Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday 16 June 2023

Friday Filler: Go Ahead Punk!

A city under siege. The City by the Bay sits in the crosshairs of a gunsight, the scope of a sniper rifle wandering across the buildings and streets of San Francisco ready for the trigger to be pulled and another victim felled. The sniper has sent city hall demands for money and is holding all of San Francisco to ransom. Fortunately, San Francisco Police Department has assigned its finest police officers to deal with both the demands and track down the psychopathic killer before he strikes again. If that sounds like the plot of the 1971 film, Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood and directed by Don Siegel, it is. However, it is also the set-up for a board game inspired by Dirty Harry and the cop cinema of the seventies. Published by Next Dimension Games, Go Ahead Punk! is a game set in the San Francisco of the seventies in which the sadistic killer known only as ‘Stinger’ stalks the streets and rooftops, looking for his next victim. Instead of the San Francisco Police Department assigning only the one Cop to the case, it has assigned three—Inspectors Katherine Lacey, Eddie Johnson, and Frank Brannigan. Stinger only needs to carry three more hits, which can be from atop a building if he can obtain a Janitor Key to its side entrance or in the city’s parks if he can find a Park Ranger uniform. Then it is a matter of making his escape from one of the city’s four port exits and the man who scared San Francisco will have eluded the law! All the Cops have to do is locate Stinger and bring him to justice, whether that is before he has made all of his planned hits or after, during his escape attempt.

Go Ahead Punk! is a classic hidden movement game of one player versus many, much in the mode of the classic Fury of Dracula or the more recent Jaws. It pitches one player—Stinger, up against one to three Cops, each with their own means of handling sadistic killers like Scorpio. Inspector Frank Brannigan always knows where to put a bullet in a criminal if he has to; Inspector Eddie Johnson’s preferred weapon is a pump action shotgun, so up close, he rarely misses; and Inspector Katherine Lacey’s knowledge of Personnel & Records means she brings police intelligence to the streets in the manhunt for the marauding murderer. When she spends cash on intel to reveal Stinger’s location, his player must reveal Stinger’s exact location, not just the district. They start with their own equipment, but can find more and make themselves deadlier in a fight. Stinger has his sniper rifle, but might find a .38 revolver, a silencer for his sniper rifle to make hits harder to detect, or even a LAW rocket launcher (useful for taking down that pesky police chopper), whereas the Cops can equip themselves with shotguns and rifles, don bulletproof vests, keep track of each other with police radios, and if they have cash, get intel from their connections on where Stinger might be. They can even get the keys to a muscle car and race across the city in pursuit of the unknown sniper.

Go Ahead Punk! is played out on a 17¼ by 28½ inch map of San Francisco, divided into its various districts and parks and crisscrossed with the major roads and freeways as well as Street Car and Cable Car routes. All players can move using the major roads and freeways, but only Stinger can use the Street Car and Cable Car routes and then only when he has a Transit Pass. There are over one-hundred-and-fifty numbered locations on the map which the Cops will move across openly, whilst Stinger will move across them in secret, his player tracking Stinger’s movement and location on the Movement Tracker sheet which he keeps hidden behind a screen. The various districts are also marked with Hit Locations—black for rooftops, green for the parks, and red for locations where a hit cannot be performed for the third and final hit. There are several hospitals, marked with ER, where both the Cops and Stinger can gain first aid, but Stinger must reveal his location if he does so and there are also four Port locations, the Stinger needing to get to one of these to escape and win the game after performing the three hits. Lastly, there is Hunch Tracker, which tracks the San Francisco Police Department’s general progress in hunting for Stinger. The net closes on him every fourth round, forcing his player to reveal Stinger’s current district, which will narrow it down to a handful of locations.

At the beginning of the game, each player receives a board for his character. This has a health Tracker and space for equipment carried—up to eight spaces’ worth of equipment can be carried in this inventory—and for the Cops, space for any vehicle currently in their possession. Each player is also given their character’s starting equipment, a set of combat dice in their character’s colour, and a reference card. Stinger’s player has access to the Stinger Deck and the Stinger Key Deck. During play, these provide Stinger’s player with key cards to particular locations, the Park Ranger uniform, weapons, and so on. In addition, the Stinger’s player also receives the Movement Tracker sheet and a screen to hide it behind. This screen has a great image of Stinger, sniper rifle in hand, looming over the city as a whole, making him a constant presence, despite everyone not knowing where he is.

The Cop players have access to the Cop Deck and the Cop Inventory Deck and together these provide the Cop players with weapons, vehicles, cash for intelligence, and more. There are some fun cards in here too. For example, ‘Complaint’ sends Inspector Brannigan straight to city hall following a claim of police brutality; ‘Donuts!’ ends a player’s turn; when ‘Car’ card is drawn, the Cop not only gets that card, but gets to pop the trunk of the car and draw another card to see what is inside it; and a ‘Hood! Fight Now’ card means that the Cop has busted down the wrong door and the occupant is not taking it lying down!

