Review: Downtown – who does not steal, lose

DownTown - packaging

I stopped in front of the huge metal game. Don Massivo lives in here, largest and most feared of the mafia bosses, who live in . For three years there were shootings and stabbings on the streets of our city on a daily basis. Different districts are handled by gangs, who are trying to earn as much money as possible. But if this continues on, there will be no one to rob from. At each such incident, there are some injured or shot people. It is time to put an end to it and the only man, who can do it, lives in here.

Downtown is not just a city, in which the story takes place, but also name of a new board game coming from company. We have already tested their notable Isegrim (review) and magical Circus Grandioso (review). The author is again , whose idea was accompanied by illustrations by .

For , company embarked on a gangster fun, but kept the concept of small games. This corresponds to small box made in dark brown color. It goes well with the atmosphere and theme of the game, but you will not easily recognize it on the shelf. Yet we see gangster overlooking the town with a burning cigar in his hand and a machine gun, inviting us inside to become one of them.

DownTown - game is ready

In the package, you will find rules in two languages (German and English), two decks of cards and a bag of eight wooden tokens. These are pairs for each player. Smaller cards and banknotes have values ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 20,000 and you combine them in the package of 90 cards. The second pile is not only larger in dimensions (classic card size), but also a number rounded to a hundred.

Almost half of them introduces us to various gangsters (lookouts, safe crackers and spies). Each of them has his portrait repeated in all four corners, so it does not matter, how you hold the card in your hand. Another deck is completed with a trio of characters Frankie, Joe and Luigi. All of them are stooges, who will give you work. Each of them has a bubble over his head with a certain amount of money – reward for performing such a little job. Money on the card can be in range of three values, which are listed below. You will learn the actual number only by turning it, because it is printed on the back.

Twelve buyers are waiting for rare items and money, that you bring. For each product type is one (money, jewelry and art) and card also contains brokerage fee. Moreover, some of the characters can also be a policeman in disguise. In addition, you have three casino cards, six locations, in which the game will take place, as well as four cards specifying color of each player.

DownTown - game is ready

At the beginning of the game, you simply choose one color, you take a card of that color. And you also get two tokens of the same color. Table is transformed into a city with different location cards. Most of them have some group of cards associated with them – for example the East Side has fence, while in the West Side await you stooges (both in piles divided by characters). Under each deck in the East Side, you put one casino card.

In the district of Downtown, gangsters waiting for work are hanging around. From a shuffled deck, you reveal top five cards and place them in groups by type. Another gangsters are dealt in groups of five cards to each player as their starting hand. These leaders of a gang will still need money. They will have to make do with ten thousand dollars, but during the game, content of their wallets will become a secret.

Now it would seem, that everything is ready for the game, but all participants must still perform two preparatory steps together. The first is the distribution of tokens on individual sites of the city. Then, take their money cards and play secretly one of them in front of color card. This will create your pocket money called display area in this game. All players reveal their selected card. This amount calls for a challenge to other players, but also sets amount you want to pay for a visit to your currently controlled area.

DownTown - game is ready

Players take turns, but not according to a given order. Instead, always actions of current gangster determine, which of his rivals will follow up. Each turn is then composed of four parts, which must be followed one after another in a fixed order. The first option is to move your token from one location to another. That space must not be occupied by another gang.

Then the player can decide, if he wants to rob one of his opponents or move to a more advantageous position, that is already occupied by a different color marker. Theft means, that player immediately takes all the money, gangster has in his display area. Conversely, he can also pay to inactive enemy. That is, if he decides to move to a place, that had some foreign tokens on it. In case there is more of them, you pay only to player with the lowest bid and exactly the same amount of money and gangsters as he has in the display area. When you can not afford it, you can not go there. Your choice at this stage simultaneously determines the player, who will be on turn after you are done.

From this description, you surely understand, that your position on those locations is really important. But that’s not every place, when they come in. Now comes the third phase of a turn, in which you use abilities of these locations. You can activate only place, where you have at least one token of your color. In the area of Downtown, you can hire new gangsters for money. Their price varies according to actual amount of that type looking for work – the more guards waiting, the cheaper they are. You then add three new cards from the deck.

DownTown - game is ready

When you go to the West Side, you will be looking for some new job. You can visit one of the three stooges, who promise you the value on a magnifying glass. Some characters can be trusted more, another less, but you can not always be exactly sure, how much of it will earn you in the end. But in the beginning, you already know exactly, how many gangsters will you need to complete the task. You play corresponding number of lookouts, safe crackers and spies and in return, you get a card. But you can turn it into money only by visiting dealers in the East Side. Although they will ask you for a portion of its value, you finally get money right into your wallet.

Token in a ghetto will bring reinforcements in the event, that other players make any robbery. If you have a person at the bank, you get money every time someone pays some money to the bank for purchase of new gangsters. Villa of Don Massivo provides you with a better limit of cards in hand (10 instead of 7) and has advantage for robberies and stooging.

Interestingly, during the activation of locations, others can attach bills and gangsters out of their hand in their display area secretly. They furthermore raise requirements for payment of next visit, but at the same time also become better targets for theft. You must be a good judge of rival intentions, following the players and locations they will want to visit next turn. All cards are first played into display area with its value down and before the end of the turn of active player, everybody reveal them together.

