(gritty, New York, film noir accent) The mean streets of Big City, USA, are no place for an honest person to make a living. The stench of corruption and scandal lies so thick in the air, it can’t even be covered up by a good homemade cherry pie. I learned that lesson the hard way three years ago, when my team of Feds followed a good-faith tip from the Central City Police. That tip had bad news written on it like the front page of the Daily Trumpet. The building came down around our ears so fast, no one could get out. No one but me, and not a single soul knows I survived. I swore that day I’d clean up the corruption in this city, or damn well die trying.
City of Shadows Megagame
Last weekend’s megagame was a rerun of the fantastic City of Shadows.
The setting is an American city in 1931, with all the gang rivalries, inept policing and City Hall politics that come with it. Tack on some Weird Science and masked vigilantes, and you have a game ready to burst at the seams with conflict.
Last time round, I was the Gang Boss of the Griežti Vaikinai gang, but this time I’d decided to ask for something even more epic. I took the role of Captain Freedom, a masked Vigilante.
As you can see from the totally not rubbish Film Noir voice-over above, my back story was that I was an ex-Fed, lured into an ambush by the City Police. Everyone else died and I was presumed dead. I spent months training at a remote farm, honing my combat skills. Now is the time that I return to the city, and take down the police force that betrayed me.
Unlike most megagame roles, as a Vigilante I wasn’t part of a proper team. There were four other vigilantes: The Ghost, The Fury, The Fighting Fool and Hero By Night. Although we weren’t a team, we were comrades of a sort. We were the only ones with power to help – or stop – the others.
The game started with a lengthy turn zero. This was great, as at the start of turn 1 I would need to put my character on a map and actually take some actions. I had plenty I needed to do before then.
The vigilantes were currently in a state of hesitant truce, and I took advantage of this to establish myself as leader. But asking Hero By Night if she intended to run as Mayor, I persuaded the rest that I had no leadership ambitions. Instead I would be running for Police Commissioner – I could do a far better job than the charlatan currently running the show. I encouraged the others to think of what role they saw themselves in – Vigilantes in City Hall would be an excellent turn out for the day.
Next I had other alliances to make. I stopped by the press as my civilian alter-ego, seeking a job as an investigative journalist. Luckily Kay Francis (who totally isn’t Captain Freedom, not at all) happened to wake up that day with a photo of Captain Freedom in her phone. It seemed to be a selfie. Who could explain that? Clearly the press didn’t require explanation, as my selfie made front-and-centre of Issue One.
Lastly, I had to make it clear where my loyalties lie. I insulted the Police Commissioner as soon as he walked in the door. I sought out the Feds, promising to bring them any news I could scrounge about the state of the police force in this town. They were only too happy to see me, and it broke my heart that I couldn’t reveal that I was in fact their deceased team mate.
Time ticked around to half 10, and the game began…
Turn one saw me visiting the Northern Map. The City Shamrocks there were my first target. First I staked out the local police station, sure I would, sooner or later, see evidence of the police corruption. As my action, I decided to take out a few mobsters in a back alley. My web gun and rubber bullets were put to good use, and I turned up on the Feds’ doorstep with a tangled up mobster.
I hadn’t spotted much signs of police collusion here, so I moved on to the Central Map. As soon as I arrived, I spotted what I’d been looking for – proof that the police were corrupt!
One of the gangs on that map, Inbeda, owned several sake dens in the area. We’re still under the Prohibition, so that’s ILLEGAL. I noticed the police had set out a perimeter around City Hall, but overheard them negotiating with Inbeda. Apparently they were moving some of their forces out of their way so the mobsters could move freely.
