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Family Business
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Store:  Family Games, Card Games
Edition:  Family Business
Theme:  Crime
Genre:  Beer & Pretzels
Format:  Card Games

Family Business

List Price: $15.00
Your Price: $13.50
(10% savings!)
(Worth 1,350 Funagain Points!)

This item is In Stock []

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 45 minutes 2-6

Manufacturer(s): Mayfair Games

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Product Description

Be the boss in this fast-paced card game of survival on the mean streets. Family Business pits mobsters against each other -- all working to make sure theirs is the last family standing!

Your gang members get placed on the Hit List. Can your "Family Influence" save them? Will they "Take it on the Lam", seek "Police Protection", or perhaps up the ante with a "Double Contract"?

Family Business is fast, furious, and fun! Your goal is survival! What's in the cards for your game?

Product Information

  • Manufacturer(s): Mayfair Games

  • Year: 2008

  • Players: 2 - 6

  • Time: 45 minutes

  • Ages: 8 and up

  • Weight: 333 grams

  • Language Requirements: This is a domestic item. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. Game components are printed in English.


  • 56 action cards
  • 54 mobster cards
  • R.I.P. card tray
  • simple rules

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3.9 in 21 reviews

Sort reviews by:

June 27, 2003

it was one of the best, most interesting games i have played. it's even more fun when you talk in a gansta or italian voice. i played it with all my friends on a houseboat in sacramento, ca. it kept us awake all night because we couldnt stop playing. it's the best!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
The Greatest Game Ever!
July 06, 2002

this strategy filled game, is a blast to play with as little as two and up to eight people, although you may get mad at people for trying to kill you, it's just a game. And you may be able to get some revenge the next game. My family went on vacation on a nice lake to go jet skiing and tubin, and wake boarding, and we played this 45 to an hour long game about three times a day every day for a week.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Rocco
A Quick, Fun Game!
June 03, 2001

I found this game to be an easy, quick, fun game to play to get the gaming night started. I don't believe it was meant to be played for hours on end, but it is great fun to 'rub out' your friends on the 'hit list.' Doesn't have the deep strategy of a game like Acquire, but it wasn't designed to be a heavy strategy game. This game is well worth the price I paid for it, and we play it often. Lots of fun!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
December 08, 2000

It's a very fun and exciting game that you can play with all your friends. I had never heard of the game until I went over to my friend's house and he taught us how to play, and now as I want a copy for myself it's very hard to find.

If you get too good at the game other mobs will team up and make sure that you don't win. It's a great game for the entire family.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Andre
A near perfect game!
June 29, 2000

I originally played this nearly a decade ago, and have been looking for it ever since. The game is based on 20s mob families. The object is to 'rub out' the other families. After recently purchasing the game and comparing it to a friend's original the biggest difference is the playing board--a brick wall with 'Family Business' written at one end in the original--the board was a higher quality. The rest of the game has changed little, especially the hours of enjoyment.

I will agree with one of the other people that have reviewed this game, the game does rely fairly heavily on chance--but don't most boardgames? Any game that depends on the drawing of cards (like Family Business) or the roll of dice is a game of chance. I do disagree about there being no strategy to the game. With its combination of attack cards and counter & rescue cards there is a definite need to use strategy. Is the game as deep as Axis and Allies or any other game from Avalon Hill game--NO!, but is it trying to be--NO!. Moreover, because of the simplicity and sheer enjoyment of the game I think this may be the perfect family/party game.

While a game like Family Business with its violent overtones my not seem like an ideal family game; because of the incredible simplicity of the game and the fact that it is just a static boardgame, unlike PC or console games, I whole heartily recommend this game for anyone looking for a game to play with their children or even grandma or grandpa (The game is recommended for players 8 and up) and because of the violent overtones your teens will enjoy it like I did nearly a decade ago.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Hours and Hours of Cut-Throat Fun
January 09, 2000

This is our favorite game. Every time we have a party this game comes out sooner or later, even when we have planned not to play it. Several friends have borrowed it for when their families have come into town--it's FANTASTIC.

