King of Crime: Bootleg Edition Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


kingofcrime_top

The Basics:

  • For ages 12 and up
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 20 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Not tested (assumed easy)
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Lead your family and various unsavory hired thugs to grab control of the criminal underworld

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek rejected!
  • Child Geek untested!

Overview

Welcome to the early 1930’s. Prohibition has made it possible for enterprising individuals to make a great amount of money selling illegal alcohol. Of course, the major criminal “Families” have been involved from the start, but their criminal exploits and ambitions far exceed those of the common bootlegger. There are only so many rackets and riches to go around, however, and that means you’ll have to fight for what you earn to keep your “Family” flush with cash!

King of Crime: Bootleg Edition, a self-published game by Dan Smith (who also created Battle of the Bands), will reportedly be comprised of 108 cards. These cards will include 8 Boss cards, 27 Mug cards, 27 Racket Round cards, 27 Family cards, and 18 Racket cards. The game will also include 8 standard six-sided dice (4 white, 4 red) and 1 Turn token (used to help identify who’s turn it is). As this is a review of a prepublished game, we will not comment on the game component quality. The illustrations that are going to be used in the game are humorous and highly stylized, reinforcing the theme and narrative of the game.

Setting Up the Cosa Nostra

To set up the game, first find the 8 Boss cards. The back of the Boss cards are a different color than all the other cards. Simply turn all the cards the same way and quickly look through them. When the 8 Boss cards are separated  either deal out 1 Boss card to each player randomly or have every player select their Boss card. The Boss card is placed in front of their owning player, face-up. Any unused Boss cards are returned to the game box and are out for the duration of the game.

Second, take the remaining 100 cards and shuffle them. Deal to each player 4 cards, face-down. The remaining deck is placed face-down in the middle of the playing area and within easy reach of all the players. This is the players’ draw deck.

Third, set the dice to one side of the playing area and within easy reach of all the players.

The player directly to the dealer’s left (or the next player going clockwise) is the first player. Pass them the Turn token and begin.

Your Basic Criminal Family

A criminal Family has many members and each member has a specific task. Like a well oiled machine, each member focuses on what they are responsible for. When done correctly, the Family is a harmonious system where everyone is making money. When it breaks down, things start to quickly fall apart. That’s why it is important to know exactly what each Family member’s role is so you can quickly scan the table to know how much trouble you or your opponent is in. The different cards that are part of every player’s Family are summarized here.

Boss Cards

At the head of every Family is a Boss. The Boss card represents that individual and can never be replaced or removed. They are the base on which all of the Family’s activities are built and the center of all the activity. The area around the player’s Boss card is referred to as the “Family”.

Mug Cards

Mug cards include Boss cards, Bookie cards, Torpedo cards, and Thug cards. Essentially every unsavory character you can imagine in a criminal Family. As such, there is no limit to the number of Mug cards a player can have in their Family. This is important because each Mug card provides a certain number of Family Points (FP) that adds to the Family’s overall strength and will be targeted by their opponent’s.

kingofcrime_cardexample

Each Mug card will have one or more Circle of Influence icons on it. In game terms, this identifies what Rackets the Mug can assist with. Mugs can usually participate in one or more of the following rackets.

  • Bootlegging
  • Extortion
  • Gambling
  • Murder
  • Politics
  • Vice

Each Mug will also have a Hit Die value. This is represented by an image of a die face value (1 through 6) on the Mug card. When a die value is rolled during a “Hit” against the player’s Family, the Mug card will either be discarded or flipped over, as stated on the Mug card. Note that a flipped Mug cannot participate in a Racket Round (think of a flipped card as being “injured”). The one exception is the Boss card who can always participate in a Racket Round, even when they are flipped and technically out of commission, but they cannot take over the Racket until un-flipped.

Additionally, some of the Mug cards have a special symbol or text on them that describes an additional action taken when a game condition is met. For example, “Draw a Card” that allows the player to draw a card from the draw deck when a specific type of Racket Round is initiated.

Family Cards

These are special action cards that are used to target other players, including “Hits” and “Retaliations. “Hits” are a special action that allows a player to roll a six-sided die. Any Mug card that has a matching die face value to the one rolled is either discarded (i.e. “rubbed out”) or is flipped (temporarily unavailable, as in wounded). Note that a player’s Boss card can never be removed from the game. “Retaliations” are just that, an opportunity to “Hit” back.

