- For ages 7 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
- For 2 to 4 players
- About 30 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Risk vs. Reward
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- When the local tavern erupts into a full-blown bar-brawl, a smart (and very hungry) thief knows to take advantage of it!
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The Cockatrice Corral is known for two things: its outstanding menu that has culinary snobs feinting out of pure joy and the very high probability of anyone stepping through the door getting into a fight. It’s the food that keeps the clientele coming back, despite the very real chance they might leave with fewer teeth thanks to a lucky punch from another tavern patron. For a small band of Halflings, a visit to the Cockatrice Corral means a free meal, but not without risk. Being small has many advantages, but it also means you can be easily stepped on. The things some Halflings do for a really good Snot Goblin Stew…
Halfling Heist, by Handwritten Games, is comprised of 1 Cockatrice Corral & Menu (game mat), 1 six-sided die, 4 Halflings ( player pawns), 42 Food meeples (beer bottles, bread, steak, carrot, chicken, fish, and cheese), 1 small bag, 31 Brawl cards, and 33 Halfling Luck cards. The real story here is he Food meeples. Adding little wooden bits that represent the different foods found in the Cockatrice Corral was a brilliant touch.
Building the Tavern
To set up the game, unfold the game mat and put in the center of the playing area. Separate the Brawl and Halfling Luck cards, shuffle each deck, and place by the game mat within easy reach of all the players, face-down.
Now put all the Food meeples into the bag and randomly select 1 Food meeple per open bar and table space. All players should place their Halfling pawns on one of the 8 open spaces by the two south (bottom) exists of the tavern. Halflings cannot occupy the same space.
Lastly, have each player roll the six-sided die. The player who rolls the highest goes first!
The goal of the game is to collect as much food as possible without being trapped in the Cockatrice Corral when the City Watch surrounds the place to stop the brawl. The City Watch will slowly start to cover the exists and are willing to let anyone go past them for a price. Given the option, a Halfling will always pay gold to leave with a bag full of great food. The alternative is spending untold days in the local dungeon where the food is lousy.
A player can move their Halfling pawn up, down, left or right, but never diagonally. The Halfling pawns can never travel through or stop on the same space as another Halfling pawn. Movement continues until the player is forced to stop when they end their movement on a Brawl space. A Brawl space is easy to distinguish from the rest of the bar and are a whirlwind of chaos.
Getting Into (and Avoiding) a Fight
As soon as a Halfling pawn ends their movement on a Brawl space, the player stops their movement and draws 1 Brawl card. The player now performs the action stated on the Brawl card. Sometimes a Brawl card will instruct the player to allow an opponent to move the player’s Halfling pawn, drop food, and even give the player a choice. Long story short, a little Halfling walking into a fight is dangerous and unpredictable. Of course, as reckless as Halflings are, they are also terribly lucky. This is where the Halfling Luck cards come into play. Some Halfling Luck cards can be used by the player to avoid the negative side-affects of walking into a fight. They can also be used to steal food from other players and protect their hard-earned stolen goods.
Regardless if the fight is avoided or not, the Brawl card will then tell the player at the very bottom of the card if they should stop their turn and draw a Halfling Luck card or continue their turn. If the player is told to draw a Halfling Luck card, they take the top card off the Halfling Luck deck and keep it hidden from their opponents. Any Halfling Luck cards the player has can be used in the future to avoid fights and pay off the City Watch. There is no limit to the number of Halfling Luck cards a player can hold, which is a very good thing considering the situation the Halflings are in.
Hungry, Hungry Halflings
If the player is sneaky (and lucky) enough to avoid the fight ensuing in the Brawl space, they might make their way to the bar or a table where tasty food has been left unattended. If they do, the player takes the food they land on and adds it to their “bag”. Bagged Food meeples are arranged in front of the player from oldest piece food (on the player’s far left) to the newest piece of food to be added (to the player’s far right) in a straight line. Any collected food is always added to the right of any previously bagged food.
Once a Halfling gets their hands on tasty morsels, however, they can’t stop. The player can only continue to move their Halfling if they land on another spot where a Food meeple is available. If they cannot, the player’s turn is over. Of course, if the Halfling is showing a tremendous amount of willpower (seldomly heard of), the player can choose to stop their movement at anytime, even when their last move was on a Food meeple.
The Five Second Rule
If a player is ever told to drop a piece of their food, the Food meeple furthest to the right is placed on a space above, below, left, or right of the Halfling pawn. This food is still good and can be picked up when a Halfling lands on it. Halflings, you see, are not picky.
