Game Buzz: Nothing Personal

If you’ve listened to the gaming podcast The Dice Tower at any point during the last year or so, you’ve heard about

image by BGG user TomVasel

Nothing Personal is a game co-designed by Tom Vasel (host of the Dice Tower) and Steve Avery (the voice of Ameritrash).  It’s a 3-5 player game for ages 8 and up that takes around two hours to play.  The game is being published by Dice Tower Games and Game Salute, and is currently on Kickstarter (at least until Tuesday 11/20).  The game, based on the Kremlin game system, is an influence game where mafioso are making moves and trying to earn respect.  I feel like Tom Vasel has been talking about the game forever – he talked about its initial prototype called “Capo”, and the whole playtest process in a number of episodes on his show.  He steadily built his own buzz, and it apparently worked as the game funded in only 26 hours.

Board – image by BGG user TomVasel

The game comes with a board, 140 influence markers, 5 scoring markers, money chips, 50 gangster cards, 94 influence cards, a capo marker, 5 black calendar markers, 8 black blackmail chips, 2 black negate markers, and a six-sided die.  Each player begins with a family, a scoring marker, 25 influence markers, $5, and four influence cards from the deck.  You’ll then set up the board, which is set up in a kind of pyramid structure.  The top spot will be occupied by the starting capo (I don’t think the name has been assigned yet as it’s one of the funding levels on Kickstarter).  Eleven random gangster cards are drawn to occupy the eight active positions and three “Soci” positions.  At least one gangster of each type (Thug, Hitman, Conman, Gambler) must be in positions 4-8.  Each player starts with 0 respect.

Nothing Personal takes five rounds to play.  Each round has six phases – influence, crew, the fence, the feds, the family, and the calendar.

INFLUENCE: In this phase, each player can play an influence card.  They can do this play simply playing the card and placing the indicated number of influence markers on selected gangsters; discard an influence card for its action; discard an influence card to place one influence on any gangster; or pass for the rest of the phase.  Once everyone has had a turn, you may play an additional card with some money attached.  This is an ante that all subsequent players must follow or raise, or they must pass.  You can discard an influence card at any time for $8.  Once everyone has passed, the phase is over.

THE CREW: From the Capo downward, determine who controls each gangster.  Ties are broken by the player with the Capo token, and negotiation/bribery is encouraged at this point.  If no influence markers are on the gangster, or the majority is held by neutral influence, no one controls the gangster.  Money and respect are awarded based on the gangster’s position.

Once money and respect have been awarded to each gangster, each gangster takes an action, beginning with the Third Guy and proceeding up through the Capo (reverse order of the previous step).  Your options for each gangster:

  • Use the special ability for the position.  These are printed on the board.
    • The Third Guy can pay $10 to whack another gangster.  This is accomplished by rolling the die.  A 3-6 is a success, which discards the targeted gangster and all influence markers on him.  It costs the controlling player of the whacked gangster four respect, and gains you four.  Rolling a switchblade kills the would-be assassin instead, costing the controlling player four respect.
    • The Second Guy can negate one other gangster’s action (not the Third Guy).
    • The First Guy can remove an influence marker from any gangster on the board.
    • The Bean Counter can steal $3 from any other player.
    • The Racketeer can swap any two influence markers on the board.
    • The Enforcer can place one influence marker on any gangster.
    • The Counselor allows you to place three neutral influence markers on the board.
    • The Underboss allows you to draw an influence card.
    • The Capo has no special power, other than the ability to break ties.  It costs $10 extra to whack the Capo.
  • You can use the special ability of the gangster card, if there is one.
  • You can attempt to make a move against another gangster.  This is where your gangster tries to move to a different position on the board.  Moves are made by rolling the die and adding the respect on the gangster’s card.  If the resulting number exceeds the position number of the target, it’s a success and the cards switch positions.  A roll of 6 always succeeds, and a switchblade roll always results in the death of the gangster.
  • You can also pass.

THE FENCE: Players draw new influence cards based on how many gangsters they control – 4 for 0 gangsters, 3 for 1, or 2 if you control 2+ gangsters.  Ties are not broken in this phase.  You can also purchase up to two more influence cards for $10 each.

THE FEDS: Gangsters with too much influence are sent to prison.

THE FAMILY: Empty spaces are filled on the board, with the highest ranked active gangster taking over as Capo, and all others being promoted as indicated on the board.  If there are no gangsters that can be promoted, you may choose a Soci or draw new cards.

THE CALENDAR: The calendar marker you’ve been using to track which phase you’re in gets left in the final space to show how many rounds have passed.  After the fifth round, the game is over.  Cards are cashed in for money, 1 respect is given for each $10 you have, and the player with the most respect wins.

I have never played Kremlin, so I can’t speak to the similarities.  I know it’s one of the games Tom Vasel usually says needs to be reprinted, though I notice he’s cooled down on that since Nothing Personal has been developed.  It’s a game where you’re trying to gain influence, and as such, there’s a good amount of negotiation and political maneuvering.  Bribery and threats are encouraged in the game, and you’re allowed to use whatever means you deem necessary to get what you want.  I think that’s a pretty interesting part of the experience.

The game seems quite variable and it looks like it will be fun to explore the different gangsters.  Some card previews have been released over at BGG, most based on various gaming personalities and Dice Tower cronies.  I’m sure some Kickstarters will get in there as well.  The gameplay seems fairly straightforward.  I find the variable turn order to be an intriguing aspect, and I’m sure some good strategies will come into play as you maneuver into position.  I’ll be looking forward to giving the game a try once it’s released.  Thanks for reading.

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