Take the Money and Run--A Double-Take Review of Burgle Bros.

Today we're reviewing a recently released co-op from designer/publisher Tim Fowers: Burgle Bros. In Burgle Bros. you're part of a crack team of criminals looking to pull off impossible heists. It's like Oceans 11, except Oceans 4. And rather than total knowledge, you have no knowledge of the building's layout before you head in. You'll be trying to crack the safe on three levels of a building, and then escaping through the roof. A little bit brave and a little bit stupid. Sounds fun! Let's see if this co-op is worth the risk. 


The Components

  • Cards--including Character cards, Patrol cards, Tool cards, and Event cards.
  • 48 Floor tiles
  • 24 Walls
  • 9 dice
  • A pile of tokens to indicate many different conditions and pieces of information. 

The Setup

First you construct the bank building, which has three floors. You set aside three Stairway tiles and three Safe tiles, shuffle up the remaining cards and create three decks of 14 tiles. You add one Safe and one Stairway card into each of those decks, shuffle them up, and create three 4 x 4 grids, representing the three floors of the bank. 

Then you place eight wall pieces on each of the levels. The game comes with an "introductory" setup for those, but you can put them anywhere you want. Once you've played the game a few times you can create difficult hallways and choke-points to up the difficulty.

Then you create three piles of Patrol cards and shuffle them up. Place a Guard and dice next to each deck. Set the dice to 2 on the 1st floor, 3 on the 2nd floor, and 4 on the 3rd floor. 

Give each player three Stealth tokens and two Character cards to choose from. Once everyone has picked a Character and read the special ability aloud for everyone, you're ready to go.

The Gameplay

First you reveal the top card of the 1st-level Patrol deck and place the Guard piece on the corresponding spot. Each Patrol deck has each tile in the grid in it once, so Guards will eventually visit every room on a level. Now your team picks any grid space to start on. You reveal it, but know that none of the effects on the card will trigger this very first time you enter it. Then reveal the next card from the Patrol deck and place the Guard's movement die there--that's the Guard's next destination.

On a player's turn he has 4 Actions to spend. Things he can do with those Actions include:

  • Peek at an orthogonally adjacent Floor tile, which reveals it but doesn't trigger it. (1 Action)
  • Move to an orthogonally adjacent Floor tile, immediately revealing it if it's facedown, and triggering any effects on it. (1 Action)
  • If you're on a Computer Room tile, add a Hack token to it. (1 token per Action spent)
  • When on a Safe tile, spend 2 Actions to add a die to the tile, or spend 1 Action to roll any dice already on the card in an attempt to crack the safe. 

If you only use 0,1, or 2 Actions (and this does happen, due to to room effects and strategery), you have to draw an Event card--some of which are good and some of which are bad.

At the end of each player's turn, the Guard on your current floor moves. He moves the number shown on the die and toward the room the die is on. He always takes the shortest route--taking into account Walls and so forth--and if there are two routes with the same number of steps, he'll always take the most clockwise route. He ignores room effects. If he doesn't reach the destination room, he just stays where he is and will continue to that destination on the next player's turn. If he does reach the destination, you draw a new Patrol card and if he still has movement points left, he heads off toward that new destination.

The Guard's speed can be temporarily affected by Alarms. You add the number of Alarms currently going off on the floor to his movement. Also, every time you run through the Patrol deck, you reshuffle it and permanently add one to the Guard's movement die. 

When someone triggers an Alarm in a room, you place an Alarm token and the Guard's movement die in that room. That's his new destination. He'll move there and turn off the Alarm once he gets there. If there's more than one Alarm on the floor, he'll go to the closest first, turn it off, and then head to the next one. If there's a tie on closest Alarm, players choose where he goes, so you can use them to your advantage. 

The whole Guard mechanism is really clever. You can look through the discard pile, so you sort of have an idea where he still has to go and can gamble a little bit. You can also strategically trigger Alarms to move him away from you or another player or the Safe or whatever you need. Once someone heads up the Stairway to a new level, you draw a Patrol card to see where that Guard starts. It could be right on top of you! So that adds some fun tension. 

If the Guard moves into the same room as you (or you move to the same room as a Guard), you lose one of your Stealth tokens.

The Rooms

These are just a few of the Rooms, but I want to give you an idea of what's out there. 

