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Subject: Heist! rss

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Konstantin Kahl
United States
New York
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Heist! is an unpublished prototype game for up to four players all about robbing banks. For how complicated the game appeared at first glance, it actually ran pretty smoothly, and ended up being a good amount of fun.

The goal of the game is to rob banks and earn 1000 money before your opponents. Each round bank cards are laid face down onto the empty spots on the board. Players then use a die (that they keep hidden from the other players) to decide which spot they are going to target. Then all the players reveal their dice and show which bank they are trying to rob. Players then get to attempt to rob the banks by rolling 2d6 against the difficulty level of the bank. If they win, they get the reward from the bank card, money equivalent to their dice roll multiplied by 10, as well as the bank card itself (which has a one time use ability on the backside). If you lose against the bank, you get nothing but a loss of reputation.

Speaking of, reputation is another interesting part of this game. Your reputation is a score that fluctuates based on which banks you do and don’t rob in a round. There are three bank factions, and you have a separate reputation based off each.

If you rob a bank, your reputation goes down with them by one point that round. On the other hand, the other two factions that you didn’t rob go up by one point. What makes your reputation important is that you have to spend it to use the bank card abilities, and it also increases your odds of a successful robbery. When you make your roll of 2d6 against the bank’s difficulty, you also get to add your reputation with that faction to the roll. If you’ve built up your reputation enough, it can make certain attempts a guaranteed victory.

Players take up the role of one of five character archetypes, choosing between the Cat Burglar, the Hacker, the Con Artist, the Mastermind, and the Grifter. Each had special abilities that can be utilized to assist in the robbing of banks—some making it easier for you, while others make it harder for your opponents. The Hacker for instance (which I picked for this play test) had the ability to switch the position of two banks when everyone declared their intentions. This had some pretty big implications for the game, and was one of our biggest pieces of feedback. While most of the archetypes had effects that impacted their reputation or how much money they got from the bank rewards, the Hacker’s ability was hugely game changing.

The bank targeting phase, which was otherwise a fairly straightforward phase of the game was turned into something much more complex, every round becoming a game of predicting which two banks the Hacker was going to switch. This of course got even more complex when one of my opponents would predict which one I wanted the least, and then I started bluffing the switch based on the knowledge that he was trying to predict my switch... It was very complicated. It also felt fairly unfit for the game’s mechanics. Every other part of the game was designed around rolling dice and your reputation, but the Hacker’s ability turned the game into a mind game not unlike Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Of course, this didn’t ultimately help me win, as powerful as the ability felt. I had lost my first few heists because of a couple bad rolls, and even after I started working my way back toward consistent wins, there was still a gap between me and my opponents that couldn’t be closed. The game had really solid mechanics for the bank robbery aspect, but there still seemed like it was missing mechanics to mess with other players. Unless a player randomly started losing heists out of the blue (which wouldn’t happen due to the gradual net gain of Reputation as you continually win), there was no way to stop another player who was in the lead from staying in the lead. Because the mechanics allow for everyone to win in a given round, and there was always enough banks for everyone, winning a heist didn’t necessarily mean getting a leg up on the other players.

When we wrapped up the play test, I was still in third place (out of three players), despite that I had been consistently winning heists the last few rounds. I was about halfway to victory, but my opponents were somewhere in the 700 money range, and there wasn’t all that much that I could do about it. Overall the game was really fun once we got into the flow of things, but there will still a couple tweaks that it needed before it could be considered truly complete. Definitely a great idea, and well on its way to becoming a full fledged board game.
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