21
Oct 03

My Life Of Crime (Pretend)

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My Life Of Crime (Pretend): part of my stag weekend involved a board game called BREAK THE SAFE! Initially sceptical, I ended up having a grand time playing it. My doubts arose from the fact that it is a co-operative boardgame, not a competitive one. I have nothing against co-operative games as a concept – I spent a lot of my teens playing RPGs and some day I will lose all our readers by writing about them – but had yet to see how the turn-based boardgame dynamic could work in an all-for-one situation.

Anyone who does have a distaste for the hippyish ideal of co-operation in gaming should be mollified by the premise of BTS – you are a bunch of crims who have to crack into a safe. Magnus claimed there was some blather in the rules about it being a safe owned by an evil corporation, probably holding vital evidence or a cure for orphans or something, but this can easily be ignored. I have to admit though that these safe-breaking crooks are a non-violent bunch, since they invariably raise their hands in a ‘fair cop’ fashion at the mere tread of a guard or sniff of a dog.

Guard and Dog are your enemies, of course – so too is the clock: one of the best things about BTS is how quick it is – a half hour for a four-player game, 15 minutes for two players. The gameplay involves hunting through a building for four keys to the titular safe – co-operation takes the form of passing helpful gadgets to one another via robot, and letting each other free from the building’s cell.

At first the safe-cracking mission tends to feel quite easy, with one or two keys usually located swiftly – but almost invariably you then find your job complicated, and get pinned down desperately trying to get past the dog’s lair to an almost inaccessible room in which you know the final key lies. The tension rises rapidly as the clock counts down – waking the dog is mortifying, though not as bad as wasting final seconds by dropping a dice on the floor. The only feature lacking in the game is an ability to treat the players as individuals – a crystal-maze style mechanism where players who’ve not found keys could be surrendered to the eager guards for precious extra seconds would add a bit of bite. Generally, though, Break The Safe! is a terrific little game and if you get the chance you should play it.

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