Good Cop Bad Cop, by Brian Henk and Clayton Skancke, is a hidden identity deduction game in which players are police officers in a corrupt precinct. Through the use of hidden integrity cards, players are assigned to either the crooked team led by the Kingpin or the honest team led by the Agent. Players then use a mix of deductive reasoning, deception, persuasion, and a little luck to try and eliminate the leader of the opposing faction before theirs is killed. Do you have what it takes to root out the corruption in your district as the Agent or take over once and for all as the Kingpin? We shall see!
Please bear in mind that this is a prototype copy for an ongoing kickstarter project. As such, the components are of prototype quality and rules or card wording are still subject to change.
Good Cop Bad Cop (GCBC from here on) begins by removing any gun cards and integrity cards with a number greater than the number of players who will be playing from the game. It supports groups from five to eight players, and this allows the game to be scaled appropriately. The next step is to create a pile containing the Agent and Kingpin cards and enough integrity cards to match the number of players. Each player receives one of these cards face-down, as well as two additional integrity cards. Players with a greater number of honest cards are on the Agent’s team and players with more crooked cards are on the side of the Kingpin. Regardless of their integrity cards, the Agent is always honest and the Kingpin is always crooked. Each player then receives one equipment card face-down. Play starts with the player who has most recently told a lie, or by whatever means your group agrees upon.
On a player’s turn he must perform one of the following actions:
- Investigate – Take one face-down integrity card from any player, secretly look at it, and return it to the player. Obviously, the information gained from this action is yours alone. You may choose to be honest or dishonest regarding what you saw or say nothing at all. Simply do what you believes gives your team the best chance at eliminating the opposing leader.
- Equip – Take one equipment card, if you have any face-down integrity cards you must reveal one. These cards are often quite useful and can be crucial to helping your team win! They can be played at any time, but you may only have one in your hand. If your ever acquire more than one for any reason you must choose one to keep and discard the other without even a chance to play it.
- Arm – Take one of the gun cards from the middle of the table and reveal a face-down integrity card if you have any. Having a gun is very important because there are fewer than the number of players. In addition, it is how players, and more importantly leaders, are eliminated from the game.
- Shoot – Shoot the player at which your gun is already aimed. After taking the Shoot action, you return your gun to the middle of the table. The player that was shot must reveal all face-down integrity cards and unless the player is the Agent or Kingpin, they are out of the game! If the player is one of the two leaders, he takes an equipment card and a wound card. If a leader is shot and already has a wound card, he is eliminated and the other team wins. It is much better to shoot than to be shot, that is unless you accidentally shoot a member, or worse yet the leader of your team!
After a player completes their action, if they have a gun card it must be aimed at another player. We played that you only performed this phase on your turn. There are equipment cards that allow one to acquire a gun by different means than the Arm action, and ruled that you may only aim the gun on your turn after taking an action.
It is possible, through the use of certain equipment cards, for players to change teams or even change who is the Kingpin or Agent. If this somehow results in a player having both the Agent and Kingpin cards, that player and all of the crooked players win the game. Otherwise, the game ends when one team’s leader is eliminated by being shot for the second time. The remaining leader, and all of his teammates, living or dead, win the game!
Okay, before I fully get into my review of GCBC, I have to get something off of my chest. The game that it is most like is one called the Resistance. The Resistance is also a hidden identity deduction game that players try to discover the secret roles of their opponents. It is an EXTREMELY popular with much of the Board Game Geek and Reddit gaming communities. Notice, I did not say with the Life in Games gaming community…me, because I loathe The Resistance! I love everything about the idea behind the game, except that in reality it turns into a really bad episode of the Jerry Springer Show without the satisfaction of punching someone in the face! People just shouting louder and louder, while making baseless arguments and accusations. Essentially, the strategy is… be loud. I know people love it, and they are certainly welcome to their opinions. I know that hating it makes me a bit of a pariah, but I found it to be a miserable gaming experience.
As one might imagine, I was concerned when the good folks at Overworld Games ask me to (p)review GCBC. It is bad enough to write a negative review, but it would really stink to write one for a game made by people who have been nothing but gracious to you. Still, I steadfastly braced myself, mustered up my game reviewer integrity, vowed to do the right thing and played a few five player games of GCBC. Much to my surprise, I not only liked it better than the Resistance, but I actually liked it in general! Now, let me tell you why.
