Rogues to Riches Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 10+)
  • For 2 to 5 players
  • Variable game play length (approximately 20 minutes per player)

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Imagination

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • A successful rogue is more brain than brawn

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek mixed!
  • Child Geek mixed!

Overview

You are a highly skilled rogue who can steal anything. Of this there is no doubt. But when you are at a table with similar fellows, the best rogue is not the one who steals the most silver, but the one who has the silver tongue.

Rogues to Riches, designed by Sam Fraser and published by Grow Giant Games, is comprised of 71 Gear cards, 15 Riches cards, 5 Blank Trap cards, 57 Trap cards, 10 Blank Gear cards, 16 Lair boards, and 2 standard six-sided dice. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card and the Lair boards are made of thick cardboard. Artwork is minimal but professional. Artist Julianne Harnish did a great job of visually giving the players a solid reference regarding what each card and board represents, balancing the information to be read with images that further enhance the game’s narrative.

A Gallery of Rogues

To set up the game, first remove all the Blank cards and set them aside. Separate the remaining cards into three different piles. One for Gear, one for Trap, and one for Riches. Shuffle each separately to create three different decks. Place each deck face-down in a row in the middle of the playing area.

Second, shuffle the Lair boards and deal one to each player. Lair boards are placed in front of their owning player, face-up. Have each player read their Lair board to the group. Place any Lair boards not used back in the game box.

Third, deal one Riches card to each player, placing it face-up next to the Riches card space on the player’s Lair board.

Fourth, deal four Trap cards to each player, face-down. Players now look through their Trap cards and play one face-down next to the Hidden Trap card space on the player’s Lair board. The player then selects two of the remaining Trap cards to play face-up next to the First Trap and Second Trap card spaces on the player’s Lair board. The remaining unplayed Trap card is discarded. Players should take a moment to consider this card placement carefully. The trap in the First Trap space is encountered before the Second Trap. Some Trap cards have special placement rules.

Fifth, deal each player four Gear cards, face-down. Players take these into their hand, being careful not to reveal them until the time is right.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first and begin.

Tall Tales of Thieving Thieves

Rogues to Riches is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. On a player’s turn, they take on the role of the “Rogue” and complete the following steps:

Step One: Choose a Lair

The Rogue selects any opponents’ Lair board they want to try to pilfer. When they have selected their target, they point to the opponent and ask them to read their Lair board out loud. Each Lair board gives information that can be used by the players in the game. Some of it is there to help support the game’s narrative and some are actual rule changes. The player who owns the targeted Lair board is now referred to as the “Defender”. All other opponents are now referred to as the “Observers”.

Step Two: Describe the Plan

The Rogue now describes their plan to infiltrate the targeted Lair by avoiding the visible Trap card in the First Trap space. This is done by creatively describing the encounter with the trap and how the Rogue avoided it or disarmed it. The player must use at least one of their Gear cards to do so, but can use more if they believe it necessary. Previously stolen Riches cards can also be used. Cards played to support the player’s tale are placed face-up in front of them when they are introduced to their story.

For example, the Rogue could be up against the “Poison Gas” Trap card and they have the “Gas Mask” Gear card in their hand. They could say, “When I enter the room with the poisonous gas, I immediately recognize it by its distinctive smell and color. I quickly put on my Gas Mask [at which point the player places their “Gas Mask” Gear card face-up in front of them] and breathe easy, knowing the gas will not harm me.”

Step Three: Modify the Plan

The Rogue now has an opportunity to ask some questions about the Lair they are breaking into and the Defender must answer. This is the Rogue’s opportunity to get some much-needed details that might or might now change how they go about their thieving. If necessary, the Rogue can now play additional Gear cards, modifying their Plan. For example, the Rogues could say, “Oh! I also have this handy bag of rags that I keep thinking I’ll throw away. I’ll use those to stuff the vent, stopping the gas from pumping into the room!” At which point the Rogue would place their “Rags” Gear card down for all to see.

