The Independence Job by Marty Runyon
Warning! Review may contain spoilers!
Today’s 2013 Windhammer Prize entry is The Independence Job, a crime caper gamebook in which we attempt to pull off a bank heist. Marty was awarded a merit prize for his entry last year.
Before we begin, we need to create a character. I am going to play Mickey Muffin, an Irishman with a slight limp. Mickey has bulbous eyes (+ observation) caused by a huge brain in his head (+ reasoning). On the downside, this massive head of his means he struggles to get in and out of cars (- driving skill). Skill rolls are quite interesting. The game encourages you to take risks and have little bets with yourself. You are given a minimum ante which is a number you have to roll greater than using one die. But, if you’re feeling brave, lucky or silly you can make this harder for yourself. The higher the ante the more you win back in fortune points. Fortune is used to determine how good the ending is, and can be thought of as a kind of scoring system.
The two strengths and one weakness we picked affect the number of dice we roll. A strength means you get to roll two dice instead of one, picking the highest score, while a weakness means the same except you have to pick the lowest one. Got it, straight forward enough and it seems like a nice system.
Mickey also has mysterious red, green and blue stats which aren’t explained until later. When their meaning is finally revealed it is really quite brilliant, so I won’t ruin it here. Let’s turn to section 1.
Mickey has had a spell in prison and is a little down and out when he is approached by Edward.
“I’ve got a job coming up. A fat one. I’ve got a crew picked out,
but we need a fourth.” You hand him a glass, then take a drink yourself. “I’ve asked around. Everyone
says you were good. Maybe even the best. That’s why I’m here. To see if you’re up for it.”
A job. You look down at the melting cubes in your tumbler. Is this the one?
You can actually decline at this point, which would make this a very short gamebook (but I do appreciate the option). Instead we press for more details and we’re told it’s a big bank job. We can then take our first ante and try to negotiate a bigger cut for ourselves, which I do and pass. I did play safe with most of these dice rolls, only voluntarily increasing the ante when I was using a strength skill and when it didn’t seem that important. For the most part my luck held out, and I passed most of the rolls. We shouldn’t mention Mickey’s disastrous seduction attempt with Dorothy but we will – ante 3, Mickey rolls a 1. I imagine that’s the equivalent of sneezing/vomiting/accidentally licking all over the girl you fancy. Don’t worry Mickey, we’ve all done it.
I really like how this gamebook builds up. You meet and form your crew, you step through the plans (I think Marty has been watching the Italian Job), you stakeout the bank and then onto the job itself. It’s possibly slightly linear, but it is a lot of fun. There are a few errors in the text, but nothing an editor or a fresh pair of eyes couldn’t sort out. Overall, it’s well paced and has a nice system and you should try it.
With a final fortune of 35, Mickey retires back to the apartment where the story began. It’s not the best ending and there’s only enough loot hauled to buy some new furniture. All of that hard work, and all he managed to get out of it was a trip to IKEA.