GAME REVIEW – The Godfather: A New Don

I’m a fan of the Godfather movies.  Well, in particular, the first and second ones.  Not so much the third.  Anyway, it used to be said that if a board game is based on a film, it’s not very good.  However, that hasn’t been the case lately. There have been several games based on motion pictures that have been great during these past few years.  I saw this being demoed at Gen Con back in August and thought that this area control, dice game looked interesting.  How is it?  Let’s find out!

THE GODFATHER: A NEW DON designed by Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim; Published by IDW – For 3-6 players and takes about 45-70 minutes to play. 

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Before I give a round overview, I’ll explain the concept of the game:  Players will take on the role of a mafia family competing to take control of 6 different districts in New York City.  Each player will have 5 dice in their color, and use them to make different numbered sets to take control of different neighborhoods.

The board is divided into six districts, and each district has several neighborhoods.  On each neighborhood is a numbered combo (or set) that is required to take it over.  For example, one neighborhood might require three dice that have 4 pips on them to take it over.  When you have the required set to take a neighborhood over, you place a mafia meeple in your color in that neighborhood.  Whoever has the most meeples in their color in a district, is in control of that district.  At the end of the game, players will count all of their meeples in each district, and whoever has the most, second most and third most, will get points.

Here’s how a round will play out:

First, players will roll a die to see who will be “The Godfather”.  Then proceed to play the game.

There are 5 phases to the game:

1. Vegas – This is a way to get extra dice.  You skip this phase in the first round.  But later on in the game, there will be ways to place your meeples on spaces in the Vegas track.  This is how you can get extra dice during a round.  The Godfather will roll the 3 Vegas dice, and if there is a meeple on any of the numbered spaces on the Vegas track that match a die number, then that player will get to take that numbered die for the round.  It’s possible to get more than one Vegas die during a round.

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2. Roll – Players will roll their dice simultaneously behind their player screens. This will be their dice pool.  They can also roll a Vegas die with their other dice if they acquired one during the last phase.

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3. Offer – Each player must make an offering to the Godfather by choosing one of their die, and place it in front of their screen.  The Godfather will go around the table clockwise to each player, and may either choose to take the die being offered, or make an offer they can’t refuse.

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If the Godfather takes the offered die, they will place it behind their screen, and the player who made the offering can place a meeple on the favor track of that numbered die.  So if it was a 3, they would place their meeple on the numbered 3 spot on the favor track (The favor track is a way for a player to manipulate their dice during phase 4).

If the Godfather doesn’t take the offered die, they can ask for another number.  If the other player has that numbered die, they must give it to the Godfather, and then either place their meeple on the favor track matching the number they offered, or the number that the Godfather called.    If they don’t have the number the Godfather asked for, they must reveal all of their dice to show that they don’t have that number called, but they still get to place a meeple on the favor track matching the number they offered.

After the Godfather has received (or not received) the offer, players may reroll any number of dice behind their screen one more time.

4. Resolution – Starting with the Godfather, each player will get a chance to use all of their dice.  Dice can be used to claim a neighborhood, move up on the muscle track, and claim a spot on the Vegas track.

To claim a neighborhood, players must have the matching numbered set.  Like 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, 5 of a kind, and straights.  After they use their dice that round, they can no longer use them again until the next round.

Once you have used your dice to claim a neighborhood, place your meeple on the neighborhood you just claimed.

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To go up on the muscle track. Spend any number of dice you choose, then add up the sum.  This is how much you go up on the muscle track.

The muscle track is how you determine who will be the Godfather for the next round.  Also, the muscle track is also how you may be able to muscle someone out of a neighborhood.  For example, if you had a 4 of a kind of the number 5, and there are no more spots available with that combination, if you are higher than the person occupying that spot on the muscle track, you can kick them out, placing your meeple in that neighborhood, and giving their meeple back to them.

To place a die on the Vegas track, simply just spend one of your die.  It doesn’t matter which number it is.  Then place your meeple on any numbered spot on the Vegas track.  This is how you will be able to get these Vegas dice during the first phase.

Also, during your turn, you may spend favors to manipulate your dice.  You may use as many favors as you have meeples on the favor track.  There are six spots on the favor track.  Each spot lets you do something different.

