I’ve been working on Legitimate Businessmen for quite a while now, so it came as a surprise for me to look at the website and discover that I haven’t written anything about it here yet!
In Legitimate Businessmen the players are capos in the same Mafia family. The Don has identified a new neighbourhood that he wants to take over and has set up a competition: whoever becomes the most influential in that neighborhood in a certain amount of time will be given control of it and all its assorted rackets and incomes.
This is a worker placement game. Each player has a few minions (soldiers, in Mafia speak) that they send on errands in the neighborhood: taking control of the flow of some illegal good being sold, shaking people down for protection money, running a racket of their own, roughing up a rival capo’s soldier, etc. The game lasts a set number of turns, and the goal of the game is to have the most influence at the end of that turn. Influence is gained by buying legitimate businesses and by making it so other people owe you favors. You get favors by pulling off rackets, which each require a certain combination of resources.
There are three main resources, one pseudo-resource, and money. The three resources are hard drugs (cocaine, represented by a white token), soft drugs (marijuana, represented by a green token), and stolen/counterfeit/otherwise illegal goods (red token). The pseudo-resource are people in the neighborhood, civilians, that you recruit to help you out on particular rackets (black token). They differ from other resources in that you only hire them for one turn (so if you don’t use them the turn you get them, they’re lost) and you can replace them on a 1:1 basis with your own soldiers (so if a racket calls for 2 black tokens, you could instead use 2 of your soldiers, or 1 token and 1 soldier). Money is not used very much for rackets, instead, it is primarily used to purchase legitimate businesses.
When you pull off a racket, you get some combination of favors. Favors are, from most to least valuable, from the Don, Politicians, Media, and Community. They are worth 12, 8, 6, and 4 Influence, respectively. However, they’re only worth that much influence if you don’t call them in, which you may be tempted to do: each of the favors can be exchanged for a useful special ability. Favors are cards drawn from a deck of that type. All favors of a given type are worth the same amount of Influence, but can be exchanged for a different special ability. For instance, one Community favor might be able to be exchanged for the assistance of 3 civilians, while another might be exchangeable for 4 marijuana.
The numbers aren’t certain yet, but the general concept is pretty well nailed down.
Interestingly, the above is not really any of what first got me interested in this game concept. The idea arose from me thinking about calling Mafia members “Legitimate Businessmen” and the idea of using actual legitimate businesses as fronts to run rackets out of. So the initial mechanical concept was this: have a neighbourhood of different businesses that players can take control of and run rackets out the back of.
I’ve had a few more ideas since then, like making each of the businesses be a tile so that you can rearrange them each game, and have one of them be a police station, and make it so that doing things in businesses closer to the police station is more risky-this makes it so each board setup would be significantly different, which would hopefully increase replayability a lot. I’ve also spent a completely absurd amount of time thinking about the maths of this and trying out different combinations in my head and on paper. It took several months to get it to the point where I think it might be worth starting playtesting of it, but it’s finally there, so I’m really happy. I’m going to make a playtest copy tonight and start trying it out. There’s still a very long journey ahead to make it into an actual, playable game. This is by far my most ambitious game of the three: it’s way more complex than Save the Singularity, or even Professor Pugnacious.