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It’s actually been forever since I’ve seen Ocean’s Eleven. I actually just watched the trailer before starting to write this. Hopefully you’ve seen it (it’s quite a good movie, imo, but that’s not what I’m reviewing), but if you haven’t, here’s the trailer. Knock yourself out. Now, why is this relevant? Well, for all practical purposes, Burgle Bros. is essentially Ocean’s Eleven: The Game (or a board game version of Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, if that’s more your speed). Burgle Bros. is another game from Tim Fowers (the designer of the amazing wordbuilder / deckbuilder game Paperback) which was recently successfully Kickstarted in 2015. In Burgle Bros., you have a crew, and one job: Get in, get the loot, get out.
Though, obviously, it’s not going to be that simple. (And would it be fun if it were?)
- Player Count Differences
- Pros, Mehs, Cons
This game has a pretty solid amount of setup, so bear with me. (I’d say about as much as Roll for the Galaxy, but it’s easier to explain.) It’ll probably be easiest if we start with the cards. In addition to the characters / roles (which I will cover later), you’ll note there are six different decks:
Three of them are the Patrol decks, which govern guard movement on each floor (the ones with the guards on them, as you might imagine). More on that later. What you will notice is that each card has a 1, 2, or 3 in the corner, specifying which floor it belongs to. Separate the decks into floors, and then shuffle those three decks (unless you’re playing the beginner, two-floor mode, then only use two decks), removing any blank or “Lost Visual” cards in the third floor (they’re for an expansion). Next up is the Event, Tools, and Loot decks (respectively):
Shuffle those as well. Don’t look at or reveal any of these cards, yet. Now, you’ll notice that there are a bunch of tiles. You may want to do yourself a favor and remove all three Stairs tiles and Safe tiles, which look like this:
You’ll also likely notice that every tile save for the Safe tiles have white or black numbers in the bottom right. These are to help you distinguish between game types. If you’re playing the two-floor beginner mode, only use the white-circled numbers, and ignore the black-circled numbers (set them aside). If you’re using the three-floor standard mode, use all the tiles. There’s also a two-floor, 5×5 “Expert Mode”, but for brevity I’m not going to cover that in my review (though it does look awesome). Regardless, shuffle the tiles together (except for the Safe and Stairs tiles) and then separate them into N piles, where N is the number of floors you’ll be playing with. Add a Safe and Stairs tile to each pile, and then shuffle those piles (there should be 16 tiles per pile). These comprise each floor. Shuffle them and set them face-down in a 4×4 grid, like so:
Now that you’ve got those face-down, you’re going to want to add walls. Each floor should have eight walls (those wooden thingies that came with your game), and you can either use the suggested layout in the rulebook or find some place that will generate a layout for you online. Thanks, Internet!
Now that you’ve got your face-down tiles (most of which I’ll explain later), you should give each player a character. As with most games with any sort of character / role choice (such as BANG! The Dice Game, Roll for the Galaxy, and 7 Wonders), I tend to give every player two cards and let them choose one. To add to the excitement, each character is double-sided! They have a basic and an Advanced skill, both of which relate back to their central role. Both the rulebook and I recommend not picking an Advanced skill for your first game, but hey, you do you. I’ll also introduce the crew later on in Gameplay, so here if you’re setting up, just have each player pick one that they like.
Now, you’ll notice that there are a bunch of tokens. Green “Cracked” tokens, Yellow “Opened” tokens, Red “Alarm” tokens, Purple “Hack” tokens, Blue “Stealth” tokens, and even ones with a cat and a crow on them:
There are a lot of these, but right now just give each player three of the blue Stealth tokens (the ones with the mask on them). And if any player is playing as The Raven, give her the crow token. As I mentioned, it has a bird on it, so you’ll find it pretty easily.
If your table looks like this:
You’re about ready to start.
So your goal is to, as I said, get in, get the loot, and get out. Unfortunately, there are guards looking for you (you don’t seem to be the most subtle crew around, but the guards also just patrol regularly). If you happen to run into a guard (or they run into you, more on that later), you will lose one of your Stealth tokens. Should you lose all three and run into a guard a fourth time, you’ll be captured. However, you’re familiar with the Prisoner’s Dilemma and you’ll just give up the names of your entire crew, causing everyone to lose. You’d like to avoid that, so… let’s talk about how to not get caught.
