Review of the Game Dirty Cops

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By | March 14

Box Board Game Dirty Cops

  • Mechanics: Take That, Trade, Negotiation


  • Has good potential for interaction with other players. You cannot remain quiet in this game if you want to succeed.
  • This game will have you cursing your friends (in a good way) for their backstabbing ways.
  • Good theme, the mechanics make sense and draw you into the world.
  • Good components that make it easy to assess the game state at any point.
  • Each character feels suitably different due to their individual powers.


  • If you don’t like Take That mechanics, then this game may not be for you.
  • If you’re not organised in a two player game then it can get confusing with having to manage two characters.

Dirty Cops: A Game for Scoundrels

“It wasn’t always like this,” Alexa Moley thought to herself as she looked out of the window, the people on the sidewalk scurrying around, going about their lives, not a care in the world. Only officers like herself knew of the filth that festered in the city that she loved. It wasn’t enough to be that idealistic cop that she had been when she was a fresh faced recruit.” She had to do what was best for her family, she had to become dirty to survive.

Launching on Kickstarter, is a card game called Dirty Cops: A Game for Scoundrels. It has been designed by Sean Epperson, Artwork by Kris Quistorff and Dominic Sodano. The publisher is Thing 12 Games.

Dirty Cops: A Game for Scoundrels is a 2-4 player game where you take on the role of crooked cops. The aim of the game is to work with (and sometimes against) your fellow cops to take down the scourge of the streets, from the petty thugs to the powerful Kingpins. So what if you help yourself to the ill gotten gains that the scum leave behind? No one will miss it.

If you have the most money at the end of the game, then you win. Pure and simple.

Dirty Cops is a game that employs a take that mechanic where you are looking out for yourself, but betray your fellow comrade too much and you may find yourself in a pickle when three thugs are baying for your blood.


Alexa walked into the briefing room, she could only send a few officers to the Crime Scene and they had be the best of the best. Her eyes looked over the crew assembled before her knowing that everyone of them got results, despite their dubious methods.

The game comes with the following components:


Character Cards – The character cards represent the cops that you will be sending onto the streets. If you know your cops from television, then you may recognise some of their ‘names’. I’m sure that ‘Tad Grimes’ is based on Rick Grimes, and ‘Salty Americo’ bears a close resemblance to Columbo. Each character has a power that they can use at a certain stage in the game. The artwork on the character conveys the slightly seedy nature of the cops. You can believe that these cops will step over you to get that extra dollar. These guys and gals are no angels.

Combat Cards – These cards are made up of defense cards, raid cards and attack cards. Raid cards are played immediately and affect the criminals. Effects vary from damaging the criminal to making them skip a turn. Defense cards are cards that are generally there to protect you and are placed in front of you.

Dirty Cops Playing Cards


Attack Cards – The attack cards are cards that are played during the crime scene phase when the cops attack. Each card has a attack power that fits in with the theme (e.g. Intimidation removes a criminal from play if they are 4 health or lower).

Although its’s tempting to to use all of your attack cards to clear the board, sometimes it pays to save these cards for later rounds when the criminals get harder.

Money – The game comes with 150 $100 bills (15K in total). Each character gets $200 at game start and the money flows like cheap wine throughout the game when the player decides to sell their equipment, drugs or ammo that they’ve looted from crime scenes. If the quality of the money that I had as the prototype is indicative of the final product, I had no issue with it, it felt sturdy in my hands, didn’t crumple or tear easily. The artwork is whimsical, but it felt good getting the money when I was selling my ill gotten gains.

Chits/Cubes – There are 3 main sets of cubes within the game, health (red), ammo (grey), drugs (green). Again, these feel solid to the touch, and when these cubes are on the table, it’s easy to see what they represent. A player will have no problem identifying the status of the game at any point. You can clearly see how much health a thug has. You can see how much ammo they have and how many health to take off your cop. If you have ever played Pandemic, then these are the type of cubes you can expect.

Action Cards – These cards are what make your cops dirty, they allow you to steal drugs, plant evidence and screw over the other players. What you use and when is up to you.


The showdown between criminals and the cops occurs at the crime scene. In a three player game, there are three crime scenes while in a 2 (as each person controls two characters) and 4 player game, there are four crime scenes. Each crime scene contains a certain number of criminals with each crime scene getting more ruthless and harder. It also makes thematic scene. Imagine a cop movie, you’re not going to have a showdown with the Kingpin until the end of the movie. It’s the same here, in crime scene one, you get the lowlifes, the petty thugs. As you defeat them and move up, then you get harder criminals that provide and support each other by providing bonuses.

Each criminal has a particular cop in mind that they want to attack. As a lead detective, you may find yourself in the firing line from several criminals at once. So if you’ve been a naughty cop and betrayed others, you may want to stock up on defense cards so that you can survive and betray them later.

