Fugitive… Don’t Let This One Get Away

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Base Game Review

Player/s: 2

Play Time (Box): 10mins

Play Time (Goof): 5-20mins

Producer/s: Fowers Games

Designer/s: Tim Fowers

Back when I was in University, I studied Criminology. I’ve always had this fascination with law and order. I love movies like Catch Me if You Can, shows like White Collar and Criminal Minds. There’s a thrill in the chase, in the deduction, in the outplaying of one another as they use the clues and resources to their advantage.

While I was studying, I took particular interest in a few specialist areas of criminology. One of these areas was crime mapping. The use of mathematics and statistics to determine where crimes are likely to take place, and the best ways to address the issues without complexities like displacement. It’s super fascinating. Like… more fascinating than I just made it sound.

I want to take a moment here to say: Fugitive is the sort of game Kickstarter was made for. It’s different to classic mass produced games, but with a really solid concept. My father actually backed this one (which is where our copy came from…I may have to run off with it actually) and I wish I’d known how much I was going to enjoy it because I’d have supported the hell out of it.

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Gameplay (9/10)

In the last two weeks, I’ve played Fugitive about a dozen times. When you look at my collection and how many games I have to play to get reviews done, teach people games so they can teach others for Boarding School events, trying to keep the TGR Instagram account fresh while also factoring in my friends’ play preferences, it’s seen a hell of a lot of play in such a short period of time. Part of this is (besides how fun the game is), how fast it plays. The fastest game we’ve played is five minutes, with the longest coming in around twenty.

Talk about simple rules. I reckon you could teach the how to play in this game in under five minutes. And yet, there are frequent opportunities to outmaneuver and outplay each other. As the fugitive, it’s about pretending to get ahead further than where you are. Or making that wild dash. It’s about not overspending resources early as you’re going to need them more and more as the game goes on.

As the Marshal, you’re trying not to fall too far behind. What information you can glean from your hand and places you’ve already tried can tell you a lot. If I’ve eliminated all other options, than I make a note of what is left in a spot and move on. You can guess more than one location, however if any of the numbers you guess are incorrect, nothing is revealed. It’s an interesting mechanic to make sure the martial isn’t wasting those much needed guesses on sure things. But it can also be a way to gamble your knowledge to try and get a bit of an edge.

You know what this game reminds me of? Those simple math pattern problems. The ones where you’re trying to work out the next number in a sequence based on what information you currently have. They were literally the only fun thing about math in primary school. I was talking to my friend who works as a teacher about Fugitive after a few games and we agreed –  this is the sort of game which would really help kids to learn, while having a ton of fun doing it. You don’t have to be a child to enjoy it (don’t take my word for that, we all know I’m really just a kid in a big person’s body), but there are some fantastic learning opportunities here from basic math skills to problem solving and deduction.

Modular games are becoming more and more common lately. Which I personally prefer. For those of you who don’t know, a modular game is where the game exists in a very basic state, and there are tons of other parts which you can add or remove from a game to personalise the experience. Dead of Winter does this (in the expansion), as well as Twilight Imperium 3, and King of Tokyo (Power Up) as some examples. In this case, the modules are the various ways you can (or don’t) include the event cards. I’ve played the games both ways, and personally I prefer not using the event cards at all, because I feel it can unbalance the game too much and there’s something quite beautiful about the simplicity of Fugitive. But I can see why people would enjoy them, and some of my friends certainly do.

The game has a few really great catch-up mechanics I like. I mentioned the guessing multiple hideouts before, but if the Fugitive looks like they might get away than the Marshal gets to make a single last ditch attempt to catch them. We’ve had this occur once, and it was a nail biting experience.

If I HAD to complain about something (and let’s be honest. I’d not be a very good reviewer if I didn’t), it seems to me the game is balanced more in the favour of the Marshal. Given that side has won every single time we’ve played the game so far. If the game had to be imbalanced, I’m glad it’s gone this way and not the other. It gives more of a thrill to being chased. The cops are closing in, and you’ve got to think smart if you’re going to outrun them. Still, it’s always frustrating to go into a game knowing you’re most likely going to lose.

Pros: +Fast furious gameplay, +Simple rules, +Deduction and outplay, +Catch up mechanics, +Modular

Cons: -Unbalanced

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Theme (9/10)

In the simplest of ways, this game nails the thrill of the case. As the Marshal you’re using mathematics to determine (map if you will) the location of the next hideout. As the Fugitive, you’re playing more of a social deduction game, attempting to use your resources to outplay the law who’s right on your heel.

At first glance, I had no idea how intense this game would be. I love playing both sides and you naturally find yourself in the mindset of the role you’re playing. If you’re trying to outrun the Marshal, you’re trying to think the way they think, and keep one step ahead. If you’re the Marshal, you’re using the evidence and clues you’ve got to track them down.

While it’s true you can guess any number at any time, one of the ways this game NAILS the theme is the only solid information you’ve got to go off is by following the path the fugitive took to catch them. You need that next clue so you know what sort of range you should be guessing in. So you’re literally following them, chasing them, trying to catch up. As the cards flip, it’s a metaphorical and literal representation of the chase which is occurring.

Call it nit-picky, but the only area the game sort of lost me is the cards you’re trying to guess being called “hideouts”. Hideouts portray more of a slow, stealthy, disappearing act being pulled by the fugitive. Whereas this game is a fast paced chase sequence.

Pros: ++Unique experiences on each side, ++Theme/Gameplay synergy, +Thrilling

Cons: -Confusing lables

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Production (10/10)

Okay. I’m probably going to regret saying this at some point, but this game has almost perfect artwork. The idea for the cards to tell the story of the chase, which reflects the theme and mechanics of the game. I mean damn!

Each of the 43 cards in the play decks (minus the event cards) have incredible unique artwork. The style could easily be used in an animated short or television series. Through pictures alone, you feel you really get to know the characters and the way events are playing out.  It wasn’t until I finished writing this review and was checking out the Board Game Geek overall rating (I’ve become obsessed with knowing where games are ranked in the world. This review is really showing my nerd side isn’t it?) I discovered this game is set in the world of Burgle Bros. (a cooperative heist board game). So that right there, not knowing about this being set in a pre-existing world and yet still feeling like I know and understand the characters, it speaks volumes to how well done the artwork is.

I always make a big deal about the back of cards. The same can be said for Fugitive. The artwork on the back is simple yet evocative, and the fact it’s not symmetrical actually means it’s easier to keep the cards organised (which is important when you’re having to separate identical looking cards, keep some information hidden, and you need to know which card is the hideout and which is the sprint).

On a side note, can I mention how cool the box being the suitcase the fugitive is running with is. Well played Fowers Games. Well played.

Pros: ++Artwork tells the story, ++Fantastic artwork and design, +Quality components

Cons: None

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Conclusion

For every fifty crowdfunding games which get produced, there’s one gem which deserves to become well known. Fugitive is one of those games. The blend of simplicity, thrill and excitement crammed into such a short timeframe is really rarely found.

I give Fugitive:

9/10

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to set up an elaborate escape from my family with my new copy of their game.

Want to give Fugitive a try? Come to our next Boarding School event!

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