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It is the time of the speakeasy and bath tub gin... It is the time of the BOOTLEGGERS!
In Bootleggers, players will find themselves slipping into a very thematic experience as they produce and sell moonshine in the early twentieth century. Using a vast array of plastic gangsters and trucks, players must attempt to use their muscle cards to take the best action cards and control the speakeasies. With treachery, backstabbing, alliances, and more Bootleggers forces players to use their resources wisely. It's a good thing to produce a lot of moonshine at the distilleries; but too much will bring the police down on your business, and hired thugs might steal your trucks or worse! Bootleggers is a combination of good mechanics with a healthy dose of American theme for a fun, rewarding experience.
Players: 3 - 6
Est. time to learn: 30+ minutes
Weight: 1,884 grams
All-Time Sales Rank: #186
Language Requirements: This is a domestic item. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. Game components are printed in English.
- 1 game board
- 6 family still mini-boards
- 6 remote still locations mini-boards
- 1 cop miniature
- 12 speakeasy improvement markers
- 12 small trucks
- 5 medium trucks
- 3 large trucks
- 120 influence markers
- 80 men of action cards
- 14 truck cards
- 72 muscle cards
- 70 whiskey bottles (cubes)
- play money
- 25 dice
Average Rating: 4.1 in 12 reviews
We played our first game of Bootleggers this week with 5 players. Our group tends to favor Eurogames such as Agricola, Puerto Rico, Power Grid, Stone Age, etc., so there were doubts going in because of the amount of dice involved. But after only two rounds (of 12), we were all in agreement that this is an underrated game, and a very, very good game in almost every way.
First off, the game looks spectacular! The board artwork gives it a 3-D appearance.
You also see the incredible amount of components included, and all are very high quality. This is not a game that just uses cubes and cardboard markers, but it has authentic '20s style trucks and 120 colorful miniature mobster figures (aka Influence Markers). The trucks are actually functional too, where you literally load them with crates of whiskey. As simple as this might sound, it's really very cool and helps create part of the atmosphere of the game.
The atmosphere or theme bleeds through this game like almost no other. Nearly all games have a theme, but once you start playing you often disregard the theme and concentrate on the mechanics. Not with Bootleggers. Every action seems to fit what mobsters would do, and it all meshes together where muscle rules, but that power is always tenuous at best because of lurking double crosses, hits, hijacks, extortion, turf wars, and all-out mob war.
The theme is one thing, and it envelopes everything in the game, but the real soul of this game is the interaction among the players. Many games, even great ones like Agricola or Race for the Galaxy, are essentially solitaire games played by a group of people at the same time -- everyone minds their own assets for the most part and leaves the other players alone. Bootleggers is the opposite. The game is designed to advance your own cause by screwing the other players. The rule book encourages it, and the THUG cards ensure it. Open negotiation is part of the game, and aside from Influence Markers, which cannot be sold or traded, everything else is within the rules -- cash deals, extortion, threats ("I promise not to use the 'HIT' card on you, if you sell all your whiskey Barleycorn's"), IOUs, and even reneging on previous promises are all legal. Hey, you're mobsters!
Beneath the theme and interaction is really a superior supply chain management game. You produce illegal alcohol in your family and remote stills, load your trucks with the moonshie, and deliver it to the Speakeasy docks. If you don't have enough capacity in your stills, your trucks go empty. If you don't have enough trucks, your whiskey never leaves your stills. And if you don't have influence at the Speakeasies, your shipments either get dumped in the alley, or sold at half the usual price to the corrupt cop at O'Malley's. Whoever is able to best balance these three aspects, while avoiding rubouts, hijacks, sabotage, and extortion, will gain the most money and win the game.
The game also has several clever mechanisms for achieving balance. First, if you do happen to have a lucky dice roll on your still, the copper's attention is attracted and he can possibly shut you down for a round. Second, at the ends of rounds 4 and 8, the players all reveal their cash and whoever has the lowest amount gets a bonus Influence Marker. Also, there is no elimination in this game. If a player does totally run out of cash, he can continue to play without paying the normal payroll and graft fees required at the start of each turn, without penalty.
