During Sons Of Anarchy’s seven season run the Calaveras club appeared to be a dangerous yet very unreliable ally of the Mayans who often struck out and did things their own way. Their most notable exploits include ripping up Half-Sack’s wake with a drive-by and stealing Juice’s cut, a grievance of extreme proportion. I often saw them as a loose cannon that couldn’t be trusted, lightning bottled and ready to be unleashed on a helpless crowd. In this regard they do not disappoint with their implementation in Gale Force Nine’s massively underrated board game implementation of this popular drama.
Sons Of Anarchy: Men Of Mayhem is primarily a worker placement game with heaps of conflict and special powers. Throwing in more variety in the faction pool is like adding more chocolate to your hot fudge Sunday or more Glocks to your armory – it’s never too much or too many. The Calaveras follow in the footsteps of the Grim Bastards, offering a slick new ability that carefully manipulates the social tension of the game, supplementing the drama and flair. This new gang may spend an order token in a Throw Down to keep other motorcycle clubs from calling in backup. Yes, pick your grill up off the floor as these fools are dangerous.
The smug Calaveras crew.
Immediately, they step in to challenge the One-Niners as one of the strongest brute force clubs in the game. If they really want to beat the hell out of you and leave your cut bloody on the concrete they will. The main problem they face is efficiently managing their orders, particularly when engaged in multiple scraps as they need to prioritize which they really care about and which they can afford to man up and take the beating. The best part about this effect is that it has a noticeable shift in how the table engages them, just like the Grim Bastards, and breeds social maneuvering and threatening jabberwocky. You will feel they are perhaps too strong at first, but experience and multiple engagements will make you realize they can be overcome and countered like every other MC at the table.
The first time I played as the Calaveras the entire group was afraid to engage, tip-toeing around in hushed silence like we were mourning a relative. I had my way with the women and wares of Charming while we rode like kings down the molten highway with huge cheesy grins and bloody victim pinatas dragging behind like a broken Hector. Then some ballsy jockey stepped up to the plate and challenged me at the smut emporium, forcing me to burn multiple orders to call in for backup and then stop him from doing the same. This clever biker must have gone back to school and got his GED because this was a feint, causing me to mismanage my organization as he followed up the hollow brawl with his real check-mate, cutting me off at the knees and leaving me crawling in the dirt. That’s just how this game rolls and why the box comes with a stack of waivers.
Getting back to a stale reality where my only engagement in extreme violence is via plastic toy soldiers, this expansion packs the same content list as the Grim Bastards club extension. You get a new set of miniatures, more fat stacks of cash and orders, a custom die, and a club player board and screen. There’s a small rules sheet with details for 5-6 player games and the two black market reference cards for all player numbers. I very much enjoy SOA with five players due to the increased room for bargaining and deal making but the game can extend into the 2.5-3 hour range. With six the momentum continues with grand sweeping negotiation, monumental backstabs, and cash raining through the air like a high class strip joint. Grab a helmet and a six pack though because you’ll be at the table for a long time. The game packs enough enjoyment, tension and impactful decision making to fill out this time period with meaningful interaction, but most will likely want to avoid this commitment and keep the game at a comfortable 60-90 minutes.
This is another great addition to the Gale Force Nine library and one I’m ecstatic to have in my collection. Variety keeps the experience fresh and allows for new broaches of social misconduct which keeps us young and on our toes. When the Calaveras hit the table you’ll have to adjust and modify your strategy or you’ll find your cronies strapped to their steel stallions and used for target practice.