While not as prevalent in board games as in video games and movies, the industry does occasionally have a few franchises that have created their own expanded universe outside of pure sequels. The game that I am looking at today, Fugitive, actually takes place in the same universe as the popular board game Burgle Bros. While you are trying to commit a heist in Burgle Bros, in Fugitive you are basically playing the aftermath of a robbery as you are a fugitive trying to escape the law. This is an interesting theme for a board game and one that is not used as often as I would have thought. One player ends up playing as the fugitive while the other tries to capture them before they escape for good. Fugitive is a really interesting and fun take on your typical deduction game.
How to Play Fugitive
- Choose which player will play as the Fugitive and which will play as the Marshal.
- Place the 0 card in the middle of the table to start the center row.
- Sort the Hideout cards by their number into three decks: 4-14, 15-28, and 29-41. Shuffle each deck separately and place them face down on their corresponding section of the board.
- The Fugitive is given their starting hand. Their starting hand consists of the following cards:
- Cards 1, 2, 3 and 42.
- Draw 3 random cards from the 4-14 deck.
- Draw 2 random cards from the 15-28 deck.
- Unless you are playing one of the variant games, set aside the Event and Placeholder cards.
Playing the Game
The Fugitive and Marshal will alternate turns throughout the game. For each players’ first turn they will take a special action.
For the Fugitive’s first turn they will place one or two Hideouts into the center row (see below for how to place Hideouts).
For the Marshal’s first turn they will draw two cards. They can choose two cards from the same deck or one card from two different decks. The Marshal will then make a guess (see below).
On all future turns the Fugitive will begin their turn by drawing a card from any of the decks. They will then either play a Hideout card or pass their turn.
On a normal Marshal turn they will draw one card from any of the decks. They will then get to make a guess of one or more Hideouts.
One of the main actions that the Fugitive can perform is to place Hideouts. Hideouts can either be face up or face down.
Each turn the Fugitive will get to place one Hideout card into the center row. This card will be placed face down next to the previously placed card. There are two rules that must be followed when placing Hideout cards.
- A Hideout card can only be up to three numbers higher than the previously played Hideout card. For example if the previous Hideout was a five, the Fugitive can play a six, seven or eight as their next Hideout.
- A Hideout card can never be played if it is a lower number than a previously played Hideout card.
Normally the Fugitive can only play a new Hideout card that is up to three higher than the previous played Hideout card. This can be extended though by using a Hideout card for its sprint value.
In addition to the number, each card features one or two footprints. Each footprint displayed on a card is how many numbers you can extend the limit by. For example a card that features two footprints can extend the limit from three to five.
Players can play one or more cards for their sprint value. All cards played as sprint cards will be played face down next to the Hideout card that the player plays. They must be placed in a way that the other player can see the number of cards that were played for their sprint value. A player can choose to play more sprint cards than they need, or can even play sprint cards and not use any of them to play a higher card.
Instead of playing a Hideout card, the Fugitive can decide to pass the rest of their turn after drawing a card. This allows the player to build up cards in their hand, but also makes it easier for the Marshal to catch up.
After drawing cards the Marshal can choose one of three actions.
The Marshal can choose to guess one number between 1 and 41. If the chosen number matches any of the face down Hideout cards, the Fugitive will flip over the corresponding card and any sprint cards used along with it.
The Marshal otherwise can choose to guess multiple numbers as the same time. If all of the numbers they guess match Hideout cards played by the Fugitive, all of the guessed numbers will be revealed along with any associated cards used to sprint.
If even one of the guessed numbers are wrong though, the Fugitive doesn’t reveal any of the face down Hideout cards that the Marshal guessed right.
The final action that the Marshal can take can only be done if a couple criteria are met. First the Fugitive has to have played card #42. Second no Hideout cards above 29 can be revealed (turned face up).
If these criteria are met the Marshal will begin guessing one number at a time. If they are right the card and any associated cards used to sprint are revealed. The Marshal then gets to choose another number. This continues until they either guess wrong, or all of the Hideout cards are revealed. If they are able to guess all of the Hideout cards, they will win the game. If they make any incorrect guesses the Fugitive will win the game.
Winning the Game
Each role can win the game in their own way.
If the Fugitive player is able to play the #42 card they will escape and win the game (unless the Marshal can successfully complete the Manhunt).
