The Daily Worker Placement

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Burgle Bros, or Ocean’s 2 to 4

by | published Friday, April 29, 2016

Another bead of perspiration appears on his forehead. It hangs momentarily as it gathers enough weight to push downward to his already salty brow, leaving his gaze free to scan the area for trouble.

But that’s not his job.

The Hawk and the Spotter are the eyes. He’s the ears. As he turns the dial, the safe speaks. And when a safe speaks, the Peterman listens. Frigid only a moment ago, the brushed steel of the safe is now calibrated to the warmth of the Peterman’s stubbled cheek.

The Peterman gently rotates the dial, and each sound the safe emits is a message for the Peterman to translate. ‘Click’. “Nope”. ‘Clack’. “Nada”. ‘Clank’. “STOP!”

His eyes open wide with greed. He peels his damp face off the metal box and takes hold of its handle. “STOP!!!”…

“HIDE, YOU IDIOT!”, the Hawk shouts. In truth, it’s only a whisper, amplified by the Peterman’s ears, stuck in safe-cracking mode. Ears that now hear footsteps drawing closer. The Peterman disappears.

A guard saunters past, picking his nose as he walks by. A caricature of ineffectual security.

“Looks like we’re not only ones looking for treasure.”, the Spotter laughs. The Hawk rolls her eyes, despite being rather amused. Wouldn’t want to encourage the guy.

The Peterman again grabs the safe’s handle, this time pushing down. The little resistance it offers as it glides to the vertical brings a smile to the Peterman’s face. “Gold? I thought you said it would be diamonds.”

“I said it might be diamonds.”, the Hawk replies.

“Well, it ain’t.”, the Peterman bemoans. “This stuff is heavy. Here, catch!”. The Peterman mimics a throw, knowing that each brick will be tough enough to carry, let alone heave across the room. The Spotter sneers as he approaches the safe to accept one of the two bricks, both far, far heavier than they look. A fantastic prize, but such a pain.

“One down. Two to go.”, the Peterman brags to his partners. “One on the second floor, and another on the third. Speaking of which, how the hell do we get upstairs?”

Burgle Bros. is a cooperative game for 2-4 players designed by Tim Fowers, and brought to life via Kickstarter. The players take on the roles of intrepid thieves as they enter a bank (or an office, if it’s your first game) that they plan on robbing. Each player receives a character card that offers them a unique ability to take advantage of during the heist, as well as 3 stealth tokens. Each of the cards has an advanced side which offers a different ability, intended for more experienced thieves. The bank burgb3ais created by setting up three 4×4 grids of randomly placed face down room tiles to represent the three floors of the building you’re about to infiltrate (the intro office game only uses two floors). A number of walls are then placed (either by following the included setup, or placing them as you choose) to give each floor a navigable layout. Assign a guard and its patrol deck to each floor, shuffle the loot, tool, and event decks and you’re ready to get started.

If you can burgle all the safes and get to the roof without getting caught, your team wins. But if any member of your crew runs out of stealth and stumbles into a guard, the whole operation is a bust.

The players choose where on the first floor they’ll begin the heist, flip the corresponding room tile, and place their corresponding character figures there. Draw the top two cards of the first floor guard’s patrol deck to determine where he begins and where he’s headed, respectively. You’ll also draw a new patrol card every time the guard reaches his destination, which he’ll head to next.

Each player’s turn consists of four actions, which they may use to:

  1. Peek at an adjacent tile, thereby flipping it over for all to see.
  2. Move to an adjacent tile, flipping it over if not already face up, and perhaps dealing with the consequences.
  3. Hack a computer room they occupy (to prevent traps from firing later on).
  4. Add a die to a safe room they occupy (this actually costs 2 actions), or
  5. Attempt to crack the safe (in the safe room they occupy) by rolling all the dice that are there.

Then, if you’ve used 2 or fewer actions, draw and resolve an event card. Finally, move the Guard on your own floor.

Simply moving into face down rooms is a lot quicker than peeking first. Doing so early in your turn is usually okay, but when running face first into unfamiliar territory later in your turn, you risk setting off alarms, which alert the guard to your presence and divert his current path directly to that alarm. However, triggering alarms can be helpful, too. If you know the guard is headed right for one of your teammates, you can set off an alarm and run away. The guard will then head for the alarm, giving your teammate a chance to get somewhere safe. However, you will find yourself in the same room as a guard at some point. Regardless of whether you moved to his tile or he moved to yours (passing through counts), you’ll lose one of your three stealth tokens. You’re good at hiding, but it’s a little exhausting, to be quite frank. If you and the guard meet, and you’re out of stealth tokens, game over.