Our house rule is that Hymie must die first, always. It's completely unfair to the person who drew his gang, but that's the way we play it. Everyone loves the game.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Great fun
May 16, 2006

The first couple games you'll be handing the rules back and forth to remember what each card does, but once you remember whats what, the game plays well. The elements of set-up (as you add criminals to the hit list of cards soon to be killed) and action (once mob war stars) keep the game interesting and theres the right amount of cards that allow everything to chance--but not so much that strategy is useless.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Strategy? Mabye a little. Fun? A lot!
March 25, 2006

Today, Bang! has acquired a rather large following and for good reason; it's a fun, light card game, which pits players against one another. But long before Bang! came Family Business (Mayfair Games, 1989 - David Bromley), a game that is often considered a definitive example of the "take that" genre. It's amazing that a game that is over fifteen years old still has the popularity of Family Business, and Mayfair has produced a new spiffy 2006 edition, so that folk uninitiated into the game have a chance to try it out.

On one of our DiceTower podcasts, I mention how "take that" (games in which you play good effects on yourself, bad effects on others) are slowly falling in favor for me, as the lack of strategy in them often isn't replaced by fun. But Family Business, despite a few quirks, just has the theme, fun, and entertainment value to keep it fresh and enjoyable. Every time I've played the game, people have had fun, and some of my teens are constantly requesting it, simply because of the fun they have when playing it. And that's my opinion of the game - not strategic, not a lot of depth, some player problems, but fun interlaced throughout.

Up to six players can play, and each is given a "family" of nine mobster cards, which they place face up in front of them. A deck of fifty-four action cards is shuffled, and five are dealt to each player. The rest are placed as a draw pile on the table, next to the box, which is a double discard pile - also known as "the wall". During the game, mobsters will be placed on the "hit list", with each mobster being added being placed in a line starting away from the wall. Mobsters closest to the wall are in the biggest danger. The dealer takes the first turn, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.

On a player's turn, they simply draw one card and then play (or discard) a card. The cards that can be played include:
-Contract card - this card allows a player to choose a mobster of another player and place it on the hit list. A player can cancel a contract card with either a "Family Influence" card or a "Mob Power", although some contract cards specifically forbid the playing of either or both of these cards.
- Priority contracts - these contracts place the target mobster at the front of the line.
- Double contracts - same as an ordinary contract, but put two mobsters on the line. If a player plays a Family Influence or Mob Power, they can only save one mobster.
- Take it on the Lam - these cards allow a player to remove one of their mobsters from the hit list. Another player can play the Finger card to cancel these.
- Hit - allows a player to kill another mobster, placing it in the dead pile, but they must add one of their mobsters to the hit list.
- Substitution - allows a player to replace a mobster on the hit lists with any other mobster in play.
- St. Valentine's Day Massacre - kills all mobsters on the hit list.
- Federal Crackdown - removes all mobsters from the hit list.
- When playing a Family Business card against a contract, a player simply cancels the card. But when playing a Mob Power card, the attacking player must place one of theirs instead!
- There are several other cards, with various effects.

Whenever there are six or more mobsters on the hit list, six or fewer mobsters in the game, or one of three different cards is played, a "Mob War" begins. During a Mob War, play proceeds as normal; but at the beginning of each player's turn, before they do anything, they must kill the first mobster on the hit list, discarding it, and moving all the remaining mobsters up one place in line. Two cards cause the Mob War to happen at double rate, which means that two mobsters are killed each turn. A Mob War continues until either all the mobsters are dead, or one player plays the "Truce" card.

When a player has all of their mobsters eliminated, they are out of the game, discarding all of their cards. The last player with mobsters alive is the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: My previous version of Mayfair was the original game, which had silhouette graphics, which just were a bit jarring to play with. However, the new version has some cartoonish artwork, adding to the theme of the game - and more importantly, changes the artwork on the mobster cards. In the previous version, each mobster card was identical, except the name of a famous lawbreaker. In the 2006 version, a pixilated version of an actual photograph of the mobsters is included, adding a lot of flavor to the game and a bit more variety. There are some complaints that many of the cards don't say what they do, which is a valid complaint, I suppose; but after one game, I have yet to see a player not quickly remember what each card does. In this sense, the theme certainly helps. The game is smaller, and all the cards (good quality, by the way) fit nicely into a small double-sized box with lid.

