The Boss is a game of logical deduction and bluffing, set as a large gangster group on the cities of USA.
Be the player with the most money at the end of the game.
In this game, players take on the roles of mafia bosses fighting for control of various cities. Players win cities by sending their associates there, but here's the catch: you don't know for sure whether the "reward" for capturing a city will help or hurt your cause. In the game, players employ their gangsters to bid against each other for control of cities, using deduction to determine which cards are missing from the deck and must therefore be the secret rewards hidden under each city.
The mechanics of The Boss are a bit like the classic game Clue (Cluedo), in that all the cards except the reward cards are distributed amongst the players at the table, and thus a key part of the game is figuring out which cards your opponents are holding. Players take turns revealing their cards one-by-one, until finally all of the cards are visible to everyone. The key to winning is to find the balance between bidding on cities early, thus discouraging others from competing for control, and waiting until more information has been revealed about what rewards are hidden under each city, ensuring that you are not wasting your limited resources.
- character cards - These cards show the cities available to be won. The specific cards available depends on the number of players, and remain constant throughout the game. Each character is associated with one city.
- city cards - These cards determine the "rewards" available for each city, each card belonging to a particular city. The rewards can be bags of money, which help players win the game, or a trap "reward" that backfires and harms a player
- gangster cubes - Each player receives 9 of these cubes at the beginning of the game, representing their available gangsters. Of these, 6 are permanent "Experts," re-usable on each round, and 3 are "Occasional" cubes, which can be used once only. These gangsters cubes are used to win cities.
At the beginning of each round, one associated city card (reward card) is dealt face down under each character card (except Chicago), and the remaining city cards are distributed evenly to the players. Now it is up to the players to determine which rewards are under each city, and try to send their associates to the highest-value locations.
Each character card has several symbols at the bottom, showing all of the possible city cards (reward cards) associated with it. For example, the character for Detroit (colored blue) has five city cards: four are "good," with money bags of different values (1, 2, 3, 4), and one is "bad", a gun which kills an associate of the player who wins that city.
Players "bid" on locations by assigning their available gangsters to a city. You make decisions about which cities to send your gangsters to based on:
- The cards you hold in your hand, which rule out possible rewards for a given city
- Cards revealed by other players, which further rule out reward cards
- Previous moves by other players, as they send their gangsters to cities which they believe will have valuable rewards (unless they are bluffing!)
At the end of the round, the city card below each character card is revealed, and its effect is applied to the player with the most gangster cubes assigned to that character card. If the reward is a money bag, the amount is added to that player's total score; if it is a negative or mixed effect, it will also be applied to the player (see the list of possible cards below).
The only city which does not have any specific reward cards is Chicago (red). Chicago, which is controlled by "Alcapo", derives its reward based on the cards played on other cities. The reward for Chicago is one-half of the total of the most recent reward cards played on all cities to the left of Chicago on the table, rounded down.
Each player begins with 9 gangsters, divided into 6 Experts (permanent gangsters, which can be reused each round), and 3 Occasionals (temporary gangsters, can only be used once). These are the gangsters that players use to obtain a majority in any given city.
Beginning of hand
At the beginning of a hand, each character card has one face down city card, as described above. At the beginning of the game, the Chicago card is located on the second position, while the remaining cards are ordered according to their numbers. Later, after each hand, the Chicago card moves right; see below.
One player holds the starting player marker, which begins the hand. After a player plays, the turn passes over clockwise.
The player currently playing will perform two phases:
Phase 1: Placing gangsters
The player may play some of their gangsters to a single character card, deploying their gangsters there. There are a few rules:
- After playing their gangsters, the player must have the most gangsters on the character card. Experts and occasionals are counted equally. For example, if player Red has 2 gangsters on New York and player Green has 4 gangsters on it, Red must play at least 3 more gangsters on New York to gain majority (5 vs 4) or decide to play somewhere else.
- An occasional must be accompanied by an expert on the character card, either played earlier or played together, although a single expert suffices to accompany all three occasionals.
- A player may not play on Chicago before playing somewhere else.
Phase 2: Revealing a city card
The player must play a city card, putting it next to the corresponding character card, thus revealing information about that city (i.e. demonstrating which option cannot be the face down card).
Last two turns of the hand
When the starting player (the one with the marker) wants to play and they have only two cards on their hand, they reveal one police card. Police cards determine the end of the game, and are explained in more detail below.
Last turn of the hand
When the fourth turn of each player ends (all players have one card left), the order of play is changed. Now the player with the most gangsters (experts and occasionals) plays first, in decreasing order of number of gangsters, until the player with the least gangsters plays last. In case of a tie, the same order (starting from the player with the marker and going clockwise) is used for those players.
End of hand
After all cards are played, the hand ends. Each face down city card is revealed, and the player with the most gangsters played on the city gains the "reward". There are several kinds of city cards:
- Money bag with a number: A money bag is worth one million dollars, the unit of the game. Win the shown amount of money.
- Theft: Lose two million dollars.
- 4 Shoot-Out: Win four million dollars. Additionally, for each player having a gangster on the city that is not the winner, kill one of their experts.
- Banished: The "winner" may no longer play gangsters here for the rest of the game.
- Hospital: The "winner" loses one expert due to injury, which must be put to the hospital for the next hand. After that, the expert is retrieved back.
- Prison: The "winner" loses one expert due to being caught, which must be put to the prison for the next two hands. After that, the expert is retrieved back.
- Revolver: The "winner" loses one expert, killed by a gun. The expert is removed from the rest of the game.
Chicago is scored differently. The winner on Chicago first computes the number of money bags last played for the cities to the left of it, and gains that many money bags, divided by two, rounded down. For example, suppose the Chicago is after Boston (yellow), with New York (black) and Boston to the left of it. Also suppose that after the hand, the 3 million card is played last on New York and the prison card is played last on Boston. Then the winner on Chicago wins the number of money bags to the left, 3 (New York) plus 0 (Boston), divided by two, which means 3/2 = 1 million.
Preparation for next hand
After each hand, if it's not the end of game yet, move the starting player marker clockwise and move the Chicago card one step to the right (swapping with the card to its right).
End of game
Each hand, after the third turn of each player, a police card is revealed. There are five police cards. Two have silver badges, two have gold badges, and one has both badges. When three badges of the same color are revealed, it signals the end of the game; after the current hand finishes, the game ends.
The winner is the player with the most money.
If there is a draw, the winner is the one who won the most money during the last hand. If there is still a draw, the winner is the one who has the most gangsters after the last hand. If there is still a draw, play another hand to decide the winner!