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Gangbusters (1982)

This is Gangbusters (1982). It is kind of wild how TSR was just kind of putting out a box set RPG for every genre they could think of. Gangbusters is way better than, say, Boot Hill, but it is still…weird. Let’s see if I can explain it.

The system is a percentile skill based system for a game set in the 1920s, which means I can’t possibly not compare it to Call of Cthulhu. It works about the same, the intentions for the action feel about the same, but Gangbusters is definitely the clunkier of the two games. They just couldn’t resist tossing in all this extra stuff, like two types of damage to track or a results table to consult. It isn’t bad but, it isn’t great either.

With campaign play comes careers — cops, criminals, reporters, etc. Campaign play is done in turns, in which actions can cover a week of time. That kind of raises the camera to the level of a strategy game and the game essentially boils down to “take down the syndicate,” with the law enforcement characters wanting to break it up for good and the criminal characters wanting to take it over for themselves. That’s kind of fun? For a minute? It’s certainly better than Boot Hill, and Cops and Robbers is one of the oldest games, right?

I think part of D&D’s enduring appeal is that is does a good job of answering the age old question, “And then what?” It can constantly up the ante because it is fantastic, and can go anywhere, do anything. Gangbusters, at the end of the day, is about guys in suits shooting at each other. So you take over the syndicate. And then what? Travel to the astral plane? Or just count money? I dunno. The excitement curve flattens pretty fast for me.

I do love that cover treatment though, that’s got lots of zip!

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