Deduction Board Games Real-time Board Games

The Key: Royal Star Casino Burglary Game Review


Justin is back to tackle more crime games from The Key series. Join him for his review of Royal Star Casino Burglary!

Did you know that the guy who designed The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is also the brains behind one of the best deductive game series on the market?

Thomas Sing has designed both of The Crew games (published by KOSMOS). The Crew is one of the reasons why it feels like billions of trick-taking games hit the market over the last 3-4 years. Sing has also designed five games in the family deductive game series The Key, published by HABA.

I reviewed three of the five games last spring in a single review. The mix of real-time investigation and a scoring system that rewards efficiency was a winner in my household; my kids love these games!

If you have never played The Key, feel free to read my previous article detailing the play system. Nothing has changed with Royal Star Casino Burglary except the criminals and the types of puzzles that can be solved here. Don’t worry, no spoilers here! I will talk about the puzzle format this time around to give you a sense of whether this game is right for you.


In Royal Star Casino Burglary, three criminals have broken into the vaults of a casino and tried to make off with millions in cash. They have been apprehended, but the authorities need your help sorting out the details to close the case: which criminal, what vault, a specific time, and a three-character code.

Using a mix of fingerprint data, eyewitness reports using the casino’s elevator system, and pieces of “state-of-the-art” encryption technology that looks a lot like Tetris pieces lying in a trash can, players race to get the most effective clues with a score that is as low as possible. In Royal Star Casino Burglary, a perfect score is anything 13 or under, using The Key’s efficiency-based scoring system.

First, let’s talk about the difficulty here. The box says medium, but my nine-year-old and I both thought this was somewhat harder than Murder at the Oakdale Club, the other medium-rank game in the series. We both thought the fingerprint clues, used to ID which robber manipulated which safe, were not that easy to match up with the investigation file’s back page, where that clue series can be matched.

In this way, the puzzles in Royal Star Casino Burglary are a solid step up from the starter difficulty cases, which is great since my daughter has aged nicely into the medium difficulty of deduction. This was true for both the encryption puzzles (those Tetris pieces) and the elevator puzzles, which require players to look at a map of the building or at an elevator profile to determine the movements of the criminals to see where there were, and at what time.

And that meant the solutions were very satisfying here. My daughter and I went against each other, then played cooperatively, where each of us shared clues and tried to deduce the solution with one set of cards while keeping track of evidence on two dry-erase boards. That setup was more satisfying than competitive play, and I think my daughter was more open to playing with me than against me, given the step up in difficulty.

One other thing persists in this version of The Key: players are going to feel like sometimes, even when they know what specific clue they are looking for, that it is nearly impossible to get through this with only six 2-point information cards. Even on our final review play, we had everything in the orange key case down except for the timing of two of the three vault robberies. We looked through three additional cards before we found some data that we didn’t already have, costing us a three-level drop in our score. (That meant we went from “Very good, you’re a clever sleuth!” to “Whew, that was a close call! Next time, you should consider which cards you investigate more carefully.”)

So, there’s still an element of luck to advancing up the score track. That’s not a major negative, but in a game where you are essentially competing against yourself, you wanna get the highest score possible.

Royal Star Casino Burglary is recommended, for both families with older kids and for gaming groups looking for a fun, frantic competitive deduction game that can kick off a game night. With nine puzzles in the box, there’s plenty of value here and the system is so easy to reset and play multiple times in a single night. If the audience fits your environment, give this game a look!

  • Great - Would recommend.

The Key: Royal Star Casino Burglary details

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

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