$10.00
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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WHAT IS IT?
An area control game where players take turns placing "rabble" cubes into different neighborhoods, in an attempt to gain majority control in the largest neighborhoods to win elections and place bosses, and gain majority in adjacent neighborhoods to win control markers.

COMPONENTS
5 colors of wooden rabble cubes and boss meeples are perfectly fine. Large cardboard tiles for the neighborhoods, player aids, and individual headquarters are thick and well constructed. The many smaller cardboard bits for gaining cubes on passing and manipulations and such are workable, but some are a little small or hard to read. Also, a shout-out to the cover for having a (presumably movie homage) top-hatted cleaver-wielding character, and the vp tokens all have little hands holding cleavers.


GAMEPLAY IN BRIEF
Players each start with 6 rabble cubes in their HQ, and 3 on the board, each on an otherwise empty neighborhood square. Two random buildings are also placed on a neighborhood square, although no cubes start on those spaces.

Each round, four manipulation tiles are revealed and placed next to the board. On your turn, you may either place a single cube from your HQ onto a neighborhood, or pass. If you place a cube, you may then optionally bid additional cubes on one of the manipulation tiles. If you pass, you recover some rabble cubes into your HQ, but are done for the round.

At the end of the round, the top bid on each manipulation tile is paid and gets its effect (usually VP, added votes, or moving things). Any losing bid cubes are returned to HQ. Then whoever has the most cubes on each building neighborhood gets to activate that building (generally VP, votes, or moving things). Finally, the neighborhoods with the most cubes hold "elections", which means whoever has the most votes (each cube on the space is a vote) places a boss on that neighborhood (can be 2 players if there is a tie).

After the election, all cubes are removed from that neighborhood. Then each of the (up to four) Adjacent neighborhoods awards a control marker to whoever has the most cubes there. Each player then recovers a cube to HQ for each boss they have on the board, start player passes, and the next round begins.

Getting five bosses on the board instantly wins you the game. Otherwise, once there are no bossless neighborhoods, or once a color of control markers runs out, whoever has the most points wins. Bonus VP are awarded for bosses and control markers.

GOOD POINTS
*Lots of vicious interaction. Beyond the basic multiplayer interaction of area control, Five Points throws in the ability to place cubes to influence not only who wins an election, but where an election will even be. Add to this the ability to grab extra 1-turn-only votes, move neighborhoods and buildings, and even relocate rabble cubes with a certain building, and there's a lot you can do to screw over your friends.

*Very easy to learn. Your turn is either place a cube on the board or don't. And then you can bid on an extra tile or not. The gameplay can be picked up in minutes.

*Plenty of emergent strategy and tough decisious. In spite of the quickly understandable rules, there's actually a lot going on in this game. Do you try to guarantee that you'll win the election, or try to squeak out a win without wasting cubes? Are you insistent your favored election happen this turn, or can you be patient? Concentrate your cubes in one space, or spread them over the board? It's a game where on half of your turns, you may worry that you will later regret the move you made. And much of the time, you may well be right.

*Allows for varied approaches. Dumping heavily on elections can get you bosses on the board, worth points and cubes even if you don't manage a 5-boss win. Or you can gather a lot of points by avoiding the hotly contested election neighborhoods entirely and stacking cubes in adjacent neighborhoods instead to grab control markers. You can hedge your bets and be sure to score at least once on any election, or try to make sure the next election or two result in a fistful of markers coming your way.

*Feels different with different player numbers. Our second three-player game, one of the players won by getting 5 bosses on the board. This seems like it would be much more difficult in a four or especially five-player game. Likewise, the three-player game allows you to exert a reasonable amount of control over which elections might happen, while additional players decrease the chance that any single player can force a certain neighborhood to have an election.

*High replayability. Only two of the eight special power buildings are used in a game, so a game where the constant buildings are only worth a few points will feel very different from a game where someone gets to move cubes and neighborhoods every turn. Even if the same buildings turn up, the different abilities of the manipulation tiles will have a large impact on the game.

*Satisfyingly deep. Again, in spite of the simple rules, this is a game with lots of agonizing choices, and the end result is a game that feels very robust with constant tension.

