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Molehill

Molehill

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Molehill
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Designer: Kevan Davis
Players: 10+
Stuff required: Maps, ribbons, pre-stuffed envelopes.
Crew required: One Lawyer, optional Agents.
Preparation: Significant scouting of city-wide locations.
Time required: 3 hours
Place required: A square mile or more of city centre.
Activities: sneaking, bluffing, chasing, strategy
Discuss this game
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This is an untested game. Its rules are written, but it hasn't been tested out yet.
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This game is made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial Creative Commons licence. (What does this mean?)

A double-crossing heist game, where the robbers have an undercover cop in their midst, and one of the cops is feeding information back to the crime kingpin. Inspired by the 2002 film Infernal Affairs.

Note that the ruleset for the August 2012 playtest of this game may differ slightly from that which is given here.

Pre-game role assignment

Privately poll each player ahead of the game, asking whether they'd rather be a Cop or a Robber (or don't mind), if they'd like to be the Leader of that team, and whether or not they'd be willing to work as a Mole for the other side.

Using these preferences, assemble equal teams with one Leader each (the Chief of Police and the Kingpin) and one Mole each (the Undercover Cop who is on the Robber team, and the Crooked Cop who is on the Cop team). With an odd number of players, make the leftover person a Robber.

In advance of the game, privately connect the Chief of Police and the Undercover Cop, and the Kingpin and the Crooked Cop, so that they can exchange phone numbers and make whatever plans they wish to communicate during the game.

Suggest to the players that they may wish to set up some kind of broadcast channel (a Twitter account or hashtag, or one player having all of their teammates numbers stored for easy group-SMSing), or brainstorm other communication methods (walkie-talkies, secret codes, etc). Let them know the approximate playing area and the starting point, so that the Robbers can pick a nearby (or not so nearby) point to relocate to as soon as the game starts.

The game moderator will run a Twitter account for all public announcements in the game; players will be told in advance to sign up. (Not all players will need a smartphone, but it's recommended that the Kingpin and Chief of Police both have access to the Twitter feed somehow.)

Setup

Assemble the players in a location somewhere near the centre of the map, and hand out ribbons to identify them - Cops and Robbers have different colours, and the Chief of Police and Kingpin wear a double ribbon. (The two Moles' identities remain secret!) The game moderator is introduced as the Lawyer.

On the day of the game, give all players a map showing a number of possible Heist Targets, a list of the possible Missions that the Robbers will be undertaking, and the Lawyer's phone number.

Give the Robbers a ten-minute head start to leave the starting area, during which time the Cops must remain. When the ten minutes are up, the Lawyer announces it on Twitter, the Cops can leave and the game begins.

Gameplay

The Robbers are preparing to pull off a daring Heist. To do this, they will complete various smaller Missions around the city to get their preparation up to 100%, and then attempt to perform the Heist and get away with the loot. They have three hours in which to do all this. To help them, a Crooked Cop will be feeding them information about the ongoing police investigation.

The Cops are attempting to prevent the Heist, either by arresting individual Robbers during the preparation missions (which invalidate the Missions and take the Robbers out of circulation for a little while), making spot arrests on the street (simply taking the Robber out of circulation) or waiting for the big Heist and capturing the Loot before the Robbers get it back to a Safehouse. The Cops will be helped an Undercover Cop among the Robbers, who will attempt to tip them off about the Kingpin's plans.

At any time, a Cop can arrest any Robber (except the Kingpin) by tagging them. A tagged Robber must surrender any Files they might be carrying (some Missions involve transporting Files in envelopes), and has to accompany the Cop for the next five minutes. The Robber is allowed only one phone call during this time, and can only take incoming calls at the arresting officer's discretion; the Cop cannot make further arrests during this time. After five minutes (or if the Cop chooses to release their Prisoner early), the Robber must either be released or kettled. To kettle a single Prisoner, they must be guarded by two Cops; to kettle two Prisoners, they must be guarded by three Cops; three Prisoners require four Cops, and so on. New prisoners can be escorted to existing kettles. Kettled prisoners must remain in place until they are released, but can still use their phones.

There are various civilian Agents working on the side of the Robbers, played by non-player actors (or, at a push, just one actor). Agents can only be arrested during a Mission, and within the Location of the Mission: this busts the Mission, it scores nothing, and the Agent is free to go. In a one-man game (where the Lawyer is playing all Agent roles), Cops are forbidden from tailing the Lawyer.

There is a map of the playing area. Any public building or named, bounded public space (park, a bridge, a road, etc) in that area is a "Location". A number of Locations are flagged on all maps as being potential Heist targets.

Missions

The Kingpin can initiate a new Mission at any time by phoning the Lawyer and stating the type of Mission they wish to run. The Lawyer selects a Mission of that type and gives its Location - the Kingpin may either accept that Mission, or (if its Location is too far away, too near to a Safehouse or just feels too dangerous) the Kingpin can request a different Mission. (Where appropriate, the Lawyer can offer a selection of Locations and let the Kingpin choose one.)

Multiple missions may be set up at the same time, although the Lawyer may reject requests for missions that require an Agent, if all Agents are already assigned.

