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Jailbreakers: Plan Your Escape» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Jailbreakers: So close to greatness. rss

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Seth Goodnight
United States
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Jailbreakers is an interesting game that combines worker placement, press your luck, and just a bit of "tale that" in a game about breaking out of prison. Players place dice on the various locations in the prison. You gather materials, craft items, and eventually attempt an escape. If two of your three prisoners escape, you win!
Here's my take on the game:

Gameplay and mechanisms:

The core of the game is very fun. The placement of the dice presents some interesting decisions as you try to decide whether to risk running into a guard, block an opponent, or play it safe and skip the roll. There are not enough copies of each card to go around, so it becomes a race to get what you need first (or steal it later, of course).
Escape attempts have a push you luck mechanism that is very exciting. Depending on the escape plan you draw four to six cards, one at a time. If you draw two fail cards you fail the attempt, but you can back out at any time. This provides some great moments of tension when the fifth card is a fail, and you must decide if you want to try that last card or not.
Now for the downside: There are two mechanisms that seem well intentioned, but they end up slowing the game down quite a bit.
The first one is the limit on items. With only two of each item (in a 3+ player game) you will often find that the items you need are gone from the deck, and you can’t attempt an escape. With four or five players, it can end up with everyone in the same situation. Every game I’ve played has had players taking several useless turns.
The second problem mechanic comes when you make your first escape. You lose one of your three dice, giving you fewer actions on your turn. It seems that the design reason for this is to keep one person from going out too quickly. What it feels like is a penalty for doing well.

The rules leave a lot to be desired. The main thing lacking is any description of timing of card abilities. The rules say that items can only be used in the second phase of your turn, but that makes most of them essentially useless. There are a few other places with missing details as well. Most of them are easy enough to house rule, but you shouldn’t have to make house rules to cover holes in the rulebook. This is probably the biggest complaint I have about the game.

The artwork on the cards is great. They have rich colors, and a really fun art style. I also enjoyed that every guard and prisoner has a unique picture, and that every prisoner has a different reason for being arrested. My only complaint is that all of the cards (except for the prisoners) have the same back. It doesn’t affect gameplay much, but it’s easy to confuse the escape and escape plan decks.

The game mechanisms and cards work well to support the theme. Scrounging for materials, dodging guards, and stealing from other players feels like a prison escape attempt should. The victory condition, however, doesn’t feel particularly thematic. You have three prisoners on your team, but you only need two of them to escape. What about the last guy? Why would he even help if he won’t be able to get out? All in all, I like the theme and how it’s used.

A fun game that is hampered by some poor rules and unfortunate mechanisms. I don’t regret buying it, but it’s not one I try to bring to the table often. I enjoyed the whole game, but be warned that the listed play time is much shorter than the actual play time. If you enjoy jailbreak movies, you might like this one.
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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I wish the designer or company that released it would spend some time answering questions here on BGG. With a FAQ, errata and overhauled rules this could become a good game. I feel the same about the rules.
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