I did not think I’d enjoy The Mansky Caper. It’s a light, almost party-style Mafia themed game with strong press your luck elements. None of those words describe much of anything in my wheelhouse, so I understandably approached the game with some trepidation.
What I found, though, was something much different than what I expected – not necessarily in terms of mechanics or game play style, but the overall execution of what turns out to be a very good game that fills a gap I didn’t know I had in my collection.
How The Mansky Caper plays
The Mansky Caper dubs each player a member of an unnamed family of mobsters in 1920s America. You’ve been trying to make it big for years, struggling against bigger and better marketed names. The game introduces all of this to you in a cute and well-drawn comic that takes up the first half of the rule book. I’ve seen this in a couple of games lately and I really like it. Keep it up publishers!
To become better known and rise in the ranks, your family decides to rob Al Mansky’s house, which is loaded with gems, cash, and riches that he is too nervous to leave to any bank or associate. Of course, because he’s a nervous guy, he’s boobytrapped EVERYTHING.
The game is not cooperative, but it has some interesting interactive elements. You will visit rooms together, try to access loot together, and even cash in favors amongst each other to gain advantages, but in the end, it’s the player with the most loot at the end who wins. In terms of actual gameplay, the game is very simple.
The play area is made of several room cards, most of which start face down. You will visit each room (unlocking new ones when you find tokens), and then swipe tokens out of safes that exist in each room (chunky, 3D safes that you’ll drop a set number of tokens into. The catch is that while each of these safes might have a dozen or more gems and cash tokens, they also have traps in them. If you pull a trap token from a safe, you have to roll the trap die, which can do all sorts of bad things to you. Sure, sometimes, it comes up safe and nothing bad happens, but most of the time some amount of explosion will happen. The room blows up, the loot blows up, EVERYTHING blows up. And the best part is that it can affect people around you too.
At any time, you can take an action to go back to the car and drop your loot off there, putting whatever you’ve collected into a bag so that it can’t get destroyed by future traps. It uses up a turn, but if you don’t do it, you’re almost certain to lose stuff to an explosion eventually.
How do you know this? Because that’s the end condition of the game – that all the rooms have blown up, or that everyone is at the car and agrees to leave (which rarely happens). So the game becomes a combination of two things – luck in that you may or may not pull a loot token from the safe (and it may or may not have anything good on it), and press your luck, in that even if you get something good, the next draw might blow it all to heck. Or worse, by staying in the room and drawing instead of leaving, someone else might blow you up.
Throw in some player powers for each character, the favor tokens, the hush cards that offer some interesting game twists, and a fantastic visual style, and the game is a lot more than just Zombie Dice in a box.
What We Like About The Mansky Caper
This is a very good game.
Of course, it’s also still a press your luck game, so it has to manage those expectations accordingly. The game works when you are willing to push things just a bit further, but it also offers the opportunity to mitigate luck with the player powers and favor tokens (many of which allow you to offset the traps), and you can count the tokens that are still in the box. You always know the odds, unless you weren’t paying much attention. Dice games lack that clarity, and can often by a bit too heavy on the luck side.
The game looks really nice too, which helps elevate it from just another quick filler to a legitimate game night entry that takes up a slot. And because it plays with up to 6 players, you can accommodate a healthy group of people. Calliope games is known for their family fare and this sits squarely in that complexity bucket, but because of the press your luck nature, stand up moments and the ability to (kind of) work together, it does a lot more than just fill time between longer games.
What We Don’t Like About The Mansky Caper
There are a lot of press your luck games out there, and a staple of the genre is that they tend to be quick, accessible games without a lot of setup time or overhead. Incan Gold is a prime example. So Mansky Caper definitely ups the ante a bit, which for many people will be a detriment. It can take an hour or more to play (or be over in 30 minutes if people pull poorly).
Another issue we had and a mechanic that people weren’t too fond of was the loot division action. If multiple players are on the car on your turn, you can force one of them to split their loot with you using the “Hey Buddy” action. The game already forces loot division if people are on the room card with you when you pull something juicy, but having a secondary way to pull loot from the leader can be frustrating – though it does add some new press your luck considerations to deciding when you’ll go to the car (especially if you’re winning). It’s always safe if it’s empty…but it’s not always empty.
The Bottom Line
The Mansky Caper is a very good press your luck game – one of the best I’ve played in recent years, not because it’s more of a “game” than it’s lighter, smaller contemporaries, but because it knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. It leans into it and has a rip roaring good time pitting players against one another in the race to collect the most possible loot.
SUMMARY & RESULTS