by Aaron Sebastian
Deduction, mystery, crime, and corruption. Every detective wannabe knows that those are a recipe for a good time and they accurately describe Glen Dresser’s CGDA finalist entry: Palooka Precinct.
Palooka Precinct is a co-operative game for 1-4 players. It is a noir-style mystery game, with more depth than your basic deduction game. Each player takes the role of a police officer working out of the “Palooka Precinct”, who are known for their vices and their blunt ways of questioning and solving crimes. The game has a campaign mode and optional side-plots in the quests that really highlight those personal aspects and gives an additional sense of role-playing to the game.
Players travel around the different areas of their district inquiring in neighborhoods and interrogating people about suspects and their associations with others. Players collect information about suspect’s locations, whereabouts, and associations in an attempt to solve the crime and arrest the wanted suspects. You can also canvas areas, send out canine units, and obtain arrest warrants to help catch criminals on the run and explore other options based on the given scenario.
“The game idea evolved from a discussion on the BoardGameGeek forum where the topic was simulating logical mystery.” Glen Dresser told us. “The initial game idea was created using a ridiculous amount of cards.”
Over the next 14 months, the game was refined to a punch card system and then again to a volvelle system which, from a distance, looked incredibly complex to design. “The punch card system was fiddly. Playtesters were key in the design process and had suggested the volvelle solution early on. I had one case with multiple outcomes, but once I got over the block of trying the volvelle it really expanded possibilities for cases and the campaign idea branched from there.”
A volvelle is a spinner made up of two or more discs. In this case, the volvelle uses 5 layers to properly disguise and hide all information except what is being researched during the game. “The volvelle was actually the easiest part of the design, the difficult part was the mechanics to go with it.”
What was created was an action point system which allows the players to perform major and minor actions using colored cubes. The cubes represent four types of actions: aggressive, passive, caffeine, and alcohol. The majority of cubes used are the first two, each of which provide bonuses for doing particular actions but not restricting from completing tasks needed. Caffeine cubes allow players to take extra actions for a price, and alcohol allows them to rearrange unused cubes on their track.
To win the game players need to solve the crime before time runs out. Every time a player uses up all of his cubes, they go off duty. This moves the time track, and forces events to happen that can cause players to lose. Also, if players guess incorrectly on their final investigative action, they lose. Every scenario has different twists that can alter the outcome, making the game replayable as different plots and side stories develop. “I always wanted a storytelling element to the game, the stories emerge from the gameplay.”
Glen Dresser is a first time entrant to the CGDA. “It’s exciting and nerve wracking. I was on a road trip when I found out I was a finalist. I was almost overwhelmed. I have played several CGDA game designs including some winners. I am really honored to be a part.”
“I want to give a shout out to the local playtesting community for all the time and input they give. Also to my family, for having a home that values creative pursuits.”
Glen will be at FallCon and showcasing his game in the Prototype Pavilion on Saturday morning for anyone interested. “My favorite comment about my game was ‘It feels like what I imagine a detective would feel like being. Having hunches, hitting road blocks, chasing suspects, and really being able to immerse yourself in the game.'”
The CGDA winner will be announced Saturday night at the auction.