The Kingpin never does grunt work. For the purposes of all Missions, the Kingpin is not counted as a Robber, and may not carry the ID Badge or the Heist Loot. And although the Undercover Cop is a police officer, they are treated for all purposes as being a Robber (so may never make an Arrest or assist with a Kettling).

The available missions are:-

  • Picking a Heist Target. The Kingpin phones the Lawyer and announces which of the marked Heist Locations the Robbers plan to rob. Counts for 10% Preparation. No other missions may be requested until this one has been completed. Can be taken more than once, but this will reset Preparation to zero every time the Heist Target is changed.
  • Securing a Safehouse. The Kingpin picks a Location which must be a small to medium sized building (or a small section of a larger building), and which must be at least one map square away from the Heist Target. An Agent must meet one or more Robbers there to scout it for surveillance devices. If approved by the Agent, this mission adds 10% preparation the first time it's performed, and the location becomes a Safehouse for the remainder of the game. If an Arrest takes place *inside* a Safehouse, the Robber may use their one phonecall to call the Lawyer and have that arrest invalidated. (The Heist Loot has to be taken to a Safehouse, so at least one Safehouse is required.)
  • The Scout Out. A Robber must send a photo of the Heist Target building to the Lawyer, taken within 100m of the building, and with a copy of the game handout in shot. 5% preparation per photo, to a maximum of 2 photos. (If two photos are taken, one must be inside and the other outside.)
  • The Pick Up. The Lawyer nominates a very specific Location. A Robber must go there and phone the Lawyer - upon answering a question to prove that they are at the Location, the Mission succeeds. 5% preparation, cannot be completed more than ten times.
  • The Drop Off. The Lawyer nominates a Location and time window; one or more Robbers must meet an Agent there to collect a File envelope, which will contain a codeword. If the Kingpin phones the Lawyer with that codeword, the Robbers gain 10% preparation.
  • The Daring Raid. Same as Drop Off, except that the Chief of Police is notified of the meeting details as soon as the Lawyer finishes talking to the Kingpin. 20% preparation.
  • The Mugged Employee. Same as Drop Off, except that the nominated Location is a large one, and the Agent will be walking around it at random for the duration of the time window. 15% preparation.
  • The Paranoid Insider. Same as Drop Off, except that the Agent will be spooked if he spots any Cops, or more than one Robber, and the Mission will fail. 15% preparation, can only be completed once.
  • The ID Badge. Same as Drop Off, except that the File envelope contains an ID Badge which is required to complete the Heist. 15% preparation, can only be completed once. (If the ID Badge is not produced at the Heist, preparation drops by 15%.)
  • The Identity Theft. Same as Pick Up, except that upon succeeding, the Robber hacks the records for the Heist building and adds themselves as a staff member. 20% preparation, can only be performed once. (If this Robber is not present at the Heist, preparation drops by 20%.)
  • The Background Check. The Lawyer nominates a very specific Location. A Robber must go there and phone the Lawyer - upon answering a question to prove that they are at the Location, the Robber is told the identity of one (random) Robber who is not the Undercover Cop. Other Robbers may speak during the same phonecall to confirm the check. Counts for 0% preparation, may only be completed once.
  • The Sting. The Kingpin picks a Location, and the Lawyer provides a time window for an Agent to meet one or more Robbers there. If a Cop attempts to arrest the Agent or the Robbers within the Location, the Cop is instead taken away to be interrogated (he or she must accompany the Robber until dismissed, and may neither make nor receive phonecalls) and the Robbers gain 10% preparation. If the Agent is not arrested, no points are gained.
  • The Heist. The Kingpin tells the Lawyer that the Heist is on. The Lawyer heads to the general area but doesn't approach the building. The Kingpin makes a second call to say that the building is secure. From this point, Robbers can no longer be arrested inside the Heist building (as if it were a Safehouse). The Lawyer then enters the building to assess the success of the Heist - if there are at least X Robbers present (where X is half the size of the Robber team), and if the Preparation is at 100% (including penalties for ID Badge and Identity Theft, if the Badge and/or Robber are absent), the Robbers are given a Loot Envelope and the Lawyer publicly announces the Heist and its Location. (Otherwise the Heist fails with no effect, and can be reattempted later.)

Whenever a Mission succeeds, the Lawyer makes a public Twitter post announcing the Mission Type and its specific Location (except for "Picking a Heist Target", "Securing a Safehouse" and "The Scout Out", whose Locations are not divulged), as well as the current Preparation level.

Whenever a Mission can no longer be completed (such as a Drop Off timing out, a Paranoid Insider bolting, or the Lawyer being arrested at a Daring Raid), the Lawyer notifies the Kingpin.

Endgame

The Robbers win if they pull off a Heist and get the Loot Envelope back to a Safehouse.

The Cops win if:

  • they Arrest a Robber who is carrying the Loot Envelope (if the Undercover Cop is carrying it, they still have to get themselves Arrested); or
  • they Kettle all of the Robbers at the same time (all honest Cops plus the Chief of Police are sufficient to Kettle all of the Robbers excluding the Kingpin and Undercover Cop, if they are all in the same location); or
  • the game runs out of time without the Robbers winning.

Play history

Molehill was playtested in August 2012. This is what happened.