2.) Rules: The rule booklet is on a fourteen page foldout sheet (which, like a map, I can't ever get folded back correctly), clearly explaining both the rules, and what each card does. Really, the game is quite easy, but taking time to go over each card is usually beneficial when teaching new players. The game, after a few times being played, often settles down into a syncopated rhythm with players announcing what they are playing, taking the counter card, etc.

3.) Theme and Fun Factor: If the idea of controlling a mob family that is attempting to wipe out the competition doesn't appeal to you, then I implore you to ignore this game; as the theme simply is the heart and soul of the game. Every time I bring out the game, players get into character, repeating lines from history or movies, and using cheesy fake New York accents. Explanations of "hits" are made, and with an extraverted group, Family Business can be one of the most fun times you'll ever have. Even teenagers will join in the fun, as they make and break deals with one another, agreeing to gang up on one person then attack their partner. Taken in a light spirit, Family Business can be riotous fun.

4.) Elimination: There is often a backlash against elimination in games; and indeed, I'm certainly not a fan of the mechanic - especially in longer games. But who can argue against elimination in a mob game, especially when games run thirty minutes at the most? I have seen several players gang up on another player who has annoyed them or won the last game (metagaming), and there's not much that can be done about that. Players simply can't defend themselves from the other players. There's a bit of diplomacy that can be done (mostly by pointing out "He's winning"), but the game comes down to the other players deciding who to take out. Sometimes, games can be more interesting, with everyone having only a few mobsters left; but players still have to make decisions on which player to take out first.

5.) Strategy: I can't really say there's a lot of strategy in the game, which is why I label it a "take that" game. You simply play good cards on yourself and evil cards on the other players. It's not very difficult to decide WHAT card to play; most of the decisions lie in WHO to play the card on. Yes, holding the St. Valentine's Massacre card until the lineup is filled with everyone but your mobsters is a neat trick, but most of the strategy in the game is very simplistic and easy.

The fun in the game comes from the atmosphere, the theme, and your opponents. Family Business provides a nice framework for players to simply have a good time, and it's an easygoing, simple system work in many situations. There may be some who are turned off by the theme, but most folks have a good time with the game. It ain't your Puerto Rico, but it's charming in its own way. And when I say charming - that's "blow away the guys in the other mob and make it look like an accident" charming. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Revenge Rules!
June 18, 2003

Don't you just love a game where you can exact senseless violence on someone who pisses you off without actually hurting anyone? This is a great game to play with bigger groups and family (if you don't mind the violence aspect)...We may not play this one all the time, but Family Business is one game that I will never get rid of.

I will get my revenge!!!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by HL
Family Fun but Lady Luck is involved
January 19, 2003

Very fast and usually very much fun. It's barely playable with 3 players but opens up at 4 and a lot better with more than 4. It's difficult to win consistently because of

a) quite a bit of luck is involved

b) if people pick on the leading person in the game it's almost impossible to win

Nevertheless I would recommend it as I've had (and will have in the future) a lot of fun from this cheap card game.

Looking for a really fun card game, check out Bohnanza

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Ben
An OK game
May 25, 2002

Family Business is a fun game no matter how many players you play with. This game is more fun when you play with teams. It might not seem so but this game takes a little strategy. It is not a very deep game but the theme makes it fun. It's always fun to kill an opponent that has tried to put you on the hit list. The only down side of this game is that there are a lot of things to remember and sometimes it will get a little confusing.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
I'm gunna make you an offer...
June 25, 2001

If you take away the theme of this game, it really would not be a very good game at all. But thankfully, there is nothing better than whacking your friend's family members in this terrific card game. To be clear, this game is not very deep, and it is all the luck of the draw, but it's great light fun with the right crowd. This game comes recommended. Worth the asking price.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Anson
Fun attract game
May 13, 2001