If a player is ever told to sacrifice a piece of food, the Food meeple furthest to the right is placed back in the bag with the rest of the unplaced Food meeples. At which point, most Halflings will breakdown and cry, as there is nothing worse in this world than ruined food.
The player’s turn does not end until they are forced to stop or they choose to stop (based on cards or lack of available food). Once their turn is over, the next player gets a chance to navigate the choppy waters of a huge fight.
All discarded Halfling Luck and Brawl cards are placed next to their face-down decks, but are not added back to the deck for play. All luck will eventually run out and even the most tenacious of bar-brawls will eventually die down.
Having all the food in the world won’t mean squat if the Halfling can’t make it out to enjoy their tasty spoils. There are two main points to consider, however, before a Halfling attempts to take a step outside. First, the three exists can be covered by the City Watch. If they are, the player will need to pay them off to allow their Halfling to leave. This is done by discarding Coin Purse cards found only in the Halfling Luck deck. Second, once the Halfling leaves, they won’t be allowed back in the tavern. Of course, a player cannot stay, either. The brawl will die down and the City Watch will arrest anyone still left in the tavern, including the Halflings stuffing their faces with the “evidence”.
The game will end one of two ways. The game can end when all the players have left the Cockatrice Corral or when a Brawl card cannot be drawn when needed (signifying that the brawl has finally died down and the City Watch are arresting everyone still in the tavern). Once the game ends, all the players count up their scores (all points are shown on the game mat for easy reference). Any Halfling still in the tavern when the City Watch raid the establishment automatically score zero points.
First count the quantity of the food (and cash) collected:
- Beer bottle = 3 points
- Steak = 3 points
- Fish = 2 points
- Chicken = 2 points
- Bread = 1 point
- Cheese = 1 point
- Carrot = 1 point
- Coin Purses = 3 points
Now count the quality of the food collected (each Food meeple can only used once)
- Gryphon’s Banquet (1 fish + 2 chickens + 1 steak +1 beer bottle) = 6 points
- Happy Hour (4 beer bottles) = 4 points
- The Cockatrice Club (3 breads + 1 chicken + 1 fish) = 4 points
- Vegetarian Fancypants (1 carrot + 1 cheese + 1 beer bottle) = 4 points
- Snot Goblin Stew (1 chicken + 1 beer bottle + 1 carrot) = 3 points
- Super Cheese Sanger (2 breads + 1 cheese) = 3 points
Once all the points are added together, the player with the most points wins (and probably has the most obese Halfling, too).
To learn more about Halfling Heist and read the full rule book (which includes more details on Halfling movement and card play not mentioned in this review), see the game’s web site.
A fast game of food grabbing and punch dodging? I think this game will be a hit, but with diminishing returns the further down the path of “gamer elitness” I go. For the little geeks, I think this game will be well received. For the Parent Geeks, I think they will find the game fast and social. For the Gamer Geeks, this might just squeak by as a light “filler”. There is certainly enough game for everyone, but each test group tends to have a specific “hook” they are looking to bite. For example, the little geeks will bite onto the theme, the Parent Geeks will swallow the casual game play, and the Gamer Geeks might just nibble enough on the game’s uniqueness.
Teaching the game does not take long. Decision making is kept to very simple “stop” or “continue” type commands. However, while the cards do drive much of the action, the player is constantly being asked to react. The level of reaction is what I kept getting questions about. The “what if’s” and “what about’s” kept coming up. My only response was to suggest that their cards and their opponents would decide most of the outcome. At which point, looks of distrust were often given to everyone at the gaming table.
For my little geek, he didn’t have much issue. Sadly, my 5-year-old has taken less interest in games as of late, preferring to play with his action figures. Fine by me, as I also enjoy playing with action figures and do so as often as I can. I will never “force” games with my little geeks for the obviously reason that it is terribly counter-productive to my epic goals.
After teaching my little geek the game, he didn’t have much in the way of questions and looked forward to “getting it on”, as he likes to say. I quickly reset the board and asked him what his thoughts on the game were so far.
“I like it! Halflings don’t stand a chance in a real bar fight, but I like how you can duck and dodge. And these food pieces are awesome!” ~ Liam (age 7)
Indeed they are, and yes, Halflings have no business being in any type of combat or violent situation. Let’s play the game and see if the Halflings are given a happy (and fattening) ending.
