That Al Mansky’s from has been making off with all the moolah and we’ve got a beef with him, see? It’s time for me and the other wiseguys (and gals) to get what’s coming to us. We’re heading over to Mansky’s place tonight and we’re gonna make out with all the loot … that is, if Mansky doesn’t get us first!
What Is The Mansky Caper?
The Mansky Caper is a press-your-luck game for 2-6 players, aged 8 and up from Calliope Games and plays in 40-60 minutes. The project will be launching next week, on January 11. The Mansky Caper is set in the 1920s, at the height of mob influence. You and your fellow players are gangsters who are tired of the boss taking all the loot. You’ve decided to rob the boss’s house, which just happens to be booby-trapped with explosives. You’ll have to decide how greedy you want to be and when to stash your share of the loot — and hope your colleagues don’t take any of your stuff!
The Mansky Caper will arrive pre-punched and ready-to-play and is going to be available during the Kickstarter project for a very affordable price, just $32 and free shipping in the US, $40 when it hits retail soon afterwards.
The Mansky Caper Components
I played with a pre-Kickstarter version of the game, essentially a print & play, but one that still showcased some pretty awesome components. In the box, you’ll find:
- 8 Character pawns
- 8 Character cards
- 5 Safes
- 78 Loot tokens
- 144 Coins
- 60 Gems
- 32 Danger-Danger! tokens
- 1 Danger-Danger! die
- 10 Room cards
- 1 Getaway car card
- 12 Card stands
- 6 Favor markers
- 1 Loot bag
- 6 Stash bags
- 32 Gasp! tokens
- 30 Gasp! cards
- 1 Supply box
- 1 Rulebook
Since the game I played was pre-production, the components will obviously be changing. However, a lot of it is going to be very similar to what I played with. Still, that’s a lot of cardboard — and did I mention it is Kickstarting at $32?
The most striking and unusual component are the 5 safes. These pre-constructed, cardboard safes add so much to the theme and setting, you can’t help but pick them up and play with them. After all, when was the last time you picked up a safe? Each stands almost 3 inches tall, 2 inches wide, and just under 2 inches deep. They are made by the Mansky Safe Company (naturally) and open from the top. This is where Al’d loot is stored, along with the traps.
Players will get a character standee, standing a few inches tall, and a character card, both printed double-sided, and some plastic clips to help them stand. The standees are fun and suggest what each gangster’s specialty might be. The character cards have a character image and a short bio on one side, along with a detailed description of that player’s special ability. On the other side is the character image again and an iconic representation of the special ability so that player’s across the table can riddle out what each of the others can do. (More on special abilities in a moment.)
The room cards are huge — about 6” x 9” — and on thinner but still rigid cardboard. On the reverse is a generic back, so you don’t know what rooms you are laying out during setup. On their business side is detailed art of one of the room’s in Al’s mansion. It might be his bedroom, kitchen, office, billiard or trophy room or one of the 10 room cards in the game. In addition to the art, there is some important information on each of the cards, which dictates what ends up in each of the safes. There are three icons and each tells you how many Loot tokens, Gasp! tokens, and Danger-Danger! tokens to put in the safe assigned to that room. Each of those tokens is the same size, so you can’t judge by feel when you are raiding a safe. That cherry on top is that many of the cards have little jokes about Al’s tough guy ways or allusions to other Calliope games.
It’s good that they are uniform because what those tokens represent are anything but. The Loot tokens can represent coins or gems. The coins — and they are plentiful — are nicely sized. On their face is a profile of Al (who else?) and some clever writing around their edges: “E Pluribus Al, Trust No One, From Many, Mine” and a couple more sayings. The gems are big, colorful, chunky hunks of plastic and feel valuable (in a gaming sort of way).
The Gasp! tokens can be traded in for a Gasp! card, a standard sized card that presents a number of outcomes, some good, some bad. You never know until the card is drawn. The Danger-Danger! tokens are placed on the room card for an effect that will be discussed in the next section and requires the rolling of the Danger-Danger! die, a 12-sided die that will likely mean bad things if you have to roll it. The bags are pretty straightforward, the supply box has the façade of Al’s place on it and that leaves just the Favor markers, small square tokens, in the box.
But that’s not entirely it. There’s also the rulebook, which we don’t usually talk about, but this one is worth mentioning. It’s been done up as a comic book. The first half of the rulebook sketches out how to play in broad enough strokes you can almost play your first game from it. The second half gets into the details of the setup and a few of the rules nuances, but the comic book is a great way to familiarize yourself with gameplay. On the cover, the UPC code looks like a profile of Al and on the back are a number of funny advertisements, like you used to see on the back cover of comic books, each featuring other Calliope games. The artwork in the game combines some Art Deco-inspired fonts and flourishes and the rest of it has a definite comic feel. The final point worth mentioning is that the illustrations were all done by the game designer’s son.
How to Play The Mansky Caper
If the game can be explained by a comic book, it must be pretty easy to learn, right? The answer is mostly yes, but just enough no to keep the game fun and interesting.
Setup is completed by shuffling the room cards and placing 5 face down on the table. Next, put an empty safe on each room and put the getaway car card face-up, nearby. Shuffle the character cards and give one to each player, along with the corresponding standee and a couple of same-colored plastic stands. Everyone also gets a stash bag and a single favor marker. Loot tokens are mixed up in the Loot bag, Gasp! cards are shuffled, and all other components are made readily available.
That’s it! The caper is now on!
The youngest and oldest players each put their standee on a room and flip the card, opening the room. From the card, place the appropriate number of Loot, Gasp!, and Danger-Danger! tokens into each of the safes in the opened rooms. The youngest player then gets to go first.
