the amount of mobsters getting pinched or body-bagged. The Heat Meter also acts as the build in time mechanic that signals the end of the game.
The currency in MobTies is Kitty Bucks. What is excellent about the notes is that they come pre-blood splattered, just in case you forget that in MobTies all money is blood money.
These are the cards that make up a player’s hand. They come in four varieties:
i) red attack cards that let you try to kill rival mobsters
ii) blue defence cards that can save one of your mobster
iii) yellow weapon cards that remove police from a location
iv) green special cards that can do a range of things, such as automatically win a location or move a mobster.
A wee thing that I really like about the favour cards is that they really don’t commit the Ameri
trash rubbish mistakes of having too much text, not sticking to a uniform design or crowbarring in unique complicated mechanics that confuse new players.
In each round a number of Fed cards are turned over corresponding to the heat level. These cards include a strength and a location. If four or more Feds are at a location, a respect vote takes place with the loser getting sent to jail or having to fight to police. If there are not four Feds present they just stay at the location, thus increasing the locations chance of getting raided in the future.
These tokens come in different character types; from the powerful capo to the lowly associate. The type of character also signifies their different powers and abilities to use certain cards.
On each mobster token is also their respect rating which is used in voting and to identify the toughness of the character. For example a Capo has a respect value of three so only attacks of the same or higher value can kill them and when voting they have a power of three. Where a mobster token is on the board signifies where this character is.
Cash chits signify the payout that each location brings. A range of chits are included so that these payouts can scale depending on the amount of players and allowing players to set up their own custom games.
Fed chits are placed on an area whenever a corresponding Fed card is turned over. This keep track of how many Feds each location has. If four or more Fed’s are at a location it is surrounded and a mobster who loses in the respect vote is carted off to jail unless they can lower the Fed count using 'weapon favours'. Ding Dong.
The p&p version comes with a range of other chits which can be used in advanced or custom versions of the game. It would appear that they will also be included in the full version of the game.
The rules book is good offering concise rules with good diagrams, a bit of thematic text and some unique graphics. Also included is an advanced rulebook that lets players tweak the game to their liking and includes additional variants, including undercover agents.
A demonstration of the thought that has gone into the design is that that game not only comes with player aids, one for each player, but that 99.5% of the game can be explained through talking folk through their player aid. Amerit
rash at its best.
The Don's Ring
The Don’s Ring does not come in the P&P version. It’s just a token that shows who controls the Don’s house and thus who is the Don this turn. Having a physical ring, the fugazi that it is, is just going to make the game more fun and increase the competition for being the Don.
How the game works at 100,000 feet:
I’m just going to offer some broad brush strokes of the game-play in this section but have a look at the Rules if you want to be a wiseguy.
The set up changes slightly depending on the number of player; fewer players means fewer starting ‘favour cards’ in your hand and lower payouts from locations. The more players in a game also increase the threshold, of deaths or imprisonments required, to increase the ‘heat’.
Each game round in MobTies can be broken down into 7 steps:
Step one: Elect a Don.
Players in the Don’s house vote using their reputation points. The player who receives the most reputation points is the Don for this round.
Eg Red has 3 reputation points while Yellow and Green each have 2.
Thus Red should win but Yellow say’s to Green, “vote for me and I’ll look after you”. Red say “O!’ threatens Green but Green isn’t intimidated, and votes for Yellow.
Thus Yellow is elected Don with 4 points while Red has 3 points and green 0.
After the Don is elected he receives the ‘Don’s ring’ and gets to take two ‘favour cards’ from the deck. He gets to keep one but is required to hand the other to another player of his choosing.
He hands a crappy card to Green – “You did good kid, here’s your taste”.
Step two: Business:
In each of the other locations a show of respect vote occurs like in the election of the Don. Ties often occur, in which case the Don can decide on a winner and build a fee into his decision. It is also possible and often favorable to agree to different splits of the income to cut out the Don or just keep everyone happy. If everyone is earning no one gets clipped.
At this stage extra favour cards can be bought for the price sum of 25k apiece. When buying a favour card a player looks at two from the deck and then selects one to keep.
It is also possible to discard two favour cards from a players hand to be entitled to get a free new card; following the same model as buying a card.
Buying or discarding cards starts with the Don and then moves around the table clockwise. It’s never good news for a rookie Don when he pass on getting new cards and then everyone else buys. Stocking up on cards creates paranoia and is often viewed as a declaration of war - which it basically is.