DownTown - cards

Before the action moves to the next player on the row (the one you robbed or had paid during your move), active player can also change cards in his display area. Game ends, when one player reaches sum of $ 100,000 in cash. That player becomes immediately winner of the mafia game.

Downtown can not deceive more with its dull brown box. Inside is hiding an amazing gangster game, that will bring tremendous portion of voltage and entertainment on your table. No need to keep on with it, this game is really good. It may be obvious from the rules, but still let’s see, why that is.

Idea of identifying next player by attacking (or paying) him is a very interesting one. Player, who has been wronged, gets right to move and has opportunity to respond to enemy actions. This gives the game a great dynamic. At the same time, you can also expect longer delays between their own turns. It is also the only significant shortcoming of this mechanism, because turn itself can take relatively long time. Fortunately, even during your opponent’s turn, you have something to do. You can watch their income from the bank or the ghetto (and profit from it), but also change card in your display area, when the time comes.

DownTown - cards

It should always be advantageous to set the right fee for a visit to your location, but at the same time you have to be careful, because players can rob you, if your pockets get too rich. It is very simple to do a theft and it does not cost them anything. Fortunately, there are lots of locations and players need to move their tokens quite often, so we will see frequent payment. All gangsters adjust their expenses together and secretly (active player joins them at the end of his turn), so sometimes estimating intentions of others is not easy.

Tere are constant conflicts in the game. Players attack, bluff and trying anything and everything to be the most successful mobster. Gangsters are allowed to do all. Game also includes a little chance in the form of cards with magnifying glass (stooges). At the same time, you can have a bit of luck, when you get correct gangsters at the beginning of the game. In combination with correct theft available, you can get a quick pile of money. In later stages of the game, luck does not play a significant role, which is really important.

Lots of mechanics inside this small box are unique and brings you into a situation, you have not tried. Above all, it is the way, in which players take turns. Even, if you get robbed, at least you get to move next. Or you can just sit in one place and receive payment for each buy. But be careful, you have to be the cheapest of the gangs, that are there, otherwise greedy you gets nothing.

DownTown - cards

But all locations provide great usage to anyone, who visits it. There are plenty of ways you can raise money. You can steal from others (but in this case, wait for revenge!), let them pay to you or take matters into your own hands and go for robbing jobs. Just watch out for the cops in disguise, that can catch you during laundering money.

The fact, that Downtown can be played already from two players, is great news. The city is at the moment a bit empty (only four chips walk around), but players have the option to activate both locations, where they are located. The game is less about confrontation and theft. However, there comes new rule to the game. Player does not have to move to use location, but he can pay his rival to mediate his its action! This makes the game for two players, although slightly different, still fun and functional!

Rules contain minor uncertainties and unresolved questions. For example, during preparation it is not clear, where you take money for your display area. During the game, certain conditions are not sufficiently highlighted (although in fact they always arise from the context), for example that a player must move his token to the location, whose entrance fee he can afford.

DownTown - cards

The fact, that this is only a card game can be perceived as pro and con at the same time. We like the fact, that game is very portable and does not take up that much space on your table. In doing so, atmosphere itself comes from the players, so you do not even need no game board. Maybe just some miniatures instead of tokens supplied will make it feel even more special. There is enough cards, which have simple, but nice illustrations. Game time is longer and moves around the indicated hours, but it does not hurt, because of the level of this game.

Downtown has prepared for us big surprise, just like the recent Steam Noir: Revolution (review). Inside the small and inconspicuous box is a sophisticated and complex game, that grabs many advanced players by their heart. The bigger shame is, that few players are talking about it yet, and most players do not even know, it exists. Although you can wait a little longer on your turn, but also outside your actions, you can sometimes join the game, so you have to be constantly on alert. Downtown is true gem for all gangsters out there.

DesignerFlorian Racky
ArtistThomas Hartmann
PublisherRacky Spiele
Year Published2013
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 3, 4 players
(3 voters)
Playing Time90
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
User Suggested Ages12 and up
(2 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(1 voters)
CategoryMafia
MechanicArea Majority / Influence, Auction/Bidding, Hand Management, Take That
Primary NameDowntown

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Downtown – who does not steal, lose
Final word
Downtown offers all mafioso members an opportunity to visit city of crime and make up your name in it. But there are different gangs running the streets and they can rob you any second, if you do not pay attention. Game offers excellent ideas and stunning atmosphere and it works great. Game provides fun with all numbers and offers enough places to visit. Moreover, players have to choose their options carefully, so they draw money not only out of citizen pockets, but also from other gangsters as a fee for controlled locations. Hiring different criminals leads to robberies. But before you can rejoice over large quarry, you have to survive moneylaundring and selling rare objects, while watching out for police in disguise! Downtown is a great gangster fun, filled with tense moments and offers fun, which you would not expect from a card game!
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
great atmosphere
variable gameplay
excellent in all numbers
players will attack each other
complex game
several stepping stones to victory
locations can be used and controlled
Cons
nothing
4
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