Racket Cards

These cards represent the different schemes, deals, and other various underworld activities the player’s Family can attempt to control. The Rackets include:

These include:

  • A = Any Racket Card
  • B = Bootlegging Racket Cards
  • E = Extortion Racket Cards
  • G = Gambling Racket Cards
  • M = Murder Racket Cards
  • P = Politics Racket Cards
  • V = Vice Racket Cards

Racket Round Cards

These cards are reserved for Racket Rounds and Takeovers. They are used to modify a player’s FP and affect the opponent’s Family with various effects.

Welcome to the Underworld of Crime

The game is played with each player taking a turn and then passing the Turn token to the next player. A player’s turn is comprised of 2 steps that are summarized here.

Step 1: Draw Cards

The first thing a player will do on their turn is draw cards from the draw deck until their hand size is at least 5 cards. If the player already has 5 or more cards, this step is skipped.

Step 2: Take an Action

The player must now select one of the following actions:

  • Play a Mug Card: If the player selects this action, they can play 1 Mug card, plus 1 additional Mug card for every Racket card they currently control. The Mug cards are played to the Family area in front of the player.
  • Play a Family Card: If the player selects this action, they take one Family card from their hand and play it in front of them, quickly stating what the card does, and then targeting the player they want to use the Family card on or playing it on themselves. The Family card stays in play until its effect takes place, then it is discarded.
  • Play a Racket Card: If the player selects this action, they select one of the Racket cards in their hand and play it to the middle of the playing area. This initiates a Racket Round (see “Rackets and Takeovers” below).
  • Attempt a Takeover: If the player selects this action, they attempt to grab control of a Racket another player has control over (see “Rackets and Takeovers” below). A player only has this action if playing with 3 or more players.
  • Un-Flip a Mug Card: If the player selects this action, they can un-flip a Mug card of their choice, but must discard 1 card to the discard pile in order to do so. Any card can be discarded to use this action.
  • Discard Cards: If the player selects this action, the can discard any 3 cards from their hand to the discard pile.

Rackets and Takeovers

The entire goal of the game is to control different criminal activities. By doing so, the player’ criminal Family will not only be financially secure, but big bosses of the criminal underworld. Of course, wealth and power is often fought for. And like many violent battles, there will be casualties on all sides of the skirmish.

On a player’s turn, they can play a Racket card that initiates a battle with the players at the table to control the Racket. A player can also attempt to grab a Racket currently controlled by another player via an aggressive takeover.

When a Racket card is played to the table, the normal flow of the game is temporary put on hold as all the players attempt to control a “piece of the action”. On a player’s turn, they will do one of the following actions starting with the player who played the Racket card. Of course, players are welcome to not participate in the Racket Round. In which case, they must state that they are out before taking their first turn during the Racket Round.

  • Play a Mug card
  • Play a Racket Round card

Players continue taking turns, taking one of the two noted actions above, until all the players are done playing cards. Note that the last Racket card played always takes precedence.

Next, all the players who are participating take one of the white six-sided dice. In turn order sequence starting with the player who initiated the Racket Round, each player rolls the die to determine which of their opponent’s cards are rubbed out. If the die value rolled matches any of their opponent’s Mug cards, that Mug card is either discarded or flipped. If any retaliations can take place, the red six-sided die is rolled by the player who is retaliating.

Once the gun smoke clears and all the player’s have had a chance to roll the die, resulting in flipped and discarded Mug cards, each player adds their Hit die amount (the white six-sided die) to the FP values of any Mug cards that have not been discarded or flipped, including any modifier from Racket Round cards. The player with the highest total FP wins the Racket card and must place at least one of their Mug cards who can control it on the Racket card right away. If a tie occurs, the Racket card is discarded. Play then continues as normal.

Takeovers are just like a Racket Round with a few exceptions. First, the conflict is only between 2 players: the player who owns a Racket card and the player who wants to steal that Racket card. Second, the players cannot play any cards, but players who are not participating in the Takeover can play Racket Round cards to make things more difficult. Dice are rolled, casualties are counted, and the winner of the Takeover is the player with the most FP.

Note that Takeovers are not allowed in a 2-player game.