Aha! I chased after the (hopefully) rogue cop squad, hoping to catch them in the act and pry a confession out of them. But several more police cars descended on me! Although I managed to win the fight and arrest the cops I’d been after, it turned into a far bigger ordeal than I’d planned. An ordeal which would go on to overshadow the rest of the day…
I dropped my cops off with the Feds, informing them that I’d made a citizen’s arrest after seeing them colluding with criminals, and returned to the Vigilante hideouts to find out what the hell was going on with everyone else…
The Dark Underbelly of the City
It all kicked off when Hero By Night said the mayor was an alcoholic. She claimed she had seen proof he was colluding with the City Shamrocks to smuggle illegal alcohol into the city. Sensing a trend, I thought it might have something to do with the police coordinating with Inbeda’s sake dens in Central. Foolishly, I suggested Hero By Night check those ones out too.
But I was to investigate what the hell the Ghost was doing. Reports from other vigilantes and civilians suggested that he had kidnapped the daughter of the Sicilian Mafia Boss. Or son, reports varied.
Spying on the police, I watched a police on the barber shop where the kidnapping had taken place, and spied the police walking out with a large parcel and handfuls of cash. Throughout the rest of the month, I saw mobsters repeatedly head to the police station with envelopes of money, and leave empty handed. It was clear to me that the corruption in this city spread far and ran deep.
I confronted the local police force, who said they were in the process of determining whether they should use the contents of the parcel as evidence against the Ghost… or whether they should hand it over to Science. They had sent a request up the chain of command. Dear gods men, your job is to solve crimes and fight injustice, not supply scientists! The answer should have been clear!
I was about to bring up the money, when there was a shout of uproar from Central. Hero By Night had just kidnapped the Mayor.
“A window was left open, so I just went for it”.
Vigilante Gone Wild
Hero By Night invited me to join her and the Feds at a secret meeting with a “scientist”, who promised to bring along his “truth serum”. The scientist turned out to be nothing more than a drunkard. He thrust a bottle of booze into the Mayor’s hands and coerced him to drink. Hero proclaimed that this was proof.
On the return to the hideouts, she also claimed that the Mayor had, while we’d been distracted at the meeting, admitted to the claims. But I’d been paying attention! He had done no such thing! When I called her out on her lies, she told me to just go along with it.
THIS WOULD NOT STAND. I was committed to keeping the streets clean, and that included cleaning up after my own kind.
I appraised my fellow vigilantes. The Fighting Fool could be trusted, I was sure of that. The Fury was too close to Hero By Night, and too unruly. I was on the fence about the Ghost, but decided to loop him in – I’d seen no proof over in West that he’d had anything to do with the kidnapping of the Mafia’s daughter. And I’d need all the help I could get.
Being vigilantes, we knew first hand how hard it was to take one down. This would take planning and precision. I also made sure to get full authorisation from the Feds… because I’m so damn lawful.
We tried to carry on as normal to not alert Hero By Night’s suspicions. But that’s pretty tough when previously we’d been acting cohesively, but now needed to have conversations without her.
Taking Down Hero By Night
The next turn, the Freedom-Fool-Ghost alliance turned up at City Hall to try to protect the rest of the city government from her. Unfortunately, City Hall was on the Central map, where I’d had my run in with the police earlier. Even though Hero By Night turned up and we had the opportunity to take her down, we didn’t dare out of fear the huge mass of cops would join in on her side.
At the end of that turn, disastrous news struck. City Hall had outlawed all Vigilantes. We were on the run from the law. And it was all thanks to Hero By Night, who finally decided to release the Mayor.
I think all the Vigilantes stayed off the map that turn. Several of us converted to our civilian alter egos. And The Fighting Fool, the Ghost and I put our plans in place. We had studied Hero By Night, and we believed we could take her down.
All we needed now was for her to leave her hideout.
Hard Work and Little Reward
But she stayed hidden for that turn, the next, and the next. Meanwhile the FFG brigade began the work of repairing the city’s opinion of the Vigilantes. We took down the largest extortion racket in the city; stepped between several gangs crossing gang lines, breaking up their fights with fewer casualties. We arrested multiple gangsters and took them to the Feds.
