Do You Have What It Takes to Pull Off a ‘Museum Heist’?

Gaming Tabletop Games

Someone’s making off with a museum’s most prized works, but who is it? Could it be you? Only if you deceive well and have a bit of luck in Museum Heist!

What Is Museum Heist?

Museum Heist is a bluffing and movement game for 2-4 players, aged 8 and up. It plays in about 20 minutes and is a game by Alex Randolph (who passed in 2004) and is a reimplementation of an earlier Randolph game, Xe Queo!. Randolph is best known for Ricochet Robots and his Spiel des Jahres winner, Enchanted Forest.

Museum Heist is a deceptively simple game. Peel back the top layer and there’s as much strategy as players will allow, a good old tête-à-tête (-à-tête-à-tête). It can be challenging, depending on your opposition, and is a very fast-playing pretty good time.

Museum Heist Components

In the small box you’ll find:

  • A Game board
  • 4 Sets of 7 character cards
  • 9 Artwork tokens
  • 7 Character tokens
  • 8 Swap tokens
  • 1 Rule book

The game board is a 9×9 grid with four secret passage doors at locations that are 3×3 in from each corner. The board is pretty, fitting the theme of a museum heist. There are walls along the border with paintings hanging from them. The playing area is on the floor of this gallery and appears to be a parquet floor. It’s done well and smartly.

The cards are all good quality, four sets of seven characters, all caricatures on a colored background. There’s a hipster-looking gentleman with a shoulder bag and what appears to be a knife in his hand, an older woman with a handbag and a cane, a schoolgirl with a selfie stick, a guard with a set of keys and a flashlight, a mischievous little boy with a toy bow and arrow, an overweight tourist with a backpack and a suspicious map, and a society woman with a fur shawl and a makeup compact. Each of the four sets has a different colored back, one for each player.

The tokens are good thick cardboard, about the size of a US quarter, and the images are the same on each side. The swap tokens are circular arrows and the artwork varies. There are three paintings, a vase, a jeweled necklace, jeweled egg, and jeweled crown, a gold statue, and a violin.

The character tokens have some problems. The tokens themselves are cheap wood and don’t feel sturdy at all. Some of them are manufactured poorly, sitting at an angle on the base. They are painted and then decorated with a sticker you will put on yourself. The quality of the stickers isn’t great either and, by the end of our first game, they were already peeling off.

How to Play Museum Heist

Each player should get a set of 7 character cards. Open the board up and randomly place the 7 character tokens across the board. Take an artwork token and place it on a random space that is not on one of the secret passage spaces, nor adjacent to any character tokens. Setup is now complete.

Each player should now look at their cards and pick a single card that they think will take the artwork. The youngest player will now begin the game. On each turn a player will move a character one space. There are a few rules that govern this. First, a token must always move toward (never away) from the artwork token. Tokens may move orthogonally or diagonally and these tokens may jump another token (or tokens) in the same way you can jump in checkers. A token may also jump from one secret passage space to another by moving onto a secret passage space and then moving to another. Both spaces must be unoccupied and the move must bring the token closer to the artwork than the beginning location. A token that ends its turn on top of the artwork gives the artwork to that character.

Not so fast!

Easy, right? Not quite, there are a few special rules that slow down a speedy getaway.

First, each player starts with 2 swap tokens. These are all the player gets for the whole game, so use them wisely. A player may turn in a swap token to exchange positions of any two character tokens on the board. Additionally, if you feel a player is favoring one character and you suspect the player has chosen that character for this round, you may issue a challenge. You identify a color that you think the player has chosen. If you are correct, you win the artwork for the round and the next round begins. If you are incorrect, the player discreetly shows you their hidden card and you are out for the rest of that round. If there are no other players left, that player wins the round.

When a character token reaches an artwork token, players reveal their cards. If the player that moved the character token onto the artwork is the only one with that character, they get the artwork token. If a single other player also has that character card chosen, they receive the artwork. However, if two or more have the character card chosen, the player that moved the character token to the artwork gets to keep the artwork.

Play continues until one player has collected 3 artwork tokens (4 in a 2-player game).

Warped tokens and stickers peeling off, YMMV.

Why You Should Play Museum Heist

Typically, I am not a fan of bluffing games. I think it’s because I don’t feel like I’m a very good liar. But I do like the idea of bluffing games. Fortunately, Museum Heist is a bluffing game where you don’t feel like your deceit is always painted all over your face. Because you are not only moving the piece you hope to steal the artwork and you are moving all the other pieces, as well, you can assuage some of your guilt by just moving pieces that aren’t of your concern and throw the other players off your scent.

The other thing we really liked about Museum Heist is the simplicity of it. It’s very easy to teach and super easy to play, but trying to unravel your opponents’ schemes is as much of the game as is trying to deceptively saunter the character you backed to the artwork without anyone else catching on. You do have to be careful and not too obvious or you’ll give up the round.

Rounds fly by pretty quickly, which is nice because if you’re on the losing end, you will want redemption as soon as possible. It does get a bit repetitive and you probably won’t want to play more than one game at a time, but as a filler game or something to play when you only have about 15 minutes, it fills the need very nicely.

The artwork is nice and even though the quality of components falls a bit short for me, this is one I’ve pulled out at game nights a few times when we were trying to decide what to play next. In my experience, Museum Heist has always been well received and worth checking out.

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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