Question: what’s better than a game where the good guys win, and the crooks go to jail? Answer: a game where they don’t.
Burgle Bros. is a cooperative height game, in which 1-4 players try to crack multiple safes, on multiple floors, all while stealthily avoiding the guards. If someone asked me for a “gateway game” into cooperative gaming, this would be it. One of the things that makes it a great gateway game is that it’s not impossibly challenging, although I haven’t had a chance to try the expert level game, The Fort Knox Job, just yet. The beginner’s game, The Office Job, takes out specific room tiles allowing for a more straight forward game while reducing the normal three floors to only two. The standard game, The Bank Job, is challenging enough that we almost lost every game, but didn’t. Next time we’ll probably use try the Advanced Wall Layout rules or the online layout generator. There’s also a mini-expansion, Lost Visual, that take the guard off the board for their movement, and puts him back next round. This has the dual challenge of not knowing where the guard will be and cycling through that guard’s deck slightly faster which could cause challenges later in the game.
For The Bank Job, the room tiles are split into 3 piles, with a single safe and a single stairway tile shuffled into each pile. Each pile is dealt, face down, into a 4×4 grid. Then walls are placed, either in a standard layout, or using one of the advanced methods I mentioned above.
The goal isn’t only to find the tile with the safe, players also need to reveal the other tiles in the same row and column as the safe. Each tile has a number on it, and to crack the safe a player needs to use their actions to place, and then roll, dice that match the numbers on those other tiles. Once the safe is cracked, the play who did it draws a Tool Card and a Loot Card. Tool cards are usually something beneficial, loot cards are rarely so. Think about it, you’re running around a building trying not to be noticed, carrying a big-ass painting or whatever.
If the players can crack the safe on every floor, and escape up the stairs to the roof, they win. If any player is noticed by a guard and has no stealth tokens to discard, they are captured, squeal on their co-burglers, and everyone loses.
Not everyone I played with loved the amount of dice rolling involved in in the game. There are a number of instances where dice need to be rolled, beyond just the safecracking. Ultimately, it acts as a sort of delay mechanism to slow down players and tip the balance of power towards the AI guards. I can understand why some people don’t like it, but I feel like it’s an important mechanic to include.
The one thing everyone did agree on, was the production quality. The tiles and tokens are high-quality cardboard. The walls and meeple are both made of wood. I found the cards a bit slick, making them occasionally frustrating to work with, but no more than in many other games. The only thing I didn’t really like was the meeple.
There are nine available characters in the game. Each character’s card is double sided with a regular and advanced ability. Each side also has different art. So there are a lot of options, even with a 4-player game. Each of the nine characters has a meeple figure, along with two sets of stickers. I appreciate the flexibility and cost effectiveness of stickers. But I would much rather have seen a single set printed and maybe the second set available for order, or a set printed and a sheet of stickers if you reeeeeally want the other art. Not a single player wanted to bother with the stickers, because stickers. I did eventually sticker up one character for a solo game, using the different art on opposite sides, so eventually, I’ll probably do the others as well.
Ultimately, there are a few minor details that I’m not a fan of, but the game itself is great. I didn’t really touch on the art, but it’s amazing. The scalability of difficulty is well thought out and well executed. There are a number of options for expandability, that I hope will happen someday because this is a great game.