BAD POINTS
*Lots of vicious interaction. Yes, this was also listed as a positive, but some people will be irritated by the ease with which other people can steal their majorities, prevent their elections from happening, relocate election neighborhoods, or even keep all their cubes trapped on the board so they can't place any cubes for a few rounds. More players exacerbates this effect, and can sometimes result in kingmaking scenarios as well.

*Highly swingy. Compounding the above issue is the strength of some abilities on manipulation tiles or buildings, especially the Smuggler's Tunnel building which allows the movement of any rabble cube on the board to any other space. That building can easily change which neighborhood has an election at the last minute, completely invalidating the rest of the round's moves. Likewise, moving the election neighborhood just before the election can easily take all the round's control markers from one player and hand them to another, making the preceding few minutes of planned plays by other players irrelevant. Again, some players may consider this a positive, rather than a negative.

*Some components are slightly disappointing. The bigger tiles are fine, but some of the tiles have very small text that is difficult to read (buildings, start player marker), and some of the tiles themselves are miniscule (start player marker, pass markers, election markers). Also, the rules summaries on the player aid do not match the rules in the rulebook.

*Rules need clarification. In addition to the contradictions with the player aids, the rulebook can be confusing when weird scenarios come up involving multiple exception mechanics at once. No doubt clarifications will eventually be available online, but in the meantime try to play with a table who can make reasonable agreements as to intent rather than rules lawyers.

CONCLUSION
Five Points: Gangs of New York is surprisingly engaging for such an unassuming game. The game just looks very simple, with a few square neighborhoods onto which players take turns placing single cubes. But the experience of playing really feels like there is a lot going on, tense battles over every area at every turn, as to where the election will be, who will win the election, who will win the control markers, who will control the buildings, who will have top bid on the manipulation tiles... and who will leave off all of that to pass early in the round to gain more cubes for the following round.

Five Points is a solid entry into the genre of vicious area control game, an easy game to learn, but a difficult one to play well. The combination of simple rules, deep strategy, reversals of fortune, and satisfying multiplayer interaction, make it a game worth a look if you like area control games.


IS IT FOR YOU?
Do you dislike having your plans ruined and progress destroyed in games due to the machinations of other players? If so, you should probably avoid this game, because the swinginess of the tiles combined with the actions of other players are definitely going to steal things from under you, especially if you play with more than 3 players, and you may just find it frustrating.

But as long as you don't mind -- or especially if you thrive on -- vicious multiplayer shenanigans where you have to keep adapting to where other players are placing cubes (and may not be able to, thus resulting in you suffering a bit if multiple players decide to thwart your election plans), there's a lot to like about Five Points.
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Ingo Griebsch
Germany
Bochum
North Rhine-Westphalia
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Many thanks for the review, Seth! Saw your photos some days ago and was hoping that you write some general thoughts, a session report or a review like this!

I really like Tammany Hall and Hansa Teutonica so this seems to be the ideal combination for me (without trying Five Points: Gangs of New York itself). Looks like buying the game is a no burner for me.

Nethertheless can you maybe give us some thoughts regarding the similarity to Tammany Hall? I think I'm not the only one who is keen to read something about this...
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Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Five Points: Gangs of New York » Forums » Reviews
Re: Simple Rules hide a Delightfully Vicious area control game.
d0gb0t wrote:

Nethertheless can you maybe give us some thoughts regarding the similarity to Tammany Hall? I think I'm not the only one who is keen to read something about this... :)


Indeed you are not; it was the first question asked of me last week when I posted my plays to the Meatball Geekchat list. Alas, my response to you must be the same one I gave there: I will offer my opinions on this similarity as soon as I play Tammany Hall.

I will say that it feels nothing like Hansa Teutonica.

But my guess is that if you feel you have a strong sense after reading this review that Five Points is (or isn't) a game you will like, you are probably right.
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Sylvester Stachovicz
Poland
Warsaw
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Do you think the game has components worth 31$? Isn't it a bit too expensive? Or maybe components are top notch?
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Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Vester wrote:
Do you think the game has components worth 31$? Isn't it a bit too expensive? Or maybe components are top notch?


The building names aren't actually relevant as it's the icons that matter, and the small pieces aren't important so it's not like the components are bad. They're not low quality or anything; the tiles and boards are all of solid construction, and the wooden meeples are fine too. The components are just not what I would call "top notch".

