[Editor’s note: The following preview is based on a complete, but not finalized, product; in advance of a crowdfunding campaign. -dc]
Have you ever read Casino Royale? Not watched the film versions, but read Ian Flemings’s book? It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done and reinforces that I will often root for the villains because it would be more exciting. Tomorrow Dies Today gives players the opportunity to be the villains as they unleash their evil machinations on an unsuspecting world. It’s also a game that I could potentially write three entirely different reviews on, one for each mode of gameplay, but I’ll try to condense it into a single review for today.
The first thing to note – which is why I mentioned it above – is probably that there are three very different modes of gameplay. Cutthroat is a combination of competitive and cooperative play, Syndicate is straight cooperative play, and Mayhem is Team vs Team competitive play. Each mode has its own ideal player count, game length, and to a large extent its own rules. With that said, the basics are similar in all three versions, so let’s start there.
The round starts with a “Scheming” phase. This is probably the longest phase since this is where all the players discuss the coming turn. It is recommended that players set a 10-minute time limit, as negotiations between players can easily balloon out of control.
This is also when players Coordinate with each other or within their own criminal organization to gain and spend resources. They can Plot out future actions by drawing “Side Jobs” and blueprints for new gadgets that will gain them more VP and resources to generally increase their criminal reputation. VP, you ask? What is VP? Well, what do you think VP stands for?
If you said Victory Points, you’re wrong. It stands for Villain Prestige and the Villain with the most Prestige at the end wins. (Just like real life.) The exception to this being in the cooperative Syndicate mode, where everyone wins or loses together. Throughout the game, VP can also be spent as a resource for things like recruiting new Henchmen.
The most important part of this phase is creating squads of henchmen to best succeed in your evil missions. There are different types of henchmen, each with their own abilities, and the more henchmen you put into a squad the more that squad costs to use. So, picking your best options to keep the numbers down is important. Once the henchmen are selected players will place five, facedown, staging markers on the map. Up to three of them show the order of that player’s actions in the next phase, with the remainder being blank.
The next phase is called the Villainy Phase. Players first pay the costs to deploy their squads of henchmen out to the first staging marker they placed, then move them. If more than one squad ends up on the same map tile, they can exchange resources, initiate a conflict with each other (even in co-op mode), or simply glare at each other menacingly. However that potential conflict ends, any henchmen on tile can attempt a mission there and collect the spoils from it. But our intrepid villains can’t just run roughshod across the world. Interpol and the CIA also have agents on the board hunting for the villains and defending… whatever it is those so-called do-gooders claim to be defending. Luckily for the players, Evil will always triumph, because Good is dumb. (Thank you, Mel Brooks) Agents move predictably, one tile clockwise each round, making it easy to know where they will be for players to decide if a where a squad of henchmen should be to avoid them. All of this repeats a second and then a third time, before the ultimate act of villainy in the next phase. Monologuing.
That’s right, what villain doesn’t love to brag about their success? It’s at this point that the villains complete any Objectives and Side Jobs. They also pay a tithe to General Goodman (more on him in a bit) and the Doomsday Clock continues its countdown. The exact endgame is one of the many things that change based on what game mode is being played, but the game always ends when the clock reaches zero.
In any good (bad?) criminal enterprise, there is almost always someone higher on the nefarious food chain. In Tomorrow Dies Today, General Goodman is that someone. General Goodman isn’t the big fish in the small pond of villainy, he’s the great white shark. In Cutthroat mode, he is a mandatory player character, whereas in Syndicate mode he is explicitly not playable with the players all working together to complete his nefarious plans and in Mayhem mode teams of players are attempting to win their way into the General’s Syndicate. The most notable difference with General Goodman is that for him to win in Cutthroat mode, he needs to complete his Doomsday Plan objectives, triggering the endgame, with the remaining players counting up their score to determine who wins a seat at the General’s side.
This isn’t a quick game. It will take you several hours to play, but it’s a lot of fun. When I first tried this, I was blown away… and not just by some trigger-happy CIA agent. Everything just works, and the variations in play mean you could have it sitting on your game table for session after session and never get bored.
The production value on the game (or at least the prototypes) is fantastic, and I know Mooney Bin Entertainment has been working hard to make them even better. The henchmen are fairly basic meeple, but for the players, each of the characters has a well-sculpted miniature. As I type this, there are several prototype minis rushing their way to our Paint Slinger, Jaymz, and he’ll be painting them up for everyone’s viewing pleasure when they arrive.
The Kickstarter campaign for Tomorrow Dies Today grows live on September 1, and we are planning to have a CrowdFUNding Spotlight on it shortly after. You can find the campaign launch page at www.kickstarter.com/projects/mooney-bin/tomorrow-dies-today
TheRatHole.ca does not accept payments for our reviews but may have received a promotional copy of this game for review.