The first time I saw Police Precinct, it was at the tail end of its successful Kickstarter campaign in early 2012. A year later, after exceeding their pledge goal by over $3,000, publishers Common Man Games and Passport Game Studios have released their anticipated game to the public. But does the final product live up to the early promises?
Police Precinct casts you and up to five friends as one of eight selectable police officers and detectives, each with their own special abilities to solve crime and navigate the board. Your objective is to work together to gather enough evidence to arrest a murderer before he can escape town, while at the same time controlling the local gang population and handling different emergencies that pop up at every turn. Fail to apprehend the murderer in a set number of turns, or neglect to keep the gangs and emergencies in check via the ascending crime tracker, and it’s game over.
With well over 20 different types of boards, tokens and card decks, Police Precinct is a robust and daunting offering to dive into, and the instruction manual sits at 16 pages. Unfortunately, the manual can be quite confusing and tough to read in parts (including a setup page with minuscule images of some of the game pieces), and in my first playthrough with three friends, we spent an hour just trying to get through the instructions to learn how to set up the board and play. This made for a frustrating first encounter, and while the instructions do suggest that new players set up the game and play a few rounds by themselves before explaining it to their gaming group (a great suggestion), they wait to do so until page 13, well after we were in the thick of things.
To their credit, Common Man has been proactive about the instructions, uploading a cleaner downloadable version of the set-up guide to Police Precinct’s BoardGameGeek.com page, which is very helpful. Hopefully updated versions of the game can include these instructions in-box.
But after that rough initial playthrough, and after a thorough re-reading of the instructions by myself, subsequent playthroughs of the game became much easier and intuitive, and I found myself really enjoying it. Balance is the name of the game in Police Precinct, and if you and your team neglect to tend to the various emergencies and gang activity in favor of just the murder investigation, you’ll soon find the entire map gridlocked and the crime tracker approaching dangerous levels. Communicating and plotting your moves is necessary for success – sending two players to deal with an urgent bank robbery while the others collect evidence, for example – and when we pulled off a well-coordinated strike to bring down the murderer two rounds before he was set to escape, it was a pretty satisfying experience.
Be forewarned, with a crime tracker board and evidence board in addition to the main game board and various cards and tokens, Police Precinct takes up a lot of space. My first playthrough was on a narrower table, and it made for a cramped experience. If you don’t want to be stuck holding your character card and tokens while trying to roll dice, a bigger table is a necessity.
Adding a wrinkle to the teamwork, players can also play with one secret dirty cop, whose goal is to covertly sabotage the efforts of their fellow officers and allow the murderer to escape. Acts of sabotage can be removing evidence (by pretending the card you drew is blank), hoarding resources, or even accusing another player of being dirty to deflect suspicion. It’s a nice way to change up the pace for returning players, and Common Man has also added more clarity to the dirty cop role, again on BoardGameGeek.com.
There are also a few typos and spelling errors that make the final product rough around the edges. These range from small (“or or” instead of “or”) to several significant ones. One player card is for an officer named Doug Piece, yet on his police car token and in the instruction manual, his last name is spelled “Pearce”. And most egregiously, the game board features a compass that has east and west incorrectly reversed (so east is on the left instead of the right and vice versa). None of the errors will directly impact your playing of the game, but they still warrant mention.
Despite its flaws, Police Precinct is a game that I had fun with, and look forward to introducing to more people. I wouldn’t recommend it for your less-patient friends, but if you’re willing to look past the rough patches and dedicate some time to the instruction manual, you’ll find an experience with enough variety and strategy to earn its place on your board game shelf.
Rating: 7.5/ 10
Police Precinct Board Game Review/ Common Man Games, 2013
(This board game was reviewed with a copy provided by Common Man Games. Cameron Gidari is a freelance writer and the author of Seattle Before8. Follow him on twitter at CGidari)