Alright, so the first and most important thing is what you’ll be doing every turn. Every turn will go like this:
Note you have four actions, max. Any four of: Peek (flip over a face-down tile), Move (move into a tile, flipping it over if it’s face-down), Hack (if on a Computer Room, add a hack token to that room), Add Die (if on a Safe tile, spend two actions to add a die to that Safe), or Roll Dice (if on a Safe tile, roll the dice currently on the Safe to try and crack it). That being said, it’s important to know where you’re going so you figure out what you can do. So let’s look at some of the tiles you might see during the game. I’ll note how many tiles appear in the beginner and standard versions of the game (as some won’t appear at all in the beginner version!) and briefly explain what they do.
Meet the Tiles
Stairs (Beginner: 2, Standard: 3)
Stairs take you between floors. That’s about it. You can go upstairs to the next floor at any point, which takes you from that spot on your floor to the same spot on the next floor up (1A1 -> 2A1, for instance). If you’re feeling a bit timid, you can also peek upstairs before you move. Once you reveal that tile, you should place a little downstairs token (grey) on it so that you remember that it’s above a staircase.
Walkway (Beginner: 2, Standard: 3)
Walkways are hilarious. If you move into an unrevealed Walkway, you immediately fall down a floor (sort of like the Coal Chute in Betrayal at House on the Hill). This means that Walkways on the first floor are pointless, yes. You can subsequently use a move action on a Walkway space to move downstairs, as well, but it costs you one to move into the Walkway and another to move down.
Laboratory (Beginner: 1, Standard: 2)
Laboratories are fantastic. The first person to enter the Laboratory (not reveal it, actually physically move into it) gets to draw a Tool card for free! Tools are great, more on them later. That’s about it.
Lavatory (Beginner: 1, Standard: 1)
Lavatories are interesting. When you reveal one, take three extra Stealth tokens and put them on the tile. These are essentially closed bathroom stalls that you can hide in. If you would be caught by a guard on that tile, discard one of the Lavatory’s Stealth tokens instead. This makes this tile a wonderful place to hide, at least until the guard kicks open all the stalls.
Service Duct (Beginner: 2, Standard: 2)
Service Ducts are essentially a secret passageway between two parts of the building. You can spend an action to move between the two Service Ducts, if both are revealed. This is very handy if they’re on separate floors, and very irritating if they’re adjacent to each other (unless there’s a wall in the way).
Secret Door (Beginner: 2, Standard: 2)
Secret Doors are also fun! A Secret Door tile can always be moved into by a player, even if a wall is in the way. Note that you cannot exit a Secret Door through a wall, but you can enter one. Again, very situationally handy. If it’s surrounded by walls, great! If it’s not, well, sucks to suck.
Camera (Beginner: 3, Standard: 4)
Cameras aren’t great. Basically, they’re rooms with hidden cameras in them. If a guard is ever on a Camera tile anywhere in the building (even different floors!) and you happen to run across a Camera tile, it sets off an alarm on the Camera you ran across (more on alarms later). Note that this also happens if a guard moves across a Camera tile while on patrol — the alarm is still set off.
Laser (Beginner: 2, Standard: 3)
Laser rooms are cool. If you try to enter one, however, you need to have a bit of finesse. As you might imagine, this takes some extra time to plan out. If you try to move into a Laser room, you must spend two actions, rather than one. If you don’t or can’t, you trigger an alarm on that tile.
Motion (Beginner: 2, Standard: 3)
Motion rooms aren’t too difficult; you just need to be very, very still or you’ll trigger the motion-sensing alarm. If you enter a Motion room, you must stop moving (you can still peek at other rooms!) or you’ll trigger the alarm.
Detector (Beginner: 0, Standard: 3)
Note that difference — the beginner game has 0 Detector tiles. Why? Because they’re evil. If you enter a Detector holding any Tool or Loot card, you’ll trigger the alarm. Good luck.
Fingerprint (Beginner: 2, Standard: 3)
If you thought Detectors were bad, Fingerprint tiles are worse. When you enter a Fingerprint room, you trigger an alarm. For each and every time you enter. Guess these guys take security pretty seriously.
Thermo (Beginner: 2, Standard: 3)
Thermo rooms, finally, aren’t so bad. If you end your actions in a Thermo room, you’ll trigger the alarm. Just be careful and don’t stop in one.
