Thieves! is a card game for three to six players ages 8 and up from designer Richard de Rijk. It plays in about 20 minutes. Published by Calliope Games, Thieves! has a suggested price of $10.
In Thieves!, players are trying to stash loot from a heist while pushing police attention toward their opponents. The player with the most valuable loot at the end of the game wins, but every time there’s a police raid, the player with the most valuable loot loses it all.
How it works:
Players are dealt three cards. On their turn, they draw until they have four cards total. Then they play one card.
Loot cards are worth from 0 to 3. (Two of these are special cards; their value changes at the end of the game, one higher and one lower.) Players can play them face down in front of themselves or face up in front of other players.
There are two kinds of police cards — those with one or two helmets, and those with a siren. A siren card forces everyone to play any helmet cards in their hands.
Once there are four helmets on the table, the police raid the thieves. All loot cards are flipped up, and the player with the most valuable loot loses it all. Their loot and the police cards get shuffled back into the deck.
There are three kinds of thief cards that let players swap cards, draw the next two cards and play them immediately, or remove helmet cards.
Getaway cards aren’t played by any one player. If they are drawn, they are placed face up on the table, and the player gets to draw a replacement. When seven of the eight getaway cards are on the table, the game ends.
You can also play tournament style, with the winner collecting a gem each round.
Why you might buy Thieves!:
Thieves! is a clever game of pressing your luck. You want loot, but too much will net you none at all. You watch what other players are doing and try to second-guess them, gauging how much you should risk and whom you should target.
It plays well with all the suggested number of players, and it works with younger players, too.
The rules are clear, and there’s a player reference card that helps everyone keep things straight.
The art is fun and lighthearted, which matches the game.
There are some surprises as you learn the game and keep playing, particularly regarding when to keep loot and when to dump it on another player. And the players at the table will largely determine how fun the game is.
Why you might not buy Thieves!:
Thieves! is lighthearted and very straightforward. If you’re looking for a game with a lot of depth, Thieves! won’t do. But it doesn’t pretend to.
The player who got raided last will almost always lose. There’s just no way to catch up before the end of the game. Since there are several police raids during the game, this works, but you’ll have to accept that the points at the end of the game don’t reflect how people played throughout.
Since you can’t hide your loot, it’s easy to target the player who is ahead, especially after a police raid when you know what everyone has.
If you’re looking for a fun heist game, Thieves! delivers. But you may feel like your choices don’t matter very much in the end. I don’t mind randomness in games — in fact, I like it — but Thieves! is a little too random for me. It feels like everything comes down to which cards are drawn at the end of the game and in what order.
It’s fun, and I’d probably never say no if someone asked to play, but I don’t see myself suggesting it very often.
Full disclosure: I got a review copy of Thieves! from Calliope Games. I wasn’t required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.