On each player’s turns, they get to take one of three actions. First, the player can stay in the room and open the safe. By first shaking the safe and then taking a token (without looking!), the player will draw one of the three tokens: Loot, Gasp!, or Danger-Danger!. The Loot tokens will give one of three treasures, coins, gems, a combo of both of those, or a key. If it’s coins or gems, the Loot token is placed on the room card and replaced with the appropriate Loot from the Supply box. The converted loot is then evenly split among the number of players in the room. (The current player gets to decide who gets which treasure.) Any remainder is left on the floor in the room. If it’s only you, you get everything. Don’t worry, anything left over on the floor won’t be there for long. Any Loot you get is placed on top of your Loot bag, in front of you. If it’s a key, the player gets to keep that token and use it later as part of another action.
A Gasp! token is immediately traded in for a Gasp! card, which is read and resolved. These are fun, oftentimes game-changing cards. You might find out all the gems are fakes or take all the loose treasure from the floor, or add more loot or other tokens to the safe.
A Danger-Danger! token is placed on the upper left of the card. Each room has a threshold of how many Danger-Danger! tokens can be placed there before the room explodes. Believe it or not, this is bad. You lose any treasure on top of your Loot bag and end up back at the Getaway car. If the room hasn’t blown up, you must roll the Danger-Danger! die. On the die’s 12 faces, there are 5 outcomes. Four of these outcomes are good, you disarm the trap and nothing is lost. Three causes the current player to lose all their unstashed loot and return to the car. Three more faces cause everyone in the room to lose their unstashed loot plus any unclaimed loot on the floor. However, they do get to stay in the room. One face causes the room to blow up. Everyone loses unstashed loot and get pushed to the getaway car. The last face is Al.Everyone playing (not just those in the room) loses all of their unstashed loot, as well as any loot on the floor. Afterwards, Al leaves and play continues.
The second thing a player can do is move to another room and open a safe there. If that player has a key from a loot pull, they can use it to open a new room and safe. Any time that a player leaves a room, players should immediately check the floor. If the loot on the floor is now able to be evenly divided, it can be claimed.
Finally, the third thing a player can do on their turn is visit the getaway car, which allows them to stash their loot. Take any loot on top of your loot bag and place it inside the bag.
That’s it! A few simple rules and you’re off playing a fun press-your-luck game. Except, that’s not it. Mobsters aren’t exactly the trustworthy sort, so there are some additional rules that govern play.
Remember those special abilities your character (and every other character) has? Well, you can’t use your ability. Other players can though. By calling in a favor and giving a player your favor token, you can use their ability to try and avoid bad things happening. This might be prior to drawing a Gasp! card or rolling the Danger-Danger! die. Favor tokens are valuable and you are free to buy, sell, or trade them using the unstashed loot on top of your bag.
Favor tokens can also be used for the ultimate backstab. If you are ever at the getaway car at the same time as another player, you can give them a favor token and invoke “Hey, buddy!”. This forces both players, you and your mark, to empty your loot bags and split them evenly. This is stashed loot, gems and coins, and is a great catch-up mechanism if someone is running away with too many gems. Any extra goes to the player who was forced into, errr, given the favor token. (Hey, it’s just family business!) Committing this treasonous act of larceny counts as your turn.
The game continues until all rooms have been destroyed or everyone is on the getaway car card and agree that they are finished. Everyone empties their loot sacks and counts up their take. Gems are worth 5, coins are 1, and any unused keys are worth 3.
There are special rules for a two-player game. Essentially, there is an AI player and the “Hey, buddy” rule is not used.
Why You Should Play The Mansky Caper
For my money (my stolen, dirty cash with Al’s fingerprints all over it), press-your-luck games uniformly provide some very fun family gaming sessions. They are tension-filled and chock full of belly laughs and high fives — and no bad feelings after because luck doesn’t discriminate. The Mansky Caper is a prime example of that. And because it’s easy to teach and to learn (and because it’s shipping pre-punched and pre-assembled), you can be up and playing in a matter of minutes.
We loved the safes and the theme. We even tried to talk like mobsters, but we weren’t very good at it … and even that ended up being funny. We liked that character distribution was random so that no one had a distinct advantage in who they were playing. However, we found that some characters weren’t as powered as others and rarely were given favor tokens. That’s OK though, some games we didn’t bother using the favor tokens for powers anyway — everyone was holding on to them to use the “Hey, buddy!” power at the car. The Gasp! cards introduced some really fun twists and, although we could try to avoid them through favors, we enjoyed their intrusions into the game, even when they made bad things happen.
The fact that the ruleset is compact is nice and contributes to the quick play aspect of the game. Still, you only end up taking from a safe or trying to safeguard your loot — it’s crazy how it really comes down to that when it feels like there’s much more going on. The thrill of finding out what you’ve drawn from a safe, whether it’s a loot token, a Gasp! token or a Danger-Danger! token, that moment of slow reveal is exhilarating. It’s very enjoyable — sometimes in a spiteful and evil way. (Maniacal laugh!) The theme is thick on this one and I think that goes a long way, especially when your characters are doing things that mobsters would do but, as a parent, you would never ever do.
If you’re the kind of guy who roots for the bad guys in the movies, this game is for you. If, for as far back as you can remember, you always wanted to be a gangster, this game is for you. If you’ve ever woken in bed next to a severed horse head, this game is for you. Or, if you just enjoy a good time playing games, then this game is for you. Factor in the short timeline to production (scheduled to deliver in May), the low cost for a game that has very strong production values, and a game that is very fun to play and this is definitely worth taking a look at when the Kickstarter project begins, on January 11.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.