Step three: Movement:
Starting with the Don and moving clockwise around the table, each player may move one mobster to any new location. Locations, however, may only have five mobsters on them.
At this point the paranoia really sets in.
“O!" - "if history has taught us anything, it's that you can kill anyone" – “Welcome to the neighborhood you got life insurance” – “Don’t move there, I’ll give you five large.”
Step four: The Feds
The number of Fed cards corresponding to the current heat level are turned over and resolved. If a location has four Fed tokens on it, it is raided. A show of respect vote occurs, the player who loses has to either move one of his mobsters to jail or use a ‘Weapon card’ from their hand to remove Fed tokens so the total is under four.
Fed tokens remain on the location until removed with weapon card making some locations really hot and likely to get raided any second.
Players can bail their mobsters out of prison in step 6 unless the heat threshold is reached in which case mobsters in jail are lost to the penal experience.
Step five: Action
This is a player’s turn to settle old scores, whacking rivals for revenge, out of fear, to secure more income or to send a message.
Starting with the Don and moving clockwise around the table a player can play any number of favour cards. Generally these cards are all about attacking. If a player’s mobster is attacked they are able to play a defending card to save their mobsters life.
If at the same location, a weaker mobster can sacrifice their life to save a more powerful mobster, thus insulating Capos with associates is important.
The first killing in any game earns the aggressor an extra 25k bonus, ensuring that a chain reaction of violence occurs.
Step Six: Bail
Now’s your chance to get imprisoned mobsters out of jail, costs vary depending on the value of the mobster.
Step Seven: Heat
In this round the heat meter increases, whenever the number of mobsters in jail or dead equals the number of players in the game. If this occurs the mobsters in jail and the morgue are moved off the board, thus making it easy to see if in the future the heat threshold is reached.
i) The first time the heat meter increases one extra Fed card is drawn during the Fed step (2 cards)
ii) The second time the heat meter increases another extra Fed card is drawn during the Fed step (3 cards)
iii) The third time the heat meter increases it will be at its top setting indicating the end of the game. At this point all living mobsters out of prison are cashed in for their values and all players add up their cash. The player with the most cold, blood covered, cash wins.
You get back what you put in:
MobTies is a game that aims to create an experience. To get this experence, however, players need to bring something to the table too. You don’t have to roleplay, threaten or negotiate deals to play MobTies but you will have a much better experience if you do. Players get out what they put into this game. Mock lines from heist films will give you a memorable and fun experience… if not forgetaboutit.
rash but it will get played:
My problem with many Amerit
rash games is that they tend to have so many disjointed mechanics that actually dispel theme, or are too complicated and too time consuming to hit the table. These are not problems with MobTies - It’s direct and simple with a solid built in clock and does not let game mechanics spoil the theme. While it only has a few core mechanics it offers a deep commitment to theme in a package that will hit the table and can easily be played with willing non-gamers or causal games alike.
Turn order in MobTies is really important and has a major impact upon the game. Thus being the Don or ensuring the Don is closer to your right than your opponents is important as it allows you to strike first. This said, deciding whether or not to strike is difficult. If on your turn you don’t attack you leave yourself open to a all out attack by your rival.
As with turn order, paranoia is a major part of the game and often the reason war breaks out is based on fear and fear alone. Being trusted or being perceived as unthreatening is important. In MobTies you can get further with a kind word than a gun but even further still with a kind word and a gun.
Luck, balance and elegance:
MobTies includes a mix of luck, skill and external factors making for games that can be totally unpredictable. The game is not balanced but is self-regulating through player interaction with player’s decision acting as a living ballast, making sure no one gets too far ahead. Similarly, MobTies is definitely not an elegant game on paper but when played it takes on an odd organic elegance based on the relationships between the players. This odd mix may annoy some gamers but I think it just adds to the fun and controlled chaos of MobTies.
Chaos is the only assurance in MobTies, it's through skilled tactical decisions that a player attempts to project order onto the chaos. Control remains an illusion, as the quality of any given move is relative to the quality of your opponents response. Every player in MobTies is trying to improve their position but never be seen to do so and certainly never, god forbid, coming across as the strongest player.
Every player wants to simultaneously look too dangerous to trouble but too weak to be a threat. Every alliance is an alliance of convenience; every friend an enemy in waiting and every enemy is someone who you might be fighting alongside next turn. Building a well-structured game that allows such chaos and feelings of instability is what makes MobTies memorable and replayable.