Computer (Beginner: 3, Standard: 3)
There are three different computer rooms: Laser, Fingerprint, and Motion. Each allows you to spend an action to add a hack token (the purple skull and crossbones) to the tile (to a max of 6 hack tokens). If you were to trigger an alarm on a Laser, Fingerprint or Motion tile and you’ve added hack tokens to a Laser, Fingerprint, or Motion room (respectively), you can discard a hack token and prevent the alarm. Note that you can only discard a hack token for its corresponding alarm room (we made that mistake our first game). Also note that there are no Computer rooms for Detector or Thermo tiles, for some reason. You’re on your own for those.
Keypad (Beginner: 2, Standard: 3)
Keypads suck. You’re locked out and you have to try to guess the combination to get inside. You need to try to roll a 6, and each subsequent reroll on one turn lets you roll an additional die. So, for instance, your first try you roll 1 die, second you roll 2 dice, third you roll 3, and so on. However, this resets every turn. So if you don’t make it in one turn, you have to start back from 1 die. Bummer.
Deadbolt (Beginner: 2, Standard: 3)
Deadbolts are literally the worst. Basically, if you don’t have someone inside, you have to force the door open every time, which is super time-consuming. If a Deadbolt room is not empty, it costs you three actions to enter. This also means if you’re not careful and you Move into an unrevealed room and it’s a Deadbolt, you might get stuck there. Note that if you don’t have three actions to spare you reveal the room and then just can’t enter it (essentially replacing that Move action with a Peek).
Foyer (Beginner: 2, Standard: 2)
Foyers are strange. Since they’re very large and spacious, they offer great line-of-sight. Great for the guards, that is. If you’re standing in the Foyer (or moving through it) a guard can see you (and take a Stealth token) even from adjacent rooms, as long as there’s not a wall in the way. That means you should try to avoid moving through here and never hide here.
Atrium (Beginner: 0, Standard: 2)
Atriums are even stranger. If you’re standing in an Atrium, you can Peek at tiles above and below you, but guards can also see you from different floors! If you get spotted, you’ll lose a Stealth token, so try to be careful moving through them.
Safe (Beginner: 2, Standard: 3)
This is the target. You want to get in, crack these safes, and escape with the Loot inside. However, you don’t know the combination, which is a bit of an issue. Remember those numbers on each tile? That’s your combination. Every tile in the same row and same column as the Safe has one of the numbers to that safe’s combination in its bottom-right corner, like so:
Whenever you roll the dice on a safe, use a green cracked token to cover a tile’s number if you roll it. Unfortunately, since the tiles aren’t revealed at the start of the game, you don’t know the exact combination! This means if you roll a 6 and that’s the number of an unrevealed tile, you’ll have to roll another 6, once it’s revealed. Usually this means you want to wait until the entire combination is revealed to start rolling, but you do you.
Once you’ve cracked the safe, you get a Tool and a Loot card. Tools, generally useful. Loot, generally … not. I’ll talk more about that shortly. Also, a silent alarm is activated, causing the guard on your floor and every floor below you to speed up! That’s less good, unfortunately. However, what does it mean for the guards to speed up? Let’s find out.
Guard and Patrolling
These guys are trained security professionals, so they’re trying to make sure nobody breaks in and robs the place. Which unfortunately fits your description to a T, so you might want to avoid them. Thankfully, you have some idea of where they’re going. So, you’ve got two or three Patrol decks, meaning you’ll have two or three guards (one per floor):
That being said, you’re not 100% sure where they are before you get on the floor itself. As a result, you won’t actually be able to see guards on floors until you’ve entered (not just Peeked) at least one tile, except for the first floor. For the first floor, flip the top card of the first floor Patrol deck and place the guard token there. For all other floors, once you’ve entered a tile on that floor, flip the top card of that floor’s Patrol deck and place the guard token there. (Yes, for those of you at home, that means the guard has a 1/16 chance of starting ON YOUR TILE. What is a heist without a little risk?)
Now, once you’ve placed the guard, you need to see where he’s going. Flip the next Patrol deck card and place the guard’s movement die there. For the first floor, the guard’s movement die should have the 2 up, 3 for the second floor, and 4 for the third floor. This means that when the guard moves, he’ll move 2, 3, or 4 spaces, respectively towards that destination, along the shortest path. If there are multiple shortest paths, the guard will always move in a clockwise direction (from his perspective) (yes, this is really hard to figure out if you’re not spatially minded, like me). Since the guard is not a spooky ghost, he cannot move through walls, but his special security badge means that he can ignore all obnoxious tile effects (and alarms do not activate on his tile while he’s on it). Once he reaches his destination, he’ll flip a new Patrol card and continue to go there, if he has movement left. You can always look at cards in the guard’s discard pile, and each location only appears once, so you can often figure out where the guard is likely to go next. Now, when does the guard move? Every turn, unfortunately. After you’re finished with your actions, move the guard on your floor only. As the rule book notes, time only passes when the camera’s on you! (How convenient.)
