I (Thomas) have been playtesting Legitimate Businessmen with Allison for a while now, so I thought I”d write something to let you know how it’s going and what my plan is. I’m trying to be really organized about it this time through, and so far it’s working quite well.
During the course of thinking about the game for several months I came up with the things I want the game to include (resource gathering via businesses, spending resources on rackets, rackets giving you favors, the police interfering, combat with other players, unique traits/powers to each capo) and tentative game mechanics for each of these design elements. What I’m doing in the playtesting is stripping the game down to the bare bones and starting playtesting there, and then, once that is confirmed to work, be fun, and be balanced, I’m adding on another part and doing more playtesting. Once I’ve confirmed that the game still works and is fun and the new mechanic isn’t clashing with preexisting ones, I’ll add another and continue.
We started with just the 8 businesses (two for each resource: marijuana, cocaine, stolen/counterfeit goods, and hired neighborhood toughs) and a racket in each of them. After playing a few games of that and confirming that yes, this is fun, we added the police.
One of the elements of the design I’m most proud of is the idea that the board is made up of tiles and that their order placement matters, so that each setup is different, hopefully giving the game a lot of replayability. It’s not a miniatures game, there’s no limit to “movement” so you can put your dudes on any of the unoccupied spots on your turn, so the way that the tile layout matters is based on how close they are to the police station. The board layout is like this, where P is the police station, A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H are businesses (randomized, remember). There will probably be a hospital later, but we haven’t included that yet. The board is laid out like this:
A and B are adjacent to the police station, so it’s dangerous to do illegal things there. That means that if you go to them for a resource, or try to pull off a racket there, you have to roll 3d6. If even one of them is a 1, the police catch you and you don’t get the resources/don’t get to pull off the racket. I’m also probably going to include a “getting arrested” effect, but we’re not there yet. C and D are further away, so you only have to roll 2d6. E and F are further still; 1d6. G and H are so far away that they’re completely safe.
This makes some resources much more appealing than others, as getting them is less dangerous-but what if the easy-to-get resources can only be used on the rackets that are up next to the police station? And of course the other players are competing to get them too, so there’s a lot of conflict there.
So what’s the verdict on including the police? In a word: great! They add a lot to the bare-bones level we had earlier. I also included the fact that money is worth victory points and that you can run a protection racket to get more money, and those contributed as well, though they weren’t as significant. I learned that the police catching you, while a setback, is not a surefire defeat-Allison got caught significantly more than me, but still pulled out a victory. We did come to the consensus that my original ideas for how being arrested should work is too harsh, so we mellowed them out a little.
So what’s next in the playtest process? Favors are going to be a really big deal and the most difficult part to get right, so I’m delaying testing them. Next time around I’ll include getting arrested and the ability to buy the Legitimate Businesses.