Friday, November 28, 2008

Firebombing - Choosing arson as a career

This firebombing guide by Jim Davison should provide you with more than enough info on how to make arsony profitable!

Order F: Choosing Arson As A Career

If the robbery order is the most "dynamic" of all orders in IT'S A CRIME!, then the Firebomb order must surely be the most exciting! Not in any other action is there such potential for devastation of the city and success for your gang, all in one order. Those who have played the game for any length of time have also realized it is very PROFITABLE as well, and many crimelords have built their gangs on the strength of this order, increasing their Notoriety and multiplying their wealth. They have chosen Arson as a career. It doesn't produce the most well rounded of gangs in other respects, but those who have learned how to fully exploit the Firebomb order have found the true hidden gold mine in the game.

There are two basic approaches to Firebombing. You can take: (1) the BOLD approach, or (2) the CAUTIOUS approach. If you have just begun to play, or are pretty much overlooking the Firebomb order after some early failures [as was my own personal experience], you probably are a little cautious in your approach, either severely underestimating a potential target and failing to exploit it to the fullest, or passing some good ones by completely. Yet, with a little bit of knowledge and experience you can find yourself increasing your gang's treasury in a short period of time by double, triple, or even more. This article can supply you with some of the knowledge; you yourself will have to be BOLD enough to be willing to risk yourself to some degree to get the most out of the order, and gain experience that will put you near at or near the top of the "Wealthiest" lists. And if you are lucky, you may fall into an area of the city where you can discover all kinds of excellent targets and end up amassing a total windfall that would take several turns to spend! More than one player in this game [game 40, to be exact] has actually accumulated in excess of $100,000 before turn 21, basically by just knowing how to fully exploit the Firebomb concept.

Let's talk about it.

Now, not that we want to advise players to "throw caution to the wind", and then have them feel betrayed if they should experience some early failures, but there is much to be gained by being aggressive with the Firebomb order. It has been demonstrated that two Firebomb orders per turn have a great chance of success if a player applies what he can learn from this chapter. However, more than two attempts in a turn seems to increase the probability that at least one of those attempts will fail. If we would advise caution in one particular area, it is that players do not flood their turn cards with Firebomb attempts, as that approach may well backfire. It could possibly work, but success becomes greater when you don't try to do it all at once.

One thing that is good about the Firebomb order is that even if an order should fail, most of the time it is not a serious loss. The sample that is available for the researching of this chapter was the largest by far for the entire HANDBOOK, numbering in the 1800s. [Hopefully this large number will give even more validity to our findings.] In that sample, the overall success ratio was over 85%, not counting the attempts to burn Police buildings, which brings it down to under 84%. Of those failures, much of the time all the gang lost was a single 'cruit, along with some Notoriety. In addition, and this differs the Firebomb from the Robbery, a failure does not automatically shoot the defense level up by +3 or +4 or better. It only goes up by +1, and that actually happens BEFORE the attempt ever takes place. With a robbery, you get only one attempt before the DL increases, succeed or fail. But with a Firebombing, you can try again within a short period of time. As a matter of fact, it is often wise to come back the very next turn, since the odds would be even more in your favor....

But let's get to the meat of it. What makes a Firebombing fail?

The first thing we will do is rule out several non-factors: (1) MORALE is not a factor in whether a Firebombing succeeds or fails. Whether a gang has 20 or 90 has little effect, as that 85% success ratio is consistent across the board of morale ranges, give or take a point. The only exception to this might be in burning Police buildings, in which the morale must be extremely high, above 90, and near 100. (2) BUILDING SIZE is not a factor either. A smaller %bldg is not more dangerous nor is it an easier target than a larger one. The chart prepared from the sample in the study did not vary more than eight percentage points for any range of building size, from the lowest success rate to the highest. (3) BUILDING TYPE is not even a factor, as the sample does show some variance, but not enough to be significant. (4) THE NUMBER OF 'CRUITS SENT is not a factor. This may be somewhat of a suprise, but the number of 'cruits sent did not jeopardize any Firebombing mission in the smaple for study. As a matter of fact, of 12 attempts with 13 or more 'cruits, up to 20 in total, all 12 were successful! The sole exception ocurred on a data input error at ABM, when a 3% Firebomb order was accidently input as a 63% Firebomb order, sending 83 'cruits, complete with appropriate number of punks and pros, and the order failed. It was a total bust, as the gang lost 160 members on that attempt. [ABM restored what was lost, however.]

Now, before I give you # (5), I'll let you look at the chart yourself, so you won't be totally suprised:

# In PartySuccessesfailuresSuccess %

original pdf

Monday, July 7, 2008

Control, Control, Control....

A core basis of any gang in It's A Crime is its 'turf' or more simply, how many blocks it controls. A gang without any blocks is, well, no longer a gang!

Controlling a block generates income per turn for the gang in control of it and this is determined by 2 factors: 1) the type of buildings on the block and 2) the size of those buildings. There can be up to 3 types of building on a block and are represented as a percentage of the block size which can be less than 100% but never more (funnily enough!!)