It is a good idea that can affect the real face of people. If you dislike your opperent, you can kill him. Each players take a mob and kill each other. But it also depend on luck and coordination. Sometimes, you will be killed by several people together. It is a fast and good games for six person, it is because more people can make some laugh in this game.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Rob Eno
Comes out of the box on 4 out of 5 game nights!!!!!
January 08, 2000

This is a great game to play before, between, or after other longer games. It almost always comes out of the box whenever my group gets together to play games. We have found however that in order to minimize shuffling it is very appropriate to buy two sets of cards and shuffle them together. Also if you play with more than 6 you may then mark a second set of gang cards in order to be able to play with up to 12 people if need be.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Easy to learn, fast paced, revenge filled crowd pleaser.
November 18, 1999

My core gaming group sat down to try out this card game as a prequel to our 'real' game. Well, we never got to the other game after this addictive card game took hold. We even enlisted a notorious 'non-gamer' to join us and it played even better with 5 players. It is easy to learn, but it still contains some nice opportunities for strategy. I disagree with the earlier reviewer from the midwest who said it was all luck. That is just not true.

While it is true that the cards you draw play a large part, there is a balance to the cards that makes playing the really powerful cards dangerous. That balance is the low number of cards in the game. With 4 or 5 players (the game supports up to 6 rival gangs) the cards are shuffled rather frequently. This was somewhat bothersome, but in afterthought it became clear that the decision to play a powerful card (like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre or Hit!) could backfire since another player would soon re-draw the card and use it against you. Our group also adopted the standard practice of attacking the leader. The beauty of this in Family Business is that the leader changes constantly. If you have a good group that plays together often, you'll find the table talk exceptional in this game. The bartering/begging can be hilarious as players debate and make their arguments for the merits of taking out 'Bugsy' instead of their beloved 'Capone' character.

We ended up playing around a dozen hands of this game over a two day stretch and everyone was wanting more. Family Business is not a complex card game. But then again it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be fun and easy to learn, and on both counts, I think it succeeds.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Quick, light, cutthroat gang warfare card game.
February 02, 1999

Play a gang of mobsters in this gang-eat-gang cardgame classic from Mayfair. It's a great filler game for making enemies or getting well-deserved revenge from the last game played.

Each player has a gang of mobster cards, and takes turns playing cards that will either put other players' mobsters on the wall or save his own cude-n-cuddly criminals. When a mob war breaks out, mobsters on the wall get nailed every turn until all targets are gone or special cards are played.

There is no remaining neutral in this game; you will be attacking other players. Make temporary alliances to gang up on the player who won the last game, or just randomly sow death and mayhem... your choice!

The game ends when only one player remains. Games go by quickly (15 minutes) and it's fun to play again immediately (as everyone wants revenge on the winner).

This is like Nuclear War, except everyone starts out at the same level. Guillotine players who want something more cutthroat will enjoy this game.

Recommended as a quick filler for gaming groups who can take the 'last man alive wins' ending.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Greg J. Schloesser
A game you can't refuse
October 27, 2010

Designer: David Bromley
Publisher: Mayfair Games
3 – 6 Players, 30 minutes
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser

NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine

“You lookin’ at me?”
“Send him to sleep with the fishes!”
“I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse!”

Ahhh … the wonderful clichés one can use when playing Family Business, quite likely the godfather of mobster-themed games. After a period of being out-of-print, Mayfair Games has re-released this gem of gunning-down rival gangs in your attempts to rule the underworld.

A caveat: this game is brutal, and not for the feint-of-heart. The object is brutally simple: kill everyone else. The game spares the gory details regarding how the actual slayings occur, but you are free to embellish the scene as you see fit!

Each player represents a gang of mobsters intent on seizing control of the underworld. The Capone Mob, New York Mob, Moran Gang – all are represented. The new edition even depicts actual mobsters on the cards, including such notorious figures as “Scarface Al” Capone, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, “Desperate Dan” Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson and more. It would have been even nicer if they had included brief biographical data on each personality.

