Firing Up Stills and Running Whiskey
Hello my wonderful readers! In today's post, we are going to be taking a look at the (relatively)
old game Bootleggers, a 3-6 player game from designers Don Beyer, Ray Eifler and Steve Gross and published by Mayday Games in 2004.
The year is 1921, and while prohibition laws are in full swing, the demand for whiskey has only gone up. Illegal stills and speakeasies are popping up everywhere thanks to the influence of organized crime families and mob bosses. You are one of these ruthless bosses. So, hire some muscle, expand your family's influence, fire up your stills, bribe and barter with other mobsters... Do anything you can to make the most dough, just make sure you don't get caught by the copper! This game has very quickly become a personal favorite of mine. So, without further ado, here are three things that I love about Bootleggers.
1) Heavy on Theme
Everything about Bootleggers puts its original theme first. The game has several steps to each round, and each one is very thematically appropriate. First, you use your muscle to determine the round's turn order and then you each get to hire men of action of buy a truck so you can ship more whiskey later. Next, you get to send in the boys to try to influence the speakeasies into buying whiskey from you before the other mobsters. Finally, you fire up your stills, barter with other mobsters to buy and sell leftover whiskey, and then load up your trucks to sell your supply at the speakeasies.
From the actions you take to the artwork in the game, everything makes you feel like you really are a black market, prohibition-era mobster. The theme of Bootleggers is unique and well-integrated, which feels incredibly refreshing in a market that is gradually becoming increasingly saturated with tacked-on themes or themes that have been done a million times before.
2) Competition and Influence
One of the most unique and clever mechanisms present in Bootleggers is that of influence. In order to sell the whiskey that they produce, mobsters will jockey to gain control over the many different speakeasies by placing their influence miniatures in them. You can have controlling influence, (your markers equal or exceed the sum of everyone else's in that speakeasy) majority influence (you have the most markers in that speakeasy), minority influence (you have at least 1 marker) or no influence.
If you don't pay close attention, you can go from having total control to practically no control. And, because the levels of influence determine who gets to sell their whiskey first or who will be making a profit off of all the whiskey sold at each speakeasy, influence is critically important. Each speakeasy also purchases different amounts of whiskey for different amounts of money. But, here's where the real trouble comes in... There are only so many spaces for influence at each speakeasy, so if you want to get some level of control at one, you better do so quickly before all the spaces fills up!
The competition for influence makes this game incredibly interactive (and sometimes downright confrontational if you are into that sort of thing) and gives you reasons to always be paying attention to what the other players are doing.
3) A Tactile Experience
Just take a moment to appreciate these wonderful plastic trucks that you fill with little wooden "crates" of whiskey, the super fun and colorful little plastic miniatures, the abundance of mini dice, the thick player boards, the paper money, the abundance of cards...
The box of this game is HEAVY and for good reason. It's just chock full of stuff that you get to play with and handle all game long. Who doesn't love rolling a bunch of mini dice? Or actually getting to physically load up plastic trucks with little wooden cubes that are super fun to play with. One of the biggest things that differentiates board games from things like video games is that they are a tactile experience. You get to sit down with people and physically play with stuff. So, if you're like me and are a fan of games that have lots of fun components to play with, you'll have a great time with Bootleggers.
So there you have it. Those are 3 things that I love about Bootleggers.
Do you have a favorite component - heavy game? Let me know in the comments below!
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