Once you run out of cards in the Patrol deck and need to draw a new Patrol card, shuffle the deck and flip a new Patrol card and increase the guard’s movement die by 1. (Max 6.) That’s a permanent speed boost, so be careful. If you’re playing with fewer than four players, you’ll also need to discard some Patrol cards, face down (I’ll mention this again in Player Count Differences) every time you shuffle. You can’t look at these cards, but once you shuffle again add them back in and then discard cards once you’ve reshuffled all of them. This means the guard has fewer cards to get through in smaller games, and you don’t know where he’s been:
- In 1-player games, discard 9 cards each time.
- In 2-player games, discard 6 cards each time.
- In 3-player games, discard 3 cards each time.
Note that if a guard’s movement die changes during that turn’s patrol, he doesn’t gain the increased movement until next turn. Similarly, when you crack a safe, increase the guard’s movement die by 1 (permanently), and increase the movement die for guards on floors below this one by 1 as well. Turns out almost everyone found out you cracked the safe. But that’s not the only way to make guards faster; there are other ways the guard’s movement speed can be modified, among other things, alarms!
So, you’ve messed up and tripped a Laser, triggering an alarm on your tile. Way to go. If you activate an alarm, add a red alarm token to that space and change the guard’s movement die to that space. He’s coming for you; could it get any worse? Yes. If there are alarms active, a guard’s movement speed is increased by 1 per active alarm on his floor (with no stated maximum). He’s coming for you and coming for you quickly. Once he gets to an alarm token, he turns that alarm off. If there is more than one active alarm on a floor, the guard will move towards the closest one to him. (If it’s a tie, you choose which one he moves towards.) Note that if he turns off an alarm and still has movement speed, his speed doesn’t decrease until next turn (basically, a guard’s movement speed cannot change during a turn due to Patrol cards or alarms). Once all the alarms on his floor are turned off, draw a new Patrol card for him. This may seem like a terrible thing to happen, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. More on that in Strategy.
Events, Tools, and Loot
So there are still three decks that we haven’t covered: Events, Tools, and Loot.
You’ll probably see a lot of these. Events are your “reward” for not using all your actions on a given turn. Once you’re done with your actions, if you have only used two or fewer, draw an event. Similar to the Events in Betrayal at House on the Hill, they are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Somewhat like Betrayal’s events, they’re also highly situational. You might find the rare event that gives you an extra Stealth Token or a free Tool, for instance. You may find an event that increases a guard’s movement or sets his destination to your tile. You could even find an event that pulls another player to your tile or lets you climb up Walkways for a round; who knows? It varies highly, and you should take them with caution; if it’s not clear, the game does not consider an event to be a reward.
Tools, on the other hand, are rewards. These extra handy devices can be used on your turn as a free action to do something humorous or crazy. For instance, the Rollerskates give you two additional free actions, perhaps letting you make a daring escape or, for some reason, hack a computer more vigorously. The Makeup Kit lets you disguise yourself, giving you and other players on the same tile as you an additional Stealth Token. My favorite, however, the Thermal Bomb, lets you do some, uh, creative interior design and add a new staircase either up or down from your current tile. Honestly, I’d recommend not looking at them and just getting surprised with whatever you get.
Loot, surprisingly, sucks. Loot tends to be objects that are so heinously bad you wonder why someone bothered locking them up at all. For instance, there’s a Chihuahua, a dog that on every one of your turns might set off an alarm on your tile. Or the Painting, which is too large to fit in Secret Doors or Service Ducts. Worst of all is the Cursed Goblet, which automatically discards a Stealth token from the player who first obtains it. This card can instantly lose you the game, if you’re not paying attention. I only mention that one in particular because it’s a tough way to lose. Both Tools and Loot can be transferred between players as a free action on either of their turns, if they’re on the same space.
But now that you know what you’re up against, it’s time to pick your crew.
