- Designer: Reiner Knizia
- Publisher: Helvetiq
- Players: 2-5
- Age: 8+
- Time: 15 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Helvetiq
Art Robbery was the game that most interested me from my pre-SPIEL research of the Helvetiq games. While I’ve always had a soft spot for these lighter family oriented games, this one comes from a more established designer, one certain Dr. Reiner Knizia. I usually like the games from the other Gaming Doctor, so I was quick to request a chance to play it.
In this game, all the players are members of an art theft gang. In each of the four rounds of the game, your gang manages to steal a bunch of stuff, and you are playing a game to split up the spoils. The player who is able to gather the most stuff AND not have the worst alibi will win the game.
The game is played over four rounds (raids), and each one has a stack of chips specific to the raid, with numbers from 0 to 5 on them. Additionally, all of the 0 tiles and some of the numbered tiles have little white dots on them which represent alibis. There is also a deck of cards which is comprised of numbered cards (again from 0 to 5), guard dog cards, boss cards and greedy thief cards. These cards are shuffled and each player is dealt a hand of five cards to start the game.
In each round, the specific stack of tiles for this round are placed faceup on the table. The active player chooses a card from their hand and plays it on top of the discard pile.
If it is a number card – That player then takes a tile of matching number from the center of the table and puts it in front of him. If there are none in the center of the table, he steals the matching tile from in front of any player. In the rare case that there is not a tile with a matching number, nothing happens.
If it is a Boss card – you can take the Boss tile (which also has a number 5 on it). The catch here is that at the end of the round, you only keep the Boss tile if you also have a 4 or 5 from this round in front of you. If you don’t have 4 or 5, the Boss tile is discarded.
If it is a Greedy Thief card – you can take any number tile from the center of the table. You cannot steal a tile from another player with this card.
If it is a Guard Dog card – take the Guard Dog figure and put it in front of you. At any point in the game if someone tries to steal from you and you have the Guard Dog, you can choose to either let them steal the tile or you can give them the Guard Dog figure instead.
The round continues until the moment when the last tile is taken from the center of the table. At this time, the player with the Boss tile should check to see if they are able to keep it or not. Everyone takes their collected tiles, places them in a facedown stack near them. They can no longer be stolen, and they will be scored at the end of the game.
Continue this pattern until all four rounds are complete. At this time, all players flip over all their collected tiles. The first thing to do is to count alibis – that is, the white dots next to some of the numbers on the tiles. The player(s) who have the fewest alibi points are automatically disqualified from winning. The remaining players sum up the points on their tiles and the player with the most points wins. Ties are broken in favor of the tied player with the most alibis.
My thoughts on the game
Art Robbery is a clever little take-that game with a bit of hand management thrown in. In each round, you are trying to gather the most points – but it will take a bit of luck as well as some skill in choosing cards to end up in the right place at the end of the round. If you go out too fast, you might collect all the high point tiles from the start, but then your opponents will have a chance to steal those tiles away before the end of the round.
The sudden end to each of the rounds is exciting in its unpredictability. Oftentimes a round can go on for awhile as players continue to steal desired tiles from each other, not wanting to take the last tile. However, at some point, a player will feel confident enough in their score to want to take that last tile and lock in their scoring. Being able to read the other players to see when they might want to do this is key.
Hand management can be important here; again, you want to play your cards at the right time, so you’ll have to carefully choose when to play a certain card and when to save it for a later play. And, of course, as with many card games, it helps to be lucky in drawing the cards that you need into your hand. The good thing about Art Robbery is that it is rare to have a hand that does nothing to further your cause – it’s just a matter of figuring out what is the best card now, etc.
As you play, you’ll get a feel for the risk/reward of the timing. You don’t want to play a Boss card too early, because then everyone else will surely try to steal the Boss or your 4 or 5 away from you; but if you wait too long, you’ll lose the chance to have the tile at all! You can essentially skip a turn early on to get the Guard Dog, but this will only protect you from one theft.
The take-that part of the game isn’t too severe, and oftentimes there isn’t a choice of which player to steal from (because there might only be one instance of a particular number in the round). Of course, with a hand of 5 cards, you probably could figure out how to always steal from a particular player, but it probably wouldn’t make sense tactically to do so.
Games move quickly, about 15-20 minutes, and it’s just the right time length for this sort of game. You have a chance to succeed in a few rounds, and the alibi elimination system tends to keep everyone in the game because unless you have a great memory, you’re never quite sure who’s going to be eliminated at the end! This one is definitely a good pick for families, and it also has a small footprint which would make it a good restaurant/picnic game as well. The box is maybe a bit chunky to fit in your pocket, but it’s pretty small and I’m sure you could find somewhere to stash it.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Not for me..