The Marshal player will win the game if they can identify all of the hideout cards (turning them face up) played by the Fugitive. The Marshal can potentially use the Manhunt action to accomplish this (see above).
Fugitive has a number of variants that you can add to change up the gameplay.
During setup you will shuffle all of the Event cards (not the Placeholders) together. Two random Event cards will be shuffled into each of the three draw piles. All other Event cards are returned to the box.
During the game when an Event card is drawn by either player, it will be resolved immediately. The player who drew the card will then draw another card.
Shuffle all of the Event cards (not Placeholder cards) and place them near the play area.
Whenever the Marshal guesses one of the Hideouts, the Fugitive will draw the top card from the Event pile and resolve it.
Find the Event cards that feature an icon on them corresponding to the Fugitive or Marshal. The rest of the Event cards are returned to the box. Shuffle the Event cards evenly into the three draw piles.
Whenever an Event card is drawn it will be resolved immediately. The player will then draw another card.
Sort the Event cards based on their icon (Fugitive, Marshal, no icon). Shuffle each pile separately and set them to the side. Shuffle two Placeholder cards into each of the three draw piles of Hideout cards.
Whenever a player draws a Placeholder card, an Event card will be drawn from one of the three Event piles created earlier. What pile a card is drawn from depends on how many facedown Hideout cards are currently in the middle of the table.
- 1 facedown Hideout card – Draw a card from the deck featuring the Fugitive icon.
- 2 facedown Hideout cards – Draw a card from the deck that doesn’t feature an icon.
- 3+ facedown Hideout cards – Draw a card from the deck featuring the Marshal icon.
After the Event card is drawn, the player who drew the Placeholder card will get to draw another card.
My Thoughts on Fugitive
While it is not a perfect comparison, if I had to classify Fugitive I would probably say that it most resembles a deduction game. Each player chooses a role and has a different objective in the game. The Marshall’s goal is to use their deduction skills in order to guess the cards that the other player has played face down on the table. While these will sometimes have to be complete guesses, the Marshall does have a few things that they can use in order to try and minimize the potential options of what each card can be. Each card that the other player plays has to be higher than the last and can only be at max three higher unless cards are used to sprint. In addition to this the Marshall will get to draw cards themselves which will tell them numbers that the other player couldn’t have played. When a card is revealed they can then use the information they already know along with the positioning of the guessed card in order to make some deductions about the other face down cards. Ultimately the Marshall has to guess all of the face down cards before the other player is able to play card 42.
As the Marshall is trying to guess the cards that the Fugitive has played, the Fugitive is trying to mess with the other player. The Fugitive player has to follow the placement rules at all times which puts some limitations on what they are able to do. There is still a lot the Fugitive can do in order to avoid capture. Without using any cards to sprint, the player can play up to three numbers away from their last card which gives them some leeway. The Fugitive can move through the numbers quickly trying to get to #42 quickly or they can take it more methodical forcing the other player to guess more cards correctly. Then you can add cards for their sprint value which adds even more possible options. A Fugitive could even bluff adding some sprint cards to a card hoping the Marshall thinks they played a much higher card when they didn’t even need to use cards to sprint. To do well in the game the Fugitive needs to deceive the player long enough that they are able to get their last card out before all of their face down cards are revealed.
I was honestly a little surprised by Fugitive. I knew the game was likely going to be pretty good as it has pretty high ratings online. What I was surprised by was the game was not what I was expecting and that is to the game’s benefit. When you think of a game about a fugitive on the run your mind doesn’t immediately go to trying to guess number cards played face down. It might not appear like it makes much sense thematically, but in action it works surprisingly well. The game in many ways feels like a game of cat and mouse with the Marshall trying to catch the Fugitive who is in turn trying to deceive them. The game actually does a surprisingly good job creating suspense as you wonder if the Marshall will catch the Fugitive. While there are a couple areas where the theme doesn’t quite work, I actually thought it worked a lot better than I was expecting.
In addition to doing a surprisingly good job with the theme, Fugitive succeeds because the gameplay just works really well. The game is actually quite easy to play as one player just plays cards making sure to follow the rules while the other player just tries to guess what was played. It may take a couple turns to familiarize yourself with the placement rules, but otherwise the gameplay is actually quite easy to adjust to. I think the game could be taught to new players within just a couple minutes and is simple enough that those who generally don’t play a lot of board games should find it simple enough to enjoy.
