In With a Smile & a Gun you play the leader of a criminal gang during the Prohibition Era. You try to control parts of the city's illegal business, to hopefully establish a monopoly in gambling, weapons and contraband. It's an area control game, with a powerful rival gang and the police trying to rule the city districts as well, and a mysterious Shadow messing with everybody.
The game is played in three rounds. Every round you fill the city districts with business opportunities and roll 13 dice. You take the first turn and use one die for movement. You place influence cubes in the row or column you end on (three on the closest district, two in the middle district, one on the district that's furthest away). Then you pick a second die for your action. The higher the number, the more powerful the action, but the more you may attract attention from the cops as well. Then the automated rival gang takes its turn. First it rerolls the lowest die so its actions will have a little unpredictability. Then it will try to catch up with you by moving to the same spot or as close to you as possible. It will compensate for being the dummy player by placing extra influence cubes (resp. 4, 3, 2). Even though it won't take an action, it will pick a die from the pool. Probably the one you need.
After three turns, there will be only one die left. This is used for movement by the Shadow. It will usually mess up things in the district it ends on - sometimes the effect is even worse. Next you check who has attracted the least unwanted attention from the cops. If it's you, you get a bonus action. If it's the rival gang, it will get victory points. You check the majority in every city district. You or the rival gang may collect business or victory tokens, or perhaps the police will intervene.
At the end of the game you count all victory points and check who has the majority in the three businesses. A monopoly will score double.
The fun thing about playing this solo is the unexpected thinkiness. You can see all the dice. You can make reasonable - but not perfect - predictions of the rival gang and the Shadow. You can do cool things with your actions, but at a price. It's an area control game that works for solo, with quite simple rules, and that's a great accomplishment.
And then there are other solo variants in the box. Instead of beating your opponent gang, you can use a chart to see how well you've done. There are more rival gangs, that bring objectives to the game. There are difficulty levels for all rival gangs. There are several Shadows included in the game (you always use one), each having a different ability. There are several Infusion cards (again, you just use one per game) , giving you different bonus actions. Lots of replayability.
And did I say it's hard? It will take some time mastering this. All the while playing with a smile.
In an earlier version of the game, one of the businesses was drugs. Not everybody liked this idea. Of course weapon trafficking is no problem, and who doesn't like to lose their house to gambling, but the drugs have been changed to euphemised contraband. However, when you download the PnP you will still see what's really going on when you check the majority marker. Oh yes. This is our feel good hit of the Summer.
With a Smile & a Gun is on Kickstarter right now. You can download the PnP from Update #5.