Crime is usually a good theme for a board game. There’s an inherent tension to pulling off a heist, that makes for a good story. As the name may suggest, Age of Thieves is a game in which master criminals compete to steal the most precious gem in the centre of the board.
It’s a clock-work fantasy themed game. Each player takes control of a criminal, each with their own unique traits and character. For example, you may be the master of the sewers and back alleys, or a super-inventive type who always seems to have the right sort of gadget to get out of a sticky spot.
The set-up is pretty easy, and involves shuffling cards and peppering the board with city guards. Get too close to a guard and he’ll arrest you, putting you in the clink and scuppering any plan you may have. Each player has a number of actions they can make each round, determined by how many action points they spend. These determine the order in which actions are taken. Every round the guards have their own ‘initiative’, so if the guards roll 4 that round and you’ve only spent 3 points on moving, then the guards move before you do. Most of the time, you know in advance what the guards are acting on, but not always.
Each round you can draw various cards and these let you do things like hide in the sewers or move quickly round the board by launching a clockwork grappling hook. There are things to steal on the way to the middle of the board and certain squares have other, potentially useful, goodies such as ‘avoid guards’ or ‘get out of jail’.
However, once the jewel in the centre is successfully stolen, all hell breaks loose. More guards appear on the board, captains man the city gates and your point of exit becomes limited to one side of the board. At this point, it’s a mad scramble to get out of the city before the authorities catch you. At the same time everyone else is trying to escape. Oh, and your fellow players can steal your ill-gotten gains off you too!
This makes Age of Thieves a game of two parts. The first half is about positioning, strategy and trying to draw as many cards as you can. The second part is about betrayal, improvisation and out-thinking each other. This tension inevitably leads to fun; it’s hard to play this without quoting heist movies as you go along.
It is flawed: The pieces are quite basic (though they are sculpted) and the board is a little obscure in places (it took us a while to work out what all the board symbols mean). The components are a little on the flimsy side, but not in a way that will cause regular gamers distress. Overall, good fun.
AGE OF THIEVES / DESIGNER: SŁAWOMIR STĘPIEŃ / ARTISTS: DAMIAN BAJOWSKI, BARTEK FEDYCZAK, MICHAŁ LECHOWSKI, MICHAŁ TELIGA / PUBLISHER: GALAKTA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW