The Cardboard Hoard: Initial Thoughts on A Thief's Fortune
Artipia Games, the publisher of Among The Stars and Fields of Green, is no stranger to card drafting games. Their latest drafting game, A Thief’s Fortune, was designed by Konstantinos Kokkinis and Sotirios Tsantilas and is currently on Kickstarter.
I recently played a four-player game of A Thief’s Fortune with a preview copy of the game provided by Artipia Games. Note the prototype copy I played does not have finalized art or design -- although most of the card and board art seemed fairly polished.
The four-player game I played in took up a lot of table space, as players need space for about twenty cards in front of them, along with their player boards. The bulk of the game, being a card drafting game, is found in three decks -- Characters, Locations, and Events -- each containing over 50 cards. There are also two player boards per player, around 150 tokens, and a game board that helps organize the five different types of tokens and serves as a round counter and score tracker.
A Thief’s Fortune is a blend of two popular mechanisms -- card drafting and engine building -- that plays over five rounds. The four-player learning game I played took just under two hours, but I am confident it would play in ninety minutes if I played it again, now that I understand the rules and flow of the game.
Each round starts with a card draft, where players each take five cards and plays one to their respective Future areas, and then passes two. This repeats this until players each have two cards left, and they then choose one card to play, and get a bonus from the other card -- either resource tokens, a card, or a free action. The cards played into the future area each have at least one token placed on them, matching the iconography on the corner of the card.
In the next phase, players take tokens off the cards in the Future area and place them in their reserves. When a card has no more tokens on it, it immediately moves from the Future to the Present. Each player starts with one starting character and a corresponding location in their Present area, but their player board representing the Present has room for four characters, four locations, and four events. If a card coming into the Present area would be the fifth of the same type, it pushes the left most of that type into the Past area, where its ability will no longer be active, but it will be worth victory points at the end of the game.
The next phase is the Action phase. This is where players will run the engines they’ve built -- using the card combos they drafted -- but only those in the Present area, not the Future or Past -- to earn tokens and victory points.
Some of the tokens players can acquire are danger tokens. Unlike basic resources, which are used to activate certain cards, and time tokens, which are used to pull extra tokens from the Future area, danger tokens will cost players resources -- or victory points if they don’t have resources -- during the Bribe phase. Of course, the cards that contain danger tokens also have some of the best abilities in the game, so there is an element of pushing your luck in acquiring those cards and tokens. There is then a final phase where activated cards are readied again for the next round.
After five rounds, the player with the highest score -- calculated via in-game scoring through card combos and end game scoring through adding up the victory points of the cards in the Past area -- is the winner.
There is a lot to like about A Thief’s Fortune for fans of card drafting and engine building. What I found most interesting were the innovative twists in the card drafting phase. For one, having some control of which of the three decks players draw from makes the game less random and gives it more depth. Coupling that with allowing players to keep more than just the card they played during the draft really elevated the amount of control and the combo-building potential. Finally -- and possibly my favorite of the tweaks -- was the favor bonuses from the discarded cards players don’t draft. This is a great addition that makes what is normally a lackluster decision -- as normally the last two cards in any draft are the dregs -- and adds another critical decision, as players maybe looking for certain resources or cards the bonus can provide.
As for the engine building aspects, I really enjoyed the way the cards flowed from Future, to Present, to Past. Beyond being thematic, it was also an interesting decision point, as taking needed resources from the Future may also bring a card to the Present, one that could push another card -- one that could be critical to the engine -- into the Past. And while putting cards into the Past means losing their abilities, that is also the only way to score their value in victory points. There is a lot going on in A Thief’s Fortune, but within a few rounds, everyone at the table was able to grasp the concept of the game and how each phase played. With most of the phases being simultaneous, the game is engaging throughout.
I did, however, have a few issues with comprehending the rule book — although I will note the rule book I read is not the final version. I just hope the creators take into account the feedback they get from those playing this prototype version, and improve the readability and clarity of the final version of the rule book.
The A Thief’s Fortune Kickstarter campaign can be found here, and is running until September 20.