A few example blocks:

Block #   Bldg#1            Bldg#2         Bldg#3          Income  Defence Level
2450 41% entertnment, 2% financial, 57% apartments $150 Strong
2751 52% schools, 17% industrial $17 Alert

Notice that there is a further 'property' of a block called the Defence Level. This is a measure of how alert the citizens are or how often the police patrol and should be taken into consideration when attempting actions on a block such as issuing a control order against it. You may also want to consider the potential income of a block when deciding whether to attempt controlling or not. Although the income is shown above, you are not told this value while the block is still uncontrolled. Fortunately this value is one of the few in IAC that's reliably calculable and the income per building type and percentage can be seen in the following table:
Building Type$ per %

So, using the example block 2450 from above and what we know the building types earn we can now see how the income is calculated:

41% entertainment (41 * $3 = $123) + 2% financial (2 * $2 = $4) + 57% apartments (57 * $0.4 = $23) = $150

The next consideration as to whether you should go for the block is its current defence level. This is really only an issue in the very early stages of the game as you may not have the resources to take the higher level blocks but as the game progresses and your forces build this becomes a non-issue. Anyway, early on you have limited men so you really only want to be sending just enough to take successfully take the block from the citizens so that you can use your remaining forces on other, more productive, orders.

There are a number of suggestions as to what Combat Value (CV) is required to take an uncontrolled block. For a long time I'd used the Defence Level (DL) * 5 (e.g. Strong block = 8 * 5 = 40 CV required) and never had any issues capturing them although the more common suggestion is the DL squared / 2 (e.g. Strong block = 8 sqrd = 64 / 2 = 32 CV required). I've had examples of taking blocks successully with no fight with a CV less than either formula so neither seems set in stone. The DL^2/2 seems to fit a lot more with the data I have having revisited it though so that's the one I suggest you use when working out how many men to send. There is also a 'safety net' below these values whereby you will get into a fight with the citizens but still gain control of the block, usually losing a cruit or two though in the process.

A reminder of the Defence Levels and Combat Values:
Defence LevelCV required
1 - Pitiful1
2 - Very Weak2
3 - Weak5
4 - Cautious8
5 - Alert13
6 - Guarded18
7 - Rough25
8 - Strong32
9 - Very Strong42
10 - Too Strong50
11 - Invulnerable???

Gang Member/ItemCombat Value
Submachine Gun13

As an example, to take control of a Guarded (18 CV required) block you may want to send a force of say: 1 pro (9) + 2 punks (2 * 3 = 6) + 3 'Cruits (3 * 1 = 3) = 18 or even just 1 pro and a submachine gun would do (9 + 13 = 22).

Notice the ??? on the invulnerable block. You can try to take these blocks, which usually have a police station present on them, but you will usually fail no matter how many men you send! I've never seen it done but I believe that it has happened.

Notoriety can also be gained from taking control of a block and this is simply equal to the defence level. i.e. Taking control of a Rough block (DL=7) will give you a +7 notoriety increase. Upon taking control of a block it's defence level will increase by 0-3 levels (up to a max of Too Strong). This increase seems to be completely random as I've had different increases when controlling the exact same block with an identical force across games but is never more than +3.

Finally, if the block has not been controlled before and contains Apartments and/or Schools on it, then you can potentially gain some new cruits. Again, this is reliably calculable and you will gain 1 new cruit for every full 20% apartments and 1 new cruit for every full 10% schools. e.g. A block with 68% Apartments on it will get you 3 new recruits.

Of course, I wouldn't want you to have to work all this out manually everytime you wanted to take a block and so I've put together a little flash app below which does it all for you. Simply put in the building types and percentages along with the defence level and it will tell you all you need to know :)

Now you know the basics of how to control blocks, what are you waiting for? Get out there and build an empire!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


There's not masses of information out there about It's A Crime (IaC) but what there is is generally pretty good.

There are a bunch of pdf's available that are scanned in articles written by a Jim Davison sometime around late 1989 which contain some excellent information and are very well written. Over the next few weeks I'll be re-typing them here along with the original pdf for you to read.

We'll start at the beginning shall we...

It's A Crime!: The Concept

Way back in late 1986, which seems like eons ago, I was introduced to the play-by-mail game IT'S A CRIME! I was sent a starter package when I replied to an ad in the COMIC BUYERS' GUIDE. I found it intruiging, as I was looking for that kind of entertainment and challenge at the time. And since the turns were inexpensive, the game promised to be simple for me as a beginner, and I was getting my first two turns free anyway, I figured I had nothing to lose, and sent in my very first turn card.

Now, over three years, many struggles, suprises, exultations, disappointments, and almost 400 processed turns laters, I have come to a very simple conclusion:

I like this game.

It is a very simple one, in comparison with some others that I have examined. Yet it is very deep when you get into trying to outguess the computer and master its system of play and success. And even though everyone has problems with ANY play-by-mail company, I have been treated more fairly and more professionally by A.B.M. than by any other company I have dealt with. I have tried several other games, and at this point in time, IT'S A CRIME! is the only game I am still playing.

