Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
The summer break for television shows allows me the opportunity to search video streaming services for shows I might have missed while they were on the air. My summer binge this year was the show Leverage. For the uninformed, Leverage follows a group of thieves that work together executing an over the top heist. Each member of the crew brings specific talents to the different jobs they take on, with one of those people being a grifter. This person would use basic psychological tricks to steal from the person they are trying to rob, known as the mark.
When I first saw the game we are previewing today, I thought about how nice it would be to try to steal from a mark without the risk of imprisonment. Grifter: A Game of Cons is a set building and hand management card game. Players are trying to be the first to successfully have a set of Mark, Business and Opportunity cards played in front of them at the start of their turn. However, you are not the only Grifter in this one-horse town. Others will try to disturb your well-laid plans while improving their own cons. Let us get to the preview to see if this game is something you would like to support on Kickstarter.
Set in the late 1800’s, Grifter: A Game of Cons allows you to be one of four Grifters attempting to take advantage of prominent individuals in a growing western town. Players will have to use their Grifter’s unique special abilities while trying to sell their marks on their illegitimate business and the opportunity for “profit.” Players will have to spin a web of lies by using plot cards to convince their marks to invest. Unfortunately, you are not the only Grifter in this town and other players will attempt to tear that story you have spun apart. The game will continue until one player is able to keep their con game alive long enough to win the game.
How to Play:
Players will start with one of the four Grifter cards placed on the table and five cards from the Con deck in their hand. Each player has two personal areas in front of them on the table. One will be a collection of facedown cards known as a plot area. These cards will be used to pay for the opportunity to play specific cards during the game. The second area is the scam area where all the required cards to win the game (the Mark, Business and Opportunity cards) will be placed.
Every round progresses in the following way:
1. Players will first check to see if they have the three required cards in their scam area, if they have pulled off their Con they win the game.
2. If not, that player will take two cards from the Con deck.
This is where players will gain the necessary card types to pull of their con job as well as foil the other Grifters.
3. After cards are drawn, the player has the option of placing a card face down in their plot area.
The majority of the cards in the deck have a cost associated with playing them. The costs are paid for by cards either from your hand or in your plot area. All of the cards required to win the game must be paid with cards from your plot area so it is a good idea to build up this area.
4. The next phase will allow the current player to play as many cards as they can pay for from their hand.
These not only include the three card types to win the game, but also Trick cards that have varying effects to help you. Another quick note about playing the Business and Opportunity cards for your scam: Each Business card has a set of icons that represent the different Opportunity cards in the game. In order to win the game, they must be compatible.
Two major things stood out about this game for me while playing it. The first is how well the mechanics fit with the theme of the game. While I do not condone what Grifters do to their victims, I can recognize the time and effort it takes to set up these crimes. Having to set up the mark by having a legitimate looking business and moneymaking opportunity is not something you can throw together on a whim. The mechanics allow for this slow build and story creation by limiting the number of plot cards you can play each turn. This allows for a strategic process as you play through the game. Rather than just throwing a bunch of cards down at once, you are forced to think more about spending those precious plot cards as you progress to finishing your con.
The majority of the cards in the deck are not the cards necessary to win the game; instead, they are the Trick cards. The Trick card’s abilities increase the level of player interaction. These cards have a nice mix of helping you as well as hindering your opponents. This makes the game feel that you are fighting over the same territory rather than just a solo game waiting to get the right collection of cards.
The other thing I enjoyed was the variability of the game. Each Grifter in the game has it’s own special ability which are all quite different. Players will need to adjust their play style to fit these abilities to increase their chances of winning, thus keeping the game from becoming repetitive. Another aspect that helps to keep the game fresh is the requirement of the Business and Opportunity cards to be compatible. For example selling medicine from a mining operation would not be a good con. Essentially, this requirement forces players to search for that combination each game. Balancing that search with keeping your opponents down is a challenge and changes every game.
The game is very quick to learn. The most difficult thing to understand about the game is the different iconography on the cards, once that is learned turns will take very little time. One thing that I was sure to explain to my players before we started to the game was that everyone else has an opportunity to stop your scam one last time before you win the game. This means that you will have to prepare for that before you start placing cards in your scam area. Waiting until players are low on cards and having a blocking trick card can help win you the game.
I enjoyed my time with Grifter: A Game of Cons. The game is easy to teach and has a theme that connects well to the mechanics. For a game that is only a collection of cards, it has a lot of replay value because different card abilities make each game feel unique. There is more strategy to Grifter: A Game of Cons than you would think on the surface. Players will need to plan out their scam to keep the other players from stopping them. This game fits well into that filler game role on your gaming shelf. If you are looking for a new card game to add to your collection consider giving Grifter: A Game of Cons your support.
If you’d like to become a backer, pledges start at $18 the full game and most stretch goals. Grifter: A Game of Cons is scheduled to be in backers hands in September of 2015 and you have until Thursday, March 12th to become a backer. Head over today and check it out.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review.