  • Free Reroll – Allows you to reroll any dice in front of you.
  • +/- to a Die – Allows you to add or subtract one from each die result.
  • Move to an Empty Adjacent Neighborhood – You may move one of your meeples to an adjacent neighborhood as long as there is no one else there.
  • Turn 1 Die to Any Side – Change your die to any number.
  • Treat 1 Die as 2 Dice With the Same Number – This allows you to add an imaginary die to your pool of dice, but it must match a number that you already have.
  • Perform Any Action – Allows you to choose and perform any one of the other 5 favors.

Special note:  The Godfather can’t use favors, nor use dice on Vegas or the Muscle track.

5. Clean Up – Slide all of the meeples on the muscle track to the left, keeping the same order.  Get all of your dice back, and find out who the new Godfather is, which is whoever is the highest on the Muscle track.

Players will keep playing until either someone is out of meeples, or one district is completely full.  This triggers the end game.  Players will continue playing out that round, and then go on to final scoring.

Count up your meeples in each district, and find out who has the most, 2nd most and 3rd most.  Those players will receive points.  If there are ties, then the tied players will score points for the next lowest place.  Also, the players who have the most meeples left over will receive points as well.

And that’s about it.

Seriously, it sounds like a lot, but this is a fairly simple area control game when you strip it down.  But there is enough flavor that sets it apart from other area control games.

Probably the most popular and known dice area control game is Las Vegas from 2012.  That’s a great gateway game.  This one is definitely more complex than that, which should satisfy gamers who like meatier games.  It’s like a gamer version of Las Vegas.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a super heavy game, but it’s got enough going on that I think it won’t bore more experienced gamers.

The board is really cool looking.  I love the way the map of New York looks.  It’s also double-sided for different player counts.  I love it when games do that.  The graphic design and muted color scheme capture the Godfather theme.  The downside is that since the colors are muted, it can be hard at times to figure out which district is which, but it’s not that difficult since each district belongs to a specific number which is listed on each neighborhood.  Still, this could be a problem for some people.  I personally didn’t mind it all that much.

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The dice colors are nice.  I love the cute mafia meeples.  And the Vegas dice are big and chunky.  Loved rolling those.  The player screens are ginormous and look pretty cool too.  Overall, the production is good.

How’s the gameplay?  I like it quite a bit.  It’s satisfying trying to get the right dice sets to take over specific neighborhoods, and which districts to go for.  I love that you have plenty of opportunities to manipulate the dice by using favors on the favor track.  That’s super cool.

I really like the offering phase.  That is something that is a little different for this type of game.  It’s not always easy deciding which die to offer.  Do you want to simply get rid of a die you don’t want, or do you choose the die you offer based on where you want to go on the favor track.  Very interesting.

Also the mechanic of the muscle track is neat.  Players are always thinking how far to go on the track .  Do they want to go up a lot and be The Godfather next round?  Or just far enough to muscle someone out of a neighborhood.  Sometimes, it’s not good to be The Godfather, since you can’t use favors and go up on the muscle track, or go to Vegas.  But you will have more dice to use from other players on your turn, potentially.  So there’s some good decisions to make here.

The Vegas track is also a nice addition.  It’s good to get some extra dice during a round.  Plus, I love rolling those big chunky dice.

I will say that a 6 player game can go on rather long.  I still had fun playing a 6 player game, but some people might not like a dice game to go longer than an hour, and it definitely could if you’re playing with 6.  I didn’t mind though.

To say the theme isn’t strong is maybe a little unfair.  I don’t think it’s NOT strong.  It’s there.  I don’t really get a feel of the Godfather movies, but I get a mafia vibe from it for sure.  Fans of the Godfather expecting a faithful board game adaptation may be disappointed, but that’s not what this is.  It’s a dice game that uses The Godfather flavor.  No specifics of the movies, which I don’t think is a problem.  In fact, those worried about this being inappropriate for kids or families don’t have to worry.  Despite the mafia theme, this is a great family weight game with nothing inappropriate about it.  I’ve played this with elementary school kids and they loved it.

Overall, I think this is a solid, well-designed area control, dice game.  Good decisions, satisfying dice rolling, and cute mafia meeples.  If you like dice games, and area control games, check this one out.  Also, if you are a fan of the game Las Vegas, but think it’s too light, this game would be a good bet for you.

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