by Globus the Elder
“Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you, but don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever.” – Michael Corelone
Licensed games are, generally speaking, a trap. In video game circles, they are usually a half-hearted effort that is capitalizing on the release of a particular movie. In board games, much the same can be said.
Take Firefly, for instance. I am a fan of the show, so when a board game was announced, I was all over it. Unfortunately, this board game turned out to be a series of activities, with almost nothing of the show, and player interaction that amounted to waving as you flew by.
So, when I heard about a Godfather board game, I had mixed emotions. We’re talking about THE classic mobster flick; can you spin that into an engaging tabletop adventure?
Well, sort of.
The goal of The Godfather is to have the most money in their Suitcase at the end of the game. A game is divided into four Acts, and each Act into five Phases.
Each player starts with one of five families, which includes a Don, a Consigliere, an Heir, and two or three thugs, depending on the number of players (you start with only the Thugs and the Don in play, the other two figures become available in Acts two and four). They also receive three Money cards, worth $1, $2, and $3, and two Job cards from the Jobs deck (there are also two to four public Jobs placed next to the board during setup), and a metal Suitcase. The first player, determined by either the player who most recently watched The Godfather or randomly, receives the Horse Head token.
In the first phase, a new Business opens. This will be Blue in the first two Acts, or Red in the second two (Blue Businesses may have been added to the board during setup, depending on the number of players). This Business will be added to the Turf with the lowest number with an available spot (the board is divided into seven Turfs, representing a portion of New York City). Businesses are used to acquire resources, such as Illegal Goods (Gun, Blood Money, Booze, Narcotics), Money, or abilities, like taking the Horse Head token, or adding Money to their Suitcase.
The second phase, Family Business, is where the action happens. A player will place a Thug on a business to gain the resources on its Front, place a Family member (Don, Consigliere, or Heir) on a circle between Turfs to gain the resources from the Backs of the businesses in each adjacent Turf, complete a Job (either a public one or one in hand), or play an Ally (cards with special abilities that are acquired later in the Act). Each player gets a single action and then play passes to the left, until each player has played his last figure. Note: when you play your last figure, you are out of the round, even if you could complete Jobs or play Allies.
Shaking Down a Front, or placing a Thug on a business, allows you to gain those resources. In Acts two, three, and four, another player may control that Turf from the previous Act’s Turf War, discussed later. If so, they also get the same resources. Shaking down the Backs, when you place a Family Member, does not cause this to happen.
Completing a Job requires you to create a set of cards, as listed on the Job, which are discarded to achieve the effect listed on the card. This Job is added to your Suitcase for end game scoring. If it is a public Job, it is not replaced until the next Act.
Playing an Ally gives you an effect listed on the Ally card. These are not discarded and are returned to your hand before the Tribute to the Don phase, described later. Some of these allies can act as members of your Family, and have figures to be used as such.
After the last player has placed their last figure, you move to the Turf War phase. In numeric order, each Turf is assessed to determine which Family, if any, has the most Influence in that Turf. Each figure has one Influence, including any Ally figures, which now are a neutral faction. If there is a tie, with other Families or neutrals, no one gets the Turf. If someone does have the most, they add a Control marker to the appropriate position on the Turf, which they control for the next Act. Control markers are not removed. Future players who gain control stack their marker on top of the previous one. The exception is if a player has run out of markers, they may choose a stack to remove one from to place a new one.
Once Turf control has been determined, the players move to the Bribery phase. This is where you acquire Allies. All players may bid to be the first to select an Ally, but their bids must come from inside their Suitcase, not their hand. All bids are spent, and discarded to the appropriate Money piles. The exception is the player who bid the least, as there will always be one fewer Ally than players. That player returns their bid to their Suitcase. Bidding is handled by each player placing their bid in the lid of the Suitcase, hidden from other players, which are revealed simultaneously. The highest bid spends their money, chooses an Ally, then the second highest, and so on. Ties are resolved in play order.
At the end of the Act, players pay Tribute to the Don. Each Act has a hand size that is only resolved at this point. In the first Act, for instance, the hand size is five. Players must discard down to this hand size, out of the Money, Illegal Goods, and Allies they acquired this turn and from previous turns.
Finally, there is an Entr’acte, or cleanup, phase. Remove all the figures from the board, advance the Don Corleone figure to the next Act, acquire any new Family members (in Acts two and four), refill the public Jobs, remove any Allies not chosen, add new Allies from the appropriate Act, and then continue the game (in Act four, there are no Allies, as there is no Bribery phase, as the game ends after that Act).
After Act four, players add their Money cards in hand to their Suitcase, after paying Tribute to the Don. Players then open their Suitcases, and add up all the Money contained therein. Players then receive a Turf Dominance bonus of $5 for each Turf where they have the most markers in the stack (in case of a tie, whoever is closest to the top of the stack wins). Then whichever player has the most Jobs of each color (yellow, blue, green, and grey) gains a $5 bonus. Add these bonuses to your total, and determine the winner (In case of a tie, the player with the most Turf Dominance bonuses is the winner).
This is a CMON/Eric Lang game, so the figures and the art are gorgeous. Each Family Member has a unique sculpt, no of whom would you want to meet in a dark alley. Each Family’s Thugs are the same, but the sculpts differ between families.
Player interaction is heavy, and you really feel the conflict over Turf. Figures who are Gunned Down are sent to the Hudson River, to sleep with the fishes, until the end of the Act.
This is a great game of mobster conflict in New York City, but other than Don Corleone acting as the Act marker, and the Horse Head token, there is no appearance of the license in this game.
This is also a game for more mature audiences, as the themes deal with subject matter that may be objectionable. This should be obvious if you have seen the movies.
Overall, this is a Buy. It’s well balanced, good looking, and has lots of player interaction. Fans of the movie looking for more of that may be disappointed.
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