The latest game to take over the Old-School gaming scene like, well, gangbusters is the new B/X Gangbusters; an update to the old TSR Gangbusters.
Gangbusters is a new game from Mark Hunt based on both the original Gangbusters and Basic/Expert D&D. At first, I was a little wary of this. It seemed a little too close to trademarks and I have seen some shady stuff. But it turns out that Mark legally owns the Gangbusters trademark and this has been a dream of his for some time. Reading his posts about it online you get his enthusiasm and it is contagious. So does it live up to the hype? Let's check it out.
Gangbusters is an old school game built on the Basic version of D&D; or at least a suitable clone of it. So if you know that game you how this one works.
Characters have a choice of class; Brutish, Connected, Educated, and Street Smart. And each class has six levels, complete with level titles no less!
Each class gets a good write-up and running them through my memory of Good Fellas, The Untouchables and the Godfather I think they cover just about everything. My tastes would run more towards Private Eyes so Connected and Street Smart would be great for me.
The alignment system here is Law vs. Neutrality vs. Dishonesty. It works. It works rather well, to be honest.
There are a lot of lists of equipment with 1920s costs. For historical games, I love this stuff.
There are guides for playing characters and playing in the time period.
Part 3 is the newest material, Piece Of the Action, covers playing the Gangbusters game. A lot of great information here.
Part 4 covers Game Mastering or Judging. This covers running a city. Now, this is where I commit heresy, but there some great stuff here I might steal for other B/X style games. This also covers awarding experience points.
For Part 5 we get Investigations. Part 6 deals with Law Enforcement and Part 7 handles The Encounter. The big gem of Part 7 is the table of vehicles.
Part 8 is Wandering Adversaries and that is our "Monster" section. It is 100% or at least 99% compatible with every other OSR game. Though these are city adversaries of the 1920s. You get adversaries like Angry Mob, Cat Burglars, Gangsters, Klansmen, Moonshiners and more. I have to admit, I now want to send a coven of my witches after a group of klansmen.
Part 9 covers Combat. This is expected stuff, but the really cool thing are the Saving Throws. Gangbusters gives us, Moxie. Quickness. Toughness. Driving. and Observation. Really, how awesome is that?
There is an optional section here that grabbed my attention. Mysterious Powers allows you to play as Golden Age heroes. That is a very, very interesting development.
The game comes as a PDF and a Print on Demand book. Color covers and Black & White interior art. It comes in at 63 pages. The game is also released under the OGL.
How Does it Compare to Original Gangbusters?
By using the "Basic" system there are a lot details in the original game that are not needed in the newer game. For example, skills are less of a game mechanic in the newer game. The original Gangbusters has more detail on various weapon effects but the newer game is far better organized.
OG Gangbusters weighs in at 64 pages, as was common for TSR at the time and a smaller font. So it, in general, has more text, but that doesn't mean more game in this case.
All in all. Gangbusters is a great game. Part of that greatest comes from Mark Hunt's enthusiasm and his obvious love for this game. Personally, I would get it for that alone, but thankfully the game here is also great all on it's own.
If you enjoy the 1920s, Gangster films or even, like me, B/X D&D and related games, then this is a must buy.