Steps Two and Three is all about storytelling and creativity, but the player need not stress themselves out by thinking up a grandiose tale. The story can be a simple description or an elaborate bit of prose. The point is to have fun and to be as creative as possible, as the tables are about to turn…

Step Four: Defend the Lair

It’s now the Defender’s turn and they get to describe how they are defending their property from the would-be thief. This is done by attempting to find flaws in the Rogue’s logic by using the cards played, the cards’ descriptions, and the noted facts on the Lair board. Like the Rogue, the Defender is welcome to ask any questions they like to get a better idea of how the player intends to use the cards. The one very important point to make here is that the Rogue can clarify, but cannot modify their Plan.

For example, the Defender could say, “I’m afraid it is too late for you, my friend. This particular brand of poisonous gas is very potent. Just one whiff will cause paralysis in less than two minutes. You said you smelled the gas, which tells me you will soon be at my mercy!” [insert evil laugh here]

Step Five: Vote

The Observing players this entire time have been listening to the stories and are hopefully entertained. But now they have a job to do. Based on what they heard from the Rogue and the Defender, they must now vote if the attempt to avoid the trap and entering the Lair was successful or it was a botched job. This is done by using thumbs. On the count of three (or whatever method is preferred by the group), all Observers (not the Rogue or the Defender) will display one or two thumbs. The thumb position determines the Observer’s belief of the outcome.

  • One thumb up, the plan might work
  • Two thumbs up, the plan will succeed without question
  • One thumb down, the play might not work
  • Two thumbs down, the plan will fail
  • No thumbs (just a fist), the Observer is neutral, leaving the Rogue’s and the Observer’s fate up to chance

Step Six: A Roll of Fate

The Rogue player now rolls the two six-sided dice. The number roll is modified by the Observers’ vote. For every thumbs up, the rolled value is increased by one. For every thumbs down, the rolled value is reduced by one.

Step Seven: The Results

The resulting final value is then compared to the Fate Roll Check table. If the final value is equal to or higher than the target number, the Rogue succeeds! If not, the Rogue has failed.

If the attempt was successful, the Rogue takes the Trap card from the Observer and keeps it as their own, placing it in a pile next to the Defeated Traps card space on their Lair board.

If the attempt failed, the Rogue’s turn is over. Proceed to step ten.

Step Eight: Next Trap, Please

If there are any Trap cards still on the targeted Lair board, steps two through seven are now repeated. As soon as the Second Trap card is claimed by a Rogue, the “Hidden Trap” Trap card is revealed by turning it face-up. Previously played Gear cards can be used again, but the Rogue runs the risk of the Defender taking special care to ensure the Gear cards in question go missing or break.

Step Nine: Pilfering the Plunder

If the Rogue is able to successfully avoid each of the Traps on the targeted Lair board, they claim the Defender’s Riches card (not the stolen Riches) and placing it face-up next to the Stolen Riches card space on the player’s Lair board. This card is now permanently in the player’s hand and can be used on their next turn like a Gear card.

The Defender discards their Lair, sets aside their Defeated Trap cards and Stolen Riches cards (making sure not to discard them), and now only takes part in the voting described in step five.

Step Ten: Ending the Turn

If the Rogue was unsuccessful in avoiding a trap or stole a Defender’s riches, the turn ends. All Gear cards played this turn are discarded and the Rogue draws four new Gear cars to their hand. Any Stolen Riches cards used by the Rogue to help with their heist remain face-up next to their Lair board.

This ends the turn. The next player in turn order sequence now goes starting with step one noted above.

The Richest of Rogues

The game continues as noted above until only one player is left with a Lair card. All players now count the number of Defeated Trap cards and Stolen Riches cards they collected during the game. The player with the most cards wins.

Those Blank Cards

The game comes with a number of blank Trap and Gear cards. The intent is for the players to take those cards and create their own that can be added to the game. They can be anything the player likes. When done, add them to the game and play with them as you would a normal Trap or Gear card.

To learn more about Rogues to Riches, visit the game publisher’s website.

