There are numerous different types of games out there that are all vying for our free shelf space, hard earned money, and precious time. Sometimes we have to be selective in the games we pick and go after the ones that hit that sweet spot for us.
One type of game that’s always been a big hit in our house is card games and in particular ones that have new and interesting mechanisms in them. This is where Gunrunners absolutely hits the mark for us.
Gunrunners is the latest game from Dr. Finn’s Games which is most well-known for the game Biblios. As of this writing, Gunrunners is currently up on Kickstarter with a little less than two weeks remaining. Just prior to the launch of the Kickstarter campaign, I had learned about the game and was quite intrigued.
When I really enjoy a designer’s game, as I did with Biblios, I tend to want to explore other games that they’ve designed. I reached out to Dr. Finn’s Games offering to check out the game and to discuss it on my podcast. Before long, I had the game’s PnP files printed, my two packs of sleeves in hand, and my paper cutter out on the dining room table. Then the gaming began!
In Gunrunners, players play the roles of police agencies trying to stop the Merchant of Death from selling crates of weapons in various parts of the world. Cause police busts in the various locations to capture the most crates by the last bust and win the game!
With a PnP version, I can’t comment on the final quality of the game but I can say that I like the artwork on the cards. It’s a cool looking retro comic book style. As for what you get, each player has 14 cards in their agency’s color, there’s a six sided die, wooden cubes to symbolize weapon crates, four location cards, a warehouse card, and a turn/bust card.
The cards are easy to read and the numbers on the cards are large and easy to spot. I’m always aware of colorblindness issues in games and here I had no problems.
This game is especially appealing to me as I like ultra-portable games that I can easily put in my backpack and take with me. This one definitely takes up very little room in my pack.
Setup & Game Rules
Setup is VERY quick as you put down a column of location cards based on player count, put the bust counter card at top, warehouse card below them all, distribute a number of crates per location, and shuffle your cards! Done!
The rulebook is a mere 10 pages and reads quite well. Ample examples help clarify rules but in the first few games we still did have to refer to the rulebook several times on the first play. Rules checks were quite fast and we were back to playing in seconds.
Your goal in the game is to cause busts at the various locations while having your agent’s numbers (each is numbered from one to six) add up to the highest value at that location. The players then distribute the crates with each person getting half the remaining crates starting with the highest “numbered” agency. Score the most crates at the end of the game and declare a victory!
On your turn, you start off by rolling a die and placing a crate on the location designated by the die roll. If the number is higher than the location count, then you load the crate into the warehouse to be distributed later. You have a hand of five cards of which you choose one and play either as a face down probationary agent to the LEFT of a location card or you can play them as an undercover agent to the RIGHT of the location cards.
When you play a probationary card, you replace one of your opponent’s cards in the probationary area and then place their card face up to the right of the locations. When placed face up, some cards will have special abilities that allow their owner to do some things such as move around crates or cards. If you triggered a bust on the turn, you add up the values of each player’s cards at that location and then start a distribution of the crates. Then remove the cards from the game, increment the bust counter, and continue until you have reached the last bust on the bust counter card.
This is an intriguing game from the standpoint of that when you place a card down as a probationary agent, you MUST replace and flip a card from an opponent. With this mechanism each player’s cards get brought into play by the actions of other players. They have no idea what card they are going to put into play and this creates some interesting swings as to who has the majority in a location. Add to that the special abilities that some cards have and then you can easily turn the tables on someone.
I introduced this to a coworker that’s not a gamer (yet) and he was able to pick this awesome game up within 2 busts. After just one game, he immediately asked where he could get his own copy of Gunrunners. We often found ourselves talking about the game afterwards… About how things would swing back and forth and the different strategies we used and how we would change it up for next time. It’s rare to have this kind of discussion when you’re dealing with lighter card games.
When some locations would have more crates than others, we often found ourselves fighting for that location. This definitely amped up the excitement especially when a player turned the tide with an ability card.
The two player game has a slightly different feel than a 3-4 player game and it does use a slightly modified setup procedure. Nonetheless, plays with 2-4 people are all equally as fun.
Most games can easily be played within 30 minutes with makes it very friendly for the lunch gamers. One day we went to a local mall food court for lunch and proceeded to play a game of Gunrunners. Passersby were quite interested in the game and were asking what it was. That was quite remarkable to me as most were not the gamer type.
I would definitely recommend Gunrunners to anyone wanting an awesomely fun light card game. The extra components with the die and the cubes make it even more appealing as you add die rolling and cube placement to the card play. It has a tiny bit of luck, allows for a bit of strategy, plays quick, and most importantly is incredibly fun for all. This one’s a winner in my book and definitely worthy of my shelf space!
Rob – This Board Game Life