By this point, I’ve played a lot of social deduction games, so much so that even just hearing the term “social deduction game” reminds me of all the Werewolf and Mafia clones and dozens of games that include hidden identity mechanics that fail to impact the gameplay in any meaningful way. So naturally, I wasn’t super excited when Good Cop Bad Cop was suggested at the party, but I quickly learned that it was far more than I had expected.
Good Cop Bad Cop still includes hidden roles, two teams, and player elimination, but it is much quicker than most social deduction games, and there are more opportunities for twists. For starters, each player is dealt three role cards, instead of one, which are either Honest or Crooked. The player’s true alignment is based on whichever card type they have the most of. So a player with a single Crooked role card and two Honest role cards is still considered to be an Good Cop.
As the game progresses, role cards will be revealed, slowly clarifying to the group who is good or bad. If the player is showing two Honest role cards there is still a chance they may be Crooked if their last card is the Kingpin.
The object of the game is to eliminate the leader of the opposing alignment; the Kingpin in the Crooked Cops’ case, and the Agent in the Honest Cops’ case. The Kingpin and Agent role cards are dealt out at the same time as all of the other role cards, and only those holding the cards will know who they are.
On your turn, you must perform one of the following actions: investigate another player by looking at one of their hidden role cards, equip yourself by drawing an equipment card at the cost of revealing one of your role cards, arm yourself with a gun at the cost of revealing one of your role cards, or shooting at another player with a gun you have already equipped.
Equipment adds a lot of surprise to the game, allowing players to gain information quickly, change players’ alignments, save themselves from danger, or even return eliminated players back to the game. Despite a hand limit, there are enough equipment cards for everyone to have a few, but there are only a handful of guns. Once a player has armed themselves, they must point their gun toward another player. On a following turn, they may choose to shoot at that player or change whom they are targeting. This creates a kind of standoff that escalates quickly and really adds to the drama.
Unlike many other social deduction games, Good Cop Bad Cop by Overworld Games builds a fantastic story arc in the short amount of time the game is played. The themes are a bit violent, but the art does not glorify it with graphic images. It is not terribly difficult to figure out who is who, but you will often be surprised by someone, which is find particularly refreshing. The game is pretty quick, so it’s recommended that you play a few times, which I thoroughly suggest you do.
As a final thought, I challenge our community to come up with a clever way to re-theme this game that would be more family friendly. Instead of cops in gun toting standoffs, why not something a little lighter like finger pointing and blaming someone for stealing from the cookie jar.
Featured image: Overworld Games