There are three types of Alarm rooms with corresponding Computer rooms where you can put Hack tokens to spend to keep the Alarm from triggering: the Fingerprint, Laser, and Motion. The Laser room costs 2 Actions to enter (you're stealthily weaving through the lasers and it takes extra time). If you can't or don't want to spend the extra Action, an Alarm goes off. In the Motion room, you can't enter and leave the room in the same turn, otherwise it triggers and Alarm. The Fingerprint room triggers automatically when you enter it unless you have a Hack token on the corresponding Computer room.

In the Thermo room you can't end your turn there, or you trip an Alarm

The Workshop room lets you draw a Tool card. Those are fun cards that let you break the game. There are a bunch of them, including Smoke Bombs, Blueprints, Donuts, and Dynamite. 

The Scanner room triggers an Alarm if you're holding a Tool. 

The Foyer room lets Guards see into it from adjacent rooms (whereas normally they can only see you if you're on the same tile). It's particularly dangerous because you lose a Stealth if they see you as they move onto an adjacent room, and then you lose another if they continue moving into the Foyer room. 

Service Ducts: There are two in the game, and once they're both discovered they are considered adjacent for movement--even if they're on different floors. 

There are many more rooms, but as you can see, these are just FUN ideas.

The Safes

In order to crack the Safes you have to get dice onto the Safe room and then people have to spend Actions there to roll the dice. Why? Well, you also have to reveal all of the rooms in the same horizontal and vertical lines as the safe. Each room has a number on it, and those numbers are the "combination" of the safe. So whenever you roll, if you roll any of those numbers, you can put a Cracked token on that room. Those numbers stay turn over turn, so you'll have fewer to find as you go along. And if more than one room has the same number, you only have to roll it once! When you crack the safe you get to draw a Tool card, and it also triggers a silent Alarm, which permanently increases the Guard's movement dice on that floor and every floor below it. But hopefully you've found the Stairway card by now and can head to the next floor. 

You win the game by cracking the safes on each floor, and then making it through the stairway card on the top floor, which leads to the "roof" and your waiting helicopter. 

You lose if anyone has to give up a Stealth token but has none to give. They rat our the rest of the team. 

The Verdict

Firestone--I love this game. It's clever , puzzley, and innovative. And above all FUN. I had a lot of fun playing this. Sure, some setups will be worse or better than others, but when a game is this enjoyable, it can cover some of those slight flaws. 

Jeremiah--Yeah, super solid game! I'm a big fan of co-op gameplay and this is a great variation on a tried and true co-op mechanic. The tile setup and flipping feels slightly like Forbidden Dessert/Island, but that's really only in the tactile sense--aside from that it's all-out theme-driven mayhem, and it's really, really fun!

Firestone--While this has been a hit with the game group, it's also a surprising hit with the family. We've played the "simpler" 2-story game a number of times, and my kids love it--and my wife even liked it! Shocker!

Jeremiah--I know I just mentioned theme, but I think that's what makes it super accessible. Your non-gamer friends aren't going to sit down and enjoy a good game about farming, but they will crack their knuckles and get to work on that safe! I like how the game forces you to explore the floors beyond just finding the safe on each floor. You also have to search the right rooms for the combination, it's a nice touch that adds a great level of teamwork. 

Firestone--The game is tough! Especially as you add players. Those Guards get worse and worse as you progress, and as you add people, the Guards are really flying around before it gets to your turn.

Jeremiah--Yeah, this seems to happen a lot in some co-ops. Pandemic is insanely hard with 4 players as opposed to 2; you have more abilities at the team's disposal, but you're dead in the water a lot longer while the game is getting more turns. It's maybe the one flaw in some co-ops that has yet to be overcome by designers: getting it to scale evenly across the number of players involved.

Jeremiah--Everything about the game works within the theme, even the box resembles the shape of the building you're breaking into, and the graphic/art design is super top notch, it's a great, great looking game as well as fun!

Firestone--Yeah, the hipster '60s aesthetic makes me feel like I'm hanging out with Dean-o and Sinatra--or perhaps in an episode of Mad Men. 

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Burgle Bros. is an extremely accessible co-op, a perfect notch up in difficulty that falls somewhere right above Forbidden Island/Desert, and just under Pandemic. A great theme and unique synergy between the tiles make Burgle Bros. an amazing addition to your co-op collection! 

Firestone's Final Verdict--After my very first play, Burgle Bros. became one of my favorite co-ops. And I picked it for the #5 spot in my Top 10 of 2015 list. It's thematic, tense, gorgeous, and well-thought-out. And most importantly, it's FUN! If you like co-ops, get your burgle on!

Thanks for reading!