App Review – Burgle Bros

You know what they say: the family that steals together, stays together.

I think I’ve heard that, anyway.

Maybe we’ll find out in the app version of the great board game from Tim Fowers, Burgle Bros.

Ok, maybe the characters in the game are not all in the same family, but it would be cool if they were!

Burgle Bros 1
Quite a variety of characters!

In Burgle Bros, you play as 1-4 different characters who are all participating in a heist. Could be a bank heist, or an office heist, or even Fort Nox! I’ve only tried the bank heist, and that’s for one reason:

THIS GAME IS FREAKING HARD!

Each game, you will be maneuvering your people throughout each floor of a 3-story building (or however the Office/Fort Nox is set up).

Burgle Bros 2
Watch out for the nasty guard!

On a turn, you will get four actions. You can move directly into a square for one point, but if you do that into an unknown square, you never know what might be waiting for you. It could be an alarm!

For that reason, you can spend an action to peek into an adjacent room (or, if you’re in the Atrium like in the picture above, you can peek up or down onto different floors).

Finally, there are certain actions within rooms that you will be able to do (such as rolling to unlock the safe).

There is a guard on each floor who has a standard patrol pattern. In the picture above, he’s currently going to the room with the yellow X. Once he reaches there, a new patrol pattern is drawn and he goes there.

You need to make sure you’re not in his way.

After a character has finished their turn, the guard moves, following that pattern. This changes if an alarm is triggered. Then the guard speeds up and makes a beeline for the tile where the alarm was triggered. This can actually be good if you have somebody who was in the guard’s original path.

Each character has three stealth tokens. Whenever seen by a guard or having a guard enter their space, the character loses a stealth token.

If you don’t have any when the guard hits you next, you get this screen.

Burgle Bros 3
You will see this screen a lot

Each character also has a special power. For example, the Hawk can peek through a wall to see what an adjacent room is once per turn. The Rook can spend an action once per turn to move somebody else. And so on.

Each floor has a safe and stairs to the next level. Your objective is to find the safe, crack it (by using the numbers in the row and column that the safe is in, then rolling those numbers on dice), and then head to the next level. Once all three safes are cracked, the third floor stairs lead to the roof and victory!

Which will never happen, in my experience.

Burgle Bros 4
Stupid dog!

Each safe will give you loot which will hinder you (see above).

That’s basically it. You’ll keep doing this pattern until you either win or (more likely) lose the game.

I have to say that this app (and the game itself, as I’ve played it once on the table) is phenomenal. I’ve heard of a couple of minor bugs, but I haven’t experienced them myself.

One that I have seen, though, is that according to the rules, you cannot move back and forth from one room to another and back, in order to avoid an event. If you end your turn after only taking 2 of your 4 actions, you will draw an event card. This can be good but is most likely to be bad (like making the guard change his target to the nearest character).

The rules states that you can’t avoid this by just moving to a room and back again repeatedly. But the app doesn’t implement this, or at least not very well.

The app is incredibly polished. The graphics (as you can see) are really nice, clear, readable. The interface is really good, with one exception that’s just not as intuitive as I would have liked.

To see how many stealth tokens one of your partners has, you have to hit the “Menu” button, which takes you to an overview of the current game. Who has what gear, how many stealth tokens each character has left, etc. That isn’t mentioned in the tutorial.

Speaking of the tutorial, it’s nice, but it’s nothing to write home about. It does give you the basics of how the actions work and how the guard works (though the game doesn’t let you look through the discard pile of his patrol routes like you can do in the tabletop game, and I didn’t see any indication of how many patrol cards were left in his deck which is important because the guard speeds up when his deck is reshuffled).

Burgle Bros 5
The guard’s right there, so don’t trigger that alarm!

My final minor gripe with the app is that there is no link to the rules, so you have to rely on the tutorial to guide you. Thankfully I knew the game from having played it before or I might still be a little confused.

(I have read that a link to the rulebook will be in the next patch, so this criticism may be moot by the time you read this)

Other than those complaints, though, I love this app to death. I played 8-10 times in a row because I just wanted to see if I could get a little further each time. I have successfully cracked the first floor safe quite a few times, but never have done the second floor.

I’m not sure if this is a plus or a minus, but it’s also the first app I’ve seen where a die can actually land lopsided and thus have to be re-rolled! Not sure if that’s a bug or a “Look how much we want to give you the tabletop experience!” thing.

Burgle Bros 6
The Juicer is in a lot of trouble! In the path of the guard, one action left, and the only place she can go takes three actions to get into.

Being a co-op game, the app doesn’t have online multiplayer. You are playing all the characters yourself, or there is pass and play. I hear the cries for asynchronous multiplayer, but I don’t really think that works for a co-op game. Everybody would basically be on their own, making their own decisions, with no real consultation with their fellow players.

It was a great couple of weeks for Tim Fowers apps, with the Paperback app getting online multiplayer and Burgle Bros releasing.

What will he come up with next?

Burgle Bros is available on iOS and Android for $5 US (We Canadians have to pay $7 for it)

 

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