Review: Nothing Personal – gone to sleep with fish
The shelter is no longer safe. That was the only message, I found at an agreed location. There was no mention of whether it was tracked down by cops or one of the other gangs. I suppressed a feeling of distrust. It was clear, that I have nowhere to run. At the moment I sat down on a crumbling chair to think this through.
Life on the road is tough and you can never trust anyone. Once I made the same mistake and I do not want to experience it again. My best friend sold me out for a better position in the gang. I would never have believed it. And this experience now influences my decision. Decision, that must be made with absolute assurance. I finish my last cigarette and return back to the shelter. This time, I must be really home.
Nothing Personal is a game, that takes us into mafia-like environment. The place full of gangsters, weapons and distrust. Co-author of the game is known reviewer Tom Vasel, that used his wealth of experience in testing board games. He sought help in Steve Avery and they created this game together under label Dice Tower Designs, published by Game Salute with help of fans on the site Kickstarter. Illustration were taken care of y Lucas Soriano Beltrán, Paco Rico and Dann May and they did a wonderful job.
With a box, we will not forget for a moment, that this is a gangster movie. Smile of a passenger in the backseat is a clear indication, what this scene is about. But do not worry, you will not be hostages. You will become the hero in glasses on the seat next to driver. A ride, that is guaranteed with this red box. Precisely in those most classical mafia shoes.
Beginning of the game does not surprise you, because our journey begins classically with thick board, that shows us the whole mafia hierarchy from highest capo down to the smallest dude. At the bottom lies a counter for tracking respect of individual families. But because board is empty (only with placeholders for real people), we need something, that would fill it up.
Cards of proper size are cunningly hidden at the very bottom and are covered with little cardboard boxes. Inside of these, there is nothing you probably would have expected, as these six packs contain influence tokens in all six colors of mafia families. Only seventh and eighth box finally have, what we were looking for: influence (94) and gangster cards are really there. They come with 50 gangsters, with a name, skills and values of respect, money and a special ability. Atmosphere is complemented by cardboard money tokens, trio of dice and a gold ring for acting capo.
Each family (and thus player who chooses them) gets a large family board to start with. It determines his identity and helps him to watch several action options. Ultimately, each family also gets one of the above mentioned boxes full of influence. You empty them ahead and also gets some starting casch. Scoring token of each participating color is placed on the zero of respect scale.
Game board is filled up with characters from a shuffled deck. It all starts with a capo, whose identity is known at the outset. All other positions already must be decided by chance. Rules clearly state, that no gangster skill can repeat for last few cards. Players then get some influence cards, set checkbox tokens next to the board and once starting contestant is set, he gets the ring. Now he has the right to place first one of his influence on any of active gangsters, trying to drag him to his side. Gradually, everybody does the same until there are three tokens of every color out there.
Game takes a total of five rounds, in which players are trying to get as much respect as possible. To accomplish this, they need to have key mafia personas under their influence. A way to do this is simply by placing tokens on them and therefore bribe these people. At this time, players can use cards, that were given to them at the beginning. They can be used either for tokens (depending on the amount of influence on the card) for appropriate type of gangster (eg hitman, crook or gambler). The same card can also be played for its action or thrown away unused, allowing placement of one token on any character in the tree.
Of course, there are exceptions to these rules, such as playing to a specific position, ability to split influence between multiple characters, if you have more icons on the card or even discard a card in exchange for eight dollars. The player can even insure his influence with higher bribe, adding bills to his influence, making him less vulnerable to opponent bribery. Whoever wants to drag this henchman to his side, he must sacrifice also as much funds from his own wallet.
This is all, what will players repeat many times, until they all pass. Then gradually gangster tree ranging from capo to several nameless men in the bottom needs to be evaluated, one step for each member. Their boss is decided by the largest amount of influence tokens. In case of a tie, player with the capo ring has the final say.
By combining values of respect, money on the gangster card and actual position of that man players get final sum. That is awarded to person, who has that gangster under his control. This can be a positive or negative amount, depending on the card and position. But before the round ends, mafia rewards players for their support. Players can use special abilities of rank or character, but also try to move this person up the mafia tree. Success of this decision lies on previously computed sum of respect with addition of one die roll.
But it may also end up with gangster thoughts on independence (neutral effect), failure or even with death. Players also can use blackmail, while each character can be affected a maximum of two players – his controller and blackmailer. Every time player wants to do something with this gangster, he must first seek agreement of the person, who is blackmailing.