When we’d been outlawed, all our places on the Good-Evil tracker immediately fell to below neutral. But with hard work, we built our way back up.
It became clear that any suspect we would bring to the Feds would be turned over to the courts… and then be let off, due to lack of evidence. Clearly we needed a way to get proof.
I began my other great mission of the game: obtaining a camera. This may sound like a simple task, but remember it’s the 1930s. Cameras are large and obvious. I wanted one without a flash, but ideally with night vision and the ability to see through walls. Task sounds a bit harder now?
Weird Science and Weirder Scientists
Luckily, I knew who to turn to.
Throughout the game I’d developed a cordial relationship with most of the scientists. In particular was the one – the totally memorable one that I remember who it was – who supplied me with the Freedom Flier, my one-man aeroplane.
But none of the scientists had anything like I was describing in their blueprints. But one scientist had a promising suggestion. Baron Von Strucker would send me, and a reliable witness, back in time to watch a crime taking place. We would then be able to use that witness’ testimony in court.
It wasn’t as useful as a camera, but it would do!
In return for this, the Baron did not ask for money. Instead, he asked me to break into somewhere for him. I was hesitant to break the law, but pretty desperate, so I agreed. The target? Dr Zola’s laboratory.
Finding it’s location was the easy part. With Freedom Flier, I simply followed him back from a public meeting. Once I found it, I scaled the walls with my grapple gloves.
The result was an anti-climax. Door after door slammed shut with thick concrete slabs. My non-lethal weaponry didn’t stand a chance.
Best Laid Plans
Frustratingly, it was announced that Hero By Night had struck again. This time she had kidnapped the Deputy Mayor. And she’d done it quietly, not by heading to the map.
Fortunately, through the vigilante grapevine we discovered that she was due to release him. We followed the breadcrumbs, and ask she kicked him out of an unmarked car, we pounced! Our Fancy Acrobatics counter her Slipping Into The Shadows. My web gun and capturing skills served me well, so that even though the Fighting Fool backed out at the last minute, the Ghost and I still won through, and delivered the woman now known as the Villain By Night to the Feds.
Unfortunately, one of the things Villain had done before releasing the Deputy Mayor was to negotiate the Feds access to investigate City Hall for corruption. She was released almost instantly.
According to the Federal agent who was to be her handler, she had “promised” not to kidnap anyone again. I pointed to the Vigilante tracker, which had, as well as a Good-Evil axis, a Chaos-Lawful tracker. Villain By Night was down in the Chaotic Evil segment.
“Do you really trust a chaotic evil promise?”
For the Good of the City
On the other hand, I’d remained in the far top right at all times (except the obligatory dip when we’d been outlawed). At one time, I’d been so lawful I’d gone around the corner!
I knew what I had to do. I knew how ambitious Villain By Night was, and how many people she might frighten into supporting her. How corrupt the police were. How weak the current government was. They couldn’t even defend themselves, never mind their people.
I knew that I had to run for mayor.
The first job was to stop Villain from running. With the Federal agent backing me up, I persuaded her to stand as my running mate, and run for Deputy Mayor instead. If she did get elected, I would hopefully be in a position to control her.
But partnering with someone I’d recently elected drew a lot of criticism. I found myself having to defend her from some completely valid criticism.
Buying Votes in Unconventional Ways
Far too late, we discovered that the real power in the city was through buying votes. We had no money, and most of the votes had been sold. We begged our allies for as much money as they’d lend us, and bought up the last handful of votes in the city.
Finally the Feds came through with some hefty funding – $70 dollars in all, more than we’d seen all game. But there were no votes left to buy. Clearly we’d have to get creative.
We started going around to various allies we’d made throughout the game. Two of the scientists, Zola (despite my break in) and Gargunza, had been fairly supportive throughout the game. I promised BOTH of them I’d make them Chief Scientist. We had their votes for sure. The paper was on our side. We sweet-talked the Inbeda gang, who we’d also helped out.
