Landlord! Review

Landlord card game in play

An older game that I pulled back out of my closet recently was Landlord! (sorry, no Amazon link).

In Landlord, each player takes on the role of a slum lord who is trying to make the most money by stealing tenants from the other landlords and, when necessary, performing some illegal acts to sabotage the other landlords. To start the game, each player receives 5 cards and $5. On any given turn you must first check for squatters (these tenants cause your useful tenants to move out), then you can build new apartments and play cards. The cards are double-sided with one side showing an apartment, and so whenever you build an apartment complex it consists of several cards showing "apartment side up" with a roof on top (I thought this was neat - consider it a pro that I won't talk about later). After playing all of the cards you want to play, you collect rent from all of your tenants (unless they're not paying for some reason such as you being in jail or they decided to withhold it). Finally, you are able to buy new cards - the first 5 on the turn cost $1 each, any others you may wish to purchase cost $2 each. After the deck has run out (in 2-4 player), each player gets a final turn. After that, whoever has the most money is the winner.

The first pro that I have for Landlord is that it is a creative and amusing theme. The concept of stealing other people's tenants, killing off their highest paying ones (if you couldn't steal them), demolishing their buildings to force people to move and avoiding the police when you play sketchy cards seems amusing to me (maybe I'm deranged).

The next pro is that I like having to purchase new cards. This forces you each turn to determine whether it is more important to have as many cards as you can, or whether you should save the money to count as victory points (or to buy them cheaper the next turn if you have already bought 5). I've seen the mechanic of victory points being used to purchase things elsewhere, but I think that it was especially well implemented here.

The next pro is that the game flows pretty well (once you get the rules down). Each turn you must balance how many cards you want to play (keeping in mind that whatever you build will not last very long) against which ones might be more useful to keep. Also, you must decide whether you should go on the offensive against the other players, or more specifically, when you should attack them.

There are several cons to this game as well. The first one that is worth mentioning is the art on the cards. Quite a few of the cards have art that is questionable. This is a game that may be appropriate for adults, but the art on the cards has made this a game that is inappropriate for children or even many conservative adults.  I don't really understand why they chose to do this, as it doesn't add any value to the game - it just limits their audience of potential players.

The next con is that the mix of cards seemed a bit off. An example is the number of police cards to cards that countered the police. When someone murders your tenants or bombs your building, you are able to play a police card to put them in jail. However, there are about 3 police cards in the deck, whereas there are about 7-10 cards that counter the police. This causes the threat of being arrested to be pretty small (though maybe this was intentional to allow people to play Murder and Bomb more often). Also, there are often situations in which you cannot draw cards that are helpful. An example here is that late in the game, it is critical to get tenants so that you can gain one extra turn's income from them. There may be turns, however, where you draw 8 cards and none of them are actually tenants that you can place in your building.  I think one thing that could have potentially helped this is if the "roof" cards (which are necessary to build buildings and thus there are a ton of them in the deck) were kept in a different deck that players could purchase cards from.

One more thing to say about the game that is neither a pro nor a con, because I think it was intentional, is this: there is little to no defense in the game. I believe that there are 6 cards out of the 100+ cards that defend against things. This can get frustrating as you sit there and watch other players steal your tenants, demolish your buildings and send squatters your way, but I am guessing that the game was designed to be offense-oriented, and that was why this happened.

Overall, I give Landlord! a 6.5/10. This was a decent game that I don't mind playing occasionally, though you must be very mindful of the offensive artwork when determining if and when to play this game.

If you like card games, you might also check out Innovation, Glory to Rome, Gloom, and Dixit.

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