Several years ago I played a physical copy of Tim Fower’s co-op heist game, Burgle Bros, and I immediately went and got the app version. I played the heck out of it. So when I got the opportunity to review the sequel, Burgle Bros 2, I jumped at the chance.
Unlike some sequel games, Burgle Bros 2 is a completely stand alone version. You do not need to have played the first game to enjoy the second, and if you have played the original, you already know the basics of how the game works, but there are enough differences in the mechanics that it is worth giving the sequel a go.
In Burgle Bros 2 the gang has gotten back to gether to pull a series of daring casino heists. Tensions mount as 1-4 players explore the casino, looking for specific rooms and specific people, while trying to avoid the bouncers who are constantly patrolling the two storeys of the casino. Each player is a different member of the team, and with 8 characters to choose from, each with three unique pieces of gear they can use over the course of the game, there’s a ridiculous number of combinations you can try. As you beat the different heist scenarios, you gain more gear cards that give you even more options, because now your characters can choose to have alternate gear cards instead of their defaults.
Each player has a heat meter, and if anyone’s meter gets to 6, they are caught, the heist fails and the players lose. Heat usually comes from being in the same room as a bouncer, but some of the rooms can cause you to generate heat, while some offer the possibility of losing heat. The rising (and sometimes falling) heat meters on all the players creates the tense atmosphere of the game. It is not an easy game to win, certainly not in your first few outings. Like most co-op games, there is a scalable difficulty, which in this case is called the “suspicion level.” The lower your chosen suspicion level is when you set up the game, the more “distracted” cards you put into the bouncers’ patrol decks, giving you more opportunities to send the bouncers on wild goose chases.
The original game had a 3-storey building as the playing field, mapped out on your tabletop by laying out three grids of 16 tiles, side by side by side. That took up a lot of table space. The sequel uses both clever box design, and game design choices to shrink the game’s footprint. The box itself becomes the casino, using 4 footed wands to lift the box above the tabletop. The casino is only two floors, but one is laid out on the table, and the second is laid out on top of the box. For the most compact version, put the main floor directly under the box, however doing this can make it awkward to read the text on the different room tiles, and to see where everything is on the main floor. If you have the table space, consider laying out the main floor room tiles to the side of the box. It won’t look as cool, but it will be easier to see the main floor. The two-storey board gives the game tremendous table presence, but I can’t shake the feeling that if they’d made the legs a bit taller, then the split-level effect would work better, and not just look cool.
In Burgle Bros, the only people in the building were the thieves and the security guards but Burgle Bros 2 takes place in a busy casino, so it means there are people all over the place. The people are represented by chips placed face down in various rooms. Each type of person has a different effect when you encounter them. Some are beneficial, like the moles who help you learn the combination to the safe, while others, like the undercover security, who summon the bouncer, are harmful. Some can be avoided and discarded by peeking at them from a neighbouring room, BUT to keep the suspense, some are actually activated by peeking at them, and are discarded instead by just walking blindly into their room. So, when you spot a chip in the next room, there’s never and automatic “right” answer of what to do about them, and you never know, no matter how you approach the room, whether the chip will be good or bad for you.
Like the original, each room serves a purpose, either hindering your efforts to case the joint, or providing you with some sort of effect to use, like escalators and monorails that let you change floors, magic shows that let you move through walls between rooms, or table games that let you reduce your heat, but at the risk of drawing the bouncer’s attention. A new room concept in the sequel is rooms with event cards. Both the Lounges and the Pools cause you to draw a corresponding event card every time you enter one of them. Events add an extra random element to spice up your misadventures. Some are helpful, while others can draw unwanted attention from the bouncers. In my experience, the Lounge events are a little more helpful than the pool events, which makes sense, considering a darkened nightclub lends itself better to clandestine endeavours than an exposed pool deck with watchful lifeguards would.
The goal in the original game was always to find and crack the safe, then make it to the exit with the loot, but in the sequel, there are nine different finales, and each time you play you get a different one. Cracking the safe is just the first half of the game. Once the safe is open, you find out what your end goal is. Perhaps you need to find the VIPs that the casino owner wants assassinated, and rush them to safety. Or maybe you need to swap counterfeit chips for the real thing before sneaking off to enjoy the spoils. Each finale is on a card that contains all the setup and rules information you need to play it out.
The art and graphic design stay true to the original, and evokes the feeling of ‘60s heist movies in its aesthetic. The playing pieces are satisfyingly chunky, and the cardboard components are nice and thick. The second floor of the casino isn’t a flat piece, because of the folding nature of the box. If the box was more traditional, the top floor would be nice and flat, but as it is, the hinge points of the box make the top floor slant up towards the opposite sides.
In addition to the standard rules that come in the game, Tim Fower is developing a strategic rules variant that will cut down on some of the more random elements of game play. Once placed, all the chips are turned face up, so you know who is in each room from the start. This version does mean that some of the chips work in a different manner from the normal rules. Also, the Lounge & Pool decks are placed face up, so you always know what event will occur when you enter the area, instead of it being a surprise.
If you like tense, thematic chaos at the gaming table, call up the Ocean’s 11 soundtrack on Spotify, assemble your crew, and give Burgle Bros 2 a try. You might decide that this co-op caper is a keeper. However, if you like your gaming to be more serene, contemplative, and suited to long-term strategic planning: move along folks, there’s nothing to see.