Remember those card games you used to play as children; games like Slap Jack and War that would entertain you for hours? War was a favorite card game in my family, and we would spend hours battling each other during family vacations. Gangsterville reminds me of a grown up, more strategic version that old favorite.
In Gangsterville, a town full of “corrupt politicians, snitches, and stoolies”, the crime families need to take control of City Hall to be the best. Each player runs a crime family of Capos, muscle, and wiseguys in this 2-4 player card game.
Components / Set Up
There are a lot of components contained in this small box. There are 5 player standees (these need to be assembled), 8 double-sided building tiles, money bag counters, 18 city limit pieces, goon / jail counters, 1 die, a cloth bag, and a deck mat. There are four types of cards in the 64 card deck: the black Capo cards, red Muscle cards, blue Wiseguy cards, and green leverage cards.
The symbols on the cards have different meanings.
Snitch – sends a card to the bottom of the deck
Lookout – the eyes “lookout” symbol adds the next card strength value during a turf war
Money Bag – the money bag/ bagman symbol is used to buy off players during a turf war
Goon – the brass knuckles are the goon symbol and these send a card out of play
Gun – cards with the gun symbol win almost all battles against muscle and wiseguy cards.
Skull – cards with the skull symbol only win against a gun symbol
Home Turf – gives the player with the same color and advantage during Turf Wars; the Capo wins every battle regardless of their strength.
How the game is set-up depends on the number of players. Two player games use eight tiles, three players use six tiles, and four players use five tiles. The cloth bag is used to draw random pieces during set-up, place the tiles in the bag and randomly draw the needed number. Once pulled, roll the die to determine which side of the tile to use. The number is in the upper right corner of the tile and matches the die outcome. Place the start tile on the table below the first tile chosen.
Remove the unused tiles and start the creating the City Limits. There are two types of city limits, Home Turf /Extra Muscle or Leverage / Money. The Home Turf/ Extra Muscle will have a colored Home Turf sign with an extra muscle or blank reverse side. The Leverage / Money will have a Leverage Icon or 0, 1, or 2 bags of money. Separate the city limits into piles of like shapes. Place the Home Turf / Extra Muscle pieces into the cloth bag and randomly draw one of the pieces and attach them to the right-hand side of the first building tile. Place the Home Turf / Extra Muscle on the same side until all buildings have one tile. Remove any unused tiles and replace them with the Leverage / Money tiles and place them the same way.
After the game board is set-up, fill out the money rewards, placing the appropriate number of bags according to the tiles. If the Bank tile is on the board, it gets three money bags. During play, the first gang to reach a tile is rewarded the money.
Now players will determine which gang they will play. Place the gang tokens in the bag and each player pulls one token until each player has a gang. Place the extra standee and tokens out of play.
After choosing gangs prepare the cards and player hands. Separate the cards into four piles sorted by card type. The sorted cards should be shuffled and placed face down on their space on the deck mat. Deal each player seven cards, one green leverage card, one black Capo card, two red muscle cards, and three blue wise-guy cards. This hand will change throughout the game, but the distribution must remain the same. Players should also start with one money bag, one goon token, and one jail token.
Each player may have only one Leverage card at a time, but players can buy replacements and pay to exchange their Leverage cards. To purchase a leverage card players must be on a building space that has a Leverage City limits symbol. When this is the case, the player may choose to use a money bag to buy/ replace their card. Once a Leverage card is played, remove it from the game.
During each turn, players have a choice of one of three options. They may recruit a gang member, make someone an offer they can’t refuse, or start a turf war.
Recruit a Gang Member – To recruit a gang member, players choose one card and place it face down on the bottom of the appropriate deck then draw the top card of the deck.
Make Someone an Offer They Can’t Refuse – A player may choose one of their Gang cards and give it face down to any other playing, saying “I’m making you an offer you can’t refuse.” The other player must return a like color card, they cannot return the offered card.
Start a Turf War – The last option a player may choose is to call a turf war. Each player in the turf war then organizes their gang into a single deck and place it face down on the table. Now, players turn over their cards one at a time. Players compare the strength value of their cards, most of the time the highest strength scores a hit, but there are some exceptions. If a hit is scored, that Gangster card stays face-up. Otherwise, it is placed face-down.
One exception to the highest strength winning is when a Capo goes against a Muscle or Wiseguy. Score no hit regardless of the strength value. If the Capo is on Home Turf, it will always score a hit. When a Capo goes against another Capo, the highest strength scores a hit. Sara Bellum is a special card that scores a hit against Tommy Turtle and on any Capo regardless of their Strength. Tommy Turtle is another special card that scores a hit on Gangsters with Gun Symbols. Otherwise, gangsters with gun symbols score a hit on all Muscle and Wiseguy cards.
Some cards have special abilities during turf wars. A Lookout Card calls for help, by allowing the player to turn over the next card in their deck. They may add the strength value of their that card to score a hit. After the battle, the Lookout Card is removed / scored, and the additional flipped card stays in play for the next battle to compare to the opponents next Gangster.
The Bagman gangsters can “payoff” other players during a Turf War. A player may choose to give their opponent a money bag marker to win the hit if their card has the bagman. This can be used against any other player except another bagman.
