True Crime Legends
True Crime Legends is Silk Hat Games‘ first game with an intense gangster theme. Let me be clear, this is a cutthroat game with a lot of take-that, threats and table(trash)-talk! This is your chance to stretch your dark negotiation muscles.
The game plays over four rounds where each player will expand their Syndicate, take vicious actions and gain income. The player with the most money at the end of the game is the greatest gangster!
In True Crime Legends you are in charge of a syndicate, trying to make the most money while prevailing against your underworld rivals. This market has never been more dangerous but you are ready to build your empire whatever it takes, probably some bribing, stealing and murdering.
True Crime Legends plays over 4 Rounds where each Round consists of 3 Phases. It has a tight structure and you go through each phase together before proceeding to the next one.
Each players’ syndicate is a 3×4 card grid where Asset cards are placed in the 1st row, Gangsters in the 2nd and Upgrades in the 3rd one. You start with only one card, at the 2nd row, which is you, the boss. This orientation practically means that each gangster/boss can have one upgrade and one asset card associated with them. As a crime leader with a great scope, you need money, thus starting with $400,000 in cash.
Another important part is the Market, where the Gangster, Assets and Upgrade rows lie. There gonna be four available cards of each type always available for purchase. Other than that you will need some space for the money(bank), tactic cards(game-breaking abilities) and some other minor components.
Each Round is divided into the three following phases:
- Market: In turn order, each player can buy up to four cards from the Market(Assets, Gangsters, Upgrades) and up to two from each type, adding them to their syndicate. In addition, you get to draw two Tactic cards at the start of this phase, with a hand size of 4.
- Action: Here is the meat of the game, where your gangsters will take action. Players are taking turns, activating one of their Gangsters or their Boss and resolving the chosen action. Each such card can be used only once per round, thus you can have a maximum of four actions. An action is not bound to be resolved, as there is a chance of failure. Each character has a success value of various actions. When resolving your action you must roll up to that value(depicted in stars) with a 6-sided die. Otherwise, your character is used without making an action. The available actions in the game are the following:
Earn: Gain $100K.
Steal: Steal $100K from an opponent.
Release: Release one of your gangsters from jail for free. Otherwise, it gets $100K to release them from jail!
Smuggle: Sell a number of narcotics of your choice for money. Rolling a die will get you the result of successfully selling or getting to jail. Selling more narcotics will probably get you more money but the chances of going to jail also rise. This is a risk you have to take but you stick to selling small amounts as a safer choice.
These type of actions can be retaliated. What this means is that if you fail to activate one of these actions the targeted character can fight back, with a chance of killing your activated character. This happens again with a roll check, according to the Retaliate value of the target. There are consequences in the gangster world!
Assault: Exhaust a rival Gangster/Boss. This means that the target character can`t be activated this round.
Murder: This is the stronger version of Assault. Your target dies by being discarded. A Boss can be murdered only by other Bosses and their spot can never be refiled. I had experienced this loss in a game and it hurts as you actively go down to a maximum of 3 actions!
Destroy: This always comes handy, as you get to discard an opponent’s Asset or Upgrade. Targeting the leading player is what this is about but these cards can be protected from the Destroy action by characters with the “Secure” symbol.
Persuade: That’s the sneakiest action in the game and I always go to war with anyone who dares to do that to my men! As the name implies, you get to steal an opponent’s gangster, adding them to your syndicate. Betrayal can hurt even more than death and it’s unforgivable!
Jail: Send a rival to jail, I assume by snitching. A character in jail can be of no use and you will need either $100K or a Release action to get them out. That can be quite painful as you lose that card’s action if it weren`t used and it can`t be discarded to free up that space. So, your only option is to let them rot or free them!
- Income: As you will read in the next paragraph, Asset cards give you a certain income. In this phase, you gain the depicting income from each non-jailed character’s Asset. So, you must actually have a free gangster or boss to collect that income.
Making deals is a good way to spice up things in the game but you can only give and/or take money, that’s what matters after all. It’s a dark world and there is no guarantee that a deal will meet its end, so you have to be careful. In our case, we were playing with the gangster code of “a deal is a deal”, so we wouldn`t forfeit our part no matter what.
