The Cardboard Hoard: Review of Fugitive
Fugitive, designed by Tim Fowers and published by his Fowers Games, successfully funded on Kickstarter in June of 2016, and delivered to backers in the Spring of 2017. The two-player deduction game is a thematic sequel to Fowers’ earlier game Burgle Bros, but shares no mechanical similarities.
While I am not a fan of social deduction games, I do enjoy pure deduction games. Where social deduction often seems to degrade into verbal arguments based on little or no actual information, true deduction games -- such as Mr. Jack and Specter Ops -- use logic and breadcrumbs of information to pit two asymmetrical sides against one another in a tense battle of wits. While those larger box deduction games that play more players aren’t a great comparison to Fugitive, there is a similar vibe to be found in Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc's Mr. Jack Pocket, the two-player, quick playing offshoot of Mr. Jack.
So how exactly does Fugitive play? One player takes the role of the Fugitive, while the other controls the Marshal. The Fugitive’s goal is simple, to play hideout cards until they go from the starting hideout (value 0) to the final hideout -- a jet plane (value 42). There are three decks of cards that both players will draw from over the course of the game, with each containing cards in certain ranges, 4-14, 15-28, and 29-41. The Fugitive can play one hideout card each turn, face down, up to three numbers higher than their current hideout, and can also add additional cards to sprint and go further, determined by how many footprint icons are on the extra cards. However, since they can only draw one card per turn, sprinting too far too fast can leave them stuck later on. The Marshal, meanwhile, also gets to draw one hideout card per turn, using that information to eliminate potential hideouts the Fugitive could be hiding in. They then get one guess per turn -- and can guess a single hideout, or guess multiple hideouts at once. If they are correct, the Fugitive flips the hideout over. If every hideout is flipped over, the Marshal has caught the Fugitive and wins.
Fugitive plays in about 10-15 minutes, although it almost always gets played more than once when it hits the table, especially as most players will want to try playing both the Fugitive and Marshal roles. There is enough hidden information that both players will feel the tension of the pursuit, but enough available information that players will feel they have options on their turn, and agency over their decisions. In the eight games I have played -- with five different people -- the Marshal and Fugitive have each won four times. While that is a small sample size, it does indicate that the game is reasonably balanced.
This small box game has a lot of really nice production touches. It comes in a magnetic-lidded box that looks like the suitcase the Fugitive is carrying in the game’s artwork. Each card has unique artwork, and if looked at sequentially, the cards tell a cohesive story of the Fugitive’s getaway and Marshal’s pursuit. The art also features quite a few easter eggs of Burgle Bros characters. The game also contains a dry erase marker and board, which helps the Marshal keep all the information they’ve gathered straight.
Also included are Event cards, a great optional addition for experienced players, as they are shuffled into the hideout card decks and, when drawn, can help either the Marshal or the Fugitive, keeping both players on their toes and helping the gameplay stay fresh and exciting.
Pros: Fugitive is a quick-playing deduction game that is interesting to play using both roles. It has a very high production value, especially considering its low price point, with lovely art and a lot of thoughtful touches. It is a perfect thematic tie-in to Fowers’ earlier hit, Burgle Bros. The Events cards are a good way to freshen up the game and keep it interesting after a number of plays.
Cons: Fugitive only plays exactly two players. The game can take up a lot of table as the hideouts start to add up. One math error can ruin a game, due to the game’s hidden information and deductive elements.
Fugitive is a great addition to Tim Fowers impressive line-up of games, and a welcome addition to my collection. Its small box makes it perfectly portable, and its gameplay is ideal for quick two-player gaming situations, especially when playing with anyone that does not like direct conflict.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Fugitive from the publisher.