Towards end of the round, players can get a new card of influence depending on the number of thugs under their control. More can be purchased from the dealer for ten dollars each. Some of them may attract attention of the feds. Gradually, players are filling in the blanks for disappeared (deceased) gangsters by moving all others up and placing newly hired at the bottom.
Once the fifth round is completed, players evaluate their cards, purchases of despair respect with remains of cash. Now the value of respect ultimately decides, who is winner and master of the whole city.
Nothing Personal is nudge in the back for all those, who like control over things. Just like in real gangster life, your life ultimately hangs on every decision and on the slenderest of threads. And the success is not solely result of player’s skill, but also those of others. Authors basically say, that control is just a fairy tale for board game children. This is the feeling, that we have out of this game.
And they transmit it to their board game with absolute precision. Hardly any game is such contact and requiring constant struggle for position. Players attack, returns it and before you know it, two hours of game time are gone and you find yourself at the end of the fifth round. Yes, that’s right, players waiting for a simple and short are going to be disappointed. Match may lose a little pace from time to time,when round continues and you have already passed some time ago.
Rules may at first sight seem more difficult to operate, because game has quite a lot of phases. But they all have clearly defined actions and you get used to them very quickly. They’re also greatly emphasized by player boards and prints on the main board, which all leads to pretty straighforward fun, without any hiccups.
In any case, comparison with Czech game Mafia City (review) by author Peter Belik, seems necessary. And while the atmosphere of our home board game is truer to its theme and environment, Nothing Personal is on the other hand more immediate entertainment. Both games are precisely processed and you will find heaps of fans voting for either of them. But we believe, that if you like one, you might not be a fan of another. They are so vastly different.
Of course, a game from Tom Vasel must contain dice. Already this independent phase, which allows gangsters to climb up the ladder, may deter some players. However, each position has its own specific features. You can for example benefit from an advantageous position, for example treasurer receives double money. These details make gamers happy.
Players, who find themselves in back of the field, although gaining more influence cards, have no other way to catch up. Suddenly, you need to show off your bargaining skills against stronger players to pit against someone else. And this might even be intentional from those mean authors. Together, you can knock them down and get back on the horse. And this is another elements, that add weight to the ambivalence of players love / hate feeling.
Tremendous weapon of Nothing Personal is variability. Fifty gangsters every time in other positions in the organization provide great entertainment for dozens of games ahead. And even after tenth one, there is no talking about less experience, than the first.
Processing of Nothing Personal is exactly as its capo ring. Metal and firm. At least at first glance, because otherwise small cards tend to wear out (sleeve!) and colors of families are too similar. Its a pity, that such details spoil players enjoyment. Tremendously hard cardboard reminds us of Cartoona (review) by the same publisher and it seems like they are almost ready to boast about, how well their profession can be done. With this declaration is also carried another disadvantage – price, which seems quite expensive for a gangster game.
Nothing Personal is a prime example of how to win hearts of most players in a simple and highly conflictual system. However, there are a number of players, who rather sit down in less volatile atmosphere, dislike longer game time and are discouraged by the dice or the price. That does not change the fact, that Nothing Personal is a dose of good work. If you are the right audience, its the perfect bullet to the head, you’ll want to snuff every day.
Review: Nothing Personal – gone to sleep with fish
Nothing Personal is not a game for players, who want to have their story clearly lined up from the very beginning. Instead, all participants in mafia fight have uncertainty written all over them. Its about continuing skirmishes for positions and attempt to climb the pyramid entirely from the smallest bellhop into a position of intimidating capo. This game has everything, but even those five rounds fill up area extending to two hours. Fight for position involves dice, which is good and bad at the same time, it depends on personal taste. However, processing is excellent, illustrations fit perfectly and mechanisms of linking gangster and positions capabilities together, resulting into benefits for their controller are foundation for great entertainment. You have to conspire against opponents. Alliances are the bread and butter in the dark world of the underworld. Finally, respect rules in a mafia world. And you should have it as well for this game, because it is really good. And you, who do not like it, simply do not take it personally.
Reader Rating0 Votes
game is all about the conflicts with other players
each match is different (many gangsters)
dice add tension
two hours full of fun
plenty of opportunities and ways to screw the other