Review: The Chicago Way

Rating: 4 stars

“You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s* the *Chicago* way! And that’s how you get Capone”

Jimmy Malone, The Untouchables (1987)

800pxDMH_Cover_WIP_hand_goneBack in 2013, Great Escape Games released a Wild West Skirmish game, Dead Man’s Hand (you can read my review of this game here).

Three years later, GEG have taken the game engine from DMH, but moved the location east to the Windy City and the clock forward 50 years to the time of prohibition, presenting us with The Chicago Way (TCW)


Like its predecessor, TCW takes its gameplay aesthetics from the cinema screen – as can be seen from the front cover, it draws it’s influence from the likes of The Untouchables and Lawless, to name but a few.

Whilst the setting is different, much of these rules will be familiar to anyone who has played Dead Man’s Hand.

Each player will need a ‘gang’ of between 3 – 15 models. The game is designed with 28mm models in mind. Scenarios take place on a board at least 4′ x 2′ in dimension. Ideally, a road should run down the table between short board edges, and terrain features should be liberally scattered.

Players will need a tape measure, several D10 and D20 dice, some counters to denote various status’ and a custom deck of cards (which is provided with the rules).

The game uses card driven activation. The cards provided with the game look somewhat like a small deck of playing cards, being divided into four suits. Each player has a hand of cards (The number is determined by the scenario) and these can be played during the game. As well as a number, each card also has a special action on it – it is these special actions that can be played from the player’s hand during a turn. The remainder of the cards form a ‘deck’ for each player, and these are used to determine initiative.

A card is placed next to each model at the start of the turn, and the value of these cards are then used to determine in what order models perform actions, highest card value moves first – if two cards are the same value, a dice roll is used to determine which model moves first.

When activated, each model performs up to 3 actions, which include Move, Aim, Shoot, Reload/Unjam and Recover.

  • Move – A model may move up to 10cm, or perform another action such as drive a vehicle or initiate hand-to-hand combat
  • Aim – A model receives a +1 bonus ‘to hit’ when shooting
  • Shoot – A model may fire a weapon
  • Reload/Unjam – A model may reload/unjam/change a weapon
  • Recover – a model may remove an ‘Under Fire’ marker

tcw1Models may perform any combination of these actions, but some have effects on others (moving twice before shooting incurs a modifier to shoot, for example).

Weapons range is generally quite short: Shotguns have a maximum range of 20cm, Pistols and Tommy Guns 30cm. Only Rifles have a longer range – these can, in fact cover the entire table, though they have a long-range over 50cm. Weapons can fire multiple shots in a turn, depending upon the type of weapon. Pistols can fire 3 times, but a rifle only once. A Tommy Gun is a special case, and is especially lethal at close range (under 10cm) where it can fire up to 9 times in a turn.

The effect of hits is determined by rolling a D20, with player needing 11+ to have some sort of effect on an opponent, though it is quite difficult to kill models (10% chance before any modifiers).

Weapons can jam, or require reloading, during a turn.

Recovering can remove ‘Under Fire’ markers from a model. These markers are applied as the result of being shot at, and usually give negative modifiers to the model that has them.

25839-the-chicago-way-police-officers-box-gang-set-500x400In this, the first book for The Chicago Way, players can choose to use one of four different gangs: Prohibition Agents, Police, Gangsters or Moonshiners. Each model in a gang has 6 attributes, plus some special abilities. A player has $10,000 to use to recruit and arm his gang. Each gang has access to its own vehicle type, and also has some unique ability cards that can be played during the game. (As an added extra, each unique card has a quote from ‘The Untouchables’ as it’s card title.)

Once players have chosen their gangs, they then chose a scenario – there are five in the main book, each gives details of table layout, forces involved, deployment and victory conditions.

Scenarios can be played stand-alone, or as part of a campaign – a campaign system, which includes gang development, is included in the book, and a campaign map is included with the rules.

As you would imagine, Great Escape Games produce a full range of models for this game.

The rules are £20 (full colour, softback, and come complete with a deck of cards and a campaign map), with an MDF marker set priced at £8. Box sets of gangs, each containing 7 models, are available for £20 each. There are 4 different resin vehicle available (also £20 each) and 4Ground are producing a range of painted MDF scenery for the game which range in price from £20 – £50.

Of course, you can also use models from other manufacturers if you wish – Dixon Miniatures and Gorgon Studios both have ranges (The Gorgon range is still small) but my personal favourites are by Mark Copplestone.

A ‘gangster’ setting is ideal for a ‘gang’ style skirmish game, and The Chicago Way builds on the mechanics foundation laid in Dead Man’s Hand, and applies it to this new setting with some aplomb. Given the random nature of the initiative/activation mechanic, the game might not be to everyone’s liking, due to a certain amount of chaos and uncertainty. However, couple this with the special card abilities that are available in each player’s hand, and you have a game that provides a constant challenge and the need to think quickly and adapt tactics ‘on the fly’. Given the relatively small playing area and the potential lethality of some of the weapons, a good deal of scenery – especially ‘scatter’ scenery; the sort you can duck behind – is a must. The rules cover interaction with terrain, including vertical movement via ladders, fire escapes etc, well.

All this makes for a game that is indeed very cinematic, and a great deal of fun. I’d highly recommend them. But remember – don’t bring a knife to a gun fight!

Disclaimer: A copy of these rules was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.





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