When I first read the rules for Gunrunners, I thought it had all the makings of an classic action movie. The game has international police, undercover agents, an evil genius antagonist, and stashes of weapons. The real question is if Gunrunners is worth your time. Read on.
Gunrunners is an area control game for 2-4 players and takes around 30 minutes to play. Gunrunners plays best with 3 or 4 players.
In Gunrunners, players try to stop the Merchant of Death, an infamous arms dealer, from getting weapons into locations around the globe. Players will act as international police deploying agents hoping to confiscate more weapons than the other players. Each round, players will place a card/agent into the different active locations involved in the illegal arms trade. After enough agents have been deployed to a specific location, a bust will occur and the contraband will be given to the players who have agents at that location. The game will continue until all players are out of cards or seven busts have occurred and the player with the most crates wins the game.
The game doesn’t have many components to talk about. I do like the artwork on the cards depicting the agents. It feels like something out of a Dick Tracy cartoon and I think it works well in this setting. I do have a gripe about the components: the cubes used in the game are very basic. They are unpainted wooden cubes which I guess do an acceptable job depicting a crate of guns, but I would like a little more detail to show what they are meant to represent. I’m being nit-picky, but with only two components in the game, it stands out. It’s worth mentioning that every player commented about the cubes.
How to Play:
Each game starts with placing location cards. The number of locations is dependent on the number of players. Four cubes get placed on each location. Each player gets a different color deck of 14 identical cards. These cards all have a numeric value on them. Six of the cards are special operative cards that give players special actions when they are deployed in field. Each player places one of their one-point agent cards to the left of the locations and the first player will begin their turn.
Each player starts the game with five cards in their hand and will go through these phases to complete a turn.
1. Deliver Weapons: Players will roll a die and the number shown will be where another crate of weapons will be placed that turn. If the number rolled is less or equal to the number of locations in the game, a crate is placed on the location shown on the die, counting from the top location to the bottom. If it is higher, that crate goes to the warehouse. The warehouse empties when a location number is rolled and all cubes currently in the warehouse move to that location.
2. Deploy an Agent: There are two types of agents a player can deploy during this phase. A probationary agent is placed face down to the left of any location that the player chooses which doesn’t match their card color. They must move the card that is already to the left of that location to the right of the location, face up. A player can also chose to place an undercover agent. These are placed face down on the right side of any location. A player may only have one on the board at a time, unless a special operative power grants him a second. This card is placed face down and is only flipped over once a bust occurs.
3. Special Operations: If the card flipped over when placing a probationary agent happens to be a special operative, the owner of that card may choose to use the special power that cards gives. They allow that player to remove cards from the game, move cards around, look and redistribute probationary and undercover agents, utilize more undercover agents, and move crates to another location.
4. Bust: When a location has four face up agents in the field, a bust occurs. Any undercover agents at that location are flipped over. The numbers on all the cards are totaled and the player that has the highest total receives half of the crates at that location. The next highest takes half of the remaining cubes and so on until all players who have agents at that location have been given half of the cubes currently at the location. Two cubes are then placed at that bust location and one cube is placed at the others.
The player will then draw back up to five cards and their turn is over. Each player will continue these four phases until seven busts have occurred or every player has placed all of their agents on the table. If players have placed all of their cards, each location’s crate total is cut in half and the remaining crates are apportioned in the same way as described in the bust phase. The player with the most crates at the end of the game wins.
When I first started to play Gunrunners, I thought the game was very simple. I thought that during your turn, it would be obvious what you were supposed to do. After playing the first five minutes of my first game, I could tell I was wrong. I found myself contemplating over my next move far longer than I ever expected. This was due to the interesting mechanic used when placing a probationary agent. Every time you place a probationary agent, you are also moving one of your opponent’s cards into that location. I found myself examining each location, trying to see where I can gain the most cubes despite moving another player into that location. Everyone I played with paused a few times a game to think a few moves ahead which was something I wasn’t expecting. Despite some slowdown, each phase moves quickly and turns take very little time to complete. One criticism is that later in the game, the turns start feeling repetitive. Players don’t have as many options as they run out of agents to play and this gives them less opportunity to swing a location to their favor.
Gunrunners is a filler game, but it fits its role well. This game is very simple to learn and teach to new players. I think people might look at a game like Gunrunners and think the game is just too simple. Since it’s a card game, there is a decent level of luck. If you happen to get all high value cards early, the later part of the game will leave you feeling helpless, but this is true of any card game. This might be a deterrent for some gamers, but they would be missing out on a solid game.
I honestly was surprised at the amount of fun that I had playing this game. The main reason for this is that you are constantly involved with every player’s turn. There is an opportunity each turn for your agent to get moved into the active area for a location and if that agent happens to be a special operative, you get to take that action during the other player’s turn. There isn’t downtime for players in this game. Things are constantly changing and affecting your future plans. The special operative cards are also a nice addition to the game. None of them are too overpowered to completely shift the game in one player’s favor, but they add a nice variety and player interaction. I have seen the perfectly timed operative card activated that completely messed up my plans at a location. It was frustrating, but I was able to get that player back later in the game. With higher player counts, the game lends itself to more player interaction and is a better experience than playing with just two players.
Gunrunners is a solid filler game for your collection. There’s not a great deal of meaty strategy or decisions that you have to make, but Gunrunners has enough player interaction and keeps players engaged to be a very fun experience to play. If you are looking for a new light game to add to your collection, Gunrunners would be a good fit.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $19
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A fun light card game with plenty of player interaction to keep players involved.
• Cubes are bland
• Turns can feel repetitive
• To light for some players