Radio Review #34 – Five Points: Gangs of New York

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(2013 – Mayfair Games)

 

 

Designer Andreas Steading is probably best known in the gaming community for Hansa Teutonica (which won the BGG Golden Geek Game of the Year Award in 2010) as well as this year’s upcoming English printing of Firenze. Whether it be a lighter family style game or a heavier Euro, Steading tends to input a great deal of strategy into his games and awards players for their use of preplanning and the way in which one observes an opponent’s actions. While his newest release, Five Points: Gangs of New York is a bit more abstract than some of his previous titles, the tightly, controlled strategy elements are still prevalent, as are the back and forth gameplay between players.

In Five Points: Gangs of New York, players take control of one of the gangs of Manhattan during the mid-1800’s. The goal is one of political control amongst the various neighborhoods, as an election will be held every Round in which players will attempt to use their influence and gang members to manipulate votes and gain control of different sections of the city. Players will use their Headquarters to recruit and distribute rabble (groups of gang members) throughout the various neighborhoods to do their bidding, including the bribery of politicians in order to manipulate votes, buy off influence, etc. The player with the highest amount of influence and control over the Five Points at the end of the game, is the winner.

 

 

Components:

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– Neighborhood Tiles (Factories, Markets, Pubs, and Warehouses)

 

Photo(1)

– Building Tiles

 

Photo(2)

– Headquarters (player boards)

 

Photo(3)

– Manipulation markers

 

Photo(4)

– Control markers (Factories, Markets, Pubs, and Warehouses)

 

Photo(5)

– Election markers

 

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– Pass markers

 

Photo(7)

– Gang Bosses (set of 5 for each player color)

 

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– Rabble cubes (set of 20 for each player color)

 

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– Victory Point tiles

 

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– Summary boards

 

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– Start Player marker

 

 

 

Setup:

At the beginning of each game, the play area is set up randomly by placing a number of Neighborhoods together, depending on the number of players in the game. There are 4 different types of Neighborhoods that make up the Five Points of New York: Factories (yellow), Markets (blue), Pubs (red), and Warehouses (green). First, a single tile representing each of these 4 neighborhood types is selected. Then, additional tiles are randomly selected and added to the initial 4, accordingly:

 

– In a 3 player game, 7 additional Neighborhood tiles are drawn
– In a 4 player game, 10 additional Neighborhood tiles are drawn
– In a 5 player game, 13 additional Neighborhood tiles are drawn

 

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After all tiles have been collected for use in the current game, they are randomly placed in a group together in the central play area. This will make up the Five Points.

A player’s Headquarters is where players will recruit mob groups (or Rabble as they’re called in the game) for use in the Neighborhoods of the Five Points. During the game, Rabble is separated into those in a player’s Headquarters and those in a player’s Boroughs (Rabble outside of the Headquarters but still considered in a player’s personal play area). Rabble in the Headquarters are those considered available to be used during the current Round.

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After the Neighborhoods of the Five Points has been constructed, each player will place 9 Rabble of their player color into their Headquarters and the other 11 Rabble into their Boroughs. The 5 Gang Bosses of the player’s color are also placed in the player’s personal area.

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The Start player takes the corresponding marker and randomly chooses 2 Buildings from a face-down Building tile pile. He then chooses which two Neighborhoods to place these tiles in as long as they are not in directly adjoining Neighborhoods. After placing them as such, these tiles are flipped to show which types of Buildings are located here. There are 9 total Building in the game, each with various bonuses and rules that can affect the strategy of a given game. Therefore, since only 2 are chosen for each game, strategies can vary immensely based on these two Building tiles alone.

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During each Round of gameplay, elections will be held to determine who controls the different Neighborhoods of the Five Points. To help persuade votes and influence their way, players can bid on Manipulation markers. Four of these Manipulation markers are available for bid each Round. At the beginning of the game, the Start player will randomly select 4 of the these markers from a face-down pile and place them face up next to the Five Points area.