A Snitch will cause the other player’s gangster to go to jail at the end of the turf war. Place cards sent to jail under a Jail token until the end of the Turf War. Place Gangsters sent to jail on the bottom of their decks and the player draws new cards to replace them. Snitches that face each other both go to jail.
Goon cards with the brass knuckle symbol cause other player’s gangsters to be knocked out. Put Gooned Gangster cards under the Goon token until the end of the Turf War. Discard Gooned cards at the end of the turf war and draw new card(s) to replace them. If a deck ever becomes depleted because of a number of cards being Gooned, bring the cards back into play by shuffling the cards and placing them in a new deck face-down.
Cal Apone has a gun icon and no strength value. He wins against any Muscle or Wiseguy card; though he does lose to Tommy Turtle. Tommy Turtle has a skull and no strength value; he loses against any muscle or wiseguy cards except for Cal Apone.
Winning a Turf War / Scoring
Remember, any time a player scores a hit, that card remains face-up while the loser is placed face-down. The player with the most face-up cards at the end of a Turf War wins. The winner moves their Gang ahead one building tile, toward City Hall. If there is a tie, no one moves. Play continues as such until one Boss reaches City Hall and takes over Gangsterville.
Gangsterville brings me back to my childhood with its War style gameplay. The added strategy is something I appreciate as a gamer.
Component quality is excellent, with a few exceptions. The board pieces and player standees are outstanding. Those who have played Sergeants Miniatures Game or Sergeants D-Day will be familiar with the material used in Gangsterville. As a warning, you will need to punch out and assemble the player standees. There is a coating of residue from the laser cutting, and you will also need to wipe down the pieces. I used an old cotton t-shirt to wipe the sides, and it’s ready to play in a few minutes. The cards are made to last with a thick coating that will hold up to gameplay. Durability is essential because the cards are passed back and forth and handled a lot during the game. The graphic design is clear and easy to see.
The artwork is cartoony and full of humor; there will be a few chuckles over the character names and references. A lot of people will appreciate these jokes.
The bag is not the greatest, yet it is functional. I rarely like bags that come with games, and often replace them. I think you will need a bit bigger bag to fit all the game pieces during set-up of the game. All eight tiles fit for a two-player game, but it is a tight squeeze. The box is also functional but missing the designers name, gameplay time, and the number of players. It also doesn’t close tightly so be careful when you transport the game.
I love the modular board and the flexibility and replay value it provides. The double-sided pieces add to this as well. There are so many different combinations you could use to set-up the game. The random board set up means no two games will be alike; providing a lot of replay value. For a two-player game, we felt the ‘Around the Block’ set up is a better choice than the straight line set up. The random set up also means that players may or may not have a home turf, some cards may or may not be as useful, and some players may have an advantage or a disadvantage. With a straight line set up, one player may get a quick advantage. The ‘Around the Block’ set up allows players to follow different paths and possibilities, providing players with more meaningful and differing decisions and choices. Adding a tile to the side of a straight line also gives players more options.
The rule book is short and easy to read but left us with a few questions. During the game, we went back to the book quite a few times to remind us of what the symbols meant. There also isn’t a player aide on the back of the book; instead it is just blank. It would have been helpful to have a player aide so we could look up the symbols without having to go to the book and give away our hand. The card holder does have the symbols with the title, but there is no summary to remind you what the symbols mean.
The game takes the simple, classic mechanics of war and adds a lot of strategy and choices. On your turn, you can decide to make an offer your opponent can’t refuse, exchange cards, or start a turf war. Throughout the game, as players have turf wars, you gather information about your opponent’s hand that help you make your decisions. Gathering this hidden information is is an enjoyable aspect of gameplay. Being able to choose your card order during a turf war and outguess your opponent is also going to appeal to some players. A little bit of bluffing and smart play may enable a player with a weaker hand to beat the stronger player. Also, if you don’t win you may be able to take out a player’s high card.
Having trump cards and trumps to trump cards is another pleasing part of Gangsterville. Players will need to have a perfect hand for cards like Tommy Turtle to take out Cal Apone. Leverage cards give players a bit of an “ace in the hole.” When used at the right time, they can help you win a turf war, or at least not lose a good card. They add an intriguing twist to the game, even if we found they are hard to replace once you lose one.
While it may change with player count and a different board set-up, we did find that there was the potential for a runaway leader problem with a two-player game. The person who won the first turf war was able to pull ahead and get all the money bags and bonuses, leaving little for the second player. I lost quite a few times in a row and half way through the game knew there was little chance I could pull out a victory. I would recommend using the ‘Around the Block’ set up of tiles, suggested in the rule book, for two player games.
Gangsterville isn’t for everyone, but the theme, humor, outstanding components, and classic mechanisms with added strategy will be a draw for many. The variable set-up and modular board add a lot of replay value. It’s worth a look to find out if you can be the top Capo and control City Hall.
Designers: Neal Schlaffer
Artists: Becky Siebe and Alex Wilcox
Publishers: Daring Play
Game Length: 45 minutes
Ages: 8 and up
I received a review copy of this game.