The sticky point was the issue between Regan’s Boys and Zola. I’d just invested $40 of the Feds’ money in their Housing Project to buy their votes, and then Zola turned up to attack them with a Mole Machine. If I defended Regan’s Boys, Zola wouldn’t vote, if I didn’t, Regan’s Boys wouldn’t. It was lose-lose, and eventually I decided to stick with the scientist… who was making me a camera. Yes, that camera I’d been desperate for, for so long!
Back To The Future
Then, as it is wont to do, the unexpected happened.
Now, this plotline brings together several elements from earlier in our story, in a way that sounds like foreshadowing but totally wasn’t.
Remember that attack on the police in turn 2. So apparently, despite only having non-lethal weapons, I’d actually killed all those cops, rather than leaving them tied up in webs.
And remember that time machine that was going to send me back in time to see a crime taking place? Well, the police had bought it from the Baron, and they were sending forces back in time to arrest me. A LOT of forces. And there was no way I could warn myself!
All credit to Hero By Night, who warned me. There’s even a fantastic Facebook Live that shows me foolishly changing into my civilian alter ego, before realising that it was no use.
That was the moment that Hero By Night redeemed herself for me.
Because next, I would need her. There was only one option. We would have to break into the Baron’s lab and fiddle with the controls. Perhaps I could send myself back early to warn myself. Perhaps I could change the date and time to something harmless. Or I could send them back just half an hour earlier so they could witness the conversation between the gangsters and the corrupt cops.
Apparently security systems for scientist’s lairs are pretty cookie-cutter, as we came across the same concrete doors as at Zola’s lab. Luckily, Hero By Night had a super strong shield, that we threw into the door to wedge it open a crack. All we needed to do was pry it open and…
Yeah. No. We botched.
So much for that plan.
Countdown to Election Day
Far far too late we discovered that the Ghost was also running for mayor. Far too late to persuade him he was dooooomed without our support. But then, we were doomed too.
We spent most of the last turn before the election hiding in case the police came to arrest me in the present day, but finally decided to do one last act of good, and clear up some rubble from the Earthquake Machine (don’t ask). We reopened the city docks, bringing new trade into the city!
With our Lawful-Good status proudly displayed, we headed to City Hall.
All vigilantes standing for election revealed their secret identity on stage, and then the votes were cast. When Hero By Night lost her election for Deputy Mayor, I thought we were done for.
But during my voting round, I lost track of the count. I heard someone say 44 earlier, so when I got only 41 votes, I prepared myself for what I was to do next. If this city weren’t to appreciate me, I was going to make it pay. I was going to show them what it was like if the Vigilantes weren’t on their sides. I was going to…
Oh. I’ve won?
My first few minutes of being Mayor felt like I’d just been voted prom queen. I felt utterly victorious.
My joy was short lived when the Police Commissioner arrested me.
His joy was short lived when I vanished in a puff of smoke.
Everyone’s joy was short lived (literally) when City Hall blew up.
Ruling from the Mayoroplane
Surveying the shattered remains of my City, I circled around again in the Freedom Flier, hastily renamed the Mayoroplane.
Most of my citizens had escaped relatively unharmed, luckily, and El Hombres had taken responsibility for the bombing. I was currently drafting up a Executive Order to arrest the Police Commissioner and trying to find something heavy I could drop on that gang when I received a radio transmission from Zola.
I landed on his lab – heavy concrete doors open to me now – to find the Police Commissioner taken prisoner within. And my shiny new camera, all ready to take photos of crimes taking place.
We were beginning to discuss the Commissioner’s retirement from public office when the call came through – the game was over, 1931 was ended.
It had been quite a year.
Oh, and that going-back-in-time-to-arrest-me deal? The scientist got bored and decided to go get himself a dinosaur instead. Natch.
The next game I’m playing in is Barricades and Borders (3rd June in London) which still has some spaces left! Check out more megagames on Megagame Makers (London) and Pennine Megagames (North England).