Final Word

The Child Geeks both liked and disliked the game. Note I did not say “love and hate” to describe their passion. That’s because this game tired them out. According to one Child Geek, “It can be hard to tell a really good story using only the cards you have.” This is an important point to make which is not explicitly stated in the rules. The players are expected to “stay on script”, so to speak. They are encouraged to be as creative as possible, but can only introduce important elements that strengthen their case via the cards available to them. For example, a player can say they have an elephant if they don’t have a card that says as much, but since they don’t have a card for it, that part of their story can be easily dismissed. Another Child Geek said, “I really like it. I always voted for the player who was losing, because I didn’t want the other player to win.” This was found to be true through observation and later discussions for almost all of our Child Geeks. This didn’t sit well as a number of Child Geeks felt like their peers were “cheating”. When the games were over, the Child Geeks voted and the thumb results clearly showed that Rogues to Riches was a mixed bag for our young crowd of gamers.

The Parent Geeks very much enjoyed the social aspect of the game and the creative storytelling. They found it to be a fun game with their family and a great time with other adults. According to one Parent Geek, “I think this is a fun game to play over a glass of wine with friends or with family. It champions creativity, which I really like, and good storytelling.” Another Parent Geek said, “I like the game’s concept, but don’t like the voting too much. I didn’t like Apples to Apples for the same reason. You win or lose based off someone else’s agenda.” This last comment was similar to the Child Geeks and it was observed by me (although others strongly denied it) that there was favoritism in the voting. Specifically when voting against a player who most likely had the better story, but was winning. The end vote for the Parent Geeks was similar to the Child Geeks, resulting in Rogues to Riches winning a mixed recommendation from our casual older players.

The Gamer Geeks liked the game’s concept and didn’t put too much thought into the game’s overall play, finding it to be light and obviously designed to be so. In one Gamer Geek’s words, “The game knows what it is and doesn’t try to trick you into thinking it is crazy strategic or deep. I hate games that do that. This game is all about creativity and subjective reasoning. Simple and to the point.” And while the Gamer Geeks appreciated the game’s blatant display of obviousness (from their point-of-view), they did not believe it was a game that necessarily handled everything right. According to one Gamer Geek, “Here’s the thing. I could be the most creative bastard on the planet and an Olympic grade debater, but I could still lose. The others could vote me off the island the dice could roll in my opponent’s favor. That feels broken.” Other Gamer Geeks thought the same thing, but were also quick to add that this did not break the game. It only served to weaken its position when voting to endorse it. The Gamer Geeks decided Rogues to Riches was not as rich as they had hopped, finding it be worthwhile, but not spectacular.

The only aspect of the game I am not keen on is the voting. The Observers should, if playing according to the spirit of the game, base their vote on who they think had a better argument. The Rogue or the Defender. From what I personally observed and was told by other players, this was not the case. More times than note, especially when it became apparent that a player was ahead, the other players voted against them. The saving grace here are the dice. No matter how many thumbs up or down are counted, the dice can trump them. Mechanically speaking, the dice roll value is meant to keep things somewhat neutral, but the rolled value of the dice is impacted by the thumb count and vice versa. Essentially, a player wins or loses the round (depending on your role) by luck and the majority. Even if you had the better story, you could still lose. This did not sit well with a number of our players.

But it could also be argued, and rightly so, that the dice and voting mechanism in the game are complimentary. A player wins and loses the argument by neither luck or popularity, as the two sources are merged together to provide a single result. True, and it works from that point-of-view. Players can only benefit from the dice and they must work for the votes. In either case, the results are always random.

Despite this, I still found Rogues to Riches to be a solid game. The entire thing is heavily based in creativity. A player can talk their way into or out of any situation, but are always playing to the Observers. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! It’s not enough to try to out wit or out argue your opponent. You are pandering to the masses, making sure they appreciate your side of the story by adding humor and interesting twists.

Do try this game of creative storytelling and don’t let the voting “thing” get in your way of having fun. Just understand from the very start that your success is not determined by how well you do, but how well people think of you. This adds a new element to the game, where players must try to fly underneath the radar and work to win the advantage not through gaming skill, but through social conduct and leveraging relationships. That, my friends, is not as easy as it sounds. Especially when your grandma whom you love is smiling at you from across the table with both thumbs pointing down.

Et tu, Grandmama? Et tu?

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 CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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