Don Falconi has escaped from prison, and is using his infamous chili sauce to boost his speed and blow up streets. Can you catch him before he makes it to the rendezvous point?
What Is Catch Don Falconi?
Catch Don Falconi is a game for 2 to 4 players, ages 6 and up, and takes about 15–30 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of 44 Swiss Francs (about $44USD) for a copy of the game. The game’s theme is about an escaped mobster, though with a lighter twist having to do with chili sauce and pizzas; there are multiple gameplay modes, with simpler rules for young kids or newer players, and advanced rules for more experienced players.
Catch Don Falconi was designed by Stephan Mosele and Vasco Estermann and published by Stephan Mosele, with illustrations by Felice Bruno.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
Catch Don Falconi Components
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
Here’s what comes in the box:
- 12 Edge pieces (3 each of prison, country, forest, and harbor)
- 81 Road tiles
- 3 Escape tiles
- 4 Cars
- 2 Chili-Bomb tokens
- 2 Chili-Boost Sauce tokens
The edge pieces fit together like puzzle pieces to form a large square border, just big enough for all 81 road tiles to fill it (though it’s unlikely you’ll actually fill every space in an actual game.)
There are 6 types of road pieces with different configurations, including a dead-end that serves as a U-turn, and an overpass/underpass. There are some fun details on the road tiles and particularly on the four borders: the prison is mostly red and matches a lot of the rest of the city, and the three others are yellow farmlands, green forests, and a blue waterfront. In the prototype, these 6 types are just repeated, but the campaign has stretch goals to add some different artwork—for instance, some tiles representing Little Italy or Chinatown, for a bit more variety. The entire board (at least in the prototype) was about 2 feet square, which is a nice, large size that lets you appreciate the details on the tiles.
The components otherwise are fairly simple: a lot of tiles, four car meeples, and a couple of tokens, aside from the border itself.
How to Play Catch Don Falconi
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
Don Falconi wins by reaching an exit. Each of the police players can win by catching Don Falconi.
Set up the border and place the cars in their starting positions: Don Falconi (the black car) in the prison, and the police in the police stations matching their border colors. If you have only 2 players, the police player should use the blue police opposite Don Falconi (or, alternatively, control all 3 police cars).
Shuffle all of the road tiles to make a supply. Give Don Falconi the two chili-bomb tokens. Don Falconi takes the first turn.
There are two primary gameplay modes, and five total “spice” levels depending on how simple you want to make the game. At the core, players lay out road tiles and then drive along them, building out the paths as they go.
In the simpler mode, players play one tile per turn and can drive any distance along the roads. The three variants for this are:
- Pizza Margherita: Each player draws a tile from the supply and plays it.
- Pizza Funghi: Every player has a hand of 2 tiles; they draw a tile, and then play one from their hand.
- Pizza Prosciutto: The 3 escape tiles are shuffled into the supply, and must be placed on the border when drawn; Don Falconi can win not just by eluding capture, but also by making it to an escape tile.
Don Falconi has two chili-bomb tokens, which may be used in two different ways: place it behind him (bomb side up) to block a road, or place it (road side up) to break through a roadblock or barrier to create a new path. Either way, the changes made by the bomb affect all players.
In the advanced game mode, players start with a hand of 2 tiles, and each player gets 3 actions on their turn, which may be spent to play tiles, draw tiles, or drive 1 space. You can also use your entire turn to reorient yourself on your current tile in case you want to change direction.
- Pizza Salami: Advanced mode, using player actions.
- Pizza Diavola: Don Falconi also receives the two chili-boost tokens.
The chili-boost token may be spent to drive up to 3 spaces for one action, even combined with breaking through a roadblock.
The game ends if Don Falconi gets caught or gets away. To catch Don Falconi, a police car must catch him from behind—if they’re driving in opposite directions then they just pass each other—note that although the police are all trying to catch Don Falconi, only the one who catches him wins. If Don Falconi reaches an exit tile, then he hops on a plane, train, or boat and gets away. The game could also end with Don Falconi’s victory if all of the police get trapped and cannot move.
Why You Should Play Catch Don Falconi
Don Falconi was originally designed by Stephan Mosele years ago as something to play with his two sons, and as they grew they continued to play it and share it with friends. So it’s a game that has definitely been road-tested with actual kids. Eventually, Mosele was convinced to try publishing it so that more people could get a taste, and worked with Vasco Estermann to further develop the gameplay, and hired Felice Bruno to illustrate it.
The easy gameplay mode is quick and a bit more luck-dependent: you play tiles as you draw them (potentially swapping from your hand of two tiles), and then drive along the roads that you’ve built. Once you connect to previously built roads, you can drive along those as far as you like before you end your turn. At the beginning of the game, as players start far apart from each other, everyone is building out a network and generally driving one tile at a time. But later in the game, you may find yourself able to use U-turns and intersections to change directions and take complicated paths. Essentially, if a police car can somehow connect to a road that Don Falconi has ever driven on (going in the same direction), then it can catch him unless he’s used a chili-bomb to break the road. This version, particularly without the escape tiles, seems like it may be more difficult for Don Falconi unless he can block off all the police—and this version also has player elimination because if you get stuck, you’re out of the game.
The advanced mode gives players a little more choice (and also prevents you from getting totally stuck because you can use your whole turn to change direction if needed). You can choose to spend your actions laying tiles, drawing tiles, or driving. However, because you can only place tiles orthogonally adjacent to you, what it means is that, for the first portion of the game, it still feels a lot like the basic game with a hand of 2 tiles: on average, you’ll use your three actions to draw, place, and drive once each.
The difference comes when the roads start linking up: you no longer get the free “drive as far as you want” action, though you can spend all three actions in a turn just driving. That’s nice for the police, because if you’re chasing down Don Falconi and he’s still laying out road in front of him, you’ll eventually catch up. He’ll have to use his chili-bombs and chili-boosts carefully to get away. (The rules also allow Don Falconi to crash a police car from behind to eliminate that player, though I’m generally not a fan of player elimination.) What this means is that even once the network of roads is built out, Don’s capture isn’t guaranteed.
Once you throw in the escape tiles (which I recommend), it also gives everyone a sense of where Don Falconi is going. The police players must play escape tiles as soon as they’re drawn, but Don Falconi can keep one in reserve, which can be a bit more of a surprise. The downside is that luck of the draw could result in a situation where Don Falconi gets a green or yellow escape tile early on, make a beeline for that border, and get away before the other police are even able to build enough roads to get there. (I think my own house rule may be to shuffle the escape tiles into a middle section of the supply, so there’s some minimum number of tiles that must be drawn before you get one.)
The theme itself might not be for everyone: if you’re not interested in playing a mobster or a cop, it may be a bit off-putting, though it’s made a little sillier by the fact that Don Falconi is trafficking in hot sauce sold through his pizza shops. It’s also easy to re-theme it as a generic car chase (which, again, has its own issues).
I like tile-laying games generally and I think Catch Don Falconi has a lot of fun visual appeal to it. It had a little more random chance than I usually like in my games, so it’s something I’d probably be more likely to play with my youngest daughter (age 8) and also as a casual game. The advanced game modes do add some interesting decisions in the mid-game, but I think my adult friends who prefer strategy games may still find it a bit light for them.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Catch Don Falconi Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad was loaned a prototype of this game for review purposes.