What's Eric Playing? #135: Fugitive
Surprising nobody, I’m a huge fan of Tim Fowers’s games. Picked up Paperback and Burgle Bros. a while ago, previewed Hardback and Now Boarding, and backed Fugitive the moment I heard about it, both for the aforementioned reason and because you really can never have too many two-player games.
Anyways. Fugitive is a rare “sequel” game, in that it happens immediately after Burgle Bros. ends; you get to the roof and the Marshal shows up. Now, the Rook is a Rook no longer; they’re a Fugitive, trying to escape the Marshal’s relentless chase. One player is the Marshal; the other is the Fugitive. Who will win?
Setup is pretty easy, as usual for many of the games I review. One player is the Fugitive, the other is the Marshal. Give the Marshal this erasable pad with a marker:
You can also use the Fugitive Notepad app, if that’s more your scene.
You’ll next want to set out the board on one side of the table (this game is a horizontally long game, so try to pick as far out as you can):
Take the Hideout cards and split them into four groups: 0 – 3 + 42, 4 – 14, 15 – 28, 29 – 41. Give the Fugitive the first group, and shuffle the other three groups separately:
Give the Fugitive 3 cards from the 4 – 14 set and 2 cards from the 15 – 28 set, and place the sets in their spots on the board.
Now, choose if you want to play with Events (random effects that change the game):
There are two ways to play with Events:
- Random events: Shuffle all the events together.
- Catch-up events: This tends to help whichever player isn’t in the lead. Shuffle two of the Event placeholder cards into each of the piles. Split the events into Fugitive Events (footprints), Marshal Events (binoculars), and Neutral Events (everything else). When you draw an event:
- 3+ Hideouts face-down: Draw a Marshal Event
- 2 Hideouts face-down: Draw a Neutral Event
- 1 Hideout face-down: Draw a Fugitive Event
Once you’ve done all that, set the 0 face-up by the board. You should be ready to start!
The game is played over a series of rounds, in which the Fugitive adds additional Hideout cards to the line and the Marshal tries to guess which cards the Fugitive played. It’s a straight-up deduction game. The game ends when either:
- The Fugitive plays card #42 and escapes (Fugitive Wins), or
- The Marshal guesses all face-down Hideouts and reveals them (Marshal Wins)
Let’s take it turn by turn.
So the Fugitive always goes first. Here’s how their turn works:
- If it’s your first turn, place two Hideouts.
- Otherwise, draw a card from any deck and then place one Hideout or pass.
How does placing Hideouts work? Well, you place a Hideout face-down, and it must be 1, 2, or 3 greater than your previous Hideout. You might not be able to always place a Hideout, and that’s not great! You’re on the run, you know. So if you’re in a pinch, you can Sprint to your next hideout by adding cards face-down above the Hideout. Each card has a Sprint value of 1 or 2 (note the footprints), meaning that you can increase your range by 1 or 2. So, if you play two Sprint cards with Sprint values of 2, your next Hideout can be up to 7 greater than your last Hideout. This does use up a lot of cards quickly, though, so be careful.
Once you’ve drawn, if you have no Hideouts you can play that adhere to the rules (or if you’d prefer not to play a Hideout for some reason), you can pass.
Continue doing this until you play Hideout #42, and you win!
The Marshal always goes second; here’s how their turn works.
- If it’s your first turn, draw two cards from any deck or combination of decks.
- On all turns, guess one or more Hideouts.
Your guess can be as many Hideouts as you want, and the Fugitive must answer “correct” and reveal all guessed Hideouts, or answer “incorrect” and reveal none. Note that this is an all-or-nothing proposition; you don’t get any partial credit, so if you guess more than one Hideout, you better be correct about all of them. If you are correct on a guess, the Fugitive reveals the Hideout and all played Sprint cards, so you get extra information. Keep track of revealed Hideouts and cards in your hand on your Marshal pad, but don’t show it to the Fugitive.
You win if all Hideouts are revealed — you’ve tracked down the Fugitive! However, if the Fugitive wins and you haven’t revealed a Hideout higher than 29, you enter a Manhunt. You can now take one last desperate chance to guess all the Hideouts, one at a time. Each time you guess, if you’re wrong, you lose. Otherwise, the Fugitive reveals the Hideout and all Sprint cards and you guess again.
At certain points in the game, if you’re playing with Events you may reveal an Event placeholder. There are two different ways to handle Events, as noted in the Setup. If you’re playing with normal Events, you just ignore the placeholders and the Fugitive draws an Event card every time one of his Hideouts is revealed. If you’re playing with catch-up Events, you draw them as follows:
- 3+ Hideouts face-down: Draw a Marshal Event
- 2 Hideouts face-down: Draw a neutral Event
- 1 Hideout face-down: Draw a Fugitive Event
Either way, after you resolve the Event, you draw another card.
Play until one player wins!
PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES
No differences; it’s two players only.