Each player’s gang consists of nine mobsters, all of whom are set face-up on the table. Players each receive a starting hand of five cards, and the carnage is ready to begin.

Game play is quite simple: Draw a card and play a card. Normally, you will play a card (“Contract” or “Double Contract”) that attempts to add an opponent’s gangster to the “Hit List”, a line of gangsters who have been targeted for extermination. A “Hit” card, however, can cause a mobster to be gunned-down immediately and instantly removed from the game. Various cards can be played in response to one of these dastardly attempts, with the aim being to foil your opponent’s planned assault.

Mobsters on the Hit List are arranged in a line on the table. Once six or more mobsters are in a line, a “Mob War” ensues. From that point, the first mobster in line is exterminated at the beginning of EACH player’s turn. The carnage continues until all mobsters in the line are slain, or until a card is played to stop the carnage. Further, some cards can cause a “Mob War” to begin even before there are six gangsters on the Hit List. Mobsters are an unscrupulous bunch!

There is an assortment of other cards which can cause various effects, ranging from rescuing mobsters from the Hit List, to the dreaded St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, which immediately slays all mobsters currently on the Hit List. Brutal. Many cards can be countered, which has the additional effect of switching the start player to the person playing the counter card. This often causes some players’ turns to be skipped, which is a source of contention amongst some. In a fast, free-wheeling game such as this, however, I don’t mind it.

If a player loses all of his mobsters, he is eliminated. The wait for the termination of the game won’t be long, though, as mobsters die at a frighteningly high rate. Once there are only six mobsters left standing, an automatic Mob War ensues and continues until the end of the game. The player with the last mob standing is victorious and rises to the position of “crime lord”. At that point, however, there won’t be many mobsters left to “lord” over!

While I am happy to see Family Business back in print, and am pleased with the images of actual gangsters on the mob family cards, I am appalled that Mayfair has inexplicably chosen to remove the brief power descriptions from the action cards. Without those descriptions, players must constantly flip through the rulebook to discover how a particular card can be used or countered. This bogs down what is intended to be a fast-paced, fun game, and is totally inexcusable. The person responsible for this oversight should be thrown onto the “Hit List”. Well, maybe not shot, but at least suitably chastised!

Once one becomes familiar with how the cards can be used – which would take NO time had the descriptions remained on the cards – the game plays quickly, often at a frantic pace. Mobsters are tossed onto the Hit List, escape, and are thrown back on again. Mob Wars start with great frequency, and the death toll mounts precipitously. Don’t take offense when you are targeted, as at any moment, players will inevitably target the player who has the most mobsters remaining. Thus, the game is usually quite balanced.

Also, don’t enter the game expecting a great strategic struggle, or much control. You are hostage to your hand of cards, and the only path to pursue is to kill or be killed – probably both. Still, the game is fun, and offers the chance to slip into the role of a mobster, but without the actual bloodshed! In true mobster fashion, Mayfair has served up a “game we can’t refuse!”

So lightweight it almost floats away, but...
November 16, 2000

I'm not crazy about this game as a game--nothing wrong with it, but there's not a heck of a lot of strategy or thought involved beyond the usual psychological wrangling that occurs in any 5+ player game. However, I have managed to turn this into a fine party game, by the simple expedient of chucking all of the 'gang cards' (whose members are all functionally identical and contain no rules text or anything) and replacing them with gangs constructed out of the box of 'Rock Superstar' (by all appearances, printed precisely one week before 'Nevermind' hit the stores) cards that I picked up at the all for a dollar store.

So now, instead of the Gambinos versus the Bambinos versus the Zambonis or whatever, you have the far more intriguing prospect of the Smooth R&B Gang (led by the inimitable Teddy Pendergrass) facing off against the Swedish Metal Gang, the Wack Hip-Hop Posse, or even the terror-inducing, Wu-Tang-esque mystic enclave known only as The Eight Faces of Madonna. In other words, like most decent-but-not-exceptional party games, Family Business is precisely as much fun as you want to put into it. And, I have to admit, there are few things in life more satisfying than executing a mob hit on Trixter.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
One of my least favorite games
April 27, 2001

Anyone who has read many of my reviews knows that I enjoy somewhat heavier games, while having a good appreciation of lighter fare. For some reason, 'Family Business' has never appealed to me.