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Finally, players will place some of their initial Rabble into the Five Point Neighborhoods. Each player will remove 3 Rabble from their Headquarters and place them in a communal pile. These are then randomly distributed 1 at a time on each of the Neighborhood spaces that don’t contain a Building tile. Therefore after placing these Rabble, each of the Neighborhoods making up the Five Points should either contain 1 Rabble cube or 1 Building tile.

Victory Points tiles, Control markers, Election markers, and the stack of Pass markers are also placed next to the play area. Summary boards that break down the various phases of a Round are also available to each player. At the end of setup the game should look something like this:

Photo(16)

 

 

 

Gameplay:

Five Points: Gangs of New York is played through a series of Rounds. Each Round is made up of 3 phases: the Placement Phase, the Effects Phase, and the Election Phase. During the game, players will work to control different Neighborhoods within the Five Points and influence elections that will allow them to position their Gang Bosses amongst the city.

 

1.) Placement Phase – Beginning with the Start player and moving clockwise, each player is given an option during this phase of either placing Rabble cubes or passing. Once a player has chosen to pass, he can no longer take part of the phase.

If a player chooses to place a Rabble cube, he must take 1 cube from this Headquarters and place it onto a Neighborhood tile. This Rabble can be placed onto any Neighborhood tile, even if it contains Rabble or another player. Once the Rabble has been placed, that player then has the optional action of bidding on 1 of the 4 current Manipulation markers. These Manipulation markers give various bonuses to players during the current Round (from a thematical standpoint, they can be seen as bribing the local politicians). When players are placing Rabble onto Neighborhood tiles during the Placement Phase, they are limited to 1 cube per turn in the Round. However, when bidding on Manipulation tiles, a play can bid as many Rabble as they wish.

Photo(17)

For example, on his turn Player A (green) chooses to place one of his Rabble onto a Market Neighborhood tile that already contains a Rabble of his own as well a one of Player C’s (red). Once the placement of this single Rabble has taken place, Player A now has the option to bid on one of the available Manipulation markers.

 

Photo(18)

One of the available Manipulation markers for the current Round allows the owning player to gain 4 Victory Points if they control more Market Neighborhoods than any other player. Since Player A currently has majority control in 2 of the 4 Market Neighborhoods, he decides to bid 2 on the marker and places 2 Rabble cubes next to it. The only way that another player could gain control of this particular Manipulation marker by the end of the Placement Phase, would be to make a bid of 3 or higher on it. Otherwise, Player A will gain the marker and immediately use its effect.

 

Players also have the option of passing on their turn. Passing allows a player to keep some of the Rabble they still have in their Headquarters, but also gives an advantage to those that decide to pass before their opponents. As mentioned during setup, a stack of Pass markers are placed next to the play area, and range from numbers 2 to 7. The Pass markers are placed in order on top of each other with the highest number on the top, the lowest at the bottom according to the number of players in the game:

 

– In a 3 player game, Pass markers numbered 2, 4, and 6 make up the stack.
– In a 4 player game, Pass markers numbered 2, 4, 5, and 6 make up the stack.
– In a 5 player game, Pass markers numbered 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 make up the stack.

 

 

Photo(20)

 

When a player chooses to pass, he will take the Pass marker that currently sets on the top of the stack. This number represents how many Rabble he can take from his Boroughs pile and place into his Headquarters. Passing early on can be of great benefit to a player in gaining a large amount of Rabble for use in future Rounds. As each player passes, they will take the next marker on the stack and add the corresponding number of Rabble to their Headquarters. The final player to pass will always receive the Pass marker numbered 2.

 

Photo(19)

 

Continuing from the above example, after Player A has bid on the Manipulation marker, it is now Player B’s (blue) turn. On previous turns of the Round, Player B placed Rabble onto different Neighborhoods, but chose not to bid on any of the Manipulation markers. It is now his 3rd turn and instead of placing again, he chooses to pass.

