Recap: Ca$h ‘n Gun$ and Power Struggle First Impressions
This week, I got into a lot of new games. Not all were great (I’m looking at you, Scotland Yard), but most of them were pretty darn enjoyable. I got to try my hand at bluffing with firearms in Ca$h ‘n Gun$, and tool around a mostly corrupt corporation in Power Struggle.
Ca$h ‘n Gun$. Despite being difficult to write out on the keyboard, this game was a lot of fun. In Cash ‘n Guns (I’m dropping the dollar signs), the players have just scored a big heist and are trying to divvy up the loot, but are bickering about how to do so. Money is put on the table each round and the players load their orange foam guns with a blank or a bullet. Over eight rounds, each player only has three bullets.
On the count of three, everyone takes their gun and points it at another player. Each player with a gun pointed at them can choose to either take their chances of getting shot or can stand down and give up the loot. Players still standing are shot if bullets were loaded into those guns. Then all players still standing (not shot or hiding), get equal shares of the loot on the table.
We played several times. The basic game was a lot of fun – and much of that fun comes from pointing orange foam guns at your friends. But it was also a good deduction game. You had to figure out not only who needed to be shot, but whether other players would do it for you. if someone was in the lead, then he was the obvious target, which means I should let everyone else point at him and I should point toward someone else. But if too many people feel that way, the leader gets off scot free. It’s a great double bluff and strategy game. And it plays quickly.
After the basic game, we played with coward tokens and special powers. Each player gets a unique special power and each time you hide, you are branded a coward and get minus points at the end of the game. That enjoyable addition gave a good asymmetric experience and made hiding more difficult for an early leader.
After that, we played with the hidden traitor element. One of the players is actually the cop trying to call the police. It seemed very difficult for the police player to win. Not only was his win condition necessary by round six (giving the other players two extra rounds to kill him), but he can only hide once and has to stay alive. Plus it changes the dynamic of the game – and I’m not sure that was positive thing. It might be good to throw in from time to time, but for now I think I’ll stick with everyone being a filthy criminal.
Power Struggle. Released at Essen to some serious buzz three years ago, Power Struggle had a lot of difficulty making the trek to the States. By the time it got here, the hype had waned and the Cult of the New had other idols to worship. Still, I was interested in seeing if the game lived up to the original press.
Power Struggle is a game to four points with five points possible. Points can be gained for meeting a threshold of influence, stocks, main departments, corruption, or consultants. Also, each player has a secret nemesis. If you can beat that particular player in three of the five areas, and already have three legitimate points, you get a fourth point and the win.
The game is very interesting for two reasons. If you have control of the most employees in a department, you can claim the department head. Each of the six departments and the chairman get a bonus power. That power can be used for a moderate advantage. However, that power can also be bought by other players for bribe money. And, if bribed away, the player who gets the advantage actually can use an improved version of it. If a bribe is turned down, the bribing player can retaliate by firing one of that player’s employees. So bribes and cajoling are a central part of the game.
During rules explanation, there was a ton going on and it seemed like everything was a nightmare of confusion and bureaucratic nonsense, but once the game started going it flowed very evenly. What seemed obtuse at first was quickly elucidated and surprisingly intuitive.
Power Struggle had a lot of interaction and some careful manipulation of the department heads. In fact, it was often advantageous to lose a department, because that former head could become an outside consultant (for a potential point) or move to the board for influence a potential election to chairman. If there was one drawback it was that it was easy for one player to target another for destruction and ruin their game. With my strategy at least, it seemed that there was always a best move to take. I ended up tying for the win (though I lost on the tiebreaker) on my first game. I’m sure some of that is because the other players played more easily against me than they could have, but it did seem like each round I knew exactly what to do – whether I could accomplish it or not was a different story.