Published on August 12th, 2013 | by Across the Board Games Staff
Summary: If you like lighter, humorous games with little strategy and a lot of negotiation, you would like "The Perfect Heist".
Munchkin meets Ocean's Eleven
By Raj Giri
Munchkin is the Bud Light of board games. It is ubiquitous, light, and scoffed at by a lot of people. But Munchkin is also extraordinarily popular, enough that it is even sold in mainstream stores like Target.
The Perfect Heist, a new production by first-time designer Karl Tiedmann and independently funded through Kickstarter in late 2012, can best be summarized as Munchkin: Ocean’s Eleven Edition. If you hate Munchkin, you will not like it. The Perfect Heist is a better Munchkin in every way, though. It has a unique heist theme, attractive art and design, a less insular sense of humor, and more politicking. But it is Munchkin, at the end of the day.
If you don’t know what Munchkin is, or if the idea of a heist-themed Munchkin excites you, grab a Bud Light from the fridge and keep reading.
Gameplay and Mechanics
In the Perfect Heist, you are small time thugs trying to pull off increasingly difficult heists to gain notoriety (victory points) and loot (items). Each heist can be accomplished alone or with the other players, thereby keeping the rewards to yourself or split among the players. Every successful heist moves the participants up the heist track as they move from the minor leagues to the professional level. Players keep their notoriety score on a piece of paper but it is open information. Once someone reaches the end of the heist track, the most notoriety wins.
Gameplay is simple. At the start of the game, you get 4 cards from the Main deck and 4 from the Loot deck. The Main deck contains things like Heists (quests) to go on, character identity cards that affect your ability score, instantaneous effects, hidden agendas that yield end-of-game points, and History cards you play targeting a neighbor. History cards might be things like “Ex-Lover” or something like that, meaning if you both go on the same Heist the difficulty score is altered. It’s an interesting touch, thematically.
On your turn, you draw 2 cards from the Main deck. You can play as many of these as you like, and after that you can then optionally attempt a heist. To do so, you play a Heist card, and it has a difficulty rating at the top which is also its notoriety point value. For example, the Banana Stand is easy and has a difficulty of 1. At the bottom is a “loot score”, meaning how many cards you draw from the Loot deck if you’re successful. These cards are items that help boost your ability score like pepper spray or a grappling hook.
Generally the heists are too difficult for just one player to accomplish, so negotiation is critical. Other players can ask to be a part of the heist and have to bargain for how many points or loot cards to split. You have to like negotiation in this game.
Additionally, other players have cards that sabotage your heist by boosting the ability score, and they can play any cards whenever they want, as in Munchkin. The idea here is that players can threaten to sabotage your heist if you refuse to let them be a part of it.
After rolling the die to modify the heist’s target difficulty up or down, the ability score from all participating players+items are compared to the heist’s difficulty. In the above picture, the player has an ability score of 7. If that meets or exceeds the target difficulty, the heist is successful, all participants move up one space on the heist track, and players split notoriety and loot based on what was decided during the negotiation. Failure is not game-breaking, it just means you might lose a loot card.
A player can attempt the difficult “professional” heists once they have advanced to the sixth space on the track. These are worth many more points but are considerably higher in target difficulty than the basic heists.
The game will end when a player reaches the end of the board, and it is just most notoriety points wins. The game lasts 2-3 hours, but that could be longer or shorter with more or fewer players. The game plays with 3 to 6 people. I think the ideal balance is probably 4 people.
The Perfect Heist comes in a svelte package suitable for throwing in a large purse. There are 6 player pawns, a standard six-sided die used in modifying the ability of each heist, and a small board for keeping track of your heists. There is no score track for keeping tally of notoriety points. Players need to bring their own pencils and paper to keep score.
The game has three decks– a Loot deck for items, a Main deck for the initial quests you have to go on and related non-item cards like sabotage and history events, and a Professional Heist deck once you reach that space on the heist track (see the picture above).
The artwork suits the theme and is very polished. The graphic design is professional and eye-catching. The lack of a score-track of any sort, and the rules being printed on standard paper in black and white, are the only flaws in the production. Notably, The Perfect Heist was made in Michigan with only about a 6-7 month delay in the production. For an independent Kickstarter, that is probably about average.
I know Munchkin has been mentioned a lot in this review, and that’s because The Perfect Heist is Munchkin. And while I personally avoid Munchkin, I recognize that it is insanely popular. Along those lines, I tried to rate The Perfect Heist relative to similar games.
The Perfect Heist can be a raucous time. I can easily imagine The Perfect Heist being a favorite with a certain type of gamer and their friends. If you like negotiation-heavy, back-stabbing games with lots of randomness with little strategy, you’d like The Perfect Heist. It’s a solid introductory game, and I would think parents with younger children would enjoy it as it is easy to learn.