 

 

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Because he is the 1st player to pass during the current Round, he takes the top Pass marker numbered 6 and places 6 Rabble from his Boroughs area into his Headquarters. Since he has passed, he can no longer take any more turns during the Placement Phase, but he now has additional Rabble in his Headquarters for later use.

 

 

 

2.) Effects Phase – Once all players have passed and the Placement phase has ended, players will not collect Manipulation tiles and resolve their effects, as well as resolve the effects on any controlled buildings. The player that has the most Rabble next to a Manipulation marker has won the marker and places it into their play area. Rabble that was part of the winning bid are then placed into that players Boroughs. Any Rabble that was part of a losing bid is placed back into those players Headquarters. Some markers will take effect during the next phase (Election phase) while some will take place immediately. Let’s take a look at a few of the Manipulation tiles and how they resolve:

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– The winner of this marker will receive +2 Votes for any Elections that take place during the current Round.

 

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– The winner of this marker immediately receives 1 Victory Point for each of the Neighborhoods they control (Neighborhoods where they have a majority of Rabble compared to other players).

 

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– The winner of this marker immediately receives 1 Control marker of their choice
and places it into their play area (we’ll go over Control markers in a bit).

 

 

A Manipulation marker can only be used during the current Round, therefore after the Round is over all Manipulation markers are returned to the face down pile and available to be drawn again the following Round. After Manipulation markers have been distributed, building effects will take place for those that control a majority of Rabble on a Neighborhood space that contains a building. Let’s take a look at a few of these buildings and how they resolve:

 

Photo(25)
– The player that currently controls the Board of Elections building, immediately scores 2 Victory Points

 

 

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– The Tammany Hall building has no effect during the game, but the player in control
of it at the end of the game receives a bonus 5 Victory Points.

 

 

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– The player that currently controls the Five Points Mission building can move a number of Rabble from their Boroughs to their Headquarters equal to the number of Gang Bosses they currently have in play.

 

 

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– The player that currently controls the Newspaper can choose a Neighborhood type and receive a Control marker of that color.

 

 

 

3.) Election Phase – At the end of each Round, a new Gang Boss is elected to control a particular Neighborhood. The Neighborhood that contains the most amount of Rabble between all players will be the location in which the election will take place. If however, two or more locations are tied as having the most Rabble, the last player to pass during the Placement phase gets to choose which locations are used for elections this Round by placing the 2 Election markers on them.

After determining which location will hold the election(s), Rabble in that location as well as any Manipulation markers and Building effects will help determine the winner of the election. Each Rabble cube counts as 1 Vote. The player with the highest number of Votes wins the election and places one of their Gang Bosses onto the Neighborhood space. All Rabble cubes (as well as any previously placed Gang Bosses from a previous Round) on that space are then returned to each player’s Boroughs. Each Gang Boss in play is worth 5 Victory Points at the end of the game. However, note that Gang Bosses do not count for anything else, including when determining majority on a tile or for Voting purposes. If voting is tied on a location, each player can place a Gang Boss there.

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When determining which location will run an election this Round, notice that the election will be held in a Factory Neighborhood (yellow) since there are more Rabble cubes there than on any other space. Player A (green) currently has 2 Rabble in this space, as does Player C (red). Player B (blue) only has 1 Rabble in this space, however Player B also won a Manipulation marker during the Effects Phase that gives him an additional +2 Votes to any election.

 

Therefore, even though he has less Rabble on this space than his opponents, he would win the election and place 1 of his Gang Bosses on the space.

After an election has resolved, players are awarded bonuses based on controlling the Neighborhoods directly adjacent (diagonally does not count) to the one that resolved an election. The player that holds Rabble majority of each of the surrounding locations receives a Control marker that corresponds to the type of Neighborhood. Note that election bonuses such as those off of Manipulation markers do not count when resolving this step, only with the actual election. Each Control marker is worth 2 Victory Points at the end of the game. A complete set of all 4 Neighborhood Control marker types at the end of the game scores a player an additional 5 Victory Points. If players are tied in majority when resolving these locations, none of the players receive a Control marker, however each player receives 1 Victory Point each.

