Hail to the Thief--A Single-Take Preview of Thief's Market

Today we're looking at a new game on Kickstarter from Tasty Minstrel Games. It's a dice game from designer Dave Chalker, called Thief's Market. Is it worth your time and money, or should this market stay closed? Let's find out!

I received a prototype version of the game, with fluid rules, print-and-play cards, and tokens from other games standing in. All that to say: Anything and everything could change. 


The Gameplay

In Thief's Market, you're a gang of thieves looking to divvy up a batch of loot. Then you're using your share of the loot to buy items, riches, and henchmen. 

There 's a batch of Market cards, divided into A, B, and C decks. You remove some randomly, and then, starting with A cards, you'll set out five of these where everyone can see them. As the game progresses you'll move through B and C cards, which are generally better. 

A random start player takes all the Loot dice and rolls them. The dice and the Start Player marker go in the middle of the table--they're all "objects." 

Here's where the game gets interesting. 

The first player takes any number of objects from the middle--including the Start Player marker if he wants--and places them in front of him, leaving dice faces exactly as they are. The next player either takes any number of the remaining objects from the middle, or steals the entire pile in front another player. If a player steals, he must put at least one object from the pile back in the middle--and this could be the Start Player marker. Any returned dice are rerolled before they're added back to the middle. 

This continues until each player has a pile in front of him or her. 

Next you'll buy cards using the treasure on your dice. Four of the die faces have colored gems on them: green, white, blue, and red. One side has a yellow bag, which is turned into Gold at the end of the turn. And one face has a purple mask on it, which is turned into an Infamy token at the end of the turn. 

Now each player--starting with the player who ended up with the Start Player token--buys one card from the Market. 

These cards cost different numbers and colors of resources, and have various powers or abilities. Here are just a few examples:

  • Once per round, you may turn one green gem to a white, blue, or red gem side. (There's one of these for each of the four colors of gem.)
  • You may purchase more than one card in a round--though you still have to be able to pay for it.
  • At the end of the game, this card is worth one VP for every other card you have. 
  • At the end of the game, this card is worth 2 VPs. (There are also cards worth 3, 4, and 6 VPs.)

The game ends when the C deck runs out of cards. You add up VPs you already have, and ones earned from cards, Infamy tokens, and Gold tokens. Most VPs wins.


The Verdict

This size of the box, and the art, give the impression that this is a light filler. But it's too long to be a filler. And the dividing game is too...fragile to be played with nongamers. This is true of practically every game where you're trying to make a good decision about dividing items. If someone is bad at that, or inexperienced, they'll throw off that entire aspect of the game. That's not a dig. Just know it's not one you can pull out with the kids. (I tried, and it...didn't go well...)

The dice-dividing mechanism is exceedingly clever. It made that first part of every turn interesting and angsty. I love that. And adding in the Start Player token as an "object" is terrific, too. You know what cards are out there, and you know if so-and-so goes first, she can grab that card with the dice she has. So do you take her pile? Take the Start Player token? That's easily my favorite part of the game, and I hope to see this used elsewhere.

One odd aspect is that you always play with the same number of cards, regardless of the number of players. You do remove some cards randomly, but it just seemed you should scale the number in the game--even if it's just to make the game shorter (it does run a little long). Also, there were specific cards we felt should be removed with specific numbers of players because they'd be either overpowered or underpowered, depending on how many people were playing. It's certainly the game's biggest problem, but it's easily house-ruled if you feel strongly about it. 

People keep comparing this to Harbour, since they're the same size, and feature artwork from the same artist, but there's really no similarity in terms of gameplay. And FWIW I much prefer Thief's Market to Harbour. 

Speaking of that artwork, it's fun and evocative. The card names are a mix of things that make sense (Corrupt Official), and some that are absurd (Anthropomorphic Water Buffalo?!). The dice are great, too. It's the same quality and type of dice from Tasty Minstrel's Dungeon Roll game. 

Firestone's Final Verdict--This is probably my favorite small-box game Tasty Minstrel Games has put out. (It's close between this and Bomb Squad Academy.) The cards could use a little more development work, but there's time to do that before it goes to print. (Or maybe I'm the only reviewer who thought they were unbalanced.) The dice-choosing mechanism alone is worth the price of admission. It's clever and fun. 

Check out Thief's Market for yourself on Kickstarter.  And thanks for reading!