Player elimination is part of the game. This may put some people off but due to the built in heat mechanic chances are once a player is eliminated the game is not going to last much longer anyway. What’s really interesting about player elimination in MobTies is that the mechanics have been developed in such as way to encourage player elimination... that’s right encourage player elimination! Rather than many other area control games, a player cannot be left alone as they are always dangerous and always a threat. Going to war is a serious business in MobTies and petty squabbles soon escalate… someone is going to lose an eye - brilliant!
This said often two warring families instantly declare peace in order to attack a rival family that, through avoiding war, has become the frontrunner. Thus MobTies mechanics create an odd equilibrium between war and peace. On the one hand you are in competition with your rivals and so want to kill or incarcerate their mobsters, yet at the same time you want to avoid losing your own troops or raising the heat level and thus strengthening the police.
The result is an unique community element where gangs at war always have a real interest in seeking peace and neutral gangs have dual interests in both encouraging the violence and stopping it. This creates an interesting stop-start situation where wars and ceasefires sporadically occur before building up to the big storm that everyone knew was coming.
A mob war is always going to happen as sure as night comes after day. The question is when and between whom. Making sure you are not the target, are on the winning side and that every battle strengthens your position is what makes MobTies so Machiavellian and challenging. The quiet before the inevitable storm is what makes the game tense and exciting and is what caused us to play it so much. Oddly the delay to war is far more exciting and pleasing than the battle itself. MobTies greatest achievement is the growing tension and paranoia that peace brings.
Something’s got to give - creaking noise - dream Scene - Talking fish: "Our true enemy has yet to reveal himself"
Who is it for?
Well a better question is who is it not for:
ii) Anyone who is offended by the theme
iii) Anyone who does not like direct conflict
iv) Anyone who does not like interaction or negotiation
v) Folk who holds a grudge or can’t take a joke
vi) Anyone who does not like themed games or amerit
So who is it for?
Everyone else, absolutely everyone else. Particularly for gamers who like social games with negotiation like Lifeboat, Junta, Cash and Guns, werewolf-inspired games and Cosmic Encounter and especially for anyone who is a fan of mobster films and TV programs.
Is this a perfect game?
MobTies is more of an experience than a game, but with the right group it will give you one hell of a great experience.
It’s Saturday night, beer and cannolis gaming at it’s finest; nothing too grand and nothing too complicated just a fun game that lets you dive right in; striving to live rich and free while fitting your best friends for concrete boots.
You’ll play MobTies then dust off your Sopranos, Wire or Godfather boxset; it’s that good.
Just when I thought I was out - they pull me back in.
If you’re looking for a fun, interactive, mobster game, MobTies is a friend of ours - Capiche?!
I saw the old man's limousine head back towards the grave
I guess he had to say one last goodbye to the son that he could not save.
And someday if God's in heaven overlooking his preserve
I know the men that shot him down will get what they deserve.
Malky, Malky King of the streets child of clay
Malky, Malky What made them want to come and blow you away?
- Last edited Sat Sep 3, 2011 4:25 am (Total Number of Edits: 23)
- Posted Sat Sep 3, 2011 1:03 am
I am BGG's official honey trap
Excellent review. Thank you
♬♪♪ ♫ ♩ ♫♫♪ ♩♬♪ ♫
All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance... (Iain Banks)
That's a magnificent review. It sounds like they should get Craig Russell and Christopher Brookmyre to endorse your version...
There is a road, no simple highway, between the dawn and the dark of night, and if you go no one may follow, that path is for your steps alone. Ripple in still water, when there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow.
To seek the sacred river Alph, to walk the caves of ice, to break my fast on honey dew and drink the milk of paradise... I had heard the whispered tales of immortality, the deepest mystery, from an ancient book I took a clue.
Well written and very enjoyable to read!
I am BGG's official honey trap
Thanks for the thumbs, tips and most importantly kind words folks!
Being able to read past the patter is also impressive
- Last edited Sat Sep 3, 2011 4:41 pm (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Sat Sep 3, 2011 3:13 pm
"They can kill you, but the legalities of eating you are quite a bit dicier."
Thanks! I am even more excited about getting my kickstarted copy now.
I am BGG's official honey trap
Brilliant, that's what I like to hear
I am BGG's official honey trap
Super - made my day!
Do tell us how it goes.