Since it’s basically a pure deduction game, there are a lot of opportunities for good (and bad!) strategies. I’ll give a quick overview of what’s worked (and hasn’t worked) for me.
- Use the Events to your advantage. Generally they’re supposed to benefit you, yes, so try to leverage that such that you are getting the maximum benefit from them. I found one particular Event that I liked was that I, the Fugitive, got to guess a card in the Marshal’s hand, and since I didn’t really care I guessed a card that I had already played as a Hideout. This briefly threw them off and bought me an extra turn.
- (Fugitive) Try to avoid playing Sprint cards that are higher-valued than your highest-played Hideout. This means that if this Hideout is revealed, the Marshal gets extra information about which cards you cannot play. If anything, try to play only lower-valued Sprint cards.
- (Fugitive) Bluffing Sprint cards is an okay idea. I pretty much only do it on the first turn or so in order to throw them off when the Marshal has the least information. Later in the game they have enough information that it’s usually just a waste of cards.
- (Fugitive) Try to figure out which cards the Marshal has seen. If you know which ones they’ve seen, you can get a better idea of how to confuse them and place cards that force them to guess, rather than placing cards that they know.
- (Marshal) I generally think in terms of ranges. For instance, if I know that they’ve played two Hideouts after Hideout 10 with no Sprints, then the highest it could be is 16. That said, I have 13 in my hand, so it’s either 11 + 14, 12 + 14, or 12 + 15. If I draw 14 next turn, then I know it’s 12 and 15. Helpful!
- (Marshal) Try to create a Roadblock. I generally draw from the second and third decks to try and deplete them and force the Fugitive to Sprint if they want to get anywhere. They use up more cards and it’s a bit easier to track.
- (Marshal) Remember that half of the Sprint cards are 1s and half are 2s. This means that if you have two Sprint cards down, it’s most likely an extra +3 (50%).
- (Marshal) Guess multiple Hideouts with caution. I generally will only do it if I’m about to win, about to lose, or if I already know one of them.
PROS, MEHS, AND CONS
- I really love the theme. It’s a super-cool idea to build it out as a follow-on to Burgle Bros., and several of the cards have the Fugitive meeting up with / being helped out by his former teammates to escape the Marshal. It’s just really well thought-out, and I love that.
- The art is incredible. I can’t stress this enough — each of the Hideouts has a unique art piece that tells a chase story. It’s really awesome. I’m half-surprised there aren’t prints available or something. It’s got a nice mix of vibrance, color, and style such that it really works well for telling the story of the game. Huge fan.
- Easy to pick up and play. The rules don’t take that long to explain, and the game is relatively short.
- The box is super cool. It looks like a briefcase, and it has a magnetic clasp. Incredible.
- The asymmetry works well with the theme and is implemented well. I wouldn’t say that I have a preference between the Fugitive and the Marshal, but they’re very different games. I think that’s really cool! I’d need to get Vast played a few more times before I can comment on it, but I will say that I generally like games with significant asymmetrical components.
- Kind of requires a fair bit of horizontal space. Can’t always play it where I’d like because I have to play the cards horizontally along the table. This is the nittiest of nitpicks, but it’s still something I think about.
- Seems a bit weighted towards the Marshal. Since it’s a pure deduction game, it seems feasible that the Marshal can just logic it out (and we have found in our games that players will tend to do so), making it much more difficult for the Fugitive to win unless the Marshal makes a mistake or two. I think a solid fix for this is weighting the Event Deck to be slightly more Fugitive-friendly (if you shuffle them all together), or changing the catch-up Event rules slightly so that the Marshal Events and neutral Events come up less often. I haven’t had a chance to try these yet, but I think they’ll help.
- Pure deduction element lends itself to players overanalyzing the game, particularly as the Marshal. As I mentioned previously, it’s a very deduction-focused game, so it causes some heavy analysis paralysis among certain players. The problem is, with enough time, you can probably logic out what choices the Fugitive has made, or you can at least narrow down the options. I’ve played games before where I’ve just had to sit and watch the Marshal weigh probabilities and “do the math” far too much, ultimately to win. There are certain games where this is the case (Santorini can be one, for instance). I think this one might be solvable with a short turn timer, which would be kind of interesting (if you run out of time, I figure, you would just pass your turn). Can you think quickly enough to catch the Fugitive? Can you make it to your next Hideout?
OVERALL: 8 / 10
Overall, I think Fugitive is a great game! Sure, I think that the Marshal tends to win more in my play groups, but part of that is that it’s a challenge to future Fugitives — can you beat the Marshal, even if you feel like the game is slightly stacked against you? Either way, generally, it doesn’t matter because the game plays fairly quickly. I’d love to start trying the game with a timer to see if that affects it, or changing the proportions of Events to see how that goes, but that’ll take some more experimenting to find a sweet spot. In the meantime, I’m totally excited to play another great game in the Burgle Bros. universe, as the art’s impeccable, the game is short and fun, and the theme is awesome. Honestly, another triumph from Tim Fowers, and I’m super excited to see what games are coming up next.