Part of my problem with The Resistance, is that the players must make a vote regarding who is going on a mission. This collective action, is the primary cause of all the yelling and screaming nonsense. In GCBC, a player decides only for himself and acts. Yes, the other players will try to sway, con, manipulate, and dig for clues, but in the end the player decides his action alone and the game moves forward. This crucial element is what primarily separates the two games, and in my opinion elevates GCBC well above The Resistance!
In GCBC, no one knows who is on which team, so both sides are left in the dark. This creates a sense of paranoia, because you might kill a teammate by accident, or reveal your own leader. However, through use of the investigate action, you can get a small picture of where a player stands by looking at one of his three integrity cards. Of course, this is no guarantee unless you happen to see the Kingpin or Agent Card, but it does give you some information. Trying to figure out who is on your team, and more importantly who is on the other team is one of the most interesting aspects of the game. More so than some other games, because it is a race to eliminate the other leader. As it takes, multiple shots to kill a leader, and a few actions to acquire a gun, aim, shoot, and do so again it is imperative that you suss out the enemy leader as soon as possible.
Another interesting feature of GCBC is the idea of the integrity cards. It is not necessarily bad for people to find out what team you are on as long as you are not a leader. You flip a card when taking a gun or a piece of equipment, but of course you will likely flip one that players have already seen. Yes, they may shoot you, but because you win or lose as a team this is not always a bad thing. If you are not the leader and they kill you they still have to drop the gun. This can buy time for your leader and teammates to take out the enemy leader. It doesn’t matter if you are dead or not, if your team kills the enemy leader first you still win!
Yet another feature of GCBC that I enjoy, is it is a quick game. It knows exactly what it is and doesn’t over stay its welcome. While it does have player elimination, the game moves so quick that it doesn’t really bother you, and after all, you might still win. The five us played three games in about an hour, maybe less, and everyone agreed it was fun. This was quite an achievement, given that most of the players were hardcore gamers. I can only imagine what a group more incline towards light games and highly social players would think.
While certainly not a perfect game, it is a very solid entry into this particular genre. I rate it a 6.0 out of 10, understanding that while quite fun, it is an extremely light filler style game and thus limited to a certain extent. However, when one considers that I rate The Resistance a 2.0 out of 10, you are free to draw your own conclusions.
If we had any real complaints about GCBC, it would be that some of the equipment cards seem a little too good. This has been mitigated some by the rule change forcing players to reveal an integrity card to take an equipment, but they can still be quite swingy. My only other real complaint is that a player could get lucky an see the opposing leader on the very first action. He does not have to convince other players at all, but will simply get a gun on his turn and one turn later shoot that player. No amount of arguing would disguise the player’s identity when he has to flip his cards face up and await the kill shot from someone. While this is an unlikely scenario, it is worth noting as it could spoil things a little. Still, you probably just laugh about it and start the next game.
A quick word for the hardcore gamers out there, this one may not be for you. It is very quick, and very light with room for only so much strategy. However, you may be surprised, as I was, and actually like GCBC. Before you start thinking, “Oh , he says he is hardcore, but he isn’t hardcore like me.” you should probably know that the we played right after finishing a competitive game of Die Macher. It does not come much more hardcore than that! Mmmm…1980’s German politics, yummy! So, if we liked it, there is a chance you might as well.
Rarely have I had a bigger shock when it comes to a game. I can often form a reasonably accurate idea of what I will think of a game just by reading a little about it and flipping through the rules. I had very low expectations, when I found out what GCBC was, because of my jaded opinion of The Resistance. It just goes to show that no matter how many games you have played, and what you think you know, each game is truly a unique creation worthy of being explored! If GCBC can win me over, the most unlikely of all people imaginable, it must surely have plenty of fun for those already inclined to like such games! If you hate games like Werewolf or The Resistance, I would still cautiously say give it a try. Hey, it’s quick. If you love games like those, I can not reasonably foresee how you would dislike it! Of course, I could just be the Kingpin, and trying to lure you into my trap!
Good Cop Bad Cop, is currently an active Kickstarter project. If you are interested in learning more about Good Cop Bad Cop, or possibly even being a backer, follow the link below by clicking on the Kickstarter widget.
Let it be known to all readers and government officials alike, that Life in Games received a free copy of this game for the purpose of providing an objective review. No further compensation of any sort changed hands between myself and the publisher.