Ultimately, you’re prowling for two things on each floor: the safe and the stairs. Once you’ve found the safe (and revealed all other room tiles in its same row and column) you can attempt to unlock it (action E). The more time you spend analyzing the safe (action D, which adds more dice), the more efficient and likely the actual unlocking becomes. In order to proceed to the next floor, where another safe and set of stairs can be found, you must find and climb the stairs on your current floor. Unlock all the safes, climb the stairs on the third floor up to the roof, and you’re golden. A helicopter flies you and your ill-gotten riches away to Burgle Bros. HQ.

So, you’ve assembled a team of professional thieves. You’ve identified where are all the walls are in the building. You’ve crafted some sort of method of keeping track of not only the exact location of each guard, but also where they’re headed. Yet… you have no idea where the safes or your escape routes are? Got it…

It’s a little weird that your team has forgotten to acquire the two most important pieces of intel required for the operation, but, truth be told, the game wouldn’t work otherwise. The entire challenge of Burgle Bros comes from painstakingly scouting each floor, while avoiding the numerous traps and the guard, hopefully finding a tool or two along the way. And this challenge is actually a lot of fun. Trying to stay one step ahead of the guard is difficult, but often reasonable. However, there are times when the Guard will repeatedly pass by you due to unlucky draws from the Patrol deck, but this type of randomness is expected from every cooperative game. Love it or leave it.

Burgle Bros definitely captures the tension of its subject matter (or at least I think it does. Disclaimer: I have never robbed a bank.). You’ll hold your breath as you run into unfamiliar rooms, hoping that they’re not going to hurt you. You’ll think of crafty ways you can abuse the guard’s burgb2aattraction to clanging alarms, and most characters’ abilities are ever so fun to employ. You’ll cheer when the safe unlocks and reveals the loot you just scored, only to curse when you realize your good fortune has only made your life more difficult. Each piece of loot has some sort of drawback that ups the difficulty (for example: The gold must be carried by two people instead of just one, making it harder to transport, as each thief can only carry a single piece of loot. Or, the diamond will allow its carrier to be seen in rooms adjacent to the guard. So shiny!).

Unfortunately, the one thing that prevents me from wholly recommending this game is the event deck. If you spend two or few actions on a turn, you draw a card from the Event deck. This might happen because you’ve run out of useful things to do on your turn, or maybe because you’ve wandered into a motion detector room that will trigger an alarm if you leave it on the same turn. The trouble is, the events are a mix of good and bad. Sometimes, they’ll help you, but mostly they’ll just screw you over, and badly. The engine of a cooperative game already requires a fair bit of randomness to ensure that each game feels different than the one before it, but the polar volatility of the event deck was a wholly negative experience for me, and I would prefer not to use it at all. If they were sorted into good and bad events that each triggered for different reasons, I might enjoy it more. But, as it exists, I truly loathe it.

The art on the characters and each of the rooms is on point, and it all fits snugly into a ridiculously cute box. Refreshing, when so many games slosh around in bigger boxes just to take up more space on the retail shelf and to help rationalize a higher price tag. I strongly encourage anyone reading this to give it a try, if you can. But if you’re at all averse to a chaotic event deck, I wouldn’t recommend springing the cash for a copy, until you’ve had a chance to take it for a spin.

A recommendation for your first play: split up. You need to find the safe and stairs, and the sooner, the better. Also, don’t be afraid to have some of your team head upstairs before you unlock the safe on a lower floor. Not only will you get a head start on the next floor, it’ll cause the guard on the lower floor to slow down, in a way; at the end of each turn, only the guard on your character’s floor will move.

“Seriously… where the hell are the freakin’ stairs?”.


  • Adam M.

    Ever since Adam bought his first settlement, he has had an insatiable hunger for victory points. All points, in fact: prestige, fame, success, agenda — it doesn't matter. This ravenous appetite led Adam to rapidly devour the greatest games of the preceding decades as though he were preparing for hibernation. Adam's collection now clocks in at about 350 titles, a number he believes is too high to properly appreciate the complexity that many of those games offer. He enjoys all sorts of games, but leans more easily towards euro and card-based designs. Adam prefers games that feature some random elements with mechanics that allow that randomness to be mitigated. His favourites include Through the Ages, Attika, Hansa Teutonica, Tichu, Netrunner and Time's Up.

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3 thoughts on “Burgle Bros, or Ocean’s 2 to 4

  1. André says:

    Nice article. Im going to research more about the game.

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