There was a time, though, when I wasn't sure how much I was going to like the game, how well I was doing, or if I was even going to survive. In my first ten turns, I ran the gaunt of about every problem a gang could experience (or so I thought at the time), and was facing incredible odds of even being around five turns later. I had no experience in the game and no contact with any experienced players. [There evidently weren't that many back in game 10, at least not that I met]. I was on my own. The police seemed to foil almost everything I tried to do. I played it as conservatively as I possibly could, praying that I would still be around a few more turns to have some chance in the game.

Simply put, I can place myself into the shoes of the novice player, who is scared to death coming into a game where it appears from the concept of the game that his gang will easily be chewed up by other master players within a dozen turns. Knowing what it would have meant to me to have had such help, I have always tried to befriend and help such players whenever possible, and have found that course of action to be helpful to myself as well, providing me with some strong friendships through the duration of these games.

In IT'S A CRIME!, you are the leader of a budding street gang, looking to carve out your own piece of the turf of New York City, contending with the police and with other expanding gangs as you move and weave your way through the neighbourhood, trying to become the top gang in your area and, eventually, the whole city. Gangs who succeed in excelling over others in their neighbourhood becomes part of a select few who move up later in the game to a different level of play, and continue to compete with one another in an effort to win the game outright.

But it's a tough road. Along the way, you will discover that some of your actions will be misinterpreted by others, that you will accidentally aggress against another gang, and you will have to deal with that. Also, you will suffer setbacks of arrests on orders you needed to succeed, frustrations from being chased away from completing an order which should have worked, and the agony of seeing some of your best men being picked off in a total surprise attack from some overambitious gang lord.

I am certainly not telling you all this to discourage you from playing the game. There are several good things that can happen. As you experiment with different orders, you will discover some that will succeed beyond your wildest dreams. You will find along your border some strong gang that you write to quickly to save your own skin, and its leader will turn out to be the best and most powerful ally you will ever have. or you will make that dramatic move where you take the last block away from a struggling gang, wiping them off the face of the earth, and people all over will know and respect and fear YOU! Many good things can indeed happen during the course of the game. But we are being realistic in our approach and expectations of the game and need to point out that just as in real life itself, there are thorns among the roses, and sometimes they do cause you to bleed.

Success in IT'S A CRIME! is made up of a number of factors, but the main one is perseverance. A dozen strong turns, no matter how strategic, will not win a game for anyone. Those who win are those who stay in there for the duration, who don't quit when it gets tough, who don't give in when no one seems to answer their letters, who don't throw in the towel after some disastrous results or the computer messes up a turn and causes some unexpected mishaps. Winners never quit, and quitters never win, remember? If you are a novice player, or even if you've been here before, remember that this is a marathon, not a wind sprint.

There are several goals you can set for yourself in IT'S A CRIME! The most obvious one is to win the game as the Godfather. But with over 400 others vying against you, that's not always a very realistic goal. There are other ways to be successful which are also recognised publicly and have their own sense of satisfaction. Just making Boss is an accomplishment in itself. You may also want to acquire as much money as you can, and be ranked among the city leaders in wealth. [I found that goal particularly satisfying in game 40, breaking the previous record for wealth for a gang, going over $100,000 by turn 20!] If you just missed qualifying for Boss, chances are that you are one of the Toughest gangs in the city, certainly in your area, and you now become one of the leaders in the streets, where the real battle is fought. You can also try to climb to the top of the lists noted each turn on the results sheet: Notoriety, Sickest and Highest Income. Or, if your diplomatic skills are above average, you can work to put together an alliance of local gangs early in the game, and build a fortress of strength around which you will help all those gangs involved to grow to an even greater strength.

What you do is up to you. Everyone wants to win, of course, and the plain truth is that 90% of the players won't even have a connection with the winning team. If that is the only possible goal you have in the game, you will probably be on of those many gangs who quit around turn 22 of every game. But remember that you don't have to be Godfather to win! In my first game, at the time of Boss selection, I was a nobody. But I redirected my goals, found a Boss to work with, and eventually became Capo in that game, winning enough free turn credits that I played two gangs in a later game at no cost at all! So friend, you CAN make it, no matter what the odds are. Just get a goal in mind that you can reach in your situation. And work with a plan to reach that goal. It's a unique world, but with perseverance, planning, communication with others, and a little bit of luck, anyone can do well in IT'S A CRIME!

original pdf my new blog dedicated to the Play-By-Mail (now Play-By-Email!) game It's A Crime currently being run by KJC Games and The Adventure Guild.

It's been a long time, around 18 years(!), since I last played this game and I was delighted to find that it's still going with KJC although the number playing have dwindled substantially by the looks of it. I've registered to play in the next available game but this may be a while before it starts I'm being told but when it does then I'll be providing updates on my progress here (although I'll try not to give too much about my position away!).

In between this I intend to hopefully analyse the game mechanics and try to gain any insight as to whats going on behind the scenes. I'll probably be way off but it's a bit of fun :)