Overview: Family Business, by Mayfair Games, is a fast and furious mafia-inspired card game. Each player takes control of a different gang and players take turns playing cards on each other trying to kill enemy gang members.
Box, Rules, and Components
The latest edition of the game plays the same as earlier versions but features new game art. The box and rules use Godfather-esque text and lots of slang that sounds like it came from an old Jimmy Cagney movie. The rules themselves come in a short booklet that is fairly self-explanatory, with a glossary of cards explaining how every card in the game works. There are 45 cards in 6 different "suits." Each "suit" of cards represents a different gang: The Chicago Mob, The New York Mob, The Purple Gang, The Moran Gang, Murder Inc., and Bank Robbers (who weren't really gangsters but did work with them). Each card has the picture and name of a different real-life gangster. There is also a deck of cards that may be played to attack rival gangs and defend hands of gangsters.
Game-play is quick and players should be able to get playing time down to 30 minutes or less after a few games. Players take turns playing "Contracts" on one another. A player who has had a "Contract" card played on him puts one of his gangster cards in the middle of the table. When there are six gangster cards in the middle of the table, a "Mob War" begins and the mobsters will be eliminated, one every player's turn, in the order they were placed. Special cards mix the game up a little. For example, players may negate "Contracts" through "Family Influence" cards, reverse them with "Mob Power" cards, or start a "Mob War" with cards like "Ambush."
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Like many card games of it's kind, luck is a major factor in winning. However, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of winning in games with 3 or more players:
1) Avoid Making Enemies: Do not anger another player by repeatedly putting contracts on his gangsters if you have other available targets. You should only repeatedly attack anyone if you are fairly confident you can beat him. It is quite common in this game for desperate players to take enemies down with them.
2) Use Blue Cards Often: "Family Influence," "Mob Power," and "Finger" cards not only negate cards enemies play, they also let you take your turn immediately after playing. This lets you play out of turn and potentially skip the turns of one or more players in larger games. This can come in handy, especially if one player is repeatedly placing "Contracts" on you or if players are ganging up on you. Note that you may play "Family Influence" and "Mob Power" cards on any "Contract" card which an opponent plays, even if that card does not affect you. It may be to your advantage to help out an opponent if it means getting your turn right after.
3) Attack Right, Block Left: This tip is one I got from Wikipedia and have seen works very well in practice. Essentially, you should always try to play "Contracts" on the player directly to your right and play "Family Influence" and "Mob Power" cards on the opponent to your left should he attack you. This means that because of the mechanics of the game, play will return to you more often.
Why It's Great
Family Business is a great game for, appropriately enough, families and gaming clubs alike. It has fairly simple rules so it should please both young and older players alike (though the fact that it is a Mafia game which involves placing hits on other players makes it questionable for very young players). It makes a nice break from more intense games since it does not require a lot of strategy compared to more intense board and card games. It's short playing time also makes it a good choice for times when players do not have the time for a longer game (such as on weeknights or when the time of a game meeting is running out). It also keeps the Mafia flavor with an emphasis on "eye-for-an-eye" type feuds.