Prison (Gang Wars)

Last week my cousins visited the house. They’ve been to most of the D.C. museums and other local sights, so we took one day to lounge around and graze on junk food.*

The last time I saw these cousins had probably been at Thanksgiving. We had tried to find a copy of Apples to Apples, but a Black Friday sale wiped that item from the shelves. “No problem,” I said, “we’ll just make our own.” Even though 20% of the cards had to do with their beloved Edward Cullen, the game was still fun, and they preferred it to the original.

So when they cast a dis-satisfied look at my board game selection, I suggested we make our own. Prison (Gang Wars) is a simple cross between Monopoly and Risk. Each player is the leader of a gang organization in prison, and starts the game with a few gang members. As the player progresses around the board, it allocates gang members to prison territory. The more territories you hold, the more gang members you receive upon rounding the board. When one player lands on another player’s territory, a gang war ensues for that territory.


There are three ways to win: go a certain number of turns without fighting anyone, and get out on “good behavior”; collect all four tools scattered around the board, and escape; or “rule the prison” by controlling 50% of the gang members.

P7290116Yes, one of the game pieces is a swastika. No, this was not my idea. Pieces represent Bikers, Aryan Brotherhood, the Westside crew, Asian Triad, the Latin Kings, and others.

Like Monopoly and Risk, when you control certain areas (like all portions of The Yard) you gain benefits—in this case, extra members added to your group. Like Monopoly, but unlike Risk, when you land on someone else’s space, the consequences can be brutal. Players increase the risk/reward for territory by adding gang members to it. Gang Wars are all or nothing affairs. If space-holders win, they gain half as many gang members as are on that space. If the intruders win, they gain the territory. Because of this rule, the game is prone to wild swings in fortune—which just happens to remind me of the gangs in the TV show OZ.


My conscience weighed on me a little bit while making this game, since it turns the brutal fight for survival in prison into a trivial pursuit. But then I remembered that the goal in Monopoly is to bankrupt everyone else, and the goal in Risk is to kill your opponents, and now I’m not so worried.

*We actually grazed on junk food all week, don’t get me wrong.


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August 2009
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