Crack a few safes and escape. Sounds easy enough for the Burgle Bros, right?
Burgle Bros is a co-operative action planning heist game from Fowers Games. Players choose their character and jump into a multi-floor modular board setup in which they must find and crack safes, hoping to safely escape while avoiding pesky patrol guards. The game plays 1-4 players and has a wide range of play times due to the frequency of early losses and infrequency of making it through a full game, but generally speaking, most games will last in the 15-30 minute range. The game ends when all of characters have escaped with the loot, or any one of the characters have been caught by a guard.
The game starts on the bottom floor of a building, which is a randomly placed grid, with a guard setup on unexplored room tiles. Players choose which edge room they want to enter through and the heist is on. Each character gets four actions during their turn, the most basic of which are simply taking a peek or moving into an adjacent room, either of which will uncover the hidden room tile. Each room has its own special conditions which are played out when a character walks into them. Some rooms trigger alarms which result in the guards coming to check it out, others provide benefits to the characters, and some allow you to move between floors in the building. Players are ultimately looking for the Safe room, which is where the loot is stored. Once found, a series of numbers must be rolled (the exact numbers are based on the board layout and must be uncovered) in order to crack the safe. Once the safe is cracked, a tool and loot card is drawn by the character who cracked it, and players shift their focus to the next floor, or escaping.
After each player’s turn, the guard on the floor of that player moves. Guards have a predetermined tile which they will move towards in the most direct route possible until they arrive, at which point a new destination is drawn. The exception to this is if an alarm is triggered, it will divert the guard from a predetermined destination towards the room which generated the alarm, and increase the guard’s movement until they reach the alarm. Should a guard pass through or land on a tile which contains a character, the character must give up one of their stealth points. Each character starts with three, and at the point any one of them is required to give one up but doesn’t have one to give, the game immediately ends in a loss.
That’s a thirty second overview, but there is a lot going on in this game. Each room does something different and knowing how to use those room abilities to your advantage is ultimately the crux of the game. Triggering alarms to keep the guard away from other players is a crucial part of the game, for example. At the same time, there are rooms which can allow you to create hack tokens which allow you to pass through alarm rooms without triggering an alarm. The safe room has a fun, or infuriating, mechanic where you must spend two actions to place a die on the room, then one action to roll any dice which are there. This results in a risk/reward system, do you spend extra actions to get more dice to roll, or try to save those valuable actions and hope the roll works out for you?
The game also has tools and loot. Tools are gained when a safe is cracked or a specific room type is entered for the first time. They can be huge in your quest to successfully pull of the heist. They can provide extra stealth points, make the safe easier to crack, or even create a handy staircase to the next floor in your current room by detonating a bomb. Loot, as the game explains, is what you’re here for. It is picked up when a safe is cracked and has a negative effect to the character holding it, sometimes extending to the others as well. One example simply takes away one action each turn from the character holding it, there are some fun loot items, such as a pesky kitten who wanders around. Both tools and loot can be traded between characters standing in the same room.
Ultimately, the game is about cooperation and coordination among the characters . Each character has their own special ability which can help uncover rooms, move other players, crack the safe, slow the guard, among many other things. Using these abilities, tools, and rooms to keep each of the characters safe from guards is the only way to win. Sacrificing one character to a guard is often necessary to keep another character with low stealth points out of harm’s way.
This game is hard. Very, very hard. It will take a while to understand the intricacies of the rooms, tools, and character abilities. Once you do, you can then start to plan things out properly to put yourself in a position to win. Even then, you can easily get thwarted by a bad luck floor layout, guard draw, or even dice roll. The game offers ways to mitigate almost everything, but a couple of bad luck draws in a row can easily undo even the best planned heists. Difficulty is a common thread among co-ops, and Burgle Bros is no exception.
See Pixelated Cardboard’s full review HERE.