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Game Overview: Art Robbery, or Good Players Borrow, Great Players Steal

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Art Robbery
I have written a lot about Reiner Knizia's games over the years, and today I'm covering yet another of his designs, one that is about as far from The Siege of Runedar — a co-operative, deck-building, tower defense game from Ludonova that I covered in early October 2021 — as is possible.

The game in question is Art Robbery from Swiss publisher Helvetiq, and the game is bare bones in terms of its components and rules, yet all the parts prove to make for an engaging little challenge, especially for those of us with family members who like to play games that can be explained in less than a minute.

The goal of Art Robbery, as in many games, is to end up with more stuff than everyone else, and to emphasize your callous nature toward to the feelings of others who undoubtedly want to rack up a W for themselves, you play a thief who wants to claim your "fair" share of the goods your group has recently heisted. The problem, however, is that if you focus solely on goods to the exclusion of alibis, everyone else will make it to freedom while the police come down on you.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

In each of the game's four rounds, you reveal that round's nine tokens, then take turns playing a card from your hand and drawing a replacement card. When you play a number (0-5), take a token with that number from the center of the table; if all of them have already been claimed, take a token with that number from someone else, preferably while saying "Yoink!"

If you play a guard dog card, you can take the guard dog figure, and when someone attempts to yoink a token from you, you can send the dog after them instead of that token. Sure, you no longer have the dog's protection, but you still have that token, so you're probably bett... Oh, wait, the next thief stole your now exposed token. Never mind — forget about it and see what you can get your hands on this time!

If you play a boss card, you take the boss token, which sounds cool and all, but the boss apparently feels under confident or perhaps unsure of their abilities because if you don't have a 4 or 5 token to accompany the boss at the end of the round, the boss splits to a desert retreat to attempt to self-actualize so that they can stand on their own without support in the future.

If you play a greedy thief, you can grab any one token that hasn't yet been claimed. You can't steal from others because the greed has arm-wrestled your reasoning powers into submission so you can't just go for the high-value tokens or boss token sitting in someone else's care, no, you just grab one thing that no one else has called dibs on.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Don't become too attached to what you take because it can be stripped from you immediately. Ownership is locked in only when the final token from the round is claimed, and that often happens more slowly than you think as each round includes three 3s — which means that everything other than the 3s is usually claimed first, then tokens and the dog keep circling the table until someone feels like they're not going to do any better than taking one of the 3s, which then upsets the point equilibrium and sends players off on a new round of stealing.

You might be hamstrung by what you draw, of course, since you can't steal someone's 5 or boss if you don't have those cards in hand, yet that's not necessarily a bad thing because in a game with more than two players, whoever is in the lead — or at least holding the lion's share of the points in the current round — might be stripped bare of tokens between one turn and the next. You want to collect points, sure, but not be so obvious about it that you attract attention and therefore attacks.

At the same time, you want to collect alibis to keep from being eliminated from scoring at game's end, similar to what happens to whoever ends up with the least cash on hand in Knizia's High Society — but as in that game, you don't need to worry about all the other players; only the worst one aside from you. (See "You don t need to be faster than the bear.")

I've now played Art Robbery six times on a review copy from Helvetiq with all players counts (2-5), and I talk more about the game in this overview video, including how the feel of the game varies based on the player count. One important thing to note: With only two players, whoever has the fewest alibis loses 10 points and is not immediately eliminated from contention — except that 10 points is probably a large enough chunk of your score to result in the same thing.

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