Playing Cards with Cops

There are three main phases in the game and once you get a feel for what happens during each phase, then the game flows and it’s the interaction between players that provides the meat of this game. The first phases are:


Planning Phase

The briefing is over, the cops are gathering their equipment and seeing what their resources are. At the start of the game, each player is dealt 6 cards (1 defense, 1 attack, 1 raid, 3 action cards). They then have the choice to draw 1 card from the combat or action deck. As a player, you have to make the choice to whether you gather action cards to betray your fellow cop or more combat related cards so that you can take out the criminals and survive.

Crime Scene Phase

They know what they are up against, now is the time to act! Do they surprise the criminals and catch them unaware (play a raid card) or do they prepare for a fire fight and ensure that they’ll survive the night (play a defense card). Now the negotiations between players can begin. You can ask for support, you can trade or you can be the lone wolf and know that you can take out the criminals with ease because you’re a bad-ass and you’ve watched Dirty Harry ten times.

Now that you’ve prepared, the criminals attack their target cop. Unlike the Greedo/Han Solo debate, in this game the criminals shoot first unless a RAID card states otherwise. The amount of health cubes a cop loses is dependent on the number of ammo cubes the thug has. So, one hopes that you’ve put down some defense cards to negate any damage.

Payback is a bitch, now it’s time for the boys in blue to retaliate. Each cop can use their standard issue gun to cause 1 damage to 1 thug and if they have attack cards then they can use them as well, stacking any damage.

Have to admit, that with the right cards, it feels good to be able to get rid of all criminals in one round. If any survive, keep going until they’re all dead.

Clean up Phase

Dirty Cops Playing Cards and Chips

“We Lie! We Cheat! We Steal!”

Remember that Take That element, this is where the game shines. This is where the action cards really come into play. With all the loot ready to be dished out, a cop can steal from the crime scene and reduce the takings for other cops. Once the loot has been distributed, then the action cards can be used to steal money or drugs and if that cop doesn’t have a way to get it back, then it’s tough luck because you know that the cop that just took your money is taking it to the bank. However, between me and you, I found that it’s best to wait until after the trip to the hospital before the looting and backstabbing occurs. Why? Because for each health lost, it costs money to patch yourself up (although if you have no money, then its free).

Next is to hit the streets and find shady buyers to buy your ammo, drugs and equipment. If you were smart during the attack phase and got tons of ammo, then that is a potential windfall coming your way, especially if you got rid of the Kingpin.

With the smell of fresh but dirty cash assaulting your nose, you can choose to vault the cash (while paying up to half in taxes). Once that is done, the lead detective badge is passed on and the next crime scene is played.

A nice addition to the game is that a Turn Order card is provided to each player but by the second or third crime scene, you will find that you do not need it very often. It’s nice to have straight forward phases so that you can focus more on the collaboration between each other.


The beauty of this game is that the interaction between your fellow players can be different depending on the group. In one play through, you could be a kind cop that dishes out everything fairly and hardly uses their action cards to screw over the other player. You won’t really get far employing this tactic but if you want to try then it’s an option.

You could be ruthless and steal and lie your way to victory, your success depends on how sneaky you can be.

I believe that the sweet spot is to still look out for number one, but to try and help out your fellow players from time to time. Have an extra defense card, then trade it, as long as you get something out of it, such as more drugs when it comes to sharing out the loot. This is where the game comes alive, the negotiation between players. The promises that you may or may not keep if you help kill a kingpin. Just remember that you will be lead detective at some point and quite a few of the villains hate you. You will be sorry if you double-crossed a fellow cop and you have the kingpin and the enforcer after you and you have no cards to negate their wraith.

The other aspect is the preservation of your sweet loot, do you keep drugs and ammo on you so that you can heal yourself or deal the extra damage? Do you sell it, get the sweet cash and then vault it knowing that it will be safe from your light-fingered colleagues. As the crime scene progresses, you have to weigh up what the other cops will do and what you may need to do in future crime scenes. The same consideration happens for the cards that you hold. Do you save the awesome card that does 3 damage for a crime scene or if no one is helping you, do you use it in crime scene 1 knowing that you may never get that card again.

Also, it helps to pay attention to the criminals that you despatch to an early grave. A criminal that initially only has 1 bullet may get boosted to having four bullets because they are getting bonuses from the left and right (previously, another criminal was getting the bonus but is now dead).

For a straight forward game, there could be potential for a lot of A-HA moments and this is a good game to start the game night off, to get people to talk. Whether they’ll talk after the game is over, is another thing.


My wife and I enjoyed this game even though we prefer co-operative games, we don’t mind the odd game where we have to employ the take that mechanic. If you love this mechanic then I believe that you will enjoy this game immensely.

As a two player, it is playable and the theme of being a Shift Commander in charge of officers makes sense and fits the theme perfectly, you want to do the best for your own officers and want to look out for your own. The only downside is that with the amount of cards that you have out on the table, it can be overwhelming in places when you have to switch between hands and remember the individual powers of each characters. It’s only a minor negative in an otherwise good game but it is one worth considering.

Therefore, I do believe that this game is best for 3-4 players where each person is a single cop but it is perfectly playable and balanced for 2 players too.

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