13th Apr 2023 - Bootleggers

by RobinFri, 14 Apr (Updated at Fri, 14 Apr)

It was a dark, shadowy night in the roaring twenties with James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart and such like. In the back room of the nondescript local business known as Ousebank House, we gathered at a table with our whiskey (and beer), ready to ship to the speakeasies. "What's the password?" we asked at the door. But it was David, who was bringing the game, so we let him in anyway.

It's a tricky job, being a bootlegger. We each developed our particular specialities, some as distillers, some controlling speakeasies, and some focussing on extortion. Paul-D quickly sewed up control of a speakeasy, while David built up his moonshine stills. Andy spent the whole game in cahoots with the cops, selling eyewatering quantities of whiskey to the chief of police at a special rate.

Paul soon assumed the role of the hapless protagonist, seemingly set for the win but thwarted by various misfortunes (couldn't happen to anyone else really, could it?). His monopoly of the small speakeasy was repeatedly stymied by poor dice rolls, and when he found himself in the lead at the second stocktake, he was top of everyone's hit list.

To begin with, it was left to me to do a lot of the actual bootlegging, with a fleet of trucks that I struggled to fill. But as the game wore on I managed to hire myself some thugs and was finally able to move into extorsion, which is surely the best bit of the game.

It was made all the better by Paul, who acquired an "Investigation" card that allowed him to cancel an attack on him - which was blood in the water for the rest of us sharks. David and I sent in our thugs, and Paul was so anxious to keep that card that he surrendered at least 3 full truckloads of booze to hold onto it. But he did still win the game, and - after all that - I think he deserved it.

This is the second time that I've played this game, and I really enjoyed it, though I haven't really grasped how to do well at it yet. The learning from this edition was that - whatever your strategy - you need to start early. Paul won by having control of a speakeasy which, though it was the smallest speakeasy, he retained from the start as a steady earner. By the end I had done quite well with my extorsion racket, but I took so long getting it set up that I couldn't catch him.

Elsewhere this week we had Revive again, and an unexpected return for Catan. And the other two tables alongside Bootleggers upstairs were engaging in a more legal form of extorsion, in Mombasa. "Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class," as Al Capone supposedly put it.

It was good to see someone who's not in the tournament (Graham) joining one of those "practice" games. It's one of the main roles of the tournament to (re)introduce to the club particular games that people have enjoyed; and this should certainly extend to those who have not signed up for the actual competition.


  • I
    Thanks again for the write-up, Robin. I do enjoy Bootleggers but I needed to get a practice game in of Mombasa. Just as well really as I now know what not to do!
    • PD
      Paul Dent
      Cheers for this Robin. Bootleggers is quite unique in that the core mechanic, i.e. the extortion and bribery element, is essentially the players creating their own rules, and everything else is relatively straightforward. Works best with lots of players, which we had, and can be daunting for 'noobs'. One of those games it's easy to say yes to playing when it gets proposed!