Meet the Crew
You’re gonna need a lot of talent to get this job done. However, you just got a lot of weirdos instead, but they each bring something unique to the table. Maybe it’ll work out? Each crew member has a basic and an advanced skill, each bringing something to the table.
The Rook: Mastermind
Every job needs a leader, and you’re this one’s George Clooney. Your abilities primarily center around moving others.
Basic Skill: Orders. Once per turn you can spend an action to move another player one tile, ignoring movement costs (such as Deadbolt or Laser). Follow other normal movement rules. This doesn’t mean you can slip someone by the Keypad or get out of a Fingerprint alarm, but it does mean that you can get someone else into a Deadbolt room so you can get through, or out of the way of an incoming guard. Very helpful.
Advanced Skill: Disguise. You can spend your first action to swap places with another player. This doesn’t count as entering the tile for either of you. This is actually really helpful for getting around Detectors or getting someone out of the way of a guard, since you’ll now be in their place and capable of moving on their turn. Haven’t tried it much, otherwise, but it seems situationally useful.
The Hacker: Computer Guy
Honestly in this day and age you just don’t get jobs done without a computer guy. I say this as a computer guy, so maybe I’m biased?
Basic Skill: Jammer. Not only do you not trigger Fingerprint, Laser, or Motion tiles, other players going through those spaces while you’re there don’t trigger them either. You essentially can jam those three tiles. This makes you fantastic for recon, as you can pretty fearlessly explore without worrying about alarms. Otherwise you can just help get people through tricky rooms like the Fingerprint alarm.
Advanced Skill: Laptop. You can spend an action to add one hack token to yourself (max 1). Any player can subsequently use that hack token as a Fingerprint, Laser, or Motion hack token. This skill is pretty great as a support skill, since you can let other people recon while you hide out and hack on your turn. Just make sure you don’t get caught.
The Hawk: Recon Pro
I’d make a joke about having eyes like a hawk, but I think that’s less of a joke and more of the point, here.
Basic Skill: X-Ray. Once per turn as a free action you may peek at an adjacent tile through a wall. Very situationally useful, but very useful when you need it. Unfortunately it means that she loses a lot of utility once all the tiles are revealed, but frequently she should just be doing recon as much as possible. Honestly, with her, you don’t need other players exploring.
Advanced Skill: Enhance. Once per turn as a free action you may Peek at a tile up to two spaces away. You can’t Peek over an unrevealed tile, and you can’t see through walls. You can see around corners and up stairs, though. This is an amazing skill, as it’s just a free enhanced peek (note the “up to two spaces away”) every turn. You should be using it. Deadbolt in the way? Peek past it. Scared of an alarm? Peek past it. It’s especially helpful for finding the combination to a safe, as it’s a free action.
The Acrobat: Retired Performer
Honestly this guy is just weird. Nothing against acrobats, but his skills are just odd.
Basic Skill: Flexibility. You may move into a tile with a guard as a free action, and you don’t lose a Stealth token when you do. You will lose a Stealth token if you don’t leave before the guard moves, though. Just means you can’t camp out on that tile. This guy’s great for getting through alarms or Deadbolts — just get the Guard to that space, have him launch through, and then keep going, uninterrupted.
Advanced Skill: Climb Window. If you are on an outer tile (the perimeter tiles), you may spend 3 actions to move up or down 1 floor, ending your actions. Weird skill, but also useful for recon, since you can avoid guards or explore new floors. Just be careful when entering a new floor that you don’t get immediately hit by a guard. It’s also useful for getting Loot and Tools past a Detector, since you can go upstairs from almost any tile. Also it’s just a funny, odd skill.
The Peterman: Safecracker
He’s here to crack safes, and oh boy there are a lot of safes to crack.
Basic Skill: Steady Hands. You roll 1 additional die when rolling for the Safe or Keypad. This means you can always start cracking a safe, since you’ll start with 1 die rather than 0. Usually this means that the team always wants you on safe duty, which is pretty logical. Keypad duty helps, too, since you get those extra dice.
Advanced Skill: Drill. You can add dice and roll on safes above and below your tile, but you can’t pick up loot or tools from those safes. I don’t really understand how this is useful, but if it’s useful it’s definitely most useful in a three-floor game, since there are more safes. I suppose the advantage is that the guard on your floor won’t move when you crack the safe? The next player to enter that Safe tile gets the Tools and Loot, and you can’t win without it anyways.
