CHICAGO - Reviewed by Mike
There are numerous games on the market which relate to the gangsters theme(Family Business, The Mob, Vendetta to name but a few) so is there need for another one ? In the case of CHICAGO I think there is and by means of this review I hope to make Sumo readers aware of its merits. So it's on with the black shirt, white tie, zoot suit....now where's that violin case ?
These are of a reasonably high standard, consisting of : -
- a large gameboard representing a town with a central square around which there are 4 separate districts - 120 counters in 4 colours, 30 of each - 80 headless pieces in same 4 colours, 20 of each - 120 heads distributed thus : 40 blue; 40 green; 20 red; 20 yellow - 6 D6 in specific colours, as follows : 3 blue dice for movement, values 1,2,3,4,5,6 1 green conflict dice, values 3,3,4,4,5,6 1 red conflict dice, values 4,4,5,5,6,6 1 yellow conflict dice, values 5,5,5,6,6,6 - Flying Turtle 'money' in 4 denominations(aka F.T.)
Within each of the 4 districts there is 1 casino and 22 bars and 2 of these bars are facing the central square. There are various revenues associated with ownership of these establish- ments which are shown on the board, these being : Casino = 20 Bars = 3 @ 5 each; 2 @ 4 each; 3 @ 3 each; 6 @ 2 each; 8 @ 1 each. Each district is served by a network of roads giving access(sometimes more than one) to the bars and casinos. There are also 2 roads which cross the board from one side to the other via the important central 'square'(more of which later). These 2 roads serve to define the 4 dis- tricts and, significantly, they are the only roads which lead to the out- side of the board(again see later). Finally there is a turn track on the outside of the board which denotes the 6 turns that make up each phase of play, which consists of 4 phases in total, hence a maximum of 24 turns in a complete game.
The power and worth of each gang member is denoted by the colour of the head that is placed upon its body. - Blue is the weakest at 10000 F.T. each - Green is next at 25000 F.T. each - Red heads come next at 40000 F.T. ( no smutty thoughts please !!) - Yellow heads are the strongest at 50000 F.T. Blue and Green heads can be bought at the start of each phase ( i.e. 4 times in the game) for subsequent attachment to a body. Red and Yellow heads can only be won in conflict ( see later). The 3 Blue movement dice are used by each player every turn. The other 3 coloured dice are only used to resolve conflict, the colour of the head denoting which colour dice is to be thrown for each piece. The counters are used to denote ownership of each bar or casino and 1 counter is used to denote progress on the turn track.
Players compete to own bars and casinos in the various districts by using the movement dice to move their pieces into unoccupied ones or into those occupied by another gang, in which case combat occurs which is resolved using the conflict dice.
There are 4 ways in which victory can be achieved : - 1) ownership of 3 of the 4 casinos 2) ownership of all the 8 bars that face the central square 3) having 5 yellow-headed gang members 4) if none of the above conditions have been met by the end of the final phase (24 turns) the winner is the richest player, calculated by summing the value of bars and casinos, heads and cash in hand.
This variable game end was one of the strongest features of the game for me, as you had to constantly keep a watch on how close the other players were to achieving their objective whilst you concentrated on yours ! In fact in one game I was so engrossed in trying to position my pieces to attack the remaining 2 bars in the central square( I already controlled 6) that I didn't see one opponent craftily obtain control of 2 casinos and then launch an attack on the third, which he succeeded after a close battle.
Initial Set Up :
The starting player is determined by throwing all 3 Blue movement dice, highest total starts. Each player selects the colour of his 'gang' and receives the 20 headless pieces, the 30 counters, 50,000 F.T. and 1 yellow head.
Each player places a counter on turn 1 of phase A. They then decide how to spend their initial starting capital of 50000 F.T., e.g. 5 Blues heads at 10000 each or 2 Green heads at 25000 each or 2 blues and 1 green, keeping 5000 back for the next phase. (NOTE: Here we made a house rule that each player wrote down their selection 'secretly' on a piece of pa- per so that other players could not react to what the previous player had done).
Players reveal their choice, pay for the heads and place them in front of them, they do not have to place them on bodies immediately, only when they wish to use them for movement.
Each player chooses a starting corner of the board and places their first piece(with a head attached) in the bar there. He places a counter to de- note ownership of that bar.
Normal Turn :
The player throws the 3 movement dice to obtain a total for that turn which he can use to move one or more pieces that have heads via the roads system to anywhere on the board. On entry to an unoccupied bar or casino the player places a counter to denote that he has visited that establish- ment and that he currently owns it; after doing so he may move his piece to other bars, using up the full allocation of movement points.
