Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: ‘Fugitive’ Is a Clever Cat-and-Mouse Caper

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Fugitive Cover

You burgled the building and got caught. But your band of brothers broke you out of the clink. Will the meticulous marshal seek out your safehouses? Find out in Fugitive.

At a glance: Fugitive is a game by Tim Fowers for two players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 15 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $20 for a copy of the game. There’s nothing inappropriate for younger players (other than, uh, the general idea of breaking out of jail and fleeing from law enforcement); the game requires deduction and strategy so more experienced players will have a definite advantage.

New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.

Fugitive Components

Components:

  • 43 Hideout cards
  • 4 Event cards
  • 2 Player Role cards
  • 3 Pile Marker cards
  • Laminated Notecard for Marshal
  • Dry Erase Marker

The prototype set I had just had a map background and generic icons for the cards, but the final version will have unique art on all of the Hideout cards. My prototype also did not have the Event cards, so I have not played with those, and I just used a scrap of paper for taking notes.

Tim Fowers has always had pretty fun packaging for his games, and this one will have a magnetic clasp box that looks like a briefcase. The artwork, by Ryan Goldsberry, has a cool retro feel to it and matches Burgle Bros. (Both games are set in the same world.) I really love the artwork, and even though you could play the game just with numbered cards, I think the artwork will add some fun flavor to this cat-and-mouse game.

Fugitive cards
Samples of Hideout cards.

How to Play

You can download a Print and Play version here, which includes a draft of the rules. (You can also play if you have cards numbered 1–42, like from The Game.)

The goal of the Fugitive is to cross the state line by playing the 42 card. The goal of the Marshal is to catch the Fugitive by uncovering all of the Hideout cards.

To set up, the Fugitive takes the 1, 2, 3, and 42 cards. The three sets of cards are shuffled separately and set face-down on the table: City Limits (4–14), County line (15–28), and State Line (29–41). The Fugitive gets 3 cards from City Limits and 2 cards from County Line. The 0 card (the Prison) is set on the table.

When the Fugitive plays Hideout cards, they must be in ascending order, and they can only be up to 3 numbers apart. So, for instance, the first Hideout card must be a 1, 2, or 3. However, additional cards may be played face-down under a Hideout card to “sprint”—odd cards let you sprint +1, and even cards let you sprint +2. By playing sprint cards, you can get to a Hideout that is farther away; for example, your first Hideout could be a 5 if you played +2 worth of sprint cards. You may play any number of sprint cards under a Hideout, and may even play more than necessary as a bluff.

On the first turn, the Fugitive plays 2 Hideout cards. On subsequent turns, the Fugitive draws 1 card from any of the stacks, and then may play 1 Hideout (but does not have to).

The Marshal makes guesses about what Hideouts the Fugitive has used, and can guess any number of Hideouts. However, the Fugitive only reveals cards if all of the guesses on a turn are correct. You don’t have to point at cards or identify which one you think is a particular number; if you guess “7” and the 7 is anywhere on the table, the Fugitive reveals it. If there are sprint cards under a revealed Hideout card, they are also revealed.

On the first turn, the Marshal draws 2 cards and then may guess. On subsequent turns, the Marshal draws one card and may guess. The Marshal may draw cards from any of the three stacks.

If at any time all of the Hideout cards on the table have been revealed, the Marshal has caught the Fugitive and wins. If the Fugitive is able to play the 42 card, the Fugitive has escaped for good and wins. There is one last-ditch effort that the Marshal may take if the Fugitive plays the 42 card and there are at least 4 concealed Hideouts—the Marshal may make guesses, one at a time, and try to track down the Fugitive. As soon as any guess is wrong, the Fugitive can escape.

Fugitive Play
A session of Fugitive (prototype shown). At first, the Fugitive made some progress as the Marshal made some bad guesses. But then the Marshal got a few numbers in the middle, and was able to backtrack. Bottom: The entire path the Fugitive took. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Verdict

When I first read the rules for Fugitive, it sounded simple—almost too simple. But playing it reminds me a lot of other chase-the-suspect games like Scotland Yard or Letters From Whitechapel, though in a much smaller package. It’s perhaps not quite as intense as having four people setting a dragnet to capture you, but it did surprise me with how engaging it was, even in prototype form. I can’t wait to see how it feels with all of the finished artwork.

As the Fugitive, you have a few tricks up your sleeve: knowing when to sprint and when to move slowly is important, and depends on what you think the Marshal knows. Sometimes sprinting becomes necessary—you just don’t have the cards to play a nearby Hideout—but you can also put down fake sprinting cards to make the Marshal think you went farther than you actually did. Managing your hand of cards is important, too. Although you start the game with a handful of them, you only draw one per turn. So you can only sprint so many times before you’ll be stuck standing still for a turn.

As the Marshal, you have to pay attention to all of the information: the cards in your hand let you eliminate some possibilities, but you should also watch which deck of cards the Fugitive is drawing from. If they’re drawing from the County Line, you have to decide whether they’ve already gotten that far, or if they’re just bluffing. Uncovering sprint cards farther down the line may help you narrow down earlier Hideouts. One strategy I’ve used is drawing a lot of cards from a later deck early in the game. It may leave me with less information to guess the earlier Hideouts, but then it can serve as a roadblock: having a long string of consecutive numbers forces the Fugitive to take a long sprint—right into your waiting arms.

Fugitive notes
My chicken-scratch note-taking helps me keep track of guesses and which numbers I’ve eliminated. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Of course, taking notes is important. As is understanding what your notes mean.

I like the idea that the Marshal can guess any number of cards in one turn—but the disadvantage is that they all have to be right, or nothing gets revealed. Since the Fugitive starts with two Hideouts, at some point you have to guess at least two Hideouts in a row unless the Fugitive stops moving. Otherwise, you’re always a step behind. In one game, I managed to catch my daughter by guessing four cards on a single turn, but that meant at one point she was four cards ahead of me, so it was a close call.

I haven’t seen the Event cards so I don’t know what they do yet, but if you decide to include them, you shuffle 2 into each of the stacks, and activate them when drawn.

Overall, I think Fugitive is an excellent game for two. It plays fairly quickly (expect a little bit longer the first time you play, but not much) and I love the cat-and-mouse mind games that go on. I’ve been a fan of Tim Fowers’ other game designs, and I like the thematic tie-in to Burgle Bros., too. I’ve played this with my 12-year-old, who enjoyed it but felt I had too much of an advantage, though she was able to learn the game fairly easily. I really look forward to playing it more against adult friends as well.

For more about the game, or to back the project, visit the Fugitive Kickstarter page.

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