S&T #21 Plays: Chicago

by Neopeius

Overview

Chicago, Chicago is a 2-player simulation of the Chicago Democratic Convention Riots of April 1968. One player takes on the role of the demonstrators while the other runs the civil forces at Mayor Daley’s disposal—the beat cops, plainclothesmen and even the National Guard. The goal of both sides is to look good for the cameras in order to maximize positive media exposure.

The Components

This is another of S&T’s cardboard insert games, and there isn’t much in the way of production values. I printed out the countersheets onto colored construction paper (blue for the cops, green for the hippies), and then glued them onto poster board. The map came in four sections, which printed out and taped together. Both the counters and map are attractive–the counters for the hippies all have some type of hand silhouette, while the cops have other appropriate symbols. I’m a big fan of black and white silhouette counters. The map depicts much of Chicago, with the neighborhoods rendered in an area-movement fashion.

The Rules

The game is divided into 12 8-hour turns spanning April 25-28. The demonstrators pick one of three parks (Lincoln, Grant or Washington) to start their initial forces while the cops are spread out across the city. The demonstrators come in four strength levels, increases in strength stemming from certain types of successful encounters. The two higher-strength level hippies also have more movement (two instead of one). The beat cops come in three levels, and there are also plainclothes detectives who are the toughest. All police units have a movement of three.

Each 8-hour turn, the demonstrators move and then can engage in conflict with any cops they find. As they are a mob, they all must attack all of the units in whatever space they are in. Attacks at less than 1:1 are not allowed. The cops then get to move and attack. In parks, all cops must attack all hippies, but out of parks, the cops can make targeted attacks on individual hippie pieces. Combat is done on one of three tables: Harass (with one of the sides losing unit levels, eliminating units if the levels go below the minimum), Disperse (which tends to increase unit levels), and Assault (police only; it is very effective if done at high odds, but at low odds, it generally results in a demonstrator being shot, which ends the game).

Whoever wins a conflict gets a certain number of exposure points. Different areas are worth more. If the cops win in Lincoln Park, for example, they get 4, and victorious demonstrators get only 1. At the Democratic Convention, the hippies get 20 for winning, the cops only 1. Thus, the hippies are always trying to maneuver themselves into more favorable ground where the cops are afraid to attack.

There are also many areas of the board which require a minimum police presence. These cops do not engage the hippies–they are beat cops trying to stop normal crimes. The hippies can beat these cops up and, if they eliminate them from play, they must be replaced immediately or the cops forfeit the game.

On the first two turns of every day, the protestors lose one third of their units (lowest level goes first). If the protestors try to “infiltrate,” thereby doubling movement but forfeiting the ability to attack that turn, they lose half (on any turn). On the last turn, the protestors must be in a park or be destroyed. They then get to increase the number of units. In Lincoln Park, you multiply by 4. In Grant Park, by 3. In Washington Park, by 2. The cops do not ever get replacements, but the cop player can call in a battalion of National Guardsmen (paying 2 victory points apiece) to bolster his forces.

Gameplay

According to the designers, many months were put into the design of the game. Despite this, they did not manage to make much of a game. The players have very little mobility as most of the cop units are tied up in minimum boxes, and the demonstrators have very low movement rates and crushingly high attrition. This makes it such that there are few tactical options, and much relies on the dice. It is also important to understand that the game is not like most wargames in that elimination of the enemy is a secondary goal. One wants to fight only in ways that maximizes exposure. Demonstrators want lots of 1:1 battles. Cops want to quietly overwhelm their foes. It’s a counterintuitive system.

Normally, I do several session reports and then a review. Dan and I played a few games normally, but they ended pretty much after the first turn when one side or the other got an unassailable lead. So after that, Dan and I sort of played cooperatively, trying to find the best plays for both players based on various starting positions. It was almost like the movie Next, playing out dozens of possibilities to determine the best one. The game is short and simple enough to do that. In this regard, the game is more like a puzzle than a game; it doesn’t lend itself well to casual gaming, and once you know the game, it has zero replay value.

Essentially, if the demonstrator player starts out in Lincoln Park (as happened historically, and as the creators suggest is a good strategy), the demonstrators do not have much chance to win. They spend two days in the park growing, hoping the police don’t attack them and win. Then they explode out toward Grant Park where the exposure factors are far more favorable. We gave the hippies a 25% of winning with that set-up.

(The demonstrators try to break out after a Lincoln Park set-up)

If the demonstrators start out in Grant Park, they have a good chance to win, as they can make a several attacks on the first turn in favorable areas. Although the exposure index goes to 64, really only the first half gets used, and often only the first quarter. 10 points is a crushing lead and easily obtained with this strategy.

(after a successful assault following a Grant Park set-up)

Starting out in Washington Park is also a possibility as the hippies can break out to Grant Park or make a play for the Convention Center. They won’t make it because the cops will break out the Guard, but doing so essentially wins the game for the demonstrators anyway. The Washington Park option appears less favorable than Grant Park but far more attractive than Lincoln Park set-up.

Conclusion

As a game, “Chicago, Chicago” is a failure. Two inexperienced players will do really stupid things and one will lose miserably in short order. But it doesn’t take much to get experienced, and once the players know what they are doing, the game stops being a game. That said, we were entertained for five hours as we figured out all of the strategies. We would just never play it again. And now having enlightened the world on a game that no one has probably played in forty years, I imagine no one else will ever try this game.

Next month, The Flight of the Goeben! We’ve got high hopes for this one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.