The Raven: Maverick Falconer
Things are about to get extremely raven. You might even look at the card and say, “That’s So Raven”, but I’m not trying to put words in your mouth.
Basic Skill: Distract. You can place the Crow (white with a bird) token as a free action up to two tiles away from your character (not through walls). If a guard enters a tile with a crow, he loses one movement. The crow remains in that location until you move it again. If you’re looking to mess with guards, you’re gonna want to get this character. Knocking one off of a guard’s movement is pretty clutch, especially if you put it in places where the guard is most likely to travel. Each time the guard’s going to just boggle vacantly at your bird and take that penalty. We’ve house-ruled that if the guard ends his movement on a crow, he takes the penalty next turn, but honestly I don’t believe that’s how you’re supposed to interpret the rules. You do you.
Advanced Skill: Disrupt. You can place the Crow (white with a bird) token as a free action on your current tile. If a guard starts his movement on the same tile as the crow and there are no alarms, he loses all movement and the Crow is returned to you. I imagine there are times where you can manage to play this perfectly and it’s beautiful, but it seems very difficult to play well. If you’re good at it though, you can near-consistently stymie the guard, which is impressive and extremely useful.
The Rigger: Tinkerer Savant
I like to imagine that this guy’s an interior designer. Or an arsonist. Or both? Why not both.
Basic Skill: The Solution. You start with the Dynamite Tool. When any player finds a Tool, they may draw two Tools, keep one, and discard the other. Dynamite lets you blow up a wall, but sets off an alarm on your tile. It’s pretty hilarious, and if you’ve got the right setup it might be insanely useful. However, the best part of his ability is the buff to Tools in general. Having the ability to see two Tools and pick the most useful one is great, though you may draw two very useful tools and only get to keep one, which is sad.
Advanced Skill: Tinker. You may discard a Stealth token to draw a Tool. When any player finds a Tool, they may draw two Tools, keep one, and discard the other. This one is more interesting to me, because I like the risk/reward aspect of it a lot. That being said, it’s HIGHLY RISKY. Choose at your own risk, though I imagine there are good enough tools that you might think it’s worth it…
The Spotter: Psychic Gone Rogue
You’d think a guy who can see the future could just tell you the combination to the safe, but apparently his powers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. He does have an uncanny knack for prediction, though…
Basic Skill: Clairvoyance. Once per turn you may spend one action to look at the top card of the Patrol deck for your floor. Place it back on the top or bottom of the deck. Want to prevent guards from hitting you? This guy’s your character. Combine him with the Raven and you might be able to prevent most guards from going anywhere. He’s also helpful for forcing guards to take really long paths, meaning they’re less likely to speed up (as it will take more turns for them to burn through the Patrol deck).
Advanced Skill: Precognition. Once per turn you may spend one action to look at the top card of the Event deck. Place it back on the top or bottom of the deck. This power is disturbingly useful. Remember how I said most events were bad? Well, he’ll just stop them from happening. It’s a really useful ability if you plan to get a lot of events, but if you get too many, you’ll have to start dealing with faster guards (since you’ll be using fewer actions per turn, meaning the Patrol deck will run out faster). Forewarned is forearmed.
The Juicer: Electronics Expert
You’d think for a heist you’d want to make as little noise as possible, but the Juicer knows that the right noise at the right place at the right time is better than silence.
Basic Skill: Crybaby. As a free action you may create an alarm in an adjacent tile (but not through walls). Worried a guard will come after you? Why not just make an alarm and force them to draw a new Patrol card? You can! It’s a bit risky if you’re not on a safe tile (for instance, one the guard has been to before) since you’re giving him a speed boost, but it could be a huge help. Note: it’s a lot more helpful if your floors have long hallways.
Advanced Skill: Reroute. Once per turn as a free action you may pick up an active alarm on your tile and draw a new Patrol card OR discard your alarm token to trigger an alarm (max 1). I haven’t used this one before, but it does allow you to defer Fingerprint alarms (since you can just pick up the alarm token when you trigger it) or effectively reroute the guard if you ever don’t like where he’s going. You also deny them the speed boost from the alarm, which could be really handy.
And that’s the whole crew! You’ll need to probably check both your wall layout and which other characters you’re playing with, as you want a variety of focuses (foci?) when you’re choosing a crew. Now that that’s done, we should probably talk about how the game is played.
