My parents’ house doubles as the archiving facility for my childhood toy car collection. Among the Porsches and Renaults there is a large brown Buick Regal with a man firing a gun from the back seat. This is Kojak’s car and through the 70s and 80s it policed the living room carpet with sterling assistance from a police Jag. I never watched an episode of Kojak, because it was on too late at night, but a filtering down of clips and comedy skits, (Telly Savalas was even on Top of the Pops!), meant that I had an idea that it was cool.
Greed is is a card drafting game that asks you to establish a corner of crime in a sleazy 1970s city. It is designed by Donald X Vaccarino and plays in 30 minutes with 2 to 5 players. When I heard about it, my thoughts immediately turned to questionable cars, large lapels, guns and booze: could this be the game that recreates the Kojak universe?
Greed is published by Queen Games. Inside a smallish box you will find a stack of cards featuring thugs, locations and actions, money cards and some cardboard dollar chits, (wooden if you went with the Kickstarter). The dollar markers are a little underwhelming. They are a bit awkward to pick up and I plan to replace them with something a little more solid, perhaps glass beads.
I like the money cards, they fit the style of the game, (more than coins would), and work so much better than paper money. The other cards are unique and made to look like part of a little black book that you would use to keep a tally of your ‘business’, a personnel file and newspaper clippings. The portraits of the characters and locations are particularly choice. They bring out the setting of the game perfectly and justify, to me, the extra mile put in by the manufacturer.
Getting this game out onto the table couldn’t be easier. Put out the money and the dollar marks, and deal 12 cards to each player.
Let the greed begin..
Given the name of the game, it is not surprisingly that, the player with the most money, (made up of cash and interests in property), wins.
Let’s start with the simple bit first: You have a hand of 12 cards. Pick one and pass the rest on to the person on your left. If you explained the game well, everyone else will be doing the same and you should have a deck of 11 cards in front of you. When this happens for the third time, everyone plays a card to the table and activates it in order, (each card has a unique number). Play continues like this: draw a card, play a card until the 12 card hands have been used up.
How to play is simple, but any budding gangster knows that making crime pay takes a bit of planning.
There are three types of cards:
- Actions are one off events triggered when played.
- Thugs form your gang and are played to the table. Once in play they may offer resources such as cars, guns and keys, (presumably burglary skills), as well as unique powers.
- Holdings are local businesses that you acquire an interest in. They offer specialisms, (love, booze and hardware), as well as unique abilities. When a holding is played, markers are added to it for each specialist icon on that property, as well as any matching icons on holdings you already have in play. As each marker is worth $10,000 trying to corner the market in a particular type can really pay off when it comes to scoring.
Right from the off you will find yourself skimming through the cards, working out what you want to pick, and what you hope will still be there when the hand comes back around.
A card can be free, have a cost or a need. A cost could be straight cash, alternatively you could find yourself sacrificing a lesser thug or holding that you have in play to pull a bigger card into the action. A need means having the required resource to hand, so pulling off a Museum Heist action needs you to have thugs with guns, cars and burglary skills, (but you probably know that and have the swag bag to prove it).
You have to be flexible to make it to the top of the greasy pole. Winning the game is about seeing the patterns and paths to victory that the cards in your hand and the decks offer. For example playing “Generous” Jenny Jones gives you money, but she will want it back at the end of the game. Forget that! You can sacrifice her to bring in Eugene “The Butcher” Midge. Who you can then use to pull off a string of actions. With 80 cards to play from, no two games are ever going to be the same, but you will come to recognise cards that work well together.
As new cards come into your hand, new opportunities present themselves and your plans shift. Its about opportunism, and a little bit of gambling. Do this right and you will find yourself playing late game cards that swing the game your way, do it wrong and those last cards can’t be played and will end up discarded.
Playing with Three
Greed is definitely not a game to play with children. It has the classic crime themes of booze, vice and criminal activity. Cards with massage parlours and street walkers’ actions do not make for a family game. Fortunately I was able to pull in my, age appropriate, brother in law and his wife to allow me to properly review this for three players. As this game has a drafting mechanic, it works well for three as well as two. Playing with 4 or 5 should be equally fast, unfortunately I have not had the chance to give that a try yet.
How easy is it to teach the game?
The game teaches very easily. Explaining how marks get placed on holdings needs a demonstration to get the concept across, but not much else. Most cards play in a straightforward way, but others have a little bit more complexity, like an effect that happens on the next turn, or relies on others playing a certain sort of card. With Donald X Vaccarino games, I have learnt to take the cards at face value. This means that you can, and should, read the text on the card and do what it says. Whenever I feel a need to check how a card should work on BoardGameGeek, Mr V is there explaining, “Yes, the card works just like the text says it does.”
Can complexity be scaled?
Like a swan, pulling part of it off wouldn’t make it simpler, just messier and angry.
Can you handicap other players? Do you need to?
As the game plays in 30 minutes it seems unnecessary to handicap. If you were feeling generous, perhaps you could offer your opponent a starting pile of cash, ($20,000?), as a gift from a godfather.
How likely is your child to flip the table half way through?
Your child won’t be playing this game. If an adult flipped the table over a 30 minute game, I would probably not ask them to game with me again.
Beyond the game
I appear to have a fair amount of funkalicious music to act as background to playing this game. If you don’t, I highly recommend Austria’s Superfly.FM who are available online and specialise in a stream of late night groovery.
What do I think?
Greed has been the late night hit of autumn and winter. After my son has gone to bed, the lights go down, the music goes on and the cards are dealt.
I like so many aspects of the game, the setting and art work is perfect. It is not complicated to learn, or play. Scoring happens at the end and is quick to do. The pace is spot on: it picks up as fewer cards are left in the deck and the card choice becomes quicker. This means that the last few turns are over in no time at all.
It is a petri dish of crime, allowing you to repeat your criminal experiment over and over again, researching the ultimate combination of cards to create an algae bloom of bad cars, guns, booze and lurve. It’s crazy that a game that last 30 minutes, and allows you to play 10 cards, offers so many decisions and possibilities.
I highly recommend Greed.