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Incorruptible: The Diary of Captain Holden – City of Shadows Megagame

This is a post-game report of the City of Shadows Megagame which took place in London on 12th September 2015. Megagames are large scale day-long games that involve negotiation, strategy and roleplaying, with anywhere from 30 to 300 players.


City of Shadows was an 80 person megagame, designed by Brian Cameron and Jim Wallman, set in a fictional US city in 1931. The player roles included city hall politicians, police HQ, policemen – divided into six precincts, seven crime gangs, masked vigilantes, (evil) scientists, FBI and press – who reported on the in-game events.

I played as Captain Holden, in charge of the East Precinct police force. This is his story…

THIS CITY REEKS OF CORRUPTION. Every day I walk the streets of East Precinct – my precinct – I smell it. Its bitter taste sours every bagel. I choke on it with every breath of my morning cigar. It’s the reason why my wife has left me for another man.

This is the year I do something about it. This year, Captain Holden of the East Precinct will shine a light on the shadows that lurk beneath this city and free it from the corruption that clings to its foundations.

5th January 1931
First day back after Christmas and the Chinese mob, Zhuanjia Shashou, have missed their payment. If they want to start a gambling racket in East Precinct – my precinct – they need to pay the toll. I sent my men Lieutenant Strickland and Senior Sergeant Wu to raid their premises. The Chinese weren’t happy about it. I told them: “crime doesn’t pay, unless you pay”. Soon enough, I was shaking on a deal with their money man: help them grow and I’ll get 50% off all their profits. Good. If I’m going to rid this town of corruption, I’m going to need money.

19th January 1931
We’ve been visited by a number of slick haircuts from Police HQ this week. Special Advisor Colonel Angre told us we can’t be seen to be working with any of the masked vigilantes that have been roaming the city. Deputy Commissioner Wilton H. Fisk seemed like a nice chap, offering us extra police squads when we need them. And the Press Officer Kent Clarkson was after good news stories to use for propaganda – I duly offered our Chinese raid. The Chief of Police, Commissioner Patrick O’Hara was notable by his absence. Too busy sucking up to City Hall to do any real police work, no doubt.

2nd February 1931
Last month’s raid on the Chinese gambling ring has made the papers. I’ve been quoted complaining about the lack of police resources. If I’m going to bring down corruption in this town, I have to say the things that other people are afraid of saying.

15th February 1931
A completely normal looking woman came to our precinct today, concerned about a recent gang war between the Chinese and the neighbouring Japanese mob, Inbeda. No sooner had the concerned woman left, when masked vigilante “The City Redeemer” arrived, worried about the same issue. That normal looking woman must have tipped her off.

I briefed The Redeemer on our situation and she wisecracked: “Big Trouble in Little China”, which sounds like a brilliant title for a film in fifty years time. I quizzed her on her morals. She told me that she hates crime – particularly police corruption. Me too. I need to keep her from finding out about my arrangement with the Chinese. I suspect she wouldn’t understand. It didn’t help, then, when the Chinese money man walked in, treating me like one of his scumbag counterparts. I fed The Redeemer a line to explain his arrival, and just like a lycra jumpsuit – she bought it.

The City Redeemer alongside her vigilante colleagues
The City Redeemer alongside her vigilante colleagues

16th February 1931
Yesterday’s visit from the Chinese was to ask me what we’re doing about the Japanese problem. What were we doing about the Japanese problem? Taking money from them, of course. One of the Japanese had come to me with designs on East Precinct. Said he’d give me ten bucks to turn a blind eye to their arrival. Trouble was, I was fresh out of blind eyes. But he didn’t need to know that. I took the Japanese’s money and left the area he wanted free of cops.

I called up The City Redeemer and reminded her of the hospital she wanted to protect in the area that the Japanese were targeting. Then I sat back and watched as she painted my precinct red with their blood.

6th March 1931
Some junior cops came to me with concerns about pay and that the vigilantes were putting them out of a job. I was honest with them, and told them it was all the commissioner’s fault.

Speaking of which, I took the opportunity to ask the deputy commissioner if he’d heard rumblings of the commissioner’s corruption. But Fisk said nothing, staying loyal to his boss. Poor sucker.

8th March 1931
Convinced that something is going on, I leak a story to the press about the commissioner being unfit for his job. I try to grease the wheels of journalism by offering to buy the reporter’s wife something pretty, but his overprotective Editor in Chief rips the bill from his hands and forces me to take it back. More morals than sense that man. He does tell me that he’d offer me better coverage in return for some evidence linking Mayor Firefly to the Sicilian Mafia.

22nd March 1931
I think I saw Senior Sergeant Wu taking photos of me while receiving my latest kickback from the Chinese. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.

4th April 1931
Lieutenant Strickland is doing a great job conducting co-ordinated raids with North Precinct’s Lieutenant Watkins, Central’s Lieutenant Quinn and West’s Captain Horne. They’ve hit the Japanese in Central, and have plans to take down other gangs. Every one except the Chinese. The Chinese must get stronger, so that we get richer and good can prevail.

