I’ve made no small thing about my love for
asymmetry in games- my favorite card game
of all time is an asymmetric affair of hacker
vs corporation, after all.
While it can be cumbersome to describe to
each player how they individually play in
asymmetric games, it does wonders for not
only replay value, but also for immersion.
Today’s game takes asymmetry and applies
it not to the play, but to the actual TIME
you play it in.
Our provided review copy of The Greatest Thief
comes to us from designer Andrew Cantrell
by way of the Game Crafter, and there’s
some really neat ideas in here.
To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite
Avengers- it’s a Time Heist!
Let me show you how this works.
Our unboxing is a simple affair, removing
the top cover to reveal a stash of baggies,
a tuckbox for the game’s heist cards, a
rulebook, and two player boards.
Serviceable, but not very sexy.
The main thrust of this game is really neat
though, so let’s get right to that.
Our entire game lives and dies on this tiny
Each player starts the game by hiding it somewhere
in their building, along with the four starting
These each go face down in an empty slot.
You’re given two thousand dollars as a starting
bankroll, and a training card that outlines
The object of the heist is to hack, sneak,
and brute force your way past these countermeasures
and acquire your opponent’s artifact.
Succeed, and you hide it somewhere on your
map and give your opponent one final turn
to steal it back.
Fail to overcome even one security measure,
and you flee, leaving the blaring alarm face
up for your opponent to know just how far
To do this, each player is given three actions
on their turn.
First, you can train up your abilities by
paying your mentors.
The higher you want to train, the more it
costs, and you can only train up to three
levels for each training action taken.
Add up the total cost from the top of the
card, return that amount of money to the bank, and then
mark your card with the corresponding upgrades.
No montage needed, sadly.
Your second option is to perform a small heist.
I mean, even Debbie Ocean didn’t steal the Toussaint
on her first day.
Draw three heist cards from the front of the
safe deck, and then you must choose one to
Most feature a series of skill checks to pass.
Roll both dice, add any training bonuses you’ve
got to the total.
If it’s higher or matching?
Move on to the next.
Fail to beat even one, and you suffer whatever
consequences are listed on the card.
You could end your turn right then and there,
or you could end up losing an additional turn.
Risk vs reward.
Complete the heist successfully, and you get
paid off or gain some other ability you can
save for later.
Finally, you can attempt to infiltrate your
opponent’s lair and steal their artifact.
Starting at the start, a very good place to start,
you’ll flip over the token at your location.
If it’s a security system, you’ll roll
both dice and add your training bonuses in
Again, match or beat the number listed, and
you flip the token face down again and move
to the next spot on the map.
If you reveal the artifact.. no… yes! You will then place it somewhere
on your map and finish your turn.
Your opponent gets one last turn to steal
If you fail to beat a security system, you
leave that marker face up in its slot, and
end your action.
But, Nicholas, you say, there are no player
No way of hiding your actions from your opponent.
Won’t they see everything you’re doing?
They would indeed, friendly viewer, but designer
Andrew Cantrell has an ace up his sleeve.
This is an asymmetric game as I mentioned
before, but instead of each player having
different actions or win conditions- this
game is actually PLAYED asymmetrically…
I take my turn when I come to the table and
my opponent isn’t there.
All of my actions are taken in secret because
my opponent is off fetching me bubble teas
or chicken wings.
When my turn is complete, I place the turn
marker on my opponent’s board, and then
I go off to eat my chicken wings.
They take their turn when I’m away.
And now you see where the real risk in Greatest
Thief is: This game simply cannot be played
The closest I got during my testing was having
us alternate turns by going into another room.
So let’s talk about whether or not that
works, because changing the way you play a
game, especially a physical game, is a very
When played as the designer intended, this
is actually a really cool experience.
Setting aside the overall physical components
for a moment, and I’m going to get back
to those in a second, the idea of coming to
a game in-progress?
