20 June 2019
Is this money-laundering game the real deal?
Counterfeiters may be the only game with manatee meeple. They’re pink. For unexplained reasons they – plus alligators, deer and a white bird that Wingspan players could identify – have gone into business forging money for the Mafia. But fake money’s no good unless you can swap it for real money, and real money’s no good unless it’s safe in an offshore account, and that’s the game.
This is worker-placement with a light touch of engine-building. You’ll be assigning your hench-animals to improve your printing facilities, print the fake money, exchange it for the real thing via a gullible supermarket or a less gullible receiver, commit tax fraud, or fly to the Caribbean with a briefcase of loot. But the police are making things difficult and your actions can – deliberately or not – speed up their investigation. And from time to time the Godfather demands protection money to keep you safe.
It all works. It’s balanced and nicely done, and the art and atmosphere are delightful. But it’s very linear and, weirdly for a game about the Mafia, bloodless. There’s no sense of conflict, nor options to interfere with your opponents’ operations. Sure, you can buy up the resources they need to print, but that doesn’t benefit you, it only inconveniences them. It doesn’t feel like a real option.
Plus, it’s too easy. Money is never in short supply, nothing is ever a difficult decision and by the time the supermarket works out how to detect the shoddiest forgeries every player is already stamping their notes with holograms. To be a proper challenge it needed to be a lot tauter.
Counterfeiters is entertaining to learn, but there’s no reason or desire to play it a second time. It’ll pass the time at a games café, and won’t take up too much of the table either. But unless manatee meeple are your thing, keep your money – real or fake – in your wallet.
PLAY IT? – MAYBE
Designer: Olivier Bourgeois
Artist: Ian O’Toole
Time: 35 minutes
This review originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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