Getting Started (Finally)
So, you’ve picked a crew, you’ve set up the guards and Patrols and shuffled and everything. Now what? Well, first you have to decide where you’re entering. I assume you’re coming in from underground, so you can choose any first floor tile to enter. Note that you aren’t on that tile until your first turn starts. So once you pick a tile to enter, flip it over and add a grey Downstairs token (just so you don’t forget). Each player will enter on that tile on their turn, but it doesn’t count as moving into the tile when they enter (that way you don’t trigger an alarm or something on your first turn).
Now, you want to go through, crack the safes, take the loot, avoid the guards, and get to the helipad on the roof (by taking the Stairs on the top floor). Note that you cannot leave the building without all the Loot. That is what you came here for, mind you. Once you have it all, though, it’s good to get out of the building as fast as possible. Once you exit, you’re done. You get no more turns, but since you’re not on a floor, the guards don’t move either (even on the turn you exited)! That’s always helpful. There’s not much else to say, other than good luck!
Player Count Differences
Honestly, not a ton, here. The major difference is that at different player counts (as I mentioned earlier) you have to privately discard some Patrol cards face-down each shuffle:
- In 1-player games, discard 9 cards each time.
- In 2-player games, discard 6 cards each time.
- In 3-player games, discard 3 cards each time.
This means the guard will have fewer cards in his deck and you can’t be positive which spaces he will skip, both of which make the game a bit harder.
Additionally, at fewer player counts you’ll see less guard movement when it’s not your turn (by virtue of there being fewer players) but also you’ll limit your variety of character abilities. Personally, I think that all these things keep it balanced at all player counts, but I like having more character skills in play so I usually just play with four “characters” regardless of how many players we have (either two players each control two characters, I control four characters, or we democratically control a fourth player among the three of us). It’s pretty fun, though you run an increased risk of players taking hits since there are just more characters in play.
- Alarms are not your enemy, but they aren’t necessarily your friend. If you can use alarms well, you’ll always be able to redirect a guard away from you. However, the guards move faster with alarms, and poor use of alarms can cause a guard to rapidly burn through the Patrol deck. I wouldn’t recommend using them judiciously, but if they can get you out of a bind I would try it. I’d also not worry too much about setting them off. It doesn’t matter if you set off an alarm; it matters if you’re still in the room when the guard gets there.
- Peeking and then Moving is “safe”(er), but not always optimal. This basically forces you to move at half-speed, since you’re using two actions to move into a tile. While that’s the safest way to get through floors, at some point the guard is going to be moving much faster than 2 per turn. You may have to just go for it, occasionally.
- Try to spread between floors as quickly as possible. This slows the guard (sort of) by distributing the patrols between guards between floors. This means that instead of one floor’s guard moving 4 times per round, it moves once or twice and another floor moves the remaining number of times. It makes recon easier and safer, but it also eats away at other floors’ Patrol decks, so be careful.
- Use your ability. You have a skill for a reason; try to use it. Note that they’re all pretty situationally relevant, but if you can use it well your skill can be a HUGE help to your team. For instance, The Raven should be moving her crow pretty much constantly, and if you’re using the Advanced Hacker, they should almost always have a hack token on their card.
- Avoid events, if possible, unless you are willing to take on a lot of risk. Like I said earlier, events are not a boon; they’re just barely better than an outright punishment. I’d say over 50% of them are pretty much just, bad, so you want to draw them as little as possible. That being said, the Advanced Spotter’s control over the event deck makes drawing them a bit less terrible (since he can put bad events on the bottom of the pile), but it costs him 25% of his turn every time to make that so.
- Think outside the box. Sometimes the best move is waiting a round for the Acrobat to climb down a floor and take your stuff so you can run through the Detector without setting off an alarm, rather than just trying to figure out how to set off the alarm and get away. This game encourages weird thinking, as you’re gonna have to think spatially and across multiple floors if you want to get out of here.
- Don’t be afraid to take a hit. You’ve got three Stealth tokens; getting hit is bad but not a showstopper. If you getting hit prevents two other people from getting hit, go for it. Just make sure anyone cracking the safe has at least one Stealth token left, just in case you get the Cursed Goblet (Loot that costs you a Stealth token when you first obtain it).
- Remember that cracking a safe speeds up guards on floors below you, too. There’s some strategy as to when you crack a safe, so don’t crack it without consulting your team to make sure that everyone knows what the plan is, since it’ll speed up all the guards on your floor and below.
