Imagine, if you will, that you’re part of a tight-nit family. Imagine the love, the shared moments of crisis and glory, of trips taken together and heists pulled off perfectly. Of course there’s also the arguing, thievery, skimming, and loyalty-at-gunpoint.
Now picture that everyone in the family is an anthropomorphic animal, with everything from pugs to rhinos to alligators represented.
Now imagine that you’ve just completed a big score, perhaps the biggest of your life, earning hundreds of thousands of critter-bucks in cash and loot, and now it’s up to the Boss to distribute all that money.
You’ve arrived at the setup for Goodcritters, a social game of negotiation and bribery, and a bit of thievery.
The idea is to get the most money by the end of the game,when the Fuzz show up and you’ve got to scatter to avoid getting caught. One player is the boss, and deals out a card per player – and then distributes that cash how he or she sees fit among the players. There are no real rules – the boss could give herself all the loot, or give a card to each player, or load up half the table and leave the other half dry.
The trick is, no boss is solid in their position, and players get to vote on whether or not they like the distribution of cash. A majority “Yes” vote means the boss stays the boss and the loot stays where it is, while a majority “No” means all that loot comes back to the center and the boss is overthrown.
It’s not just yes or no votes, either. If you’re fine either way, you can visit someone else by moving your character standee in front of them, which allows you to play the “Rob” card instead of voting yes or no. If you steal from someone, you take a card from their stash. ‘Course they aren’t without options – they can play a “Guard” card instead of voting yes or no, and if they Guard and you Rob, not only do they block your thievery but they take a card from your stash.
But wait, there’s more! If you’d rather just keep to yourself, you can play the “Skim” card which gets you a free Loot from the top of the deck – but only if you’re the first person in player order (clockwise from the boss) to actually play Skim.
So now, a simple yes-or-no vote becomes more complicated. The freedom to do whatever she wants becomes a precarious balancing situation of trying to make enough people happy with their loot that they’ll vote yes – but you don’t want to give the other players too much money, or they’ll beat you handily in the end game.
It’s not just that consideration, either. Because, see, you can conveniently offer bribes – in the form of cash or loot – to other players to encourage them to vote Yes or No. Even better, these cash offers are more than verbal – you can pile up a stack of money and place your “yes” or “No” token on top of it, setting it right in front of their nose. Mmmm, that cash smells good, doesn’t it? All they have to do is vote the correct way and that cash is theirs.
What we have here is a ridiculous game that is entirely silly, but it is a whole lot of fun. There’s a lot you can do. Aside from just bribing, there’s plenty of bluffing. You can, for example, send your character to visit another player and make them think you’re going to rob them – but really you just want them worried so they’ll play “guard” and not vote yes or no.
This is the sort of game that is pretty group dependent. I wish my demo group had done a little more bribing and cajoling – there was plenty of thieving and skimming, but no outrageous distributions of loot and few attempts to sway votes one way or another. If your group tends towards calm and thoughtful strategy, this might not be the game for you. But if your group can get into it – and I saw a few demo groups go all out on the bribery and coercion – there’s lots of silly fun to have. It’s basically Cash & Guns without the guns, and the lighthearted artwork sets the tone.