It’s Goodfellas meets War in this gangster card game for up to six players, where nobody plays the nice guy and you’re never far from being put on the hit list.
|Family Business||Mayfair Games||Card Game|
In The Box
Mayfair proves again and again that games with a basis in history don’t have to feel like your grandpa’s social studies textbook. Family Business is packed with gangsters, crooks, and crime lords in the form of playing cards depicting famous bad guys (and gals) like Bugsy Siegel, Al Capone, and Bonnie Parker. Some of the 54 character cards are easily recognized while others may prompt some research, but all of them have pretty interesting backstories.
The Mobster Cards are divided into groups that sometimes correspond to real crime syndicates and other times are more connected by theme, like the Bank Robbers. Each player takes one of the defined mobster “families” to begin the game and draws a starting hand from the separate deck of Action Cards. When Sonny Corleone promised to “go to the mattresses” against a rival family, he could have been describing the many ways you can attack and retaliate using this deck. Along with inserts for storing both decks of cards, the Family Business box contains a third insert labelled “R.I.P.” that you’ll use to deposit deceased gangsters.
How It Plays
Players begin the game with all members of their crime family showing face-up in front of them, and holding a hand of five Action Cards. The box becomes a centerpiece along with a draw pile for more actions after each turn. Your choices on each turn are pretty simple, making Family Business an easy game to get up and running in no time. A common action (Contract) is to place one or more members of a rival family on the Hit List, meaning you put Mobster Cards in a row at the center of the table, starting with one card leaning up against the bullet-spattered wall depicted on the side of the game’s box.
Counter cards allow you to react quickly and cancel out these actions, and there are Rescue cards that let you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat once some members of your family are lined up for execution. After a certain number of mobsters are placed on the Hit List you’ll officially begin a Mob War. One condemned character card goes into that R.I.P. section on each turn during a Mob War, until the Hit List clears out or one player throws down a (rare) Truce Card. The winner is whomever manages to keep at least one character card alive during all this mayhem, which makes for a frantic and enjoyable night around the table for your gaming group or family.
The theme may be a bit bloody but the gameplay is solid, and there’s real history behind every one of these characters. It felt like a game of War on steroids and the frequent reversals of fortune kept things interesting.
It’s really cool that every single card shows a real person and the cards are nicely illustrated. I liked playing Family Influence and Mob Power cards to keep my people off the Hit List.