- Generally, hack when you have the opportunity. It’s good to have hack tokens in reserve for if you need them down the line (especially Fingerprint hack tokens), so if you have a few spare actions, it’s generally not a waste to invest in those.
- Do some math. If you’re trying to open the safe, you might wonder if it’s better to spend two actions to add another die or just roll, say, the two you have. 2 dice rolled 4 times is 8 total, whereas 3 dice rolled 2 times is only 6. Watch out for minor fallacies like that when you’re rolling, as mistakes can be costly.
Pros, Mehs, Cons
- I adore this theme. It REALLY feels like you’re playing a heist movie, and it’s absolutely fantastic. One of the reasons I Kickstarted this game was just because I thought the theme was going to be fantastic, and it really, really delivers.
- Super fun. I haven’t yet played this with someone who doesn’t enjoy it, and it’s become my team’s favorite lunchtime game.
- High replay value. Since there’s so much variety (between tile layouts, wall layouts, characters, Tools, Loot, and Events), you can play this game many, many different ways and always feel like you’ve done something new. It particularly feels fresh once you start generating your own wall layouts.
- Tile-laying game. It’s even as great as Betrayal at House on the Hill, since you’re exploring tiles and dealing with random consequences! It’s a very exciting way to explore. As frequent readers know, I have a very soft spot for tile-laying games, and this is absolutely no exception.
- Light. It’s not a super heavy theme (it’s very fun) and people generally aren’t terribly stressed while they play, so it’s a game you can take most places and people will generally enjoy.
- Really high quality components. The tiles are super thick and have a nice weight to them, the player meeples and tokens are also pretty solid and the walls work nicely. I regret not buying the high-rise tower, but it’s a bit hilariously ludicrous of a game accessory. That being said, I do play enough to justify it.
- Fun art. I like it a lot — the game just has a great style to it, and it works really well.
- Range of difficulty. I appreciate that there are Beginner, Standard, and Expert game modes.
- Takes a long time. As co-ops can do, this game can spiral out of control if you’re having a lot of discussion between turns. It suggests that it’s a 45-90 minute game, but I’ve accidentally played a standard game that’s taken four hours. Keep that in mind when you’re playing. Usually we can get the beginner game done in about 45-60 minutes, counting setup time.
- Setup takes a while, too. It’s similar to Roll for the Galaxy in that sense. Shuffling the tiles, shuffling all six decks of cards, laying out the tiles, laying out the walls, choosing characters, etc. It takes a fair amount of time to get started, and that can be a turnoff for some people.
- I wish we had more control over the game’s difficulty. Right now, it feels like the Beginner and Standard games have ranges of difficulty, and they can swing wildly within those ranges. Pandemic, for instance, lets you add in extra Epidemic cards to increase the game’s difficulty, but Burgle Bros. has no such ability, meaning that the difficulty can often feel random. Maybe extra “easy” or “advanced” tiles can be added to the mix in a future expansion? Or players that have more limited abilities? Or something.
- I wish it supported more players. This is, by far, one of my favorite games (and favorite co-op games), so my major sadness with it is that it only supports four, max. Playing with five or six sounds like it could be incredible.
- Bit luck-based. You can get screwed with tile placement and guard placement and start the game with some heavy handicaps, which can be disheartening for some. Others might just see it as more of a challenge.
- Vulnerable to quarterbacking / alpha player. As with many co-op games, you need to be mindful of the other players when you play and not simply tell them what they “should do” on their turn. Unfortunately, there’s no real built-in way to avoid that like there is with Hanabi (because since you can’t see your own cards in Hanabi, you lack some information) or Pandemic (since you could play with your hands private). Generally, it’s an issue I take with many co-op games, since it can be a really bad experience for a new player if an experienced player plays the game for them rather than letting them make meaningful choices on their turns.
Overall: 9.75 / 10
Honestly, I love this game. I promised I would eventually gush about it when I wrote my Paperback review, and clocking in at over 7500 words, I’d say gush about it is exactly what I did. It’s not only one of my favorites, but I’ve managed to convince both of my coworkers to independently purchase it since we play it so much and they enjoy it. I think it’s got almost everything possible going for it, from the theme to the gameplay to even the component quality. The only thing I really think it needs now is an expansion. Honestly, I cannot recommend it enough if you’re looking for a fun new co-op to play with some friends or trying to get new friends into games. For the price I paid and the amount of enjoyment I’ve gotten out of it, I really have to say, it’s a steal.
Yup. That’s what I’m going with.