Waiting for me to take a turn knowing almost
nothing about the state of my opponent’s
There’s such an amazing tension there.
Because, on your turn, you can also pick up
and move your whole security grid around.
The artifact could be at the very beginning
of the map!
It shouldn’t be.
But it could!
How will you know until you look!
And that very-easy 4-plus digital lock that
was in the yard to begin with last time might
now be a nigh-unbeatable twelve-plus security
Navigating your opponent’s house becomes
a delicious cat-and-mouse game that maybe
you don’t even choose to do.
You could theoretically spend an entire turn
upgrading your skills and outfitting your
house, and your opponent will have no idea
what you did, or how to stop you.
This central idea is such a spectacular one
that I really wish this game had found a proper
The fact that it didn’t leaves us with a
mostly-ok-but-not-good physical and visual
And, I do get it- this is a very tough sell
to a company looking to sell a lot of copies of a game.
People want to play board games together,
in person, with their friends at a table.
Greatest Thief in my opinion really wants
to be an online video game, but splits the
difference at an asymmetric physical experience.
And at the end of the day, I’m really torn
on whether or not to recommend this one.
It’s such a boom-or-bust box.
I find myself wanting to recommend it because
I want to reward the designer for this really
cool idea, but then the hoops you have to
jump through to get there are so many… like
a high-stakes heist, I suppose- everyone’s
got a plan until something goes wrong.
Greatest thief is a mixed bag – it misses
where there obviously wasn’t funding to
make it stand out, and takes a giant gamble
on a totally new way of playing physical meatspace
Let’s go through our checklist before I
give you my final thoughts.
IN THE BOX:
Rulebook clear / nongender pronouns?
Our rulebook is overall pretty good, with
lots of good examples.
There’s some confusion on some basic game
events, which I wish had been more clearly
laid out, however.
It has no gendered language outside the gameplay
examples- using the second person “you”
and “yours” throughout.
While most of the time you’re only relying
on iconography visually rather than having
to translate pictures to words and then back
again, everything’s just so small on the
table that squinting becomes almost necessary.
I know that I’m almost 40 now, but I swear
it’s not me.
Packaging well done?
While there are more than enough baggies for
tokens, cash, and envelopes, it’s a game
crafter game- there’s no coordination to
the box at all.
ON THE TABLE:
With a lack of art, there’s no “characters”
in the game, save for a few oblique references
to “Sharon,” “Lars,” and a few others
on the heist cards.
Card thickness is fine, and everything else
is laser cut tokens.
There’s single-sided paper money which unfortunately
has “game crafter” pasted all over it,
and a single dry-erase marker which lasted
only a few plays before showing signs of drying
The individual player envelopes are a nice
include, and solve the hidden information
With the double-sided player boards, and being
able to hide your artifact wherever you want
in your building, there’s some interesting
variations possible here.
I’d love some additional, bigger maps, though.
Fun to lose?
Given the way Greatest Thief plays, the game’s
end can be very anti-climactic.
One of my games ended on the third turn with
my opponent rolling absolutely nuts and walking
past my security.
I failed laughably to steal it back, and that
was the ballgame.
If you’re playing this game in a truly asymmetric
fashion, it’s very likely that you’ll
end up texting your opponent when you lose,
and that’ll be it.
The possibility to win on literally any turn
keeps it from becoming a “just get this
over with” affair, though, and that’s
Actually playing Greatest Thief can be a neat
change of pace for busy gamers who may not
have time to play conventionally.
However, if you *want* to play this with another
person in your house, it’s awkward to do.
I’m honestly on the fence about this game
I really like the idea here, but I also wonder
who this game’s audience is.
Designer Andrew Cantrell is clearly trying
something out here, and that kind of experimentation
is to be applauded.
Greatest Thief, when played at its purest,
is very cool.
I just don’t know how often that’s gonna
I’m Nicholas, reminding you to help protect
the game population- always sleeve your cards.