Burgle Bros. - The ultimate tabletop Heist. Assemble your team and pull of the heist of the century. Cooperative game for 1-4 players. (Fowers Games)
Action Point Allowance System
Variable Player Powers
Designer: Tim Fowers
Artists: Virginia Critchfield, Ryan Goldsberry, Heiko Günther
Publisher: Fowers Games
Category: Exploration, Maze, Spies/Secret Agents
Price: $36.99 Fowers Games
Burgle Bros. is a cooperative heist game for 1-4 players. Burgle Bros features the design of Tim Fowers. Ryan Goldsberry, whose also featured art direction in other Fowers Games, teams up with Virginia Critchfield and Heiko Günther to create the artwork for Burgle Bros. Burgle Bros. was successfully funded on Kickstarter after Fowers’ success with Paperback.
Tim Fowers is a board and card game designer who owns Fowers Games. Fowers has also designed Hardback, Paperback, Fugitive, and Word Domination.
Burgle Bros. plays mostly harmlessly. The theme might be troubling for some as players are robbing banks, offices, or pick and choose your location. Nothing about Burgle Bros. is vicious, and because the game plays cooperatively, it encourages teamwork and sneaking around guards instead of enacting violence on them.
Three red dice and a bunch of green ones. A stack of tiny wooden sticks and silhouettes of people. Many tokens of many colors. Stickers. Lots of cards.
Who knew you could shove so much in a box this small? Who would guess this game could eat up so much table space and enforce relentless, heart-pounding agita for a tableful of friends?
Burgle Bros. is a game that begs for teamwork and communication. Those with more heists under their belt might feel like a veteran criminal, but Burgle Bros. laughs at would-be quarterbacks. Each player boasts a special ability, and as beginner’s games are mastered, players can simply flip their character card to increase the chaos and complicate the system. Not only do players’ powers become their own, but each action must be heartfelt and well-thought out.
Like all good cooperative games, Burgle Bros. gives players a goal and only so much time to achieve it. Players don’t have much time to dally. Here, games aren’t decided by unfavorable draws from a brutal deck of cards like Pandemic (though guard decks do build the suspense), but instead by the unfortunate placement of each player’s aspiring thieves. Burgle Bros. offers just enough for players to know and work against, but keeps hidden the many tricks and traps of the various corporate office buildings players will explore.
Setup for each game is relatively simple but feels tedious over time. A building is created by taking room tiles and shuffling one safe and one stairs tile to make 2-3 stacks of 16 tiles each. These create face-down 4×4 floors where wooden wall components must be placed to both increase difficulty and keep varied the complexity of movement. Players can either follow the rulebook’s recommendations for each game, or create their own challenging floor setup. After players choose characters, they’ll determine where each floor’s guard will spawn by flipping a card from each floor’s guard deck. A precarious red die is placed on the spot the guard hopes to arrive, and players must plan accordingly.
Games of Burgle Bros. usually start safe and quiet. Players spend their four actions peeking and revealing adjacent room tiles, slowly plotting a scheme toward victory. Oh, to win, players must discover the safe on each floor, and then reveal all tiles in that safe’s row and column. Each tile shows a number between 1-6 and players must add dice to the safe, roll those dice, and unlock each of the six digits by rolling the proper value. Cracking a safe grants the opener both a tool and a loot card. Once all safes have been cracked, players must escape through the rooftop stairs to win the game.
The alternative path to ending a game is losing, and this happens when one player runs out of stealth tokens. Consider these a pool of health, and each time a guard enters a character’s tile, that player loses one token. Each player starts with three, so over time the pool thins. There are a few ways to regain or subside losing tokens, but they are rare, so the crux of Burgle Bros. becomes the delicate balance of choosing the risky openings to achieve goals versus how many tokens a player can stand to lose.
In a way, Burgle Bros. almost upsets its own equilibrium by letting players “cheat” the game system. At the end of a player’s turn, he must move the guard on the floor he ends up on. This means a player can accomplish part of his goal and then quickly move to a different floor to move the guard on a less important floor. For example, once the bottom floor’s safe is resolved, players need to head up to the next floor. Having multiple players activate a higher speed guard makes the game difficult, so it might be in the team’s interest to keep half the team downstairs to avoid triggering the guard on the second floor. It feels cheaty, but it’s no more hilarious than characters who can trigger a multitude of various alarms solely for the purpose of attempting to drag a guard back and forth between unimportant areas.
The thrill of Burgle Bros. comes with various crazy events that take place. These are both engineered by players and the baked in game mechanisms.
Characters can do exciting things like blast down walls with dynamite, or another character who can summon an obnoxious bird who essentially follows the guard around, slowing them down. The visual of a bird swooping down from the ceiling to attack the guard is hysterical and bound to bring constant laughter from the table. Players might need to rush and accidentally step into a motion sensor or need to spend two moves to get through a room of lasers. The sparkles from a diamond headband means the character holding this gem-encrusted crown is visible from all adjacent spaces, which hurts his viability on heated floors. Players can even explode the floor or ceiling to allow extra access outside of the stairs tile.
Burgle Bros. provides dozens of fascinating scenarios, which all feel enticingly randomly generated, making each game tell a unique and notorious tale of stealth, crime, and hilarity. Even though players can create their own floor layouts, randomly placed tiles and cards in decks keep Burgle Bros. interesting and replayable.
Burgle Bros. even features an inviting art style. Each tile looks like an engaging blueprint from some retro-70s architectural book. Players can choose between a casual or stealthy illustration sticker for each uniquely-cut meeple. Dice are tiny and are a blast to roll. Each color choice feels intentional, evoking a sneaky atmosphere from meeples to the backs of floor tiles. Goldsberry and crew are in their best form here. Burgle Bros. is a sight to see. Not included in this game, there are 3d versions of towers for tabletop gamers to pursue, creating an even more interesting visual for players to enjoy.
Ultimately, those looking for a unique cooperative experience with a fair bit of replayability and disinterest in pulling disease cubes from the board might find solace here. For myself, cooperative games are fading fast, and I’m pursuing one vs many experiences, or more dynamic AI-controlled foes (e.g. Gloomhaven). That said, I see the charm here, and I recommend it. If you can get past setup and learn to love the flow of guards and movement, you’ll really enjoy this one.
A review copy of Burgle Bros. was provided by Fowers Games.
+ Provides many opportunities for big moments and thematic choices
+ Great presentation through components and color choices
+ Lots of interesting decisions to make
- Probably only enjoyable if you are already into cooperative games
- Can game the system quite a bit