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Subject: Arrest by encirclement rss

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As has been discussed elsewhere, there are several less than crystal clear rules in this game. Reading through the whole booklet (Swedish rules), I wonder, though, if the least clear one of them all might not be the one on arrest of a thief by encircling him. It just seems way too brief, as written, to provide much help with all the questions that might arise when players try to implement it.

We are told that arrest this way is effected by encircling a thief "so that he can no longer move", according to earlier rules – "so that the thief cannot pass", according to more recent ones – and the policeman (or car) closest to the thief is considered to be the one making the arrest. One more tidbit of information is given: A thief at a tram stop cannot be encircled. But that's it. No further details.

In fairness, I don't recall encountering any problems in this area when we played the game, so it may not come up often. And when it does, I imagine players might usually be able to agree on some seemingly reasonable interpretation on the fly.

Nevertheless, I very much prefer to deal with rules ambiguities before play, to doing it during play. So here they are:

1. Most trivially, if two policemen (or a policeman and the radio car) are equally close to the thief, which one of them is considered to make the arrest. The answer that seems reasonable to me: The police player picks.

2. For an arrest by encirclement to take place during the turn of the police player, does the thief need to be literally prevented from moving at all? (Basically requiring the police to cover every square adjacent to the thief.) Or is it enough that a blocking policeman is there somewhere along every path to any place where the thief and/or his loot could be saved from the police (a tram stop, thieves den/hideout or escape square)? Although in particular the earlier wording of the rule seems to imply the first interpretation, the second one seems more reasonable to me.

The thief in the picture (who we'll assume is wanted) would certainly be able to move in his next turn. Even if he rolls a six, there are no less than two squares he could reach without interference. But, the way the policemen have been positioned, he can obviously never get anywhere in the long run. There is no path that could take him to either a tram stop, a thieves den/hideout or any escape square (like the red quay/port square at the bottom right of the picture) without passing a policeman. So is the thief arrested or not?

3. It seems unavoidable there will be situations when it won't be clear until the thief's turn (after he rolled the die) that he has nowhere to go. How is that handled?

In the police player's turn, it would certainly seem unreasonable to consider the thief in this picture to be arrested by encirclement. He may after all, in his own turn, roll a one, allowing him to exit the game board via the red quay/port square. If he rolls a two, he can rob the bank and may still, if he's lucky, be able to reach that escape square before the police is able to block it and arrest him. (If he rolls a three, things look really bad for him, but even then he might possibly get away, if the police rolls a two.)

But what if the thief rolls a four (or more)? What happens then?

Presumably the police will then be considered to have effected an arrest by encirclement after all, although this wasn't clear in the police player's own turn. But how is prison time calculated? When will the just imprisoned thief serve his first "year" (turn)? This turn, or his next?

Although I suspect many will automatically assume otherwise, I think the most "fair" or consistent thing to do is to allow the thief to serve his first year immediately. (I.e. I believe, on the same turn that a bad roll of his got him arrested, he should be allowed to roll the die again for a prison breakout, if he so chooses.) The way I see it, the arrest was basically set up in the police player's turn, just not effective enough to trigger immediately, and I don't think the thief should be punished for that "lack of police effectiveness". Or, seen another way, if a thief didn't get to "make his move" on the run (because all paths were blocked), he should be allowed to "make his move" in prison instead.

4. With regard to 2 and 3, exactly how are escape squares to be handled? I believe, for simplicity and consistency, in the police player's turn, they should always be treated as a way out of an encirclement, regardless of whether the thief is carrying enough money to pay for the ticket, and regardless of whether a policeman is currently in any telegraph station. If, in the thief's turn, his only move is to actually go to the escape square, though, its availability will obviously depend on real payment being made and no police presence in any telegraph station. Also, if at that point the exit square is available, he should reasonably still be allowed to not go (taking the arrest instead, in order to stay in the game).

5. How are thieves dens/hideouts and tram stops really handled? When can an encirclement arrest there be effected? (A) In the turn of the police player? (B) Not until the thief's turn? (C) Never?

My own gut feelings tell me to go with (B) for both hideouts and tram stops.

The rules, if literally read, could imply a difference between tram stops and hideouts with regard to encirclements. They contain an absolute prohibition against encirclement at a tram stop while leaving hideouts without particular mention. But treating thieves dens/hideouts as, in effect, more accessible to the police than tram stops in this respect, doesn't seem right to me.

Interpretation (C) just doesn't seem reasonable, regardless of where the thief is standing. Every thief is explicitly required to move every turn, and no exceptions are given for either hideouts or tram stops. (From a tram stop, he could take the tram instead of rolling the die, of course, but only if he didn't already move by tram.) In any situation that he cannot do that, because the police blocked all paths, it seems he should reasonable be arrested.

Alternative (A), on the other hand, cannot be possible either – at least not at tram stops – if the explicit invalidation of any encirclement at a tram stop is to mean anything at all. (I.e. I would interpret that invalidation to apply precisely to encirclement arrests in the police player's turn, only.) Hideouts might be treated differently, but, again, that would seem just wrong to me, in particular since I imagine any open path to a hideout to invalidate encirclement arrests in the police player's turn (see 2 above).

Both exits from the thieves den/hideout in this picture have been blocked by policemen. The thief certainly cannot move, whereas the rules require him to move every turn (except when in prison), and so he should reasonably be arrested. Right? The question is when? As soon as the police has closed the encirclement? Or not until the thief's own move?

Note: If the thief's first year in prison, when he was arrested in his own turn, is served immediately (as I think it should; see 3 above) it usually shouldn't matter much when the arrest is triggered. The situation when it may matter, is if every other thief is behind bars in the police player's turn. Then a delayed trigger of this thief's arrest, until the thief's own turn, means other thieves (sitting between the police player and this thief at the table) might get out of prison in the meantime, preventing the game from ending.

In summary, I would like to see this too brief rule clarified something like this:

Marlin - in a suggested clarification of the rule on arrest by encirclement - wrote:
Arrest by encirclement

Instant encirclement arrest
If the police player manages to block every path that a wanted thief could take to any tram stop, thieves den/hideout or escape square (train station, air port or quay/port square), then the thief is instantly arrested. An instant encirclement arrest is not possible if the thief is at a tram stop or in a hideout. An open path to an escape square always prevents an instant encirclement arrest, regardless of whether the thief can pay for a ticket and regardless of police presence in telegraph stations.

Delayed arrest
If a wanted thief, after he rolled the die, is unable to move, because all paths are blocked by policemen and/or the radio car, then the thief is arrested. If the thief can move, but only to an escape square, the thief may choose arrest instead of self-exile. (Obviously, the escape square will never prevent arrest if the thief can't pay for the ticket or there is police presence in any telegraph station.) Delayed arrest can happen regardless of where the thief is standing (also in a hideout or at a tram stop). When an arrest happens in the thief's own turn, this same turn counts as the first of his "years" to serve in prison. (He may roll the die again, the same turn, for an attempt to break out of prison, if he so chooses.)

Arresting policeman
An instant or delayed encirclement arrest is always made by the policeman (or the radio car) closest to the thief. If two or more policemen (and/or the car) are equally close to the thief, the police player picks the one to make the arrest.

Well, that's my take on this little topic. Other ways to see this are more than welcome, of course.

EDIT: Terminology. Board exits are literally called "escape squares" (flyktrutor) in at least later editions of the printed rules, so that's probably what I should stick to here as well. Plus added handling of escape squares when a policeman is in a telegraph station, and slightly restructured suggested rule clarification. (Hopefully clearer.)
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