Anyone who has ever wanted to lead a crime syndicate in a Prohibition era characterized by the supernatural has the chance to do so in “With a Smile & a Gun.” The handy solo and 2-player game is available in German just in time for SPIEL PLAY THIS! available. With a mixture of worker movement and area control controlled via a dice drafting mechanism, the players build their criminal empire. Of course the police are always there. Additional elements come into play via potions and shadows.
Is With a Smile and a Gun a 2-player game with solo mode or rather a solo game that can also be played by two people? We'll explore these and other questions about one of the potentially biggest insider tips at this year's SPIEL in this article.
At first glance, it may seem surprising why area control was chosen as the central mechanism for a game that can only be played alone or with two people. Often the fight for dominance in areas only becomes interesting with three, four or even more people. With a Smile & a Gun With a clever solo opponent and police help, manages to create a gaming experience that offers great entertainment for a good half hour.
3 x 3 is new(s)
The city in which With a Smile & a Gun plays is characterized by squares. Each district of the square city map has this shape. The players distribute influence in the form of small wooden cubes. The police are also represented in this form.
In each of the three game rounds, the players try to increase their influence in the individual districts. The more lucrative a district and its rewards are, the more police there will be.
Not only can the city map be described as “3×3”, but the players’ actions are also divided this way. In each of the three rounds, both players choose a movement die and an action die three times.
The number of points on the movement die indicates how many steps you take with your own pawn around the game board. You add influence to the row or column where you end your movement. In the first area in front of the figure there are three dice, in the next two and in the third one die.
The number of points on the action die determines which action you can carry out. With a one you call the police and add a blue die in any district. For a two or three you can move one of your own die to another area. A four or five allows the removal of any die. If you choose a six, you can add your own die to each of two adjacent areas.
If a total of twelve dice were used for movements and actions, the thirteenth dice is used to control the shadow. For each game, a shadow is randomly selected from the thirteen included shadow cards. The effect of the potion is selected in the same way, which players can use by discarding a potion token.
Once the effect of the shadow has been resolved, a comparison is made to see who used the higher number of points for their actions. If you have fewer points here, you can place any die (yes, an opponent's extra die can also have an advantage for you) or add two police dice.
Now the areas are scored. If there is a clear first place, that person gets to choose a token from the area. The police can also have the most influence and thus remove tokens. After that there are tokens for the second greatest influence and also for third place in the city center. If there is a tie for first place, nothing happens and the district will not be counted in this round. If there is a tie at the bottom, the remaining tokens are simply discarded.
All influence is removed from ranked districts. At the start of the next round, new tokens are placed and police dice are added according to the tokens placed.
At the end of the game there are the points printed on the hat tokens. Points are also awarded for the majority in the “Weapons,” “contraband,” and “gambling” divisions. If you are the only person with tokens from one of the three areas, you have a monopoly there and get double the points. Potions and shadows can also be relevant in the final scoring. Whoever was able to collect the most points wins.
Perfect for solo games
In solo play you compete against the Bravo Avenue Gang (BAG). Their actions are almost completely predictable and allow for even more tactical play. The BAG always takes its turn after the solo player and reacts to his actions.
For her movement she chooses a die that brings her as close as possible to her opponent. What it lacks in its movements and actions and cleverness, the BAG makes up for in quantity. She places 4/3/2 dice and therefore more dice in one turn than humans are allowed to.
She also takes dice for actions, but does not carry out their actions. The BAG gains unpredictability by re-rolling the die with the lowest number at the beginning of its own turn.
If the BAG has the lower number on its action dice, it receives three points. In the scoring phase, she has the same preferences as the police and chooses the hat tokens with the highest points first. If tokens for contraband, weapons or gambling are also available, she places virtual influence tokens next to the corresponding majority tokens, which are also counted if she receives such a token from the city districts during the game. This makes it particularly important for the solo player to secure monopolies, as the BAG often only needs a single token in combination with their virtual influence markers to have the majority in one of the three areas.
For even more challenges, there is a campaign in the solo game that is played in the individual scenarios with given shadow and potion cards and introduces additional rules and victory conditions.
Information about With a Smile & a Gun
|Number of people: 1-2 people
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: expert game
Long-term motivation: good
Classification: Area Control, Dice Drafting
Game idea: Amanda Vallerand
Illustrations: Justin Lanjil
Publisher: Subsurface Games; German edition: PLAY THIS!
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2023
Cost: 33 Euro
The game offers as many tactical options as the rules can be presented. Ultimately, there is a three-way battle for the majority in all districts. The special thing about this is that only two factions make conscious decisions here. The area control element is implemented excellently here.
Visually, the game is largely harmonious in black and white with color accents on the shadow and potion cards. The colors of the two factions are a bit different, even if this contrast is very helpful for clarity. On the whole, the theme of the game remains quite abstract and you tend to think in terms of yellow, blue and green dice and in orange, yellow or green majorities/monopolies rather than in the terms that the game suggests.
The quality of the game is completely convincing. The bag for the stable tokens has no flaws whatsoever, the double-layered tableau for the movement and action dice does its job perfectly and there are no points in the game plan that could be criticized. The same applies to the rules. The game principle is presented here clearly and compactly, without leaving any questions unanswered.
Only the symbols on the shadow and potion cards should have been saved and replaced with text. You always have to look up their meaning anyway, otherwise the game works almost without any additional symbols.
In terms of play, this game offers a great tactical duel in just over thirty minutes, which is the perfect length for what it offers. The further the game progresses, the more you puzzle over your own moves. You don't want to miss out on a possible monopoly, put the possibly decisive police die in front of your opponent or secure the big points on the hat tokens.
Things get a little tougher when the choice of different numbers is limited and two values may not have been present at the beginning of the round.
The individual potions and shadows have different influences depending on the course of the game and offer enough variety that you can rediscover the game with new combinations.
I liked the game in solo mode even better than with two people. Even the “basic setting” offers so much that I haven't seen any reason to start the campaign just for more variety, even if it ultimately only offers different, increasingly difficult scenarios that are only loosely connected to each other.
The way you can plan BAG's moves and still hope for a good result when you re-roll the lowest die at the end of the round are a guarantee that the solo games can really captivate you.
Until the announcement of the German localization of SPIEL DAS! I had absolutely no idea of this game. Now that I've been able to test it, I'm sure it's one of the best insider tips for SPIEL. There won't be much equivalent, especially in the area of solo games, but the game was also completely convincing as a two-player game with its short playing time and high tactical demands. Because area control rarely works in small groups, it feels quite fresh and fresh.
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