I believe it is lack of two ingredients that makes this one a miss for me. The game is lacking in both strategy and in form, and therefore turns the game into a rather pointless exercise in card drawing.

I 'get' the game, mind you. I know it is intended as light fun, and that players are supposed to have near-carte blanche in executing their executions, but the whole thing is just too amorphous and vague. The cards are incredibly disparate in their values. A player can easily get stuck with a hand of near-useless cards. And since players can easily gang up on one another, it is all too easy (and in my experience, all too common) for certain players to be bumped from the game early on and have to sit out the rest of the game.

Given a choice, I prefer games that allow players to stay involved all the way to the bitter end. I'll take Cosmic Encounter over Family Business, thank you....

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
This game is pure luck and no strategy
November 14, 1999

This game seems like a lot of fun when you first open it up. You have feuding gangs, they can take each other out. But it rapidly comes down to: I got this card, I play it on that guy because he hosed me last time. It gets old fast, because there is no long term planning, no strategy, nothing. You might as well have a deck of cards and draw one a turn, and then if you draw a diamond play it 'against' someone. Whoever has the most diamonds loses. It is cheaper than Family Business and you will have just as much fun. If you want a fun card game, pick up Mamma Mia.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
"What does this card do, again? Check the instructions...."
May 27, 2001

I typically enjoy light 'filler' games with fun themes. I expected Family Business to be in this vein. A bad first experience playing the game, plus some major grievances with the mechanics, theme, and sheer number of types of cards, however, left a sour taste in my mouth.

When I first played Family Business, it was a few months ago during an afternoon/evening game group meeting. A few of us had just finished up some quick games of [page scan/se=0513/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Brawl, and we were waiting on one more person to show up so we could dive into a game of Diplomacy. Someone suggested Family Business as a quick time-filler. So, 5 of us opened up the box and dived in.

Even though I ended up winning the game, I didn't find the experience very enjoyable at all. I'll spare everyone the detailed description of the game and its mechanics (some other reviews on this page have provided good descriptions). Essentially, the gist of the game is that each player represents a different crime family, with several different mob henchmen in their control. During the game, families 'threaten' other families, by placing another player's henchman onto the 'hit list', a central board in the middle of the table that shows the order of execution for men on the list. Players play special cards to put other players' henchmen on the list, save their own men from the list, or rearrange the list to their liking, etc. There are many, many different types of cards, unfortunately.

This was especially a problem because, despite having player aid cards, the two new players (including me) had to constantly swap the instructions back and forth to figure out how the cards in our hands were supposed to be used, and what they were supposed to be used for. Even the 'seasoned' Family Business players had to regularly refer back to the instruction manual to refresh their memories on what their cards meant.

As players gradually had all of their men killed off (and were out of the game), it came down to me and the most seasoned player. A few of the other seasoned players crowded around me, to help me out, and were rather insistent on giving me advice on what cards to play and when to play them. I tried to fight them off, but they were too busy arguing among themselves about the best card for me to use next. I finally won, and, instead of feeling good about it, I was just glad the game was over.

Although my bad first experience with the game has a little to do with my poor rating of the game, it goes further than that. I don't like Family Business because of the large luck factor in getting cards. This wouldn't have been so frustrating if there were fewer types of cards, but since there are so many different types of cards, it's unlikely at times that you'll get the one specific card you need. This large variety of cards also causes a lot of confusion over the function of cards, because people simply don't seem to remember what they do. Constant instructions-referencing turns me off. Also, I didn't really feel the theme in the game. The box and art on the cards initially implies a strong, fun, mob theme, but, in actual gameplay, I hardly felt it at all. All in all, a disappointment.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.

Other Resources for Family Business:

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