As far as the randomness of the dice, yes it does exist. Over the course of the game, the lucky and unlucky rolls should average out. From what we saw in our game, good strategy mitigates the luck of the dice. What is possible is a wild ending, which is exactly what we saw in our first game - the player in last place at the end of Round 8 won our game, and won it easily. It happened like this:
At the end of Round 8 when we all revealed our cash, I had a little over 80G as did another player, while the other three players were between 30G and 50G. The first to amass 100G wins the game, so I played the "Bust a Shipment" and "Mob War" THUG cards on the other player with 80G to take him down, while the other players used "Turf War" and "Hit" on me to hurt my chances. Meanwhile, the guy with 30G set a plot in motion, where he started building influence in the Real McCoy, the largest (and most profitable) Speakeasy in the 5-player game. Within two rounds, the Real McCoy opened for business as other players placed Influence Markers in it. In Round 11, the formerly last-place player played his two trump cards, the "Hey, Free Truck" and "The Big Payoff" THUG cards.
After acquiring the extra truck via the "Hey, Free Truck" card (ironically stealing a truck from the player who sold him the card earlier!), he produced 14 crates of 'shine, and then played the "Big Payoff" card to gain Controlling Influence at the Real McCoy. This Speakeasy pays 3G wholesale plus 2G profit per crate (compared to 2G/1G for the other speakeasies), so he was set to earn 5G each for the crates loaded on his truck. The Real McCoy has 4 dice determining how much it would consume, and he rolled a 15 - guaranteeing the sale of his entire 14- crate shipment for 70G - pushing his game-winning total to 120G. It was the wildest and most unlikely finish I've seen in any game, and yet it wasn't luck - he just played it to perfection!
I posted another review on BoardGameGeek that has additional information and replies from other users here:
After just one game, we are all sold on Bootleggers. It's fun, the turns go quickly, there is plenty of back-and-forth interaction, and fortunes can turn quickly making it unpredictable and keeping players in the game throughout. It gets my highest recommendation!
I recently played with this game with 6 players and found it to be a huge amount of fun.
Lets my start with the CONS:
* Luck does play a part in this game, so die hard strategy fans might find it less enjoyable. Personally, I enjoy a bit of randomness, so this really is a con for me.
* After playing it once, it seems that some of the cards might be stronger than others, and could potentially swing a games outcome. This might not be as much of an issue after several plays, as players would understand the relative strength of the cards and could plan accordingly.
Now the PROs:
* Theme is unique and fun. Having trucks and running 'shine....that has fun all over it.
* The deal making and posturing of players is absolutely the highlight of this game.
* The components very nice, but not up to the Fantasy Flight Games\Days Of Wonder level. A few improvements could be made.
* The game has very good mechanics which are balanced and provide players with a variety of options every turn.
* Another plus is that fact that there is very little downtime between turns for players. Even playing with 6 players, there was not huge amounts of time spent waiting for other players to complete their turn.
If you can get past the fact that luck can and will impact the game and you enjoy games that players can directly effect other players (many designer games don't allow as much direct interaction between players), this game is a blast.
Players select (via a brilliant Muscle Card bidding process) either a truck for shipping or various types of action cards. You can focus on mass production and sell what you can't ship to other players. You can hog up all the trucks and force players to sell to you. You can get into blood feuds with other players over the most lucrative establishments. Or, you can fly under the radar and focus on the less profitable speakeasies to avoid multiple rivals. I have not seen a game that warrents this much player negotiation since Settlers of Catan. There is a nice mechanism that give a little reinforcements to whoever is in last place. The game encourages you to make promises to deals to players and also gives you a pat on the back to double crossing other players, wich really gets your heart pumping when you make a deal. YOU CAN'T TRUST ANYONE!!!! Very exciting an replayable.
This game has definatly increased my optimism in the direction that Eagle Games is heading. (EURO mechanics oozing with american theme)
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