Crowning the King of Crime

The game is won as soon as any player has control of 3 different Racket cards or 2 Racket cards of the same type. For example, a player could win if they have 1 Bootleg racket, 1 Murder racket, and 1 Vice racket or they could win if they have 2 Vice rackets .

To learn more about King of Crime: Bootleg Edition,  visit the Kickstarter campaign. There is also a 2-player print-n-play demo available from the game designer’s personal web site if you care to give it a try yourself.

Prediction

King of Crime is not a difficult game to learn or to play. I have no doubt that the Child Geeks will be able to play it who are 8-years-old and older; possibly 7-years if they can read well. But I also doubt we’ll have the opportunity to test this theory. King of Crime is not what I would consider “Family Friendly”, unless that family is comprised of adults and teenagers. The theme of the game is supported very well by the illustrations on the cards, which is a real boon for the game, but will most certainly be a concern to the Parent Geeks. For example, there are cards that show drug use and a bleeding corpse. Exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to see in the underworld of organized crime, but not something that is often welcome at the family gaming table. As for me and mine, my wife and I sat down with the cards, discussed the Pros and Cons, and determined that the game was too “adult” for our family of young geeks. I’ll offer it up to the families we play with to test with their Child Geeks if they so choose.

Example of one of the more graphic cards in the game

Example of one of the more graphic cards in the game

For the Parent Geeks, I just don’t know. Any game that is not appropriate for their family often gets rejected by them. Not because it is a bad game, but because they don’t see any reason to endorse a game that cannot be played by everyone around the table. I bet I’ll get a few Parent Geeks to approve of the game who moonlight as Gamer Geeks on the side, but that might be about it.

Gamer Geeks will approve this one, I’m betting. The game play is casual, but the theme and narrative of the game is a fun one to play with. I don’t think any Gamer Geek would suggest that King of Crime is a complex and deep game, but casual games are welcomed among gamer elitists as a fun and easy diversion between longer and significantly more challenging games.

For my first game, since I wasn’t going to play it with my little geeks, I sat down with my wife and taught her how to play. I think the best way to teach this game is to simply and quickly summarize the different card types and then do a quick demonstration of how a player controls rackets. Everything else just kind of falls into place. My wife had a few questions, mostly on card combos and different ways the Mugs could be used, but nothing that suggested she was lost. And so, after I answered all her questions and got ready to play our first game, I asked for her thoughts on King of Crime so far.

“Not one of the better games we’ve played, and you know I don’t care for violent movies or anything that suggests violence, but this game doesn’t show it so much as lightly suggest it. I think I can overlook that and give the game a try without being too negative towards it.” ~ My Wife

Yeah, for those who don’t like the theme, the game isn’t going to be of much interest. Let’s see if the game play pulls her in or further reinforces her initial  skepticism.

Final Word

Sadly, we were unable to find any Parent Geeks who felt comfortable enough with the game’s theme and narrative to allow their Child Geeks to play King of Crime. We must stress that this should not in any way suggest that the game is inappropriate for you and your family. Do take a look at the cards and make that decision for yourself. Regardless, any Child Geek who does get a chance to play this game needs to be a strong reader as there is a great deal of text to be read on the cards.

Parent Geeks were exceedingly mixed on this game. For the most part, none of the Parent Geeks thought that King of Crime was a bad game, but only 1 out of the group we played the game with thought the game was good enough to play with the family. It should also be noted that this particular Parent Geek is an up-and-coming Gamer Geek. According to him, “This is an easy game to play and to like. It’s all about grabbing what you can and making sure no one can take it from you! I like that and I like how easy it is to learn and to get right into the action!” Unfortunately, his strong approval of the game was not significant enough to persuade the other Parent Geeks to approve of the game, too. According to one of the Parent Geeks who voted down the game, “Not a bad game, but not a good game for my family. I can’t approve a game I can’t play with my kids.” Very fair and why we include the Parent Geeks so we can get their perspective.

