Updated: Dec 11, 2022
WBG Score: 7.5/10
Player Count: 2-4
Published by: Helvetiq
Designed by: Reiner Knizia
When Reiner Knizia puts his name to a new game usually people sit up and take notice. The man behind four Deutscher Spiele Preis winning games and a Spiel des Jahres, two of the most prestigious awards in the industry; the Knizia name comes with some serious credibility.
His latest game, published by small box advocates Helvetiq, Art Robbery brings some interesting ideas to the take-that card game genre. Using Knizia’s intricate knowledge of mathematics, Art Robbery pits players against each other in a daring heist. Aiming to steal the most valuable pieces, players must track what their opponents are taking and importantly wining, all whilst ensuring they don’t have the least valuable alibi scores at the end of the game.
In Art Robbery, there are four rounds, called raids. Players are focused on the attempted robbery of four different types of art. Sculptures, Paintings, Sketches and Antiques, represented by circular tokens separated at the start of the game. In each round, players will be playing cards to take the most valuable works of art placed in the center of the table. The art tokens have a score ranging from zero to five. You may want to take the zero’s and lower scoring tokens due to these pieces offering alibi scores as well. The raid ends when all the tokens are taken. Players keep any token they have stolen that round, bank them, and then next round starts.
The person at the end of the game with the most points wins. But the person with the lowest alibi score will be caught by the police and eliminated. The game is a delicate balance between acquiring the highest prized pieces of art without neglecting the lower scoring pieces that will provide the alibis you need to stay in the game.
The game starts with each player being dealt five cards. On your turn, players will choose one of these cards to play. The cards will come from one of four main categories:
Boss cards: Each round of Art Robbery will see new art tokens placed in the center of the table to collect. There will always be at least one token with an image of ‘the boss’ on it. This token is worth 5 points at the end of the game. However, the twist being you have to have another token worth four or five in order to keep the boss token at the end of the raid. If you don’t have another token with this amount, then the boss token is discarded scoring you zero points.
Number cards: Each card, numbered zero to five allows you to take the token of the equivalent value from either the center of the table or from another player who has already tried to loot this piece of art. No piece of art is safe until the end of the raid.
Thief cards: This card allows you to take any token of your choice from the center of the table other, than the boss token.
Guard dog cards: This allow you to either take the guard dog from another player if they have it, or the center of the table if the guard dog piece is still unclaimed. This token can then be used to protect you from later attacks from other players when they play a numbered card to steel one of your other tokens.
Art Robbery is a constant back and forth. The game often starts with people playing nicely. Taking what they can from the center of the table and not thinking about affecting other players own scores. Inevitably, one player will be left with a situation where their only legal play is to take a piece of art from another player. The gloves are now off! This is not a co-op game after all! It’s every robber for themselves! If you have the boss card and your opponent has the only available four token, and you have the number four card, its time to rob your friends!
A sense of jovial back-and-forth is created from this tit-for-tat play. It doesn’t have the often “mean” feeling created by take-that games. Everything happens so quickly and there are multiple chances to get back what was once stolen from you, this is not a game that will create enemies at the table. Just laughs!
Each time I have played this game I have witnessed a lot of giggles, cries, and screams. Trying to take a token from an opponent, that is blocked by a guard dog, which is then followed up by a second attempt moments later to take the same token, when the same card is played, but now not defended by the guard dog, is just hilarious! This sort of interplay happens often. It's fast, funny and very satisfying to both be a part of and watch.
Art Robbery plays quickly and has the end-game scoring surprises and joys seen in games when no one really knows how they have done! Or how they have scored in comparison to the other players. The final reveal of your own points vs. the other players, as well as the check on who has the lowest amount of alibi’s is a suitable end to a Knizia game. It feels like an event, despite all being over and done with within 20 minutes. If you are looking for a light, fun, family friendly take-that card game, this could be the one for you.