This is first impressions of Thief's Market, a 3-5 player dice rolling and card market game.
The box comes across as a little small - considering it's designed to house 49 cards, 13 custom dice, a start player marker, 5 player aids, the rule book and a small number of tokens for both coins and infamy (points). That said, it's pleasing to the eye, with some nice bold colours, a cool logo and typeface, some really fun art which also helps show the game's atmosphere and feel, and the standard ages, players and time to play symbols easy to find. The box back has a few cards and a small blurb describing the game, standard stuff, but well-designed.
The rulebook was really easy to follow - only two pages dedicated to how to play, the other two dedicated to each of the 49 cards and what each one does, which I found very handy. There are a number of how-to-play guides already online.
Set up was pretty simple, with the three decks of cards coloured and lettered to make it easy to locate. The three decks are shuffled and 13 cards are left remaining in the A deck, 12 in the B deck and 11 in the C deck are remaining. Unused cards are placed back in the box and are not used. A variant can easily change the number of cards used for shorter or longer games, as the player wishes.
Five cards are then drawn from deck A and displayed upright. Each player is given a player aid and a coin. The first player is given the first player meeple. Set up took less than 2 minutes, and learning the game took less than 5, making it very easy for newcomers to learn, and for younger ages to understand. Although it has the age range of 14+ - I would think 10+ would be a better reflection of the game's ease.
In Thief's Market the dice represent jewels, money or infamy. The first player is decided by the player who most recently admits to their last thievery, and gameplay can begin. The first player rolls the number of dice (the number of which is decided by the number of players). As first player, they can then choose any number of dice to keep for themselves, as well as the first player token, which is also up for grabs.
Here is where the game gets interesting though - and a spin on standard dice/card drafting. Each player in turn, clockwise from the starting player then has a choice of their own to make. They can take any number of dice remaining in the middle of the play area, as well as the first player token if it is available, or they could choose to steal from another player, forgoing one of the objects should they do so.
For example, Player A may have 5 dice in front of them, as well as the first player token when they took from the middle. Player B could then choose to take those 5 dice and the start player token from Player A, but they would have to forfeit one of those dice or the start player token to the middle. Continuing, Player C could then choose to steal from Player B, but they too would have to forfeit one of the items. Steals are always successful, and they always take every item from the player.
However, a round isn't complete until each player successfully gets at least one item, so stealing everything or hoarding everything will never work. The game's strategy lies in what dice to take, what dice to keep from other players, and what dice to leave behind.
So, what do these dice do?
The 13 custom dice are all the same design, with four sides dedicated to four different kinds of gems, each of which act as a currency for the cards in the card market. The money bag side of the die will allow the player to take a coin at the end of the round (and hence be able to use from the following round onward) and they can be used in place of any gem for a card purchase. The final side, infamy, is worth a victory point to the player, and can be collected after card purchases.
The cards are purchased with the player's dice after the division of dice is complete. Players may also choose or may be unable to purchase cards, though this is unwise.
The cards allow players to change the value of dice on future turns. Some allow players to change the face of dice, or gain more infamy or coins, and many other things. It's a simple mechanic, but it works well. Each player is allowed only a singular purchase per round, and cards are replinished at the end of the round after each person does make a purchase or passes.
The process repeats through the three decks, and then points are tallied at the end. In our first game, we played four players, with the four having final scores of 16, 18, 26 and 29, so scores were kept close and some final scoring, based on the number of types of cards you have of a certain suit, as well as money, factor into the final score. We didn't know who was going to win until the scores were completely tallied.
Overall, it's a really smart designed game. The card art is effective, the dice are beautiful and well designed, and the game play is really addictive, easy to learn, and fun to play.
The only negatives I can level was I found there wasn't really enough infamy tokens, and the box is quite small and cramped. Once I removed the company advertising booklet it was a little better, but reading through the kickstarter shows that the game added a good deal more than what was originally intentioned, and this is likely why the box is literally bursting.
It's a small issue, and this is likely to find a lot of play amongst my gaming friends. It packs a good amount of game in a small box, and my first impressions are very favourable.
Agreed - this is a fun game that is easy to pick up. The drafting part is a blast, but we were surprised by how strategic the cards make the game - much more "think-y" than it first appears.
Some of the symbolism on the cards might seem tough to grasp for newbies, but since you're only putting out at most 5 cards at a time, it's easy to go through and state what each one does.
I've played with my 8 and 9 year old kids as well as adult gamers and non-gamers and it's been a hit each time.