Gangsters, Gun Molls & G-men

Designed by Eric James Olsrud
Published by Magics & Tactics Unlimited
Reviewed by Stuart Dagger

2-5 players
45 minutes

About fifteen years ago a friend of mine ran a games shop here in Aberdeen and a weekly visit was part of my routine, supposedly for a chat but in reality for an inhale. It was from one of these visits that I one day emerged clutching a game called Family Business. "I don't know anything about it", Jim had said, "but I am sure you'll enjoy it". And curiously enough we did. So much so, in fact, that some years later I bought a second copy because the first was in danger of wearing out. I bought this game in the hope that lightning would strike twice and we'd get another gangster-based card game to give us as much knockabout fun as that one did. It hasn't and it won't, but though the game isn't great, it's not bad either, and if you can steer your gaze past the fact that &163;15 is a lot to pay for what you get, GG&G is at least worth considering.

The box contains a deck of cards of playing card size and quality, each of which represents a gangster from the Bonnie and Clyde era of the thirties; a set of smaller 'action cards'; a couple of sheets of 'loot chits', which you have to cut out for yourself; and a set of rules. The gangster cards are crudely illustrated, but the information on them is clearly laid out and so they are easy to use. The rules are painstakingly explained in a style that even Paul Gascoigne could understand. In his less emotional moments, at least. I note that Mr Olsrud comes from Minnesota and after reading through all his explanations I came to the conclusion that the St Olaf jokes in the old television series The Golden Girls have a solid basis in fact.

The idea of the game is that you are a small gang of bank robbers and the object is to be the first to amass a pre-set amount of loot. At the start you are dealt five gangster cards and select two of them as the starter members of your gang. On subsequent turns your gang will grow, up to a maximum of five, by a combination of drawing cards from the deck, busting criminals out of jail and poaching from other players. You will also acquire from the action card deck an assortment of robbery opportunities and tactical cards.

Some of the gangsters are special (leaders or gun-molls) and all are rated for cunning, charm and combat. Each also carries a letter either them assigning to one of six historical gangs or branding them a lone wolf. If you can assemble a gang containing no lone wolves and at least three members from one gang, your effectiveness at carrying out robberies is increased and your victory target is lowered.

Your turn begins by drawing gangster and/or action cards. The number you draw and the choices you have are boosted by the presence in your gang of leaders and gun-molls. Some action cards, such as cop raids or FBI stings, have to be played immediately; others, such as getaway cars and robbery opportunities, can be saved. Next you have the options of trying to recruit a gangster from another gang and trying to release one of those currently in gaol. This is handled by dice rolls (dice, incidentally, that you have to supply yourself). Legitimate recruitment targets from either gangs are lone wolves and gangsters carrying the same letter as one of your leaders. Recruitment attempts carry no risk; gaol breaks do. You can pass on both. Kidnappings and bank robberies come next. To attempt one of these you play the appropriate action card from your hand. This will tell you how many dice to roll (2-4), which of the combined ratings for your gang you have to compare the total with and how many loot chits you draw if you are successful. Loot chits either supply you with money or give a rating boost to one of your gangsters. After that it is a case of discarding surplus action cards, counting your money to see if you have won and letting the next player have a turn.

As you can imagine, the winner will be the person who has been luckiest with the card draws and the dice rolls, but while fate is sorting this out, the poaching opportunities and the tactical cards ensure that there is a fair amount of entertaining interaction between the players. It is not a game that we are going to wear out, but it's fun and it will get played.

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell