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Subject: Crooks: a quick and fun mobster-based card game rss

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Travis Poole
United Kingdom
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Crooks is a nice little card game that's quick to pick up, and has wonderful artwork. It plays in about 10 or 15 minutes, and explaining the rules just takes a minute or two, so it's great for when you've just got just a bit of time and few people who want to get a game in.

The basic concept is pretty easy. There are 8 cards representing locations where your gangsters will try to pull off "jobs". You need to put at most one gangster under each of these cards. Whoever puts the gangster with the highest number at each location will earn the points for that location.

The players select their gangsters from a bunch of face-down piles ("hangouts"), and you need to more money to select from a larger pile. Thus you have to balance the advantage of having a bigger selection of gangsters to choose from against the risk of running out of money before you've hired enough gangsters for all the jobs. Additionally, the biggest gangster, with a value of 10, can only be picked up if there are no other gangsters at that location. So selecting from a pile of two can be dangerous if you haven't seen the pile yet, as you may be setting someone else up to get the biggest gangster.

Another twist is that you can either put the cards face up on the locations or face down. Placing the card face down has the obvious advantage that the other players don't know what they have to beat, but by playing the card face up allows you to use the special abilities that some of the cards have. For example, some are "pickpockets" that provide you with extra money when you play them face up. Another lets you remove other gangsters in the area.

As well as the special effects that some cards have when you play them face up, some cards alter the points scored for the location. So you could play a gangster with a negative modifier to a location you thought the opponents has played high-value characters in, so that they get less pay-off for winning it.

There's also points available at the end for having played the most gangsters of each of the different gangs, so there's some advantage in picking gangsters from the same gangs.

The game plays very quickly, and the trick seems to be in figuring out what your opponents are likely to play. Will they play the big cards on the high-scoring locations, or will they try to pick up more of middle and low-value targets instead? There's a memory component to it, since remembering what's in the piles you've seen will give you strong clues to what your opponents will pick when they select those piles. Also, even without remembering what was in each pile, you can learn something from how the opponents select their cards each time.

Overall, the game was fun, fast, and easy to pick-up, but still involved challenging decisions to make. Great for when you're waiting for the last player to show up, and want to keep the people who showed up on time for you games night entertained! Or for when you finish up a bit earlier than expected, and want to get in one more game before calling it a night. The artwork is great as well, nicely capturing the theme. My partner said she wished there were little stories to go along with each of the gangsters, since each was very unique and intriguing-looking.
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