Jewel Thief Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 6 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Variable game length time

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Memorization & Pattern/Color Matching
  • Visuospatial Skills

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Be crafty and quick to make matches and steal jewels


  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!


We cannot help but to covet things. We often misunderstand our wants as needs, yearning and obsessing over the latest board games, video games, clothes, objects, and even people. And while it’s natural for anyone to imagine things, we seldom act upon our impulses, especially when they go against society’s rules and laws. In this game, players work as jewel thieves, taking the sparkly precious objects for their own. Laws and consequences be damned. And like crimes and thieves in real life, this game gives players multiple ways to take that which is not theirs.

Jewel Thief, designed by Jon Owens and self-published through the Game Crafter, is comprised of 36 square cards. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. Illustrations are exceedingly minimal, representing either a keyhole or a gem type.

One Game, Multiple Ways to Play

Jewel Thief has four different variants of play. Each is summarized here. Regardless of the game variant, all the cards are used. Each of the cards shows a jewel type and a color.

Game Variant One: Timed Matching

One player is the Jewel Thief, and the other is the Treasure Hunter. The two players sit across from each other, and the Jewel Thief player takes the cards and shuffles them. The Treasure Hunter closes their eyes and waits to be told when to go. The Jewel Thief deals out the cards in a six-by-six square grid. Once completed, they say, “Go!” The Treasure Hunter must now try to find matching cards and collect the pairs. However, the Jewel Theif will remove either a row or a column of cards every three seconds! The game continues until the Treasure Hunter says “stop” or all the cards are collected.

Game Variant Two: Memory

There are two modes of play for this game variant. The first mode uses the standard six-by-six square gride, but the cards are face-down when dealt. Players take turns flipping over cards. The first player to claim the matching cards collects them when a match is recognized. The second mode is the more traditional memory-like game, wherein players take turns flipping over a card. If there is a match, the cards are collected. If not, the cards are returned face-down.  The game continues until all the cards are collected.

Game Variant Three: Grid Slide

This time, the players will shuffle the deck and draw 16 cards, placing them face-up to create a four-by-four square grid. Players then draw two cards and, on their turn, put a card to one of the rows and columns in the grid, sliding the card into place. The card pushed out can be either added to the player’s hand or discarded, allowing the player to draw a new card. If three or more jewels match once the card is slid into place, the player scores points, removing the cards and adding new ones. If not, the game continues until several matches are made.

Game Variant Four: Chains

The deck is shuffled, and one card is placed face-up in the middle of the playing area. All players are dealt five cards, which should remain hidden from opponents. On the player’s turn, they will place a card on top of the topmost card visible in the middle of the playing area. They can then decide to steal a card from an opponent or draw a card, adding the selected card to their hand. The objective is to create a “chain,” defined as two or more cards placed on top of each other that match either color or jewel shape, thus chaining one card to the next. If such a chain exists, the first player to place a “diamond” on top collects the cards in the chain and scores points. A chain is broken if a card played does not continue the chain based on the previous card’s colors or jewel type. After all players have completed three chains, the score is totaled, and the player with the most points wins.

To learn more about¬†Jewel Thief, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks liked the different game variants and found the deck of cards to be easy to play with when waiting for their order at a restaurant, waiting for the bus, or just waiting for anything in particular. The game is small enough to require minimal real estate at your table – or any playing surface – and the games are quick to set up and complete. Even more interesting was that the Child Geeks learned to play all four game variants and then decided to make their own. According to one Child Geek, “I like the game because the deck of cards is not only fun to play with, but the games that you can make out of the cards are a lot of fun, too.” Another Child Geek said, “I don’t like the memory game, but the game where you get to slide cards or outthink the jewel thief was fun. I want my mom to put this game in her bag so we can play it while we wait for the dentist.” The Child Geeks found the game a great steal when all the jewels were captured.

The Parent Geeks did not enjoy the game as much as their Child Geeks but did find the game to be a great filler and use of time when waiting for just about anything. According to one Parent Geek, “The included games are simple and easy to play, making this little deck of cards easy to travel with and fun to bring out when you have five to ten minutes to kill. My biggest gripe is how difficult the rules are to read and how some of the jewels are just a bit too close to the same shape, making them difficult to see when they are the same color. Other than that, I enjoyed the game with my kids.” Another Parent Geek said, “I thought the games that came with the deck of cards were just fine. Fun to play with my kids, but not something I would bring out with my friends if we were home. I think this game works great as a filler or a game of opportunity when out and about with the family.” When the thief was caught, the Parent Geeks took a vote and decided Jewel Thief was a keeper.

The Gamer Geeks were not into any of the games, finding them all too simplistic and intended for a gaming audience not primarily focused on depth of gameplay and long sessions of stressful strategic and tactical decision-making. According to one Gamer Geek, “This is a deck of cards with a few games wrapped around it. I can get the same thing with just a deck of 52 cards. I think this game will be great for the kids, but not for a gamer.” Another Gamer Geek said, “An assortment of memory and matching games with a custom deck. There is interesting content and some interesting games, but not enough to keep me interested for more than five minutes. Good thing most games only take about four minutes to complete.” When the jewels were all put away safely in their vault, the Gamer Geeks all agreed that they could stay there without any need to revisit them.

Jewel Thief is a collection of games. It’s not just one. There’s value in just that fact alone. With just one deck of cards, you get four different ways to play and four different ways to challenge your mind, given whatever limited time you might suddenly find yourself having. The playing space needed is relatively small, and other than needing a means to keep track of points, the game is entirely self-contained in a small box that can fit in your back pocket.

The games included, as noted by the Parent and Gamer Geeks, are simple in their design and execution. To be blunt, there isn’t much in the way of anything new being presented in the gameplay, but there is still fun to be had. The games lack great depth, so a limited amount of brain power is also needed. In my opinion, this is perfect for the game as it’s intended to be a filler. A “filler” game is always designed to be something fast you can get to the table and focus little time and energy while waiting for the “big event.” This could be the big game to be played that evening or writing for your food order to arrive. Either way, Jewel Thief gets to the table fast and plays just as quickly, allowing you to play something with a friend instead of looking mindlessly at your phone or staring into the distance.

Seeing the Child Geeks take the cards and make their own games was interesting. One Child Geek created a game where one player was the Dragon and the other player the Knight. The Dragon had to save the jewels from their treasure mound while the Knight tried to steal them. The rules were a bit flimsy at times, but the game played much like the traditional card game of War, and – from what I observed – the Child Geeks liked it.

I will put this kind of game in my trailer or camping box. It isn’t a game I’ll keep in the house because I don’t know when I would ever want to play it. This “on-the-go” game will be perfect for sitting by a lantern underneath a rain cover, playing with my kids when we camp, or taking them out to play while we eat lunch when we stop on the hiking path.

If you are in the mood for a quick game that can be played just about anywhere and at any time, look at Jewel Thief. What it lacks in depth, strategy, and tactics, it makes up for in ease of play and quick deployment to the table. Give it a shot to see if it steals your attention.

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.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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