Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Video Games: City of Gangsters

I always liked Roaring Twenties gangsters, probably mostly thanks to playing Gangbusters when I was a younger gamer. The thing I liked most about it was setting up, running, and administering gangster businesses. Running illegal alchohol production and sales, running the numbers, and so on.

The problem always was getting a group to play. I GMed for a bit, but I was young and not a great ref, and I didn't really have an idea of how to create a city sandbox for criminals to play in. I know from articles I've read that players in the TSR campaigns started as criminals but then mostly shifted to running lawmen. Either way, it only works out if you have a solid idea of how to run a sandbox. And what should be in a 20s city sandbox. I did not.

Still, I loved the ideas and flavor.

So much so that I jumped on Gangsters back in '99. I didn't love that. I found it maddening to play. It was a mix of turn-based and real-time, so I always ended up with guys wasting big chunks of time because I didn't give them enough to do, or guys who had too much to do and never finished. I couldn't seem to keep my business running, or hidden from police. My unarmed bagmen would get robbed and my armed enforcers would shoot it out with the cops on sight, getting killed eventually in the process. I saw more chalk outlines than dollars. And that despite eventually getting the Strategy Guide.

No idea what happened to my copy after I gave up playing. Maybe it's in storage, maybe I gave it away. I wouldn't give it another go unless I got it for free. Maybe not then, either.

Now I'm giving Epic's "City of Gangsters" a try.

The good:

- it's attractive
- it runs smoothly
- it's turn based, so you can take your time as you decide what to do
- you have more to do than time to do it, mostly, but not so much that it feels overwhelming
- the mechanics of setting up businesses are transparant enough to be easy to understand
- it's set not in "Lakefront City" or "New Temperance" but Chicago, Detroit, or Pittsburgh. Having recently take my first trip to Chicago, and having gotten around by map, I feel more of a connection to the city.

The not-so-good:

- the Tutorial is long, and you can't save. So I played for one hour the first time, but still had a lot to go. I played another day for three hours, and still had covered not much more ground . . . I just gave up on it. No idea why you can't save the NPE but you can save any other game.
- the interface can be maddening. It's way too easy to click out of something but not save it, fumble around for the button that does things, etc. It's not the most intuitive interface I've used. I can easily mark favorites with a click but not unfavorite with the same click, close more easily than open, get into conversations I can't seem to get out of without Xing out of them, and other oddness.
- combat is oddly a turn-ending thing you do. If you have 4 action points and 10 movement points and get into a fight, you're at 0 and 0. If you do a bunch first and have 0 and 0 but are in the same area as a rival, you can fight them and end with 0 and 0. I get the idea, but it encourages me to munchkin my time and roll up after everything to fight someone.
- it can be hard to find things. I've resorted to paper notes on who sells what and how many, because I can see "who" and "what" but not "how many" on my interface without going to the location itself.
- as always with resource games, you can get yourself in a tangle trying to make sure enough X and Y gets to location Z to make product A . . . and production is all-or-nothing and resolved at the last moment, so 90% of what you need nets you 0% production.

All in all, though, it's got some potential . . . and I like the era and the topic. I'll keep giving it a go.

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