I bought the ashcan version of Cartel which means that this is an early opinion of an early release. On the other hand it also means the book is much more readable than the usual Apocalypse World inspired game with its indigestible chunks of playbooks.

The natural form of a PbtA game is not meant to be a book but is better as a collection of PDFs that can be printed out as needed. You can find the playbooks on the Magpie Games site.

Cartel is an attempt to write a Mexican-American game which makes it feel a bit depressing as it is about drug manufacturing and smuggling in Durango.

I was drawn in by the references to Breaking Bad and The Wire and it will be interesting to see if the downward spiral mechanics match the fiction that inspired the game.

Given my lack of knowledge about living in a narcostate I initially found the game a little hard to get into. I worried about authenticity and a lack of handholds to get into the right mindset.

Then I kind of realised that I had to trust the author and follow the archetypes. Assume they do a reasonable job to set you up with the dilemmas and strengths of the characters in this world. If I act according to my game strengths and avoid my game weaknesses maybe I'll get an insight into what this world is like.

The game seems to want to play itself out of over a mini-campaign as the characters need to rise before they fall but I am now eager to find the right venue to pitch it.


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