My wife gives me a look of "disappointment" after I play a devious card of deviousess

My wife gives me a look of “disappointment” after I play a devious card of deviousness

Gamer Geeks thought King of Crime was simply “OK”, but thought enough of it to approve it. The game is very casual and light, from a Gamer Geeks’s perspective, with tactics and strategy being mostly about playing cards as fast as you can and holding enough cards in your hand to deflect any attacks. A few of the Gamer Geeks were not big fans of the dice rolling to determine which of their Mugs were hit, but they couldn’t think of a better way to portray a random spray of gunfire from a tommy gun, either. The more the Gamer Geeks played it, the more fun they had, but their level of fun peeked fairly quickly each game. When the games were done and the cards were put away, all the Gamer Geeks agreed that King of Crime was a perfect game for conventions, for quick plays, a pre-game warm-up, and an enjoyable way to end an evening of games.

King of Crime: Bootleg Edition  is silly, sometimes a bit mindless, and easy to have fun with. This is not a game that will require you to sit forward and really focus at the gaming table. You will, however, sit back and laugh or throw your hands up in the air in disgust when an opponent takes over your rackets. This is not a game to take seriously, but it does provide good times for all those who play. While the theme and narrative, as well as the illustrations on the cards, might be a bit too much for the younger Child Geeks, teenagers shouldn’t have any problems with it.

As for me, I’m most pleased with King of Crime and look forward to playing it with my friends today and my Child Geeks in the future. The game is light and easy to relax with, as well as enjoy, but you can’t sleepwalk through it. There are light elements of area control, lots of logical thinking, some tactics and strategy to play around with, and just enough hand and resource management to keep you fully engaged, but never overtaxed. It makes me smile and laugh evilly during one round and gritting my teeth in frustration in the next as I see my Mugs dropping from random bullets. But I always come back for more regardless if I rule the underworld or not.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
Tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to King of Crime: Bootleg Edition Game Review (prepublished version)

  1. Scott Myers says:

    Great review on the game. I like the way you broke everything down from the components to the gameplay. I don’t agree with your summary on the game for young adults however. In addition, I can’t help feel that the extended time it took to write such a lengthy review would of been better served attending to your youths instead of glued to the laptop, but that’s just me. I have 2 boys, grown and out of the house. I can tell you first hand that complete censorship of really doesn’t work. Not that I didn’t try it at some level myself. In the end, they’ll make their own choices regardless of what they’re exposed to.

  2. dan smith says:

    I agree with your review on the viewpoint of a parent. Many people are particular of what their children are subject to at a young age. (My son is 9 and we finally allowed him to see Star Wars. (!) He was non plussed. But Planet of the Apes (1968) freaked him out, so you never can tell. As a homeschooling father, I have found that games like King of Crime can create moments that arouse curiosity about what happened back in that time period. I have played KoC with my son, (when he was 8.) and being evasive about certain aspects of cards/activities that are evident in KoC, my son and I went through and discussed various moments and people from the 1930’s…not just the criminals, but to many figures of entertainment and government as well. The game is fun for those who like aggressive but funny game play, but it does lend itself to dialogue that can be enlightening to the younger folk. I am pleased with your review, it’s honest and mindful of to whom it is targeted. (My box does state it’s for teen audiences…it’s important to me to speak to the correct player for this game.) Thanks, Cyrus.

    • Cyrus says:

      Most welcome, Dan, and thanks again for sending us your game.

      Every parent and child is different, as is the style and philosophy used to raise the geeks of the next generation. And while I would disagree strongly with certain parenting approaches and choices that do not directly benefit or show proactive involvement in the wellbeing of a child, there is nothing to suggest that playing this game with little geeks is harmful. It promotes a large number of geek skills and encourages players to think, not just do. However, every parent needs to review, for themselves, what a game is about before they put the game in front of their children. The same goes for movies, music, television, and sometimes even literature. I will never suggest a parent or guardian censor or remove their child from the big world around them, but there is wisdom in taking an active role in identifying subject matter in any medium and assisting a child in understanding and exploring it. This is especially true when the subject matter at hand suggests violence, sex, or any other “adult theme”. Our Parent Geeks, and I, did not think this game was appropriate for our children for two primary reasons. First, we either felt uncomfortable or didn’t have the time to sit down with our children to explain and further delve into the subject matter the game presented and (2) the Child Geeks that were available to us didn’t show enough interest in the game to suggest that they would fully invest themselves in the game’s learning process.

      Regardless, an entertaining and worthwhile game. And like so many, many, MANY others, I have an opinion that everyone is welcome to agree or disagree with.

Leave a Reply