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Everybody's running rum, but the real money's in snitching.

Card Game Review: ‘Booze Barons’ from Overworld Games

Booze Barons from Overworld Games has raised some eyebrows on Kickstarter by transporting players back to the sneaky days of Prohibition. In the game, demand for hooch has people out on the roof, and every sheik and sheba is out to make some bread with their own particular brew, so long as they don’t get pinched. Players can get a bigger cut for themselves by ratting out who’s making what giggle juice, leaving one rum-runner supreme.

boozebaronscover Each player picks from the rowdy collection of gangsters. There’s Mickey “Big Monte” Martelli, Jen “Jailbird” Lau, Maggie “The Mint” Montgomery, and plenty more where they came from, somebody for everyone. The characters are largely for fun, adding a level of style above simply having a colored token. The real meat of the game is secret Booze Type card that each player receives, showing the icon of what they are running and what they do not want others finding out. The Types are organized into beers, liquors, and wines, each a gang that players act as part of, even though they may not know others are in that gang.

Players go in turns through several phases for each round. First, players choose which site they plan to visit that round, reveal, and then perform an action. The primary action is to collect a Delivery card, which shows what booze is being requested at which speakeasy. Some actions are activating special Events at the different sites, such as allowing another player to pick up two Deliveries or drawing three cards from the deck and keeping whichever matches one’s Booze Type. Players receive one coin for each Delivery card held at the end of the game.

boozebaronscurtainclubAlthough the winning gang of the game is decided by coins, Booze Barons is at its core an identity deduction game. Players may want to run a clean shop just getting coins by Delivery, but the points-based Snitching gives bonuses that can’t be refused. As players collect Delivery cards, they will eventually show trends that opponents will pick up on. Once a player has figured out what booze another player is delivering, he or she calls them out to get bonus coins. The first snitch in the game gets a further bonus, but guessing incorrectly from a lack of information is a waste of a turn, so snitches should be careful.

The amount of social interaction in Booze Barons really makes the game. A player is not out of the game when his or her booze is guessed, giving a chance to seek vengeance by finding out the snitch’s booze. On top of the mechanics, the art featuring real Roaring Twenties style and colorful location tiles like “Seedy Pete’s” and the “River Caves” put players in the mood to do some gumshoeing while dipping the bill.

Booze Barons is an identity deduction game for three to nine players and takes about thirty minutes to play, depending on the size of the crowd. It is well suited for parties as well as more serious tabletops where players pay close attention to memorizing others’ Deliveries to determine the trend. A video by designer Jeremy Commandeur shows the game in action.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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