The whole game revolves around these four types of cards:
- Gangsters & Boss: These are the most important cards in the game, as they will create your pool of available actions. Such a character depicts four action choices with a certain value on each. This actively shows how likely is for that character to succeed in such an action. All gangsters also have a money value on them, as you will be buying them from the market during the game. Lastly, characters may have a narcotics value and/or a Protect icon. The narcotics values from your gangster/boss, asset and upgrade create the maximum value of narcotics that you can sell in that column.
Bosses are somewhat special. They can only die from other bosses, discarding them is not an option and they can level up! Many Asset cards have a Reputation value. The cumulative reputation from all assets in your syndicate makes your total reputation. If that value is equal or higher than your boss’s current level he levels up! Leveling up gives your boss greater chances of succeeding at an action and sometimes more powerful actions.
- Assets: A great way of getting some extra cash each round, as I explain in the “Income” phase. Apart from that and the reputation, assets empower your characters. This happens by giving them additional value to some of their actions, making them more likely to succeed.
- Upgrades: Are mainly cheaper than other cards and either empower your characters’ stats or give you more narcotics to sell. A great option to boost your syndicate, especially in terms of deadly power as you will find a variety of weapons here.
- Tactics: This is the type of cards you will find in games that break the rules. Tactics let you resolve special abilities in the depicting timing. I would recommend playing without them for your first game so you can experience the core of the game. In later games, you can add these for variety and for the element of surprise.
A Player’s Turn
During your turn, you will get to activate exactly one of your characters. This can be a thinky choice as you can`t be sure about which of your remaining characters will be available until your next turn. That’s because assaulting, murdering, going to jail and being persuaded, are not rare at this game. You want to hurt your opponents’ syndicates at their heart, that means their people. Getting cash, stealing or selling narcotics are probably the best options to get money, quite safely. On the other hand, even if you don`t get any profit by hurting an opponent it may be a good choice if they are the leading player.
When you have no characters left to activate or you don`t want to do so for some reason, the Action Phase ends for you.
The game ends after the 4th round and the player with the most money is crowned the boss of bosses.
About True Crime Legends
True Crime Legends is an easy to learn and play gangster game. It has a lot of take-that as you can tell and it may seem quite lucky but that’s part of the theme. You can manipulate your chances in a way to play the whole game safely but these risks and gambles are a vital part of the game’s theme. You won`t feel unlucky when you are trying to sell a truck full of narcotics and you end up in jail, instead of trying to sell a dozen of them.
Another important part of the game for me is the deals among players and the roleplaying. I usually don`t talk or act like my role in board games, apart from these cases where the game makes me act like that. This game creates these type of moments for me, where I start talking like a mafia boss, feeling confident and powerful. Making threats, short alliances and offers no one can refuse. That’s probably the strongest aspect for me in this game, as games are here to make you socialize and have fun. However, even if this is not a heavy strategy game you will find meaningful and tough choices.
The right mood to play the game
When you want to play Ca$h & Guns, Munchkin, Smash Up and other cutthroat games like these – that’s the right mood! There will be threats in the table, lucky and unlucky moments, some frustration and a lot of fun if you go with that mood. The game can be played in around an hour with 4-5 players as it has a straightforward flow but it takes up some time to think your course of action. Therefore, wear your sinister skin and get down for some shady business.
Who is this game for?
In conclusion, this game is for you that likes the intense table-talk, tight competitiveness and thematic experiences. It’s not a grande mafia game, so don`t expect that, but it will give you the gangster feel that you are searching for. With that being said, this is perfect for casual gamers and for new people diving into the hobby. Lastly, fans of light economic games or mafia lovers will find that this game has a spot to their collection I believe.
Let me clarify, even though it has a lot of take-that it didn`t feel like that in a bad way, at least for us. I say that as I don`t like take-that games, they tend to get on my nerves and are frustrating. In this case, I didn`t feel that and I believe the reason why is that everything felt organic. Other games tend to force that harsh aspect just to make the game competitive and maybe fun for some.
Feel free to leave any questions about the game in the comments section below and I will be more than happy to answer them. Make sure to check out the game if it seems to be your type of tea or just order it if you are a gangster-theme lover!