It’s been a long time since I’ve played a tabletop game that had the phrase “batteries not included” on the box. When I was younger, I remember playing games like Merlin, Simon and Perfection, but I think I might be one of the few children in the 1970s and 80s who never played Operation. Nowadays, I keep my electronic gaming and my cardboard gaming separate. Which is why I was surprised by how much I enjoyed playing Heist by Megableu USA / University Games. This fully interactive, completely cooperative game reminds me of a combination of Perfection and Simon. Perfection because mistakes have dramatic consequences. Simon because you are following timed instructions.
This game is the furthest that I have gone from my “pocket games” roots. The box itself is impressively tall, even though the game itself is about half that size. The core of the game is a 14 cm tall plastic safe, which holds the computer that gives you your instructions, and the mechanism that opens the safe if you win. It also has four buttons corresponding to the four roles on your heist gang: the Money Man, the Hacker, the Lookout, and the Explosives Expert. There are also eight plastic tools: laptop, map, goggles, headset, drill, flashlight, gloves and explosives. Rounding out the contents of the box is $50 million in play money, 12 miniature gold bars, and a rulebook. Not included are the 3 AA batteries you need to bring the Heist to life.
This is a co-op game, meaning that either everyone wins, or everyone loses. But just because you aren’t competing, doesn’t mean there isn’t a strong desire to win. In fact, we got so swept up in the spirit of the game that we couldn’t make ourselves make enough mistakes to see how impressive the “alarm and police siren” is if you lose. Heist is advertised as being for 1 – 4 players, although a minimum of 2 roles must be chosen for the game to work. If you want an extra challenge, the booklet reminds you that you can play with all 4 roles even if you don’t have 4 players. There are 5 difficulty levels, and if you play a perfect game at Level 5, you unlock a bonus level. For the bonus level, not only is the reaction time of all commands drastically reduced, but players will also be asked to switch roles during the game. The bonus level remains in effect as long as the game is turned on. If you turn off the game, or remove the batteries, you will need to “earn” that level again.
So how does this Heist go down? Set up begins by installing the batteries (if you haven’t already) and turning the power switch to On. Next, remove the lid and place the 12 gold bars into their slots and carefully replace the lid. Take all 8 tools and put them in the center of the table, within reach of all players. Once the game is turned on, you will hear the voice of The Boss. The first thing the Boss will do is ask you to select your roles, which you will do by pressing the button on the side closest to you. Next, choose the difficulty level. For level one, do nothing. Each time you press a button, the difficulty level goes up. Once the difficulty level is locked in, hang on for the most intense 5 minutes of your life.
The Boss will give you a series of commands, which you must follow as quickly as possible. The commands are Get, Pass, Trade, Use, and Press. The Get command is simple, in the form of Role Get Tool. For example “Money Man, get the Laptop”. The Pass command moves a tool from one player to another. For example, “pass the Laptop to the Explosives Expert”. The next most complicated command is Trade, where 2 tools will trade hands. For example “trade the Laptop for the Gloves”. The Use command tests whether the other commands have been followed correctly. When you hear, “use the Flashlight”, whoever has the flashlight must press their button. At higher difficulties, you may be asked to use 2 tools at the same time. Every time you correctly use a tool, you are told to grab money, either $1 million, $3 million or $5 million; a perfect game gets you $50 million, plus the gold bars in the safe. The final command is “Everybody Press your Buttons now.” This command is also rewarded by a money grab. If you press the wrong button, or don’t react fast enough, that is one mistake. The Boss will not announce every mistake, but he will tell you when you only have one mistake left. At level 1, you are allowed 4 mistakes, any harder than that, and you only have 3 mistakes before the alarm. The secret bonus level adds a new command, Change Roles, which requires all players to move one space to the left (clockwise).
For a hands-on game, Heist is surprisingly fragile. As the game progresses, the lid of the safe lifts up, and if you follow every command, the “door” opens completely and the gold bars drop to the table. The problem is, if you touch or bump the top of the safe, you can undo that progress. We all thought that children would have a lot of fun playing this game, but I’m worried that the safe might not be able to handle a child’s level of enthusiasm and lack of motor control.
I was really impressed by this game. The commands change every time which, combined with the multiple difficulty levels, adds to the replay value. The computer does an amazing job keeping track of everyone’s actions. Either that, or I’m just easily impressed. The thing that I loved the most was the excitement level. The tension is there the whole time, and the Boss somehow makes 5 minutes feel like forever. Get this fun, crazy game if you want to add some drama to your party.