- Designers: Kristian A. Østby, Kenneth Minde, Eilif Svensson
- Publisher: Aporta Games
- Players: 1-6
- Age: 10+
- Time: 30-45 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Aporta Games
As we continue our review of Norwegian games, we look at Bad Company, a game where players build their own gang and customize it to suit their plans. The idea is to gather resources to complete heists and money to recruit new gang members. And make sure you escape the police!
Each player starts the game with 11 gang members; the initial setup is made by adjoining a left and right board half (out of 6 of each side). You’ll also generate the name of your particular gang based on the boards you choose.
There are two different boards used in the game, a score board which has a scoring track around the outside and a recruiting track on the inside. The other board is the city board which shows a twisty road – each player has a car meeple on this board and they try to stay ahead of the police car which is chasing them. As you move your car, you will cross checkpoints that provide you bonuses – so long as you beat the police to that space. You can also choose to take shortcuts on the track to gain ground on the cops, but you’ll miss out on the bonuses.
A display of four heist cards is made on the table; each of these heists has a distribution of tasks on them which are needed to score said card. Each player is also given 2 heists to start the game. The upgrade deck is shuffled and placed in a face down deck. Each of these cards as a new gang member that you can add to your motley crew. The same happens to the loot cards; these cards provide one time bonuses.
Each round, the active player rolls all the dice and divides the four gold dice into two pairs (you may spend a coin to reroll any number of dice). Each pair of dice activates one gang member on the active player’s board. All other players may use one of the pairs to activate a single gang member on their own boards. Activating a gangster provides resources needed to complete heists, money to upgrade your gang members, or advance your car through the city. The benefits of a particular number are seen on the bottom half of the card(s) in that slot – you might earn money, get a marker or move your car ahead on the city board. If you gain a marker, placed a green checkmark marker on top of a matching icon on your heists or tasks (found under the 2 and 12 spots on your board)
If you use the 2 or 12 spot, there are some special rules. The Fixer (2) lets you choose one of three markers and gain markers equal to the number of matching symbols on all your other gang members. The Chauffeur (12) lets you move your car two spaces on the road.
If you complete a heist or task from on this turn, return the markers to the supply, gain the bonus for said task/heist, and if it was a heist, place the card below your gang board. The backside of the heist cards show one or more symbols (diamond, gold, art, moneybag). Whoever has the most of each type gets a necklace – which is placed around the neck of one of their gang members. If there is a tie for most, the player with the highest card number of that type breaks the tie. You score a point when you take possession of the necklace and you score a point each time you activate the gang member who wears the necklace. Additionally, some heist cards have end game scoring bonuses or ongoing special abilities what come into effect as soon as the heist is completed.
Next, players can pay coins to recruit – the cost to move to the next spot is shown on the board between the spaces. Each time you move forward on this track, you draw the top 3 cards from the recruit deck and choose one to add to your lineup. The new card is placed staggered on top of the other cards at that slot so that you get the benefits of all the cards of that number when you activate it. If you manage to make it to the end of the track, you can spend $5 to get 3 victory points.
Finally, the police car moves (0, 1 or 2 spaces) based on the roll of the black police die. Then, in turn order, players who have less than 2 heists draw new ones until they have 2. The game ends is triggered when a player completes their 6th heist, or when any car reaches the red spaces on the city track. When either happens, there is one special final round. The dice are rolled and there is no option for a re-roll. Each player makes their own set of two pairs from this roll and collects stuff. After any heists and tasks are completed in this final turn, the game ends and the player with the most points wins.
The points are calculated as:
- Points on completed heists and collected loot cards
- Points from special endgame scoring bonuses on completed heist cards
- Points seen on upgrade cards in your gang
- 2 points for each necklace you have at the end of the game
- 1 point for every 2 markers you still have on uncompleted heists/tasks
- -3 points if your car is behind the police at the end of the game
Most points wins. Ties in favor of the player with the most coins leftover.
My thoughts on the game
Bad Company is a game that pulls from a number of different genres to provide a fairly unique experience. You get a little of Roll and Write in the rolling and re-rolling of dice, with one player making the decision on the pairing, and then everyone getting a little bit of the action. Some people (though not me) have referred to the recruiting mechanism as a tiny bit of deckbuilding. The scoring of the heists is pure resource management.
As you generally start each game with a slightly different setup (due to random choice of the gang boards) as well as different heists – your strategy from the start is really situational. Just see what icons you need and go for them. While your best bet is to finish heists, icons that aren’t found on your heist cards usually don’t go to waste as they can be placed on the tasks under the 2 and 12 spots.
Also, depending on your strategy and board situation, you may want to earn money (to allow you to recruit and have re-rolling power) or you may need to move your car ahead on the track to gain the bonuses there. If you’re the active player, there’s a bit of calculation and recalculation as you figure out what your possible pair of pairs will be and what you’ll get. If you were really competitive, I suppose you could also look around at your opponents and choose numbers to deny certain players certain icons. But, man, that’s generally more work than I’m willing to do for a light-ish game like this – but I suppose that it’s there as an option if you were inclined. As an inactive player, the decision is easier as you’re left with only two options to consider.
As you complete heists, there is a bit of strategy in choosing your replacements. Maybe you go for heists which you are suited for (based on the icons you are likely to make). Maybe you go for a card that provides you with a nice endgame scoring bonus. Or – maybe you need to find an ongoing ability to base the rest of your strategy around.
For me, I think one other choice is whether to even mess with the car or not. At the end of the game, if you are behind the cop car, you lose 3 points. Over the course of the game, you do get some bonuses as you move along, but only when you’re in front of the cop car. There are plenty of games where I think maybe I try to avoid actively moving my car and concentrate on the other icons and try not to split up my actions. As I have lost more than I’ve won, this is probably not the best strategy, but it’s at least something to consider.
As you might expect with games that rely on certain dice rolls and variable card draws, luck plays a big role. For a game of this length, it works. Bad Company provides you with a few different ways to score points, and then just hope the rolls go your way.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Steph (4 plays): I think it is the best in the genre (Matchi Koro style game).
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Mark Jackson
- I like it. Dale Y, Steph Hodge, John P
- Not for me…
As I’ve admitted elsewhere, I made a complete hash of teaching the rules to this game… and it still worked well. With the right rules, even better.
Mea culpa, Dale… thanks for not kicking me out into the cold. :-)
Appealing lighthearted gangster theme and matching funny artwork.
Very nice combination of mechanisms: Dice rolling with dice mitigation options, simultaneous quick game play, engine building, set collection & racing.