“Never tell anyone outside the Family what you are thinking again.” The legendary words of Vito Corleone ring in my mind as I set up my latest acquisition.
Based on the Godfather books by Mario Puzo, The Godfather: A New Don is the latest addition to my board game collection. Described as a board game of influence and control, A New Don brings back strong memories of the books, which I devoured several times over, and the movies they inspired.
The game ships in a sturdy box containing a lot of pieces. The thick, nicely printed and well-cut board bears a map of New York City on both sides; three to six people can play, with the board flipped depending on the number of players.
Also in the box are six Family dice screens, each emblazoned with the name of a famous crime family. Fans of the books or the movies will relish the thrill of playing as the Corleones, the Barzinis or the Tattaglias. Each Family is colour-coded and gets a set of five dice in the same colour as their dice screen. Each family also gets 15 similarly-coloured wooden Soldier pieces. In addition to these pieces, there are three large red Vegas dice used for gambling rolls. All the items are carefully designed and look and feel good – nothing too plastic or flimsy here.
To start the game, the player with the highest dice-throw begins as The Godfather. The game then goes through five phases per round. The first phase, called Vegas, requires The Godfather to roll the Vegas dice to reward any player who has made bets in the previous round.
The second phase is called Roll. Players roll their dice, hidden behind their respective Family dice screens, and then present one of the dice to The Godfather as a favour. The Offer phase then begins with The Godfather choosing to accept the favour or decline it, whereupon he makes that player an offer he or she can’t refuse. The player then has to pony up any dice with the number requested. The Godfather can use the favour to bolster his or her own dice throw for additional mileage.
Players whose favour is accepted, on the other hand, get to place a soldier in the Favour track on the board that corresponds to the value of the dice they offered, granting them one of six special favours from the Don.
The Resolution phase begins next, beginning with The Godfather. Players reveal their dice, then go on to resolve them. The aforementioned favours can be used at any time during this phase, even before the reveal. Players can use their dice throws to claim neighbourhoods, place bets in Vegas or to move their soldiers up the Muscle Track. All players begin the Muscle Track at zero, then move up the ladder during a round. Placement on the Muscle Track also determines which players can muscle other players out of an already claimed neighbourhood.
Once all players have completed the Resolution round, the final phase of Clean Up begins. Players are returned their dice and the Muscle Track is reorganised, placing the soldier at the lowest end of the Track at the beginning, and the next lowest at the next position up, and so on. The player who has the soldier at the highest relative point on the Track starts at least two spaces higher than the next lowest player and is the new Godfather.
The game then continues with the Vegas phase again. The game ends when all neighbourhoods in a District have been claimed or if any player has no more Soldier tokens left at the end of that round.
The game is scored in two ways. Each players’ Soldiers are counted in each District, with corresponding scores given to the player with the highest number of soldiers, the second highest, and so on. Then, the number of Soldiers left outside the board are counted and scores are handed out based on largest number to lowest. The two scores are added together and The New Don is chosen. Exactly like it is in organised crime.
As you can imagine, game play started out a little choppy but by the end of the second round, we were chugging along pretty smoothly. The rules aren’t hard to follow, but there are a lot of them, and they are spread out over the entire rule book, with some important rules relevant to the beginning stashed away in other sections. This can get a bit sticky, but other than this, everything else is easy to understand, much like a fish wrapped in newspaper and left on your doorstep…
The game is very fun, with everyone either consciously or unconsciously (sure!) channelling their inner Vito Corleone as they wheel and deal and strategise the takeover of New York City, try to stay on top of the muscle game, and continue to be The Godfather – which is actually more entertaining than winning the game and trying to get the highest score. I would recommend this game for old and new fans, and for anyone who thinks they have what it takes to control the crime families of New York City.
The Godfather: A New Don
Players: 3 to 6
Publisher: IDW Games
Novel Games is a monthly column in which we review board games inspired by books, reading and storytelling.