Attention Parents: Yes, this game has beer bottles, but the use or abuse of alcohol is never mentioned or shown in the game. Halflings getting kicked, punched, and thrown in abundance, however, is. If you are sensitive to the plight of the poor Halfling, best avoid this game.
My little geek really, really liked the game. The drawing of the cards turned out to be his favorite. He did very well using his Halfling Luck cards and even managed to dodge some very serious attacks from random tavern patrons. Opponents in this game have the ability to mess with, but never completely harm, the other players. Minor set backs are about the most extreme any player can expect, but in a game that plays pretty fast, even a lost turn or two feels major. This also tended to make my little geek shake his fists in the air out of frustration. This was especially true when I stole food that he was about to collect.
My little geek did very well and even managed to get a win. He snuck out the backdoor with his Halfling using a coin purse to bribe the City Watch. I had coins to bribe the guards, but not enough to bribe them all. As the game continued, I couldn’t find a way out and eventually got stuck, losing by default. Lesson learned: there is only so much luck you can push in this game.
Parent Geeks, as expected, enjoyed the game and laughed a great deal at the absurd situations their Halflings kept getting into. The game plays very easily, allowing non-gamers and gamers to site at the table, be social, and have a good time. Although, the non-gamers had little in the way of understanding what a Halfling was or why they would be stealing food in the first place. Didn’t matter, though, as the theme is there for fun, but is hardly necessary for the player to understand to enjoy the game.
Gamer Geeks were mixed. Some enjoyed it very much and thought it to be silly fun. Others were disappointed at the feeling of roll-n-move the game gave them (where the “roll” was determined by a random card reveal). All the Gamer Geeks agreed that the level of randomness did not give much room to develop any meaningful level of strategy or tactics, and the only way to avoid bad situations was to have a card that provided it. They then collectively decided to not take the game seriously and had a good time with it.
Gamer Geeks, this game is random, fast, and is primarily dependent on luck and timing. That being said, it plays tight, provides amusement, and allows the other players to interact with each other. This makes the game, at most, a light filler. In this role, it does very well and will give all the players at the table a fast game with a fun fantasy theme. This is not a game to bring out for “serious game nights”, but for a mixed group of gamers who just want to play a game for fun, Halfling Heist is sure to please. The different ways to score (quantity vs. quality) were the highlight of the game and gave all players a goal, making movement and direction meaningful.
Parent Geeks, this is a fun, casual game where the player’s success is largely dependent on staying below the other players’ radar. Luck does play a role, but even the worst of situations can be avoided with a Halfling Luck card, making bad luck (and aggressive players) something that can be managed. Non-gamers enjoyed it and didn’t have any problem playing the game, but often wondered what all the fuss was about or what a Halfling was. This saddened me.
Child Geeks, get ready to dash and dine as you help your Halfling avoid all the brouhaha of the tavern! You’ll need to take the fastest path to the food and watch for new food to appear. Then, as fast as you can, snatch it up before your opponent’s do! Along the way, expect to be thrown, clotheslined, hit, smacked, and stolen from. Victory is all about timing and knowing when you should jump off the tables and make for a quick getaway! Too much greed will reward the player with zero points. Just enough greed will give the player victory!
This game came out of nowhere for me. I read the rules, thought it sounded interesting, and was willing to give it a try. Boy, was I happy I did! Halfling Heist is a wonderful little game that challenges me to collect the right pieces of food while balancing my risk vs. reward. The longer I stay in the tavern, the more points I could get, but that also means it will be harder for me to get out. This game mechanism of increased risk is nothing new, but coupled with the theme and the chaotic play, made for a wonderful game.
Another game mechanism I highly enjoyed was the Food meeple set-collecting. While a player could make points by collecting every piece of food they found, the smart player went after the food pieces that completed recipes. The higher the quality of food, the more points you were given. This gave my turn meaning and a reason for me to go left versus right. A game that could be played with little to no cerebral activity quickly became a game of determining how best to use my move to collect the most important food pieces before the other players. The Food meeples are not unlimited (there is only a set number of each) and it becomes increasingly important to collect the right food. This really had me thinking and constantly reevaluating my scoring position in the game and odds of winning.
Fast and fun, Halfling Heist is a joy to play and left me feeling satisfied, win or lose. If you are looking for a casual set-collecting game with a fun theme and random outcomes that recreate the atmosphere of a fantasy tavern brawl perfectly, then do get your hands on Halfling Heist. This is a small game that packs big fun!
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.