Grab the tommy guns and hide the hooch because board game publisher Gale Force Nine has announced a new title set in Prohibition-era Chicago during the oft-romanced reign of organised crime. Wise Guys turns the dangerous but profitable bootlegging scheme into a competitive area control and bidding game where territory changes hands every night.
In Wise Guys, three to four players don the fedoras and Italian-cut suits of Chicago gangster bosses as they vie to control as much of the city’s black market resources as possible, turning muscle, guns and illegal alcohol into profit. But even the famous Al Capone will need a crew ranging from loyal Made Men to the rank and file goon, and keeping them alive is nearly as important as pay day.
Over six rounds, players will take turns driving to locations in the city represented by the grid of cards at the center of the board. Different locations provide access to materials, cash or clout that the player’s gang members can “acquire” through trade, earning profit from property within their territory or by exploiting parts of the city under the control of a rival gang. All players must maintain a certain discretion, as selling too much in one round will draw unwanted attention or else saturate the city in liquor. And your fellow mafioso won’t be too happy about lost profits.
A player who knows the strengths and weaknesses of their gang members will be able to better utilise their talents throughout the city. Certain Made Men will excel in applying physical pressure to the right people and body parts to grease the wheels of commerce or make a problem disappear, while others can use their charisma and connections to negotiate a better deal than threats could deliver. Most associates, though, will be largely unremarkable - that’s okay because someone has to drive the car.
Each session of Wise Guys will play out a little differently thanks to randomly placed locations. Every game begins with access to City Hall and the hospital, a distillery, an emergency room and a gun factory. All the while, Roaring 20s cards will introduce new complications to each round. Carefully laid plans can go up in smoke thanks to one straight cop or the surprise election of a new mayor tough on crime. Rolling with the punches - or anticipating them - can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
The gangs of Chicago might be rivals most of the time, but Wise Guys creates space for players to trade money, weapons and liquor at any point and for any reason. Such deals might sow discord among more powerful rivals sensing a united front, or that player might be trying to run the most above-board illegal enterprise in the city. Regardless, fairweather alliances are encouraged during the course of play.
Wise Guys was designed by Phil Yates, who is also known for the prolific WWII tabletop miniatures game Flames of War as well as the World of Tanks Miniatures Game. Darko Stojanovic provided the illustrations for the game and box. His previous works include card game Vampire: The Masquerade - Rivals and the 4th edition of miniatures fighting game Arena Deathmatch.
Publisher Gale Force Nine has a long track record of handling licensed board games, including tabletop titles for Firefly, Sons of Anarchy, Homeland and Doctor Who. The company published three in the spate of Dune games to come out in 2021 - A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy, Betrayal and the CHOAM and Richese expansion to the Dune board game. It also produces miniatures for tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons.
In a press release, Gale Force Nine said Wise Guys has been “kept under wraps” for a long while and presents the start of a busy year. It’s not clear whether Wise Guys will be the only brand new board game the company will publish in 2022, and it did not provide a price or more concrete release date beyond “coming soon.”