In late 2020, I reviewed the original cardboard version of Burgle Bros. As a fan of co-operative games, Burgle Bros. ticked all the right boxes for me—a well-balanced race to crack one safe per floor and escape before the ever-quickening Guards capture your team. The game quickly supplanted Pandemic as my favorite co-op.
During the COVID lockdown, my weekly gaming group moved online. As the months went by, I kept looking longingly at the Burgle Bros. box on my shelf as it slowly collected dust.
Then I discovered Burgle Bros. was on Steam! Could it compete with the tabletop experience?
The main splash screen looked promising. The tiny artwork for the character meeples had not only been used, but increased in size. This gave both the personalities and the special skills of each character a better chance to shine.
In the cardboard game, the advanced character attributes can only be unlocked after winning a game of Burgle Bros. with the standard character traits. Here, however, you can’t cheat. The advanced abilities are clearly locked and inaccessible until you win with them.
Clicking on a Team Member brings up a card listing their special abilities.
Drag each Team Member into the slots to the right of the cards and place them in the turn order of your choice.
I chose to start with Team Members because they were the most obvious starting point on the screen. It was only after I’d selected them that I noticed the “Select Heist” option to the far right.
This is where I started to get excited.
Due to the limitations of the cardboard edition’s Guard’s movements, that version only allows for two different heists: the two-floor (4×4 grid) Office Job and (5×5 grid, with the one tile missing) Fort Knox. The cardboard Fort Knox allows you to place the missing tile anywhere in the grid you choose. The AI forces you to choose the center of the layout, by far the hardest location.
The digital edition doesn’t stop there, though. It also offers a Bank Job (essentially a three-story Office Job), the Citadel (four storeys of tight 4×3 grids) and the Obelisk (a five-storey, even tighter 3×3 grid) and a challenging Tower of Babel (four storeys of 5×5 grids) that can only be unlocked when you’ve beaten all of the other layouts!
Oh, the possibilities!
For now, though, let’s start with the Bank Job.
How to Play
The AI quickly lays out all three floors, the walls, and places the Guard in their starting position on the board. Boom—done!
Once you select a break-in tile, the Guard’s footsteps are clearly laid out for you. Red steps show how far he will move on his next turn; the yellow steps and the yellow X indicate where they are heading.
This visual guide makes planning your movements that much easier throughout the game.
The far right part of the game window shows which character’s turn it is, as well as how many actions they have left in their turn.
If you cannot take at least three of your four actions, you’ll need to draw an Event card. As the text states, Event cards can be good or bad.
Activating a character’s special ability is easy. Simply click on the character’s card and their ability appears as a circular action.
After playing the online version of Burgle Bros. for so long, perhaps the thing I miss the most when I switch back to the cardboard version is the echoing footsteps of the guard.
Writing about sounds, you might want to turn your volume down when you set off an alarm. It’s loud!
Otherwise, if the Guard enters a tile you’re on, you lose a Stealth. If you lose all three Stealth and the Guard crosses your path again, the team will lose the game.
As with the sounds of the Guard’s footsteps, there’s a visceral feel to the sound of losing a Stealth that I now miss in the cardboard version.
Once all the required rooms have been investigated, you’ll have all the numbers necessary to crack the safe.
Before doing so, however, you need to acquire the dice necessary to roll those numbers. Adding a single die will cost you two actions, while rolling only takes one action.
Each character in the Safe room can either add dice or roll on their turn. You’ll need to decide if you’re going to have multiple team members rolling or to leave the safe to a single player while the other players move up to the next floor.
When you crack a safe you’ll get two things: A Tool…
And a Loot. Mind you, one person’s radioactive isotope is another person’s treasure.
Cracking a safe also speeds up the Guard’s movements, making escaping the floor that much more difficult.
After cracking a safe on the floor of the building, the X over the stairway to the Helipad will disappear. It’s time to get out of there!
Your games will each end in one of two ways:
Either on the Helipad, ready to be picked up by the helicopter…
…or one of your characters will be spotted by the Guard with zero Stealth. This means all members of the team are captured and the game is lost.
I tend to approach most digital ports of my favorite games with a healthy dose of caution. Despite my appreciation for the online versions of games like Wingspan, Root, Scythe, Splendor, and Terraforming Mars, it’s the bad versions that stick with me.
My weekly gaming group moved fully online shortly after my review of the cardboard version of Burgle Bros. I knew it was going to be months (remember when we thought it would be over in just a few months?) before we met up again, so I decided to give the Steam version a try.
Am I glad I did.
The Steam version of Burgle Bros. is good. Really good. The programmers not only understood the story the game tells, but they’ve emphasized the elements that ramp up the tension. Not only do the sounds throughout the game create a richer experience, but there’s something about seeing the Guard’s footsteps that make his presence all that much more ominous.
Regardless as to which floor you’re on.
Speaking of floors, take another look at the building options available in the Steam version.
As I mentioned earlier, with the digital version, the Guard’s movements are no longer dictated by cards with only two building possibilities.
Those 4×3 and 3×3 grids are just as difficult as they look. Maybe even harder. The Guard will find you. Working your way through those three and four floors (respectively) takes a swift team and a lot of luck.
For instance, take a look at the largest of these. Fort Knox appears to be a spacious 5×5 grid with only two floors. Easy, right? Notice that black spot in the center of the board. With the randomized walls frequently cutting the building into awkward sections, Fort Knox can be cut into sections with only one path to the rooms you must get to. (The first time we tried, we didn’t make it through the first floor before losing.)
If that wasn’t enough, take another look at the game options.
Aside from the option to allow duplicate characters, this version gives you plenty of in-game options. There are now more ways you can make the game slightly easier or that much harder.
I have now played the digital version of Burgle Bros. way more than I played the cardboard version. And while I will continue to play the cardboard version, if I’m given the choice, I’m going to choose the digital version every time.
It really is that good.
If you liked the cardboard version and haven’t looked into the digital counterpart yet, do yourself a favor and go get it now!