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!
- For ages 12 and up
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 20 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Not tested (assumed easy)
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Lead your family and various unsavory hired thugs to grab control of the criminal underworld
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek rejected!
- Child Geek untested!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
These cards represent the different schemes, deals, and other various underworld activities the player’s Family can attempt to control. The Rackets 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.