A little while back, you might recall that we previewed an inventive and unusual worker placement and retrieval game that was coming to Kickstarter, called Thieves Den. Well, the good news is that it successfully funded and is now a fully fledged game available at retail. Having provided our initial thoughts, this review is a brief look back on what we originally mentioned, with a few nods to things that differentiate the final version from the preview copy we previously saw.
When I concluded my preview for the game, I closed it with “Thieves Den is very different to the other worker placement games that I’ve played, not only because of the drafting and how thieves move between players so fluidly but also because it is much quicker and faster than most. It’s a very simple game to learn and teach, but there are a lot of strategies spread across several decisions – how to draft when to use an opponent’s location, when to pass your turn in order to ensure that you have a next turn and so on.”
These key aspects of the gameplay remain in the final version, and in all honestly very little has changed since at a mechanical level between the Kickstarter and now. What is different, of course, is the quality of the components. I’ve said before in reviews for other Daily Magic Games (like this one, for Sailing Toward Osiris) that the quality of components which David and his team produce are top notch, and the same is certainly true for Thieves Den.
The artwork is largely of the same style as that which we saw in the preview, but I believe that there is a greater variety of imagery, with more locations and fence cards to work through. The characters and locations shown on these cards have a real character to them, and the strength of the artwork invokes the classic Discworld book covers that many people of a certain age will be familiar with.
The board (which was previously just printed card) is now a lovely piece that folds out to a long, thin rectangle across three leaves. Thief meeples are placed on it in numbers, and each one is nicely cut in an almost ninja style posture. The only slight downside from my perspective is the treasure tokens, which are all cut from very small pieces of cardboard, when I would have preferred a premium material like wood, or at least a larger size.
For the benefit of those who didn’t catch our original preview, Thieves Den is a worker placement game in which each player controls a gang of thieves, which are represented as meeples on the board. Each turn, the players will draft location cards and place them nearby, indicating that they represent good potential locations to burgle. They will then take turns to send out thieves to rob the location cards and the various action spaces on the main board.
The main difference between Thieves Den and most other worker placement games is that all thieves are generic and have no loyalty to any one den. Similarly, players are free to send the thieves they have to rob the targets of the other players, by placing them on the location cards that their opponents drafted. Some spaces allow players to gain new thieves, whilst many allow the players to claim treasure.
During their turn, among other things, each player will be attempting to collect enough treasure to fulfill one of the requirements shown on a fence card — which can then be completed for points. At the end of the round, the players will return all thieves on the board to the stock, but any thieves on the location cards they drafted will enter their den – which is the trade off for having the location you wanted burgled by another player. With this in mind, placing out location cards that you know other players want can be valid, if you need to increase your stock of thieves.
One addition to the game that was not available to us during the preview is the ‘Fortune Favors the Bold’ expansion, which contains a number of new features. There are several new components that each add to a different area of the board, but most of them are built in one way or another around the central idea of being able to roll a dice to gamble on the outcome (hence the name.)
The first and main component is a tile that is placed over the existing harbour artwork, introducing the gambling boat. Five dice will be placed nearby for players to use when prompted. The gambling boat is a new action space that can be visited in its own right, or players can use the new power tokens, festival cards and locations to potentially end up rolling the dice — known as Fortune Dice. The other additional element is a set of nicer replacement score markers, which introduces the idea of using the original scoring tokens as lieutenants who have a couple of uses that differ from standard thieves.
Having now played Thieves Den with the final release version, a couple of things have become clear. Firstly, Daily Magic Games really do know how to put together a fantastic looking game, but more importantly, Alice Davis’ design remains as engaging and clever as it was with the pre-release components. I’ve enjoyed Thieves Den even more since receiving the final version, and it is certainly among my go-to worker placement games when I want something light and fun.
You can purchase Thieves Den and Thieves Den: Fortune Favors the Bold on Daily Magics’ website.