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Game Review

Family Business

Ages 8 and up
Mayfair Games
Game © 1989 Mayfair Games Inc.
game in play

2 - 6 Players30+ minutes


"During Prohibition mobs fought for power. Each player conducts his FAMILY BUSINESS by leading his mob in a war to totally eliminate all other mobs. The object of the game is to be the last mob boss with any mobsters left."

-- quoted from the Family Business rules.


To start, each player selects a Mob. The nine mobsters are placed in front of each player, face up. The action deck is then shuffled and five action cards are dealt to each player.

On a players turn, they draw an action card, then play a card from their hand.

The most common card played in the game is the "Contract." when a player plays a contract -- the oponnent of his/her choice must place a Mobster on the "Hit-list" (unless a counter card is played). When 6 Mobsters are on the hit list, a "Mob War" begins. During a "Mob War," at the start of each player's turn, the mobster at the top of the hit list is removed from the game. The "Mob War" ends when no mobsters are left on the hit list or a truce is called.

There are two main counters to a contract: "Family Influence" merely cancels the contract, and "Mob Power" forces the player who played the contract to place one of his/her mobsters on the hit list instead.

Other cards in the game include: "Ambush" (starts a mob war with a double kill-rate); "Double Contract" (two mobsters with one contract); "Hit" (remove any one mobster from the game); and "Take it on the Lam" (rescue one mobster from the hit list); "St. Valentines Day Massacre" eliminates all mobsters on the hit list.

(There are several more cards, but the game is best played, not rewritten.)

The game ends when only one player has mobsters left alive.

game closeup

Winning Conditions:

  • The player who is the last with a living Mobster wins.

game in play

Our Opinion:

Thumbs Up! The game description above does not do this game justice (no pun intended). This game is incredibly fun, rowdy and strategy based. Get this game before it disappears!

This game is well balanced -- no one gets an unfair advantage; alliances between mob leaders form as other players eliminate mobsters, but the game doesn't allow these alliances to last -- he who double-crossess best, will win...

Family Business is a game of attrition -- you have to choose to defend yourself or go on the attack -- but only the survivor will win. Halfway through the game you'll find out if you made the right choice, because you will suddenly have everyone's attention and your mob will be everyone's target of choice. But remember, it's nothing personal, just business.

If you have children and you don't want them playing a "violent" game, think about this game two ways: it teaches about the Prohibition era -- every mobster in the game has a REAL name attached to them -- Names like Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Bonnie & Clyde, and of course Al Capone...Have the kids learn about who these guys were before you play...the game gets much more interesting then. The second thing that this game teaches is a bit more subtle, but when in a "Mob War" no one wins... Rarely is there a game with a winner with more than 2 mobsters left; As with any war the winner has almost nothing left at the end, too.

If you have one of the newer versions of the game, the rules for each card are printed on the card -- so you don't have to ask for the rule book over and over. This is very nice for the novice players, and a good reminder to the "experts."

This is a favorite of the Zombies. It is suggested at every one of our get-togethers. It plays quickly and gets the competitive blood flowing, so to speak...Without hesitation, buy this game.

Where to buy:

Any local game store or mail order. It can be hard to find, but worth it!

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