Designer: Alex Randolph
Category: Family Game, Bluffing/Deduction
Player Count: 2-4
Museum Heist is part of FoxMind’s recent move away from educational and abstract games, and more towards family games that can still appeal to gamers. Designed by the late Alex Randolph, players collectively control seven pawns walking around a museum towards a piece of artwork that someone will eventually steal. The trick is making sure that your secret identity is the person who steals it—unless someone else took the same identity! Museum Heist is an incredibly simple game, with great art and an aggressive price point ($25 MSRP), but is it any fun? Let’s find out!
The game is aimed at a younger audience, and has very family-friendly artwork. However, the game does promote bluffing—there is nothing said gameplay-wise, so players don’t actually lie—and the point of the game is to steal artwork from a museum, which may be problematic.
Alex Randolph, together with Sid Sackson, represents a time in board game history when a few truly great designers were figuring out how to make fun with incredibly streamlined and simple games. Through a 2017 release, Museum Heist reflects the games from those time periods. The game is incredibly simple. Each round, players pick a secret identity, and then spend turns moving any pawn, as long as it gets closer to the artwork token everyone is trying to steal—it takes three tokens to win. You can jump over other pawns like in checkers, or use secret passageways. Alternatively, you can spend your turn swapping two pawns (only twice in the entire game), or accusing someone.
Accusing someone is a big risk: if you’re right, you win the round, but if you’re wrong, you’re eliminated from the round. Yet, accusations are inevitable, as pawns other than your own end up dangerously close to the artwork token. There’s another twist as well: when a pawn lands on the artwork token, if only that player picked that secret identity, he gets the token, but if exactly one other player picked the same identity, he gets it! And in rare cases where two, or even three, other players have the same identity, you’re safe again. This makes for yet another dilemma: if someone moves your identity’s pawn in range of the token, what do you do? Are they bluffing? What if they have the same identity and moving there would just give them the round? Do you make an accusation?
There is honestly not a lot to Museum Heist. The rules are incredibly simple, and the mind games involved are nowhere nearly as complex and layered as games like The Resistance or Sheriff of Nottingham. However, it doesn’t aim to be. The strength of Museum Heist is it’s almost immediate accessibility. Your non-gaming family members could jump into this game without much trouble at all. It has to be one of the easiest bluffing games out there to get into. The theme is also incredibly helpful in terms of helping the gameplay make sense. It’s actually quite reminiscent of Heimlich & Co. (also called Top Secret Spies), an older game from Wolfgang Kramer. Museum Heist is a major improvement over that game, primarily because of the purity and simplicity of the bluffing and deduction elements. And more novelty—I was just shocked at how great of a game this is.
So, if I’m going to go to my regular game night with my gamer friends who have played The Resistance: Avalon and Skull a hundred times each, and have an entire psychological metagame built into whatever bluffing game we play, I’m not going to take Museum Heist. But for my family members who think most of the games I bring over are “weird,” the appealing, sensible theme and immediate accessibility make Museum Heist a likely candidate—by far its strongest selling point. When the wife says, “We could actually get my mom to play this,” that’s the kind of comment that means I make some room on the shelf!
Thank you to FoxMind for providing a review copy of Museum Heist.
The Bottom Line
Museum Heist's strength is just how simple and accessible it is. While it's not particularly deep, you can't jump into a light, fun deduction and bluffing game any more easily than this.