Is There Honor Among Thieves? A Review of Calliope Games' Thieves!
Bluff your opponents, call the cops on them, and steal their loot, in this light card game that proves that there is no honor among thieves.
Each player is dealt three cards and the deck is set in the middle of the table. On your turn you draw up to four cards and then play one. If you draw a Getaway card you automatically set it face up on the table. This does not count as your play this turn and you must draw and play another card.
There are several types of cards. Loot cards have a value from zero to three. You can either play a loot card face down into your stash or face up into another player’s stash. There are special loot cards which are worth different amounts depending on whether or not it is the end of the game or a police raid. For instance, a diamond ring is worth four points during a raid but only one point at the end.
Police cards are played in the center of the table and have either a value of one or two police helmets. Once there are four helmets on the table, there’s a police raid. Players reveal all the cards in their stash and the player with the most points is caught by the cops and must shuffle their stash back into the deck, along with the police card and all played thief cards.
Thief cards give you special actions such as stealing a card from another player’s stash or forcing your opponents to play all their cop cards.
Once the seventh Getaway card is drawn the game ends, and the player with the most loot points currently in their stash wins the game.
The key to success in Thieves! is keeping your stash properly balanced, if it’s worth too much you’re at risk during the police raids, while if it’s too low the game could end and you’ll lose. These considerations keep things in flux with no one player ever staying in the lead for long. The constant shifting of the stashes keeps players engaged as you’re never so far behind that you can’t catch up with a well-timed raid. Turns are also extremely fast so there’s limited downtime.
Since you never know when or at what speed the Getaway cards will be drawn, you’re never going to be quite certain as to when the game will end. This adds an element of risk to the game which, combined with the bluffing of what cards you play face down on your stash, fits the theme of the game well. But with a little bad luck, the seventh Getaway card can lurk out of reach and it does mean that the game can drag on for just a shade too long.
Thieves! is a great family game. Kids and adults can both learn it and have a fairly equal chance at mastering it. There are interesting strategic choices that you have to make which keeps it from becoming overly simplistic while still having easy to learn rules. If you enjoy light card games, Thieves! is one you should definitely pick up.
Pros: Players are all in the running until the very end, good family game
Cons: Sheer luck can force the game to run a trifle too long
Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.