Despite being pretty simple to play, the game actually has a surprising amount of strategy as well. I would say that there is more strategy in the Marshall role, but there are things that you can do as the Fugitive as well to improve your odds of winning. Deduction is key to the Marshall as you need to narrow down the options for each of the cards. You need to piece together all of the information that you have in order to make a good educated guess. Deduction is also key because you will have to at least on occasion guess multiple numbers on a turn or you will fall behind the fugitive who will otherwise be able to place cards quicker than you are able to guess them. Meanwhile the Fugitive needs to try and send the Marshal down the wrong paths in order to waste their turns to give themselves some breathing room. It genuinely feels like your choices have an impact on what happens which makes for a compelling game. You could sometimes luck into a win, but a better/more experienced player is much more likely to win.
On top of all of this, Fugitive plays surprisingly quick as well. The game’s length will depend on how well the Marshall plays as the game can literally end after one or two rounds. That is rare as most will take quite a bit longer. Even a game that goes down to the very end won’t take too long though. I would guess that most games will take 20 minutes at most. This is good for two reasons. First it makes Fugitive a great filler game. The short length also makes it easy for the players to change roles and play a second game. The results of both games could then be compared to see who ultimately won the game. Fugitive does a really good job packing a lot into a game that plays quickly.
While I enjoyed Fugitive it does have one problem that does hold it back some. The game can rely on a decent amount of luck at times. A good or bad strategy will have a big impact on how successful you are. There will be times though where you can only hope that luck is on your side. Luck in the game comes from a couple of areas. For the Marshall it mostly comes from being lucky when you guess face down cards. You can use deduction to limit the number of options, but you ultimately are going to have to make guesses and hope you guess right. To be successful you need a decent amount of these random guesses to go in your favor. As the Fugitive you need the opposite to happen since if the Marshall guesses well there really isn’t much you can do. The cards you end up drawing matter as well as you could get stuck with cards that will make it harder to escape. Luck isn’t the only determining factor in the game, but in most games you will need to have some luck on your side to win.
To illustrate how much impact luck can have on the game, let me illustrate with one of the games that I ended up playing. I was playing as the Marshall and the Fugitive played down two cards to start the game. As I didn’t have any early cards I had to make a random guess which ended up being the second card that was played. Based on the revealed card I knew what the first card that was played had to be. The Fugitive on their next turn played a card along with a card for its sprint value. At this point I didn’t have any real idea of what number the last card could be as I didn’t have any numbers near it. As I knew what the first number had to be though, I randomly guessed two numbers and both were right winning me the game. Thus I ended up winning the game as the Marshall in just two turns. I made two complete guesses and both turned out to be right winning me the game. There really wasn’t any skill to what I did as I just randomly guessed the right numbers. In some cases you just need luck to be on your side to win the game.
As for Fugitive’s components, I thought the game did a pretty good job. The game mostly consists of cards. Outside of the variant rules, Fugitive could have been played with a deck of cards numbered 0-42 and it wouldn’t have really impacted the actual gameplay. Despite this I applaud the effort that was put into the card design. The numbers are clear on each of the cards, but they also feature little scenes which tell a little story as you follow along with them from 0-42. I really liked the game’s artwork as it really brings something to the game. The other components are quite nice as well. All of this is stored inside a little box that looks like a briefcase. The game’s box is a great size as it is not much larger than it needed to be.
Should You Buy Fugitive?
While Fugitive is not a perfect game, I genuinely really enjoyed playing it. On the surface a game where one player places number cards face down and another tries to guess them might not seem all that interesting. In action though the game is actually quite engaging and actually works well with the fugitive on the run theme. The game can get pretty tense as the Marshall closes in on the Fugitive’s location. The game is quite easy to play and plays quickly. There is quite a bit that each role can do to help increase their odds of success. The only thing somewhat holding back the game is the fact that it does rely on a decent amount of luck as it will be hard to win without some luck on your side. Ultimately Fugitive is a really fun game though that I really enjoyed.
My recommendation for Fugitive is actually pretty simple. If you have no interest in the gameplay of one player trying to guess the numbers placed down by the other player, I don’t see Fugitive being for you. If the premise intrigues you at all though, I would highly recommend looking into Fugitive as you will likely really enjoy your time with it.