“‘Allo Guv! Spare a tuppence or a copper or a ha’penny for a poor street rozzer what don’t have no muvver or favver no moah? Oh, ta!” (Didjer nick his pocket-watch then, Blinky? Blimey! Them toffs ain’t ‘alf styoopid. Now let’s scarper off to Fagin and trade it in for some dosh! Watcha! Them bobbies’ll bean your nut sooner'n bring ya in. Oi! Are you on for some burglin’ tonight? Rosie says she found a way inta that posh place ovah Kensington Place. Meet ya under the apples and pears behind the pub at ten, then?)
And that’s what a game of Oliver Twist feels like. Designers Bruno Cathala (Dice Town) and Sébastien Pauchon (Japiur) know how to make games that mesh theme and gameplay really well. You and up to three fellow urchins are in a gang together competing to scrape together the most money through pickpocketry and break-and-entry...ing.
The game happens over two rounds. In the daytime you get to see how the randomly-distributed loot tokens are distributed around your cozy corner of London. On your turn you either Prowl (move the Gang to pick up some stolen goods, tools, or Character Card), hand in a set of three or more goods to Fagin for money, or play a previously-picked Character Card either for its power or just to pass your turn. You can always pick up the next-in-line token for free, but if you want something beyond it you have to put the intervening tokens in your Police File, which will cost you money at the end of the day. Handing in sets of goods to Fagin can bring you a lot of cash, though, so it might be worth taking a bit of heat from London’s Finest.
Because you can’t jump over empty spaces, the Gang’s movement gets more and more proscribed as tokens leave the board. If on your turn the Gang is surrounded by Dead Space you have to pay off the cops to let you move somewhere where there are still ill-got goods to collect. Eventually someone has to end the round, though--which costs more money. Everyone gets a chance to hand in remaining loot (at a discount) and then pays a penalty for the goods in their Police File.
When night falls you flip the board over (unnecessary from a gameplay point of view because the layout is identical but more atmospheric because it’s dark). Ten Burglary tokens are added to the mix and then you redistribute everything randomly--but face down this time, so no one knows where anything is. Anything, that is, except the first twelve tokens, which are flipped face-up. So there is limited visibility. If on your turn the Gang has only facedown tokens adjacent, you get to flip the next twelve over.
Also at night you’ve got Burglary tokens which let you draw from a deck with some really good results and a few bad ones. The more tools you managed to pick up in the daytime, the more draws you get before you decide which one to keep. It is definitely possible to come from behind to win if you perform some successful burglaries.
All in all Oliver Twist is a light family game which will appeal to fans of the book (or the musical, highly recommended). It’s a great opportunity to bring out your inner Cockney and pick a pocket or two. Click here to order your copy and comment below or click here to send us some fan mail.