Board games with a hidden role mechanic in the rules have become ubiquitous over the years, having been brought to widespread attention by games such as Werewolf, Shadows Over Camelot, and Battlestar Galactica. While people might not have the time or inclination to get into a long game, some titles have cropped up recently to give players all the fun of a hidden role game, but in a short and easy package.
Good Cop Bad Cop by Overworld Games provides the experience of bluffing your friends and finding the criminals, in a small box with short rules and short play time. By taking on the roles of honest or crooked police officers, you are plunged into a fast-paced world where one askew glance or slip of the tongue can give away your identity. Does Good Cop Bad Cop close the case? Keep reading to find out.
Good Cop Bad Cop is a hidden identity and bluffing game for 4-8 players that takes 10 to 20 minute to play. It plays best with 5 or 6 players.
Players are assigned the team of either being honest or crooked cops by being dealt three secret role cards to each player, with the majority of role cards in hand determining which team a player is on. Two players are also secretly assigned the role of the leader of each of the teams. The goal of the game is for the players to determine who the leader of the rival team is and eliminate them from the game.
On your turn, you may take one of four actions:
- Look at a role card of another player.
- Draw an equipment card. These cards have various effects on gameplay, such as allowing multiple actions, or reviving an eliminated player. They can be used at any time (mostly) during a turn.
- Take a gun from the middle of the table, and revealing one of their role cards.
- Shoot a player you are aiming your gun at.
As an extra phase on your turn, after taking an action, you must aim your gun at another player. Then your turn ends and play moves to the left.
If a player is shot, they immediately reveal all their role cards. If they are not the faction leader, they are immediately eliminated, while if they are the leader, they are considered ‘wounded’ and can absorb one more hit before being eliminated. Whichever team eliminates the opposing leader first, wins!
As you can tell from the gameplay description above, the bar is low for entry into Good Cop Bad Cop. The rules are straightforward and easy to understand, and you can start playing pretty much within three minutes of opening the box. Some of the equipment cards throw a curveball into the mechanics, interrupting and sometimes preventing actions from occurring, but these are easily explained by the card text. I have to give kudos to the designers for the ease of gameplay and its explanation.
One of the strengths of the game is its short game length, being true to the 20 minute duration when playing with 8 players. After having played it a number of times with various player counts, we found that that the sweet spot was five or six players. With four, the game became extremely repetitive and boring, and with 7-8 players, there was far too much downtime, even with quick turns.
The major issue facing Good Cop Bad Cop is that, in the base game, there is not much separating it from games like Bang! or The Resistance. It plays more like the former, as it is a bit more chaotic and free-wheeling at times, and while The Resistance can devolve into solving a matrix equation when you’re playing with the wrong crowd, it still has that team vs. team setup. This could possibly have been addressed in the many expansions that have been released, but having only the base game, I found it does little to separate itself from other titles in the genre.
That said, the main way it does provide its own individual flavor is through the equipment cards, which take the form of items like polygraph machines, K-9 units, and planted evidence. These cards allow players to take game-changing actions like looking at two players’ role cards, or all of a single players’ cards, or exchanging two players’ cards. One card even reverses the turn order! When these cards came out, the game suddenly became more interesting and engaging. That said, they definitely contributed to a more chaotic game than a title like The Resistance.
The components of Good Cop Bad Cop are basic, consisting of cards and tokens. They are simple enough, befitting any game that comes in a small box. The artwork on the cards is clever, with a comic/pop-art style that fits the theme well. Many times while playing, it is easy to fall into the jargon and phrases used on Law & Order (but only the Jerry Orbach episodes, clearly), which makes playing that much more fun and theme-oriented.
Good Cop Bad Cop is a solid game in the hidden-role genre, providing a game that is easy to get into quickly and plays just as rapidly. Great as a filler for game nights in between more heavy titles, and for parties where gamers and non-gamers will be in attendance, this title can find a place on any game shelf. That is, if you don’t already have one, as we found that Good Cop Bad Cop does not do enough to stand out in the crowd of similar games.
Final Score 3: A game for gamers and non-gamers interested in a hidden-role game that is a little more like a party and a little less like a logic puzzle.
• Prioritizes luck over logic at times
• Can get repetitive upon multiple plays