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After Player B wins the election and places his Gang Boss, we then take a look at the 4 adjacent Neighborhood locations.

 

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The Warehouse location to the right of the election Neighborhood has 1 green Rabble and 2 Red rabble,

 

 

therefore Player C gain a Warehouse Control marker.
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The Market Neighborhood above the election space has 2 Red and 2 Green Rabble, therefore
each Player A and Player C would receive 1 Victory Point a piece.

 

 

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The same would be true for the Warehouse space to the left of the election, with Player B and Player C receiving 1 Victory Point.

 

 

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Player A would receive a Pub (red) Control marker for the Neighborhood below the election since he was the only player to have Rabble there.

 

 

At the end of the Election Phase, each player will place 1 Rabble from their Boroughs to their Headquarters for each Gang Boss they currently have in the play area. Then the Start Player marker rotates from the current start player of the Round to the player to his left. The a new Round begins with the Placement phase.

 

 

 

End-Game Condition & Scoring:

 

A game of Five Points: Gangs of New York can end in various ways:

– If a player places his final Gang Boss, the game ends immediately and that player has won.

– If there is at least 1 Gang Boss in every Neighborhood space on the board, the game will end at the conclusion of the Round.

– If all Control markers of a particular color have been removed from the supply area, the game will end at the conclusion of the Round.

 

 

At the end of the game, players will score points in the following ways:

– Each Gang Boss is worth 5 Victory Points.

– If the Tammy Hall building is one of the buildings in play, the player controlling the Neighborhood it is in at the end of the game will score 5 Victory Points.

– Each Control marker is worth 2 Victory Points.

– A complete set of Control markers (a Warehouse, a Pub, a Market, and a Factory) is worth 5 Victory Points for the set. Players can complete multiple sets.

– Any Victory Point markers gained during the game are worth their printed value.

 

Players total up their Victory Points and the player with the highest number has won the game and taken control of the Five Points.

 

Photo(37)

 

 

 

Thoughts:

Five Points: Gangs of New York is a somewhat abstract, light-Euro style game that focuses on mechanics of area control, bidding, and a slight take on set collection. There’s also a risk/reward element within the Placement phase that forces players to strategically account for their Rabble with prudence, rather than willfully throw all of their Rabble into play during a single Round. As helpful as Rabble can be to winning majorities amongst the elections and controlling Neighborhoods, they are equally as important at bribing the local politicians and gaining those Manipulation markers.

It might not seem like a big deal at first, but the fact that the game comes with 7 buildings and only 2 are used in each game, really strengthens that variety in the differing strategies that can be used in a game. All 7 buildings vary in how they are used, and a game that involves Tammany Hall (5 Victory Points at the end of the game) will pose quite different strategies than if instead, the Newspaper building (choose a free Control marker each Round) is available in the game. And speaking of Tammany Hall, while I haven’t played the game of the same name (I know, shame on me), I will note that a number of people on BGG have critiqued Five Points as a lighter version of Tammany Hall. So you take that for what it’s worth.

While getting your Gang Bosses into play is essential, the importance of acquiring Control markers can not be understated. A full set of Control markers will net a player 13 Victory Points (2 for each marker, plus an additional 5 for the set), so a great deal of strategy will be spent on deducing which space an election will take place in and attempting to surround it with your own Rabble. With the balancing of personal Rabble from Round to Round and the reactive strategy brought about by how other players are taking their turns, Five Points is a tight-knit Euro where every decision can have a large influence on the various factors of how a game plays out. The rules are quite easy to grasp (the actual rules in the rulebook are only about 4 pages), but the ongoing use of various strategies and potential depth that can be found here are what will intrigue gamers the most.

 

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