A turn consists of two phases. In ‘Phase 1: The Hunt’, Stinger acts first. He can either move, play a card from his hand, draw a new card (and play it if he wants), declare a Hit, or get some first aid at an ER. Both declaring a Hit and going to the ER reveals Stinger’s location. Next the Hunch Tracker marker is moved. If on the ‘Reveal’ space, Stinger’s player reveals the district where he currently is. Then the Cop players take it in turn to do one of five actions. This can be to move—three spaces as opposed to the four of Stinger, play a card, draw a new card to play or keep, share inventory items with another Cop if they are in the same location, or get some first aid at an ER. Play progresses through ‘Phase 1: The Hunt’ again and again until Stinger has performed three Hits. This triggers ‘Phase 2: The Escape’. However, play in ‘Phase 2: The Escape’ is pretty much the same as ‘Phase 1: The Hunt’, but without the need to perform any further Hits.

Stinger’s location can be revealed through four means. A Cop moves into the space he is currently on, Stinger’s player draws a ‘Spotted’ card, a ‘Location Intel’ card is drawn—backed up by Lacey’s knowledge of Personnel & Records or extra cash, or Stinger moves into a location with a Cop there. The latter is a possibility if a Cop has already been injured, whether due to a ‘Hood! Fight Now’ card or an earlier encounter with Stinger, and Stinger’s player thinks he can do enough damage to send him to the ER. Performing a Hit also reveals Stinger’s location, but if Stinger has the Silencer for his sniper rifle, Stinger gets another turn to act before revealing the Hit, reflecting how difficult the Hit was to detect.

Combat takes place between Stinger and the Cops when or more of them are in the same location. It involves the players taking it in turns to roll dice as determined by the weapon they are carrying, modified by combat cards, if any, aiming to inflict damage on the other. Combat continues until Stinger is killed and thus the Cops win the game, Stinger sends the Cops to the ER, or one side attempts to escape and move immediately away. In general, this requires the ‘Escape’ symbol to be rolled on a die, and if the ‘Escape’ symbol does not appear, a player can burn cards from his hand. This removes them from the game, which can be serious for Stinger if those cards are a Janitor Key card or a Park Ranger Uniform card as this prevents Stinger from performing Hits at those locations. Notably, Stinger’s play begins the game with an Escape Token. This can be used once instead of a failed Escape roll and ensures that Stinger escapes once in the game.

In addition to the standard game, Go Ahead Punk! includes rules for solo play. This plays much in the same fashion as the standard game, but the player controls Stinger only—who has been blackmailed into performing the Hits—and the Cops are controlled by the game. The token for Stinger remains on the board at all times with the Cop tokens constantly moving towards Stinger. To make an allowance for solo play, Go Ahead Punk! does feel like a more complex game in comparison to the standard rules.

Go Ahead Punk! is a nicely and highly thematically presented game. All of the components are of solid quality, including the tokens, cards, and various boards—even for a preview version of the game. (Actual figures for the Cops are included in a deluxe version of the game.) The rule book is relatively short, but includes examples of play, combat, and card clarifications. The artwork is terrific though, for example, Stinger is shown on one card wearing the same Mexican style cardigan that Paul Michael Glaser wore on Starsky & Hutch. There are lots of little references like this, and players with any knowledge of the genre will enjoy spotting them.

Go Ahead Punk! has a pleasing ebb and flow to its play. Primarily this is due to the Hunch Tracker, which forces Stinger’s player to reveal the current district he is currently in, tightening the noose around Stinger, forcing his player to send him scurrying away if he does not want to be caught or run into a Cop. Then loosening again, if only for a little while... This in addition to clues left behind by any Hits which can build and build as the Cop players try and work out Stinger’s movements and possible intended location as he performs more hits. Consequently, there is never really a moment after the first Hit when Stinger does not feel like he is being hunted. The Cops are always going to feel like they are responding and successfully tracking Stinger will involve deduction based on first the Hit locations and second, the ‘Location Intel’ cards, as well as a bit of luck. That is, when they are not being distracted by claims of police brutality or doughnuts! Then there is the theme. Go Ahead Punk! feels like the film it is inspired by and familiarity with it will have the players wanting to play in the style of the characters from the cop films and television series and roleplay a little as the game progresses.

Overall, Go Ahead Punk! is a solidly designed classic hidden movement game of one player versus many built around a highly appropriate theme. The combination of the two sets up a brooding sense of uncertainty, never quite knowing when the Stinger will strike again as the Cops desperately search for the deranged killer—and all under the sunny skies of San Francisco.


Go Ahead Punk! is currently being funded via Kickstarter and an Unboxing in the Nook video is available on YouTube.

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