5th April 1931
The Japanese came by today asking why we raided them – they thought we had a deal. We told them that Police HQ demanded it.

Yours truly, Captain Holden, proudly wearing my medal
Yours truly, Captain Holden, proudly wearing my medal

7th April 1931
I’m taking all the credit for the raids, but my heart’s not in it. My eyes have shifted from the cold streets of East Precinct – my precinct – up the hill to Police HQ. I’m convinced of their corruption now more than ever. I do make sure, though, to accept my medal of honour for masterminding the raids, with the press cameras watching. I need all the political clout I can get for what lies ahead.

18th April 1931
Today, I decided to commit finances to my war on corruption by donating the money I’ve made from the Chinese to the Republican Party. The mayor and commissioner are both Democrats.

14th May 1931
Moments after walking into City Hall, I found myself talking to Mr. Corruption himself – Mayor Firefly. I throw the commissioner under the bus, telling the mayor that he’s gunning for the mayor’s job. I then offer my services to the mayor, hoping for a leg up. He tells me he wants to see The City Redeemer behind bars after her unlawful attack on the El Hombres gang. The proposition upsets me – how can I turn on The City Redeemer, the one person who has been good to me? But then I remember – I must make personal sacrifices to bring down corruption. I promise to bring her to justice.

As I’m leaving the mayor’s office, something incredible happens. Walking past me, being greeted by the mayor, is Lupo Falzone, the boss of the Sicilian Mafia and his bean counter Bianco ‘Dollars’ Mastrosimone. The putrid stench of corruption almost gives me a nosebleed.

I rush over to the newspaper offices and give that holier-than-thou editor the headline he’s been waiting for: “MAYOR MINGLES WITH MOB”. I put my name on record this time. Damn the repercussions – this city stinks, and I’m the one holding the Febreze.

16th May 1931
Wanting to keep my options open, I return to the mayor and offer him The Fighting Fool in cuffs, instead of The Redeemer. He agrees. Despite the smell, I smile throughout and find myself drunk on the deception. It is in this moment I realise that I too am a masked vigilante. I have one face for the mayor, while the other watches the printing presses stamp out his demise.

7th June 1931
I expected to be stripped of my rank for my betrayal, possibly assassinated. At the very least, marched back to City Hall for a stern word. It’s been almost a month and I’ve heard nothing. It seems Mayor Firefly is so blinded by corruption that he can’t read the headlines.

11th June 1931
Things have heated up in East Precinct and I’m not just talking about the summer sun. The Chinese mob have grown bigger than ever, and the public are not happy. It’s time for the boys in blue to remind the Chinese who’s in charge.

Senior Sergeant Wu showed me the photo he took of me accepting a bribe from the Chinese’s money man. I was about to give him a written warning and transfer him to North Western precinct when he told me his idea. We take the photo to the judge and claim that we were running a sting operation on the Chinese. Use the photo as evidence to arrest their money man and send him down.

13th June 1931
I run my plan past Chief Judge Henry Jeffries who goes for it. I take the opportunity to offer my support for his campaign to run against Firefly for mayor. He’s the Republican candidate I’ve been bankrolling.

Inbeda, the fearsome Japanese mob
Inbeda, the ruthless Japanese mob

8th July 1931
Enlisting the help of The City Redeemer, we finalise plans to arrest the Chinese money man. I make sure to collect this month’s kickback from him before we do. The Redeemer’s vigilant vigilante eye catches our transaction and freaks out, worried that she’s working with a corrupt police force. We assure her that it’s all part of a sting operation – a necessary lie to protect the greater plan.

9th July 1931
Just as I’m about to send my men in to arrest the money man, Central Precinct’s Captain McDaniel turns up with evidence on the Chinese kingpin, Mr Chiang. We switch targets and make the arrest. As Chiang is carted off to City Hall for trial, The Redeemer and I rush to get our name in the papers once more.

20th August 1931
With my press attack on Mayor Firefly not having the impact I’d hoped, I suddenly feel directionless. The corruption has beaten me. I reach into my desk drawer – past the whisky, I need something much stronger than that. I pick up my father’s revolver and raise it to my chin..

But wait! Who walks through my door, but Deputy Commissioner Wilton H. Fisk. He insist we talk in the car park, away from watchful eyes. Originally nervous to speak his concerns about the establishment, time has found his bravery. Fisk warns me that the likely mayor replacement, the man I’ve been funding – Chief Judge Jeffries – is working with the Lithuanians. And the commissioner is too.

The corruption in this city is like an onion. Multi-layered and difficult to swallow. But this is one onion that I won’t be shedding a tear over. It’s time for the little guys to step up. I promise Fisk I will speak to the precinct captains to recruit other mutineers.

24th August 1931
I’ve spoken to the guys at Central and West and they’re on board with our proposed revolution. But I don’t feel like I can trust the other Precinct captains. What if they’re in bed with the Lithuanians too? Or worse still, in bed with the Judge? If I tell them our plans, the revolution could be over before it’s begun.

