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City of Gangsters
City of Gangsters

Genre: Management Sim
Developer: Kasedo Games Official Site:
Publisher: Independent Classification: MA15+
Release Date:
August 2021
City of Gangsters Review
Review By @ 12:59pm 24/08/21
City of Gangsters is, I suppose, literally true. On every corner of every block of this Prohibition Era metropolis, there's someone either willing to participate in whatever illegal scheme you're currently pursuing or trying to muscle in on your turf because they have their own illegal scheme to pursue. Everywhere you look you'll see a gangster, a potential gangster, or someone you -- as the original gangster -- can exploit.

But to describe this as a city of gangsters is also an exaggeration. Hollywood has prepared us to expect certain things from our gangster media: tense exchanges in smoke-filled rooms, explosive shoot-outs in dockside warehouses, brutal killings in dark alleyways, men wearing hats and holding tommy guns, leaning out of car windows during high speed chases. This particular City of Gangsters has little of that. It alludes to some of it -- abstracting violent confrontations through menus, text and dice rolls -- but its primary concern is the more mundane business of crime.

City of Logistics Managers” may not get the heart racing or the imagination firing to the same extent as City of Gangsters, but it would be a more accurate title. It's as if City of Gangsters is ashamed about its administrative predilections, as if it wants to hide the true nature of its operation behind a less reputable -- more exciting, more dangerous -- veneer. City of Gangsters is itself a front; in the back room there resides a serious tycoon management sim. Like a reverse mullet, it's all party at the front and business at the back.

It shouldn't be embarrassed about the mullet though. City of Logistics Managers is an excellent game, even if it may not be the one you're anticipating.

"And so I was soon running a homebrew beer operation out back, fermenting malt syrup in stoneware crocks and shipping it around town...”

My life of crime began in the back room of my aunt's delicatessen. She ordered a lot of malt syrup, presumably used to frost bagels and pretzels, and always had some left over. This being Chicago in the 1920s, my aunt figured people might like something else you can make with malt syrup, something they could no longer purchase legally. And so I was soon running a homebrew beer operation out back, fermenting malt syrup in stoneware crocks and shipping it around town to any establishment willing to sell booze under the counter.

I knew I could rely on a steady supply of malt syrup, but the successful running of this kind of operation required me to solve a couple of problems. First, I had only so many crocks and used up most of them with my first batch of beer; I would have to find a way to buy more. Second, the cafe across the road and the flower shop around the corner could move only so much beer a week; if I wanted to scale up, I'd have to find more buyers.

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A Civ-like empire builder with a point of difference...

Managing these two problems is a constant challenge, even as you move up the rungs from one-person job to head of a city-wide crime syndicate. Whether you're buying raw materials or selling the finished product, you've got to find people willing to do business with you. This being the 1920s, that means meeting them face-to-face. Each turn, you drive around town, gradually lifting the fog of war to reveal what businesses operate on which streets and getting to know the people who run them. Everyone you meet will buy or sell something useful, but they only deal in certain items--they'll buy cider but not beer, for example, or sell barrels but not crocks. The logistics challenge is clear. It's really satisfying to plot your course each turn, stopping at multiple venues to unload batches of beer, then on the way back finding a convenient place to restock crocks for the next batch.

Throwing a spanner in the works is that the people you meet will deal with you only if they either like you or are absolutely terrified of you. Fail to make an impression either way, and they're not interested. This means calling in favours and getting people you already work with to facilitate an introduction. So while you're out and about, trucking illicit goods around town, you're also spending precious movement and action points each turn to chase down leads towards potential new business opportunities. Sometimes this is a straightforward introduction, but more often than not you're scouring your network of associates and tracing a line of favours from one person to the next until you eventually reach your target, like some pinstripe variation on six degrees of separation. I always felt like I'd pulled off some slick subterfuge every time I managed to convince a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend to buy some of my moonshine.

"The in-game help is oddly prudish about extortion, too...”

You can always try to take a more direct approach, threatening violence and offering your protection services. Racketeering is itself a form of income, but it's a double-edged sword that can cut down your reputation elsewhere. The in-game help is oddly prudish about extortion, too, its introduction prefaced with a kind of coy "I really shouldn't be telling you this, but…" attitude that only underlines how the gangster posturing of the title is all for show.

As your business expands, the core problems you're juggling don't really change, they just multiply. You'll open new fronts, exerting your influence on new parts of the city. You'll open new businesses, adding wine and cider and moonshine to your menu. You'll upgrade existing businesses, expanding production capacity alongside raw material requirements. And you'll do these things in pretty much the same way you did at the start, only now there's an order of magnitude more buyers and sellers and logistical routes to keep track of.

"Having to physically travel to a venue in order to see how much beer they'll buy this week, add unnecessary friction...”

It's still satisfying to keep the operation running smoothly, but the game struggles to provide clarity as the complexity grows. In particular, I found it really hard to keep track of things after a break. I'd load my save the next day, not remember what I was doing, or who was where, and have to spend ages scrolling around the map refreshing my memory. Little interface omissions, like having to physically travel to a venue in order to see how much beer they'll buy this week, add unnecessary friction and slowly wear you down.

New recruits can join your gang as the workload increases, and it's a blessing to be able to automate some aspects of the business, such as assigning someone to perform a regular delivery. Even the rare moments of conflict, as you encounter rival operations and local street thugs, are resolved in stark monochrome text popups and icons marked "baseball bat". As your criminal empire expands, it only serves to accentuate how much of a managerial pen-pusher you really are, spending more of your time drawing up work schedules and studying the accounts than enjoying the ill-gotten fruits of your labours.

"It didn't take me long to realise I was actually playing City of Logistics Managers and, happily trading in my tommy-gun and fedora for a set of spreadsheets...”

Maybe at heart I'm more of an accountant than I'd like to admit, but I found I didn't care that City of Gangsters had sold me a bill of goods. It didn't take me long to realise I was actually playing City of Logistics Managers and, happily trading in my tommy-gun and fedora for a set of spreadsheets and map tacks, I ultimately found I preferred it that way.

The title screen of City of Logistics Managers depicts a dockside deal going down. On the periphery, a couple of men stand holding guns while a few others load the goods onto the boat. Front and centre, though, are two chaps shaking hands, basking in the pleasure of a business arrangement having just been successfully concluded. They're the real stars of the show, and their triumph and satisfaction is yours too, if you can learn to embrace your inner accountant.
What we liked
  • The joy of a job well done
  • Rigorously poring over accounting data
  • Setting up the most efficient delivery routes
  • Unlocking business opportunities through favour networks
  • Being a damn good manager
What we didn't like
  • Being unable to retain relevant info after time away from the game
  • The interface groaning under the later complexity
We gave it:
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