Entry counts as one movement point and exit counts as 1 also. The only exception to this rule is when the casino is occupied; because of its im- portance a playing piece must be left in there to denote ownership.
Any new piece introduced to play can start off their movement at any bar or casino that the player has placed a counter. By using this method players can quite quickly manage to obtain ownership of bars near the centre of the board which earn a higher revenue.
You will recall that each phase consists of 6 turns. At the end of turn 6 revenue is paid according to the summed value of the establishments they own. However there are 2 special cases to consider as part of your short-term objective : - - if the player owns ALL 8 of the bars valued '1' IN A DISTRICT, the value is tripled to 24000 F.T. - if the player owns ALL 6 of the bars valued '2' IN A DISTRICT, the value is tripled to 36000 F.T.
This leads to some tricky decisions as to how to use up your movement points as the bars of the same value are craftily located on the board. On turn 6 you think you've achieved this aim when another player moves one of his pieces into 'your' bar and simply takes it over and as you no longer have the complete set the hoped-for revenue is drastically re- duced.
At this point I should also draw attention to the use of the 2 roads that traverse the board and lead to the outside of the board. If a player opts to use one of these roads he can re-enter the board by one of the other roads, which can lead to a surprise 'raid' on your territory, so you have to keep your eyes peeled.
It's about time that I described this aspect of the game, which is noth- ing extraordinary, but it does provide excitement, not only for the par- ticipants but also for the non-combatants, who have an interest in the outcome as a weakened opponent could become a target for them next turn !
Conflict occurs whenever one piece encounters another anywhere on the board, in the road, in bars or in casinos.
It is resolved by each player throwing the dice which relates to the col- our of their head and highest wins. The loser is eliminated and the head returned to the bank. To the winner however there are 2 benefits : - - he immediately receives F.T. equivalent to the value of the head it has just defeated - the head of his winning piece goes up one level directly above it.
By studying the relevant ranking under 'PIECES' above it can be seen that a Red head defeating a Blue head would receive 10000 F.T. and move up to a Yellow head, making it even more powerful. If the die rolls result in a tie each piece reduces its head by one level and a further battle is fought using different dice this time. If a Blue head is involved in a tie it is eliminated BUT the victor does NOT re- ceive the 10000 F.T. in this instance. This is where the non-combatants have an interest in drawn battles as it weakens both sides, so they should egg on the underdog to prolong the battle and repel the aggressor.
You will remember that one of the victory conditions is to have 5 yellow-headed pieces so it doesn't take a genius to work out that one game strategy might be to buy Green heads and send them into battle to get them elevated to Red heads and then Yellow heads but it's amazing how often the die rolls don't work out that way.
END OF PHASE
When all players have completed 6 turns the value of their bars and casi- nos are totalled and I suggest that this should be checked by another player before the revenue is allocated as it can be quite fiddly if a player is spread all around the board. In later phases revenue can run to over 100,000 F.T. so it's important to get it right. Players then purchase Blue and Green heads as they wish for use during the next Phase of 6 turns.
END OF GAMEThis happens when one player achieves one of the Game Objectives de- scribed above, nuff said.
TACTICSYou could go for a lot of Blue headed pieces which means that you could occupy lots of bars but they become easy prey to a more powerful piece. If you opt for purchasing Green heads you won't be able to afford more than 2 in the first phase so you won't have enough pieces to visit all the bars and casinos unless you throw exceptionally high movement dice. Occupy your casino late in the phase as it must have a piece in it. Sounds easy doesn't it ?... but I finished turn 5 with my Green head just 6 spaces from the casino and then threw 2,2,1 on the blue movement dice ! .....disaster, loss of 20000 F.T. in revenue for the next phase.
SUMMARYThere's a lot of interaction in CHICAGO, players having to constantly ad- just their planned moves as a result of the previous player's turn. You always seem to be 'watching your back' to make sure that someone isn't trying a sneaky raid to undermine your effort. Purists could certainly lay claim that luck on the die rolls plays too great a part but to me this adds to the flavour of the game and it is also possible to make a comeback from a series of bad throws, given the law of averages. We found that at just over 2 hours the game seemed to pass quickly as there was always something of interest going on, especially when battles were taking place. The game looks good, the rules are fairly straight- forward and easy to explain, so you can start playing quickly, and it was received favourably by my group here. My copy of the rules are dated 1986 so I don't know if CHICAGO is still generally available. If you do find someone with a copy, make them an of- fer they can't refuse !