6th September 1931
Back at East Precinct, we’ve got bigger things to worry about. Nikola Tesla has planted a wave machine off our coastline in attempt to destroy the city.

12th September 1931
We survived the tsunami. We had vigilantes swarming to protect the area. Strickland and Wu co-ordinated our police squads for a successful evacuation.

20th September 1931
Evil scientists are like buses, it seems. No sooner had we dealt with Tesla, than Dr. Edwin Scott plants an earthquake machine in our Precinct. But with the lives of all my citizens at risk, I still can’t shake the desire to bring down the political establishment.

The evil genius Dr. Edwin Scott – terrorising our great city

9th October 1931
In the wake of her triumphs over evil scientists, The City Redeemer comes to me with an idea. She wants to run for mayor. It’s genius. She’s saved the day so many times, the public love her . And she’s the only person in this town not in bed with the mob. It’s the campaign I’ve been waiting to get behind.

11th October 1931
I run the Redeemer for mayor idea past Deputy Commissioner Fisk and he’s onboard too. The City Redeemer starts recruiting names to back her campaign. In all the excitement, I forgot to secure my name on the ticket as Commissioner. Fisk got there first, but I’ll settle for taking his current role.

2nd November 1931
Unfortunately, The Redeemer has decided to run for office as an Independent, so all the money I’ve thrown at the Republican Party is working against her now. The cleaning cost for this city has just gone up, and I’m going to need to get my hands dirty to cover it.

4th November 1931
Back at East Precinct, I learn that the Chinese have a proposition for me. They don’t seem to bear any grudge for us arresting their boss – who is conveniently out on bail thanks to the dishonourable Judge Jeffries. The Chinese plan to rob the bank in our precinct and give me the takings. They’re desperate to improve their reputation in the city. They don’t need the money itself, just the infamy. Since public outrage is up, we make a deal which includes us raiding some of their larger rackets so that we can look good in front our people.

1st December 1931
As the mayoral election approaches, we learn that Fisk wasn’t put forward for commissioner on The Redeemer’s ticket. An admin error that has cost me my promotion. And yet, the campaign has become greater than that for me. It is about ousting a deeply corrupt mayor and ensuring that he isn’t replaced by an even more corrupt judge. What this city needs is a virtuous vigilante with no political experience but a plethora of wisecracks in charge.

5th December 1931
A special edition of the The Daily Trumpet lands on my desk. The Editor in Chief – the guy who stopped his reporter from accepting my donation – has released a statement urging everyone to vote Firefly. What a sell out.

12th December 1931
The halfway polls are devastating. The City Redeemer is third in the voting behind Firefly and Judge Jeffries. This month’s kickback from the Chinese must go towards The Redeemer and stopping the corruption at City Hall.

I chose not to give Lieutenant Strickland and Senior Sergeant Wu their usual cut, favouring political justice. Strickland threw a fit, threatening to report me for corruption. Can’t he see that I’m using the money to stop corruption? He never sees the bigger picture – he’ll never make Captain.

23rd December 1931
The election results have been announced and The City Redeemer has won! Everything I’ve done this year has meant something. Every broad selling herself on my streets, every shopkeeper brutally beaten for not paying their protection money, every drug-addicted child has helped us clean these streets up for good!

24th December 1931
My world has fallen in. On my drive home from the station last night I heard reports of two assassination attempts on The City Redeemer. The second was fatal. Happy stinking Christmas. Tonight, this city has lost the hero it needs and the one it deserves. I guess tomorrow I’ll ask for 60% from the Chinese…

Months later….
I find out through my friends at Internal Affairs that I was the only cop in this whole stinking cesspool of a city who was willing to get his hands dirty to fix this mess. No other cop took backhanders, not even the commissioner.

An informant tells me that the Chinese have been ripping me off all year. They’re making double what they claim and giving me 25%. A good honest American criminal would never take such liberties.

And remember that photo Senior Sergeant Wu took of me? He took it to the feds and was conducting an internal investigation into my “corruption”. He admitted this all to me when he was drunk. Luckily, for the good of the city, the feds never got round to finishing the job. Typical.

North Precinct, overrun by crime. Bad police work.
North Precinct, overrun by crime. Bad police work.

Thanks to anyone who made it to the end of this write-up! Massive thanks to Jim Wallman and Brian Cameron for creating and running a brilliant game, all the controls but specifically my precinct’s Dave Boundy, and the city control, Rob Cooper. Thanks to all the different players I encountered on the day – you were all brilliant, and made for an incredibly fun experience.

For information about upcoming Megagames, check out their website. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments. Or if anyone wants to share additional stories from City of Shadows, please do! 

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Top Ten Couples Board Games

With the help of my completely real girlfriend, I run through my top ten board games for couples. Let me know your favourite games to play with a partner in the comments.

10. Agricola – All Creatures Big and Small – Amazon
9. The Game
8. Carcassonne – Amazon
7. Battle Line – Amazon
6. CV – Amazon
5. Patchwork – Amazon
4. Paperback – Publisher’s Website
3. Arboretum – Amazon
2. Pandemic – Amazon – In The Lab
1. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective – Amazon