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The Mansky Caper Review

Quick Look: The Mansky Caper

Designer: Ken Franklin
Artist: Matt Franklin
Publisher: Calliope Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


tl;dr: A quick, heist-themed, press-your-luck experience with some friendly take-that. 

Getting to the Game: Apropos of this section, Calliope has done some WORK for their players here. On the left is a picture of the inside of the box immediately after taking the shrink off the outside and lifting the top. I have literally not touched any of the game components yet. There are no tokens to punch and no assembly to be done on the safes. This is by far the friendliest setup experience I've encountered, and I want to give Calliope their props here. To set up for the game, each player chooses their character, each with a special power. Put your standee and your tile in the same color base, and take one favor token. Shuffle and randomly choose six room tiles and, without looking at them, place them face down in the center of your table. Next to those, add the getaway car tile. Add an empty cardboard safe to each room. Mansky's mansion is ready to be manhandled.

The goal here is to get in and get out with the most loot. Each safe has precious gems and coins, but also surprises meant to distract you and deadly traps meant to protect the treasure. The end of the game is either when all rooms have been destroyed by the traps, or when every player agrees that they should leave the house. This latter end condition reflects the incredibly friendly nature of this game; in the end, we all do better when we all work together.

Playing the Game: On your turn, you'll choose to either enter a room and draw a token from the safe in that room, or you can leave the mansion and head to the getaway car, securing the loot you've burgled in your personal stash. Each room has varying loot-to-danger ratios in their safes, however, and if you're in a room with someone else, anything of value you remove from the safe is split evenly. I mentioned it above, but I want to be clear: attention has been paid very carefully to make sure this is a game you can play with younger kids or with those who don't like cutthroat games. There's definitely an advantage to being in a room by yourself, but anything good or bad in those rooms is going to happen (with some exceptions) to everyone present. The getaway car is shared by all players, so it's another place where a very friendly balancing mechanic has been implemented: at any time when two or more players are in the car together, any of them can forego their action on their turn to instead force everyone present to empty out their loot stashes and split them up as evenly as possible between everyone present. All of this serves to make your games of Mansky Caper a very tight scoring affair. Wins and losses are often going to happen by virtue of a couple coins, so every piece of precious treasure matters.

Mansky also comes up with a great twist on the player powers, as well. Each player has an ability that triggers in a certain scenario. Lucky Lucy, for instance, will allow you to ignore any text, good or bad, on a Gasp! card, while at the same time doubling the loot gained; however, Lucky Lucy doesn't ever get to use that power for herself. Whenever any other player meets the conditions of her power, they can toss her their favor token to activate that ability for themselves. If you have no favor tokens, you can't activate anyone's power, but tokens can be traded or bartered in-game. In practice, this actually works quite well to add another layer of intrigue.

You are eventually going to succumb to Mansky's dubious traps, however. Whether it's being startled into dropping your loot by a loud noise or getting a strange sense of foreboding that causes you to leave the house and head back to the car, your plans will change. There are even traps that eventually cause the entire room to explode, forcing all your hard-earned wealth to disappear. The stress of deciding when to press and when to retreat is most of the game, and the tension created strikes an amazing balance. 

There are things that don't work as well, though. Boiled down past the veneer of the heist, Mansky is essentially a calculator sim. You'll always know within a couple tokens what's left in each chest, so all you have to do is find the room with the best odds. This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the loot tokens themselves are variable and drawn blind. The end conditions rely on table agreement or someone pushing too hard, so the end of the game turns into a slog of the people who think they're going to lose desperately drawing tokens until they explode. It's hard to get unanimous agreement when it includes one player who absolutely knows they're going to lose if they do.

Artwork and Components: Artist Franklin has created an amazing world for this game to live in, and I hope to see more from this IP with him at the pen. The characters are delightful, brought to life with vivid expressions, and even the rooms themselves become characters with wonderfully detailed walls and mantles. The art deco style from the back of the room tiles to the safes themselves fits the overall theme nicely, and the overall look of the table when playing is superb.


I can't say enough about the components here. First of all, as mentioned before, not having to punch out a million cardboard tokens and assemble the safes is a gift. The jewels themselves aren't large or heavy, and they come in a wonderful array of colors. The negative I'll bring up is actually with the safes themselves - after only a couple of plays, we felt like the lid of the safe would eventually tear off. This may not be game-breaking, as you can always avert your gaze before drawing, but it would be a huge bummer. Also, as you can see below, there's a small gap at the bottom of the safes that's just large enough for a token to get wedged in- meaning that drawing that token is much harder to do if you don't notice it get stuck. Overall, though, the components serve the game really well. 

A quick side-note here: the instruction book for the game is a freaking comic book! The quick guide is built into the story of the graphic novel, and it's just about the best thing I've ever seen. Proper rules are also included in the back of that book, but the fact that this was even greenlit by Calliope proves they're taking risks, and they're paying off. 

The Good: Gameplay is tense but has built-in rubber banding. Components and art are worth the price of admission. The comic book rules are inspired. Neat take on player powers.

The Bad: Math majors or oddsmakers are going to be able to do much better than everyone else. Endgame can be a drag.

Score: While The Mansky Caper isn't perfect, what it does well far outweighs where it stumbles. The overall friendliness of this game is of particular note, and it changes the table dynamic in a very cool way. Despite my reservations about the endgame and how solutions can be mathed out, the experience of looting Mansky's house isn't one that should be missed. I'm giving The Mansky Caper a score of Phat Lewts.

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About the Author:

Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
The Mansky Caper Review The Mansky Caper Review Reviewed by The Madjai on September 26, 2018 Rating: 5

1 comment

  1. Thanks for the great review! I will comment on the safe durability - I denied this game 50 times over 2 weeks of cons, and all the lids are intact. I believe their durability will surprise you!