And really, I think a game is more than its components, and I'd much rather pay $31 for a fantastic game with mediocre components than a mediocre game with fantastic components. (Obviously, the best thing is to have a great game with great components, but when I buy a good game with mediocre components, I'm not upset like I am when I buy a mediocre game with good components.)
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Sam
Australia
Dickson
ACT
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Vester wrote:
Do you think the game has components worth 31$? Isn't it a bit too expensive? Or maybe components are top notch?

I will be surprised if I ever buy a Mayfair game where the components are top notch.

Me, I just wish someone in Australia would actually get this in stock. angry
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Mike Geller
United States
Sacramento
California
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d0gb0t wrote:
Nethertheless can you maybe give us some thoughts regarding the similarity to Tammany Hall? I think I'm not the only one who is keen to read something about this...


A couple of us tried to address this question in this post:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/983804/tammany-hall-2-0

If you look, you'll see that I note the differences but since I only have done a dry run through 5 Points, it probably is fairly superficial.

My takeaway thought is that the games are not so similar to "Jones theory" the other away.
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Lacombe
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Doesn't seem to have anything of substance in the game itself to compare to Tammany Hall whatsoever. :shrug:

TH is a two level majority game like Stephenson's Rocket or Dominant Species, with a heavy focus on portfolio-like commitments to certain non-vp or supporting elements, and then a hefty dose of cannibalization / leverage of that portfolio to keep the gravy train going.

This reads more like a timing and sequencing game like In The Shadow Of The Emperor or Sumeria or Doge, where the emphasis is on managing to get the contentious areas du jour to swing your way so as to gain a foothold, then shifting to entrenchment against encroachers.

The heavy bidding / investment element in Tammany Hall is basically the whole game and has no analog here.
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Sylvester Stachovicz
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Osirus wrote:
And really, I think a game is more than its components, and I'd much rather pay $31 for a fantastic game with mediocre components than a mediocre game with fantastic components. (Obviously, the best thing is to have a great game with great components, but when I buy a good game with mediocre components, I'm not upset like I am when I buy a mediocre game with good components.)


This statement is a truism.

In reality, games get prettier every year, and Five Points is quite ugly. In reality, more and more new games are published every year and average Joe has to choose. Yes, there is Winsome Games with their fan base and ultra-poor quality components - but they worked hard for their good name. Mayfair is not that magic brand - they had their moments, but they have not my trust so far.
In reality, Kickstarter games like Princes of the Dragon Throne failed because of their price - so people DO count their money.

All in all, price vs quality/quantity ratio IS important for many gamers. Edo from Queen Games costs 40$ (and QG are not the cheapest on market). Bora Bora costs 39$. Those are big games with boards and stuff. Five Points is a little bit above Winsome Games quality-wise, but Mayfair is a mainstream publisher. With price of 31$ it's a perfect candidate for clearance sales.

I'll wait.
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Gordon J
United States
Eagan
Minnesota
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I am enjoying this game a lot.
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Mariah Bingaman
United States
Boise
Idaho
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We found a couple problems and are having a hard time finding answers on the internet. Maybe you could help.

1. the rules and the player aids directly oppose each other in regards to elections.

2. With the Zoning Commission building you can relocate a tile and that tile has to be adjacent to another, but what if it leave another tile with no buuilding adjacent, is this okay? Or must ALL buildings be adjacent to another at all times?
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Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
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tanakil wrote:
We found a couple problems and are having a hard time finding answers on the internet. Maybe you could help.

1. the rules and the player aids directly oppose each other in regards to elections.

2. With the Zoning Commission building you can relocate a tile and that tile has to be adjacent to another, but what if it leave another tile with no buuilding adjacent, is this okay? Or must ALL buildings be adjacent to another at all times?


1) Yep, as I mentioned in my bad points list, this is quite frustrating.

2) We played that all tiles must share an edge with another tile after the movement.
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Keith Thomasson
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Near Tring
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tanakil wrote:
1. the rules and the player aids directly oppose each other in regards to elections.

Answered in the post immediately prior to this one, but for anyone wondering what the answer is, the rules are correct.
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