THIEVES - The most exciting game of strategy and chance
GAMEPLAY

Two players compete to steal a hoard of gold from the heart of a dragon’s lair. Through this labyrinth, with doorways that open and close with every roll of a pair of dice, they direct the moves and actions of their gangs of thieves. Players have three goals: to take the treasure, to keep it, and finally to escape with it.

Throughout the game its dice deliver sudden reversals of fortune, challenging players’ strategic skills by compelling them to keep adapting their plans, and ensuring every game played will be different. While good luck may win individual games, superior stratagem will determine who wins a series.

The rules only take a few minutes to learn. Games typically last 30 minutes, although fortune with the dice, the skill of the players, and the pace of play can result in shorter or longer times.

INSPIRATION

In the Norse Myth Fafnir, a shapeshifter, tricked the gods into giving him all their gold. Most precious in this vast hoard was a magical ring that gave whoever wore it the power to rule the world. Knowing that gods and mortals would try to steal the ring of power, Fafnir transformed into a dragon to defend it. And so all assailants would have no cover for attack or robbery, he used his poisonous breath to destroy all the forests and fields around him.

Deep within this wasteland, Fafnir created a labyrinthine lair to store his treasure. To further protect this, he marked the walls with the sigil Ægishjálmur - a spell to induce terror and confusion among opponents, to repel thieves.

Many sought to steal the treasure but became lost in the labyrinth and were devoured. Finally a great grandson of the god Odin, Sigurd, was able to plunge his sword into Fafnir’s heart. He bathed in the flow of dragon blood to gain supernatural powers of perception, then took the ring of power to become a king of kings.

This myth was also an inspiration for Wagner’s four Ring cycle operas, and Tolkien’s stories The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings.

The game of Thieves imagines that after the death of Fafnir much of his gold remains within his lair. Now two rival gangs of thieves, The Pale and The Dark, enter this labyrinth. Their goals are to steal the gold, to keep it, and finally to escape with it. Their obstacles are the rules of movement, luck with the dice, and their opponent.

RULES AND STRATEGIES

These two short videos tell you all you need to know to be able to play Thieves. If you wish to check your understanding, the rules can be watched or read in chapter sections below, or downloaded as a printable PDF.

Watch Rules by Chapter

Read Rules by Chapter

The Basics of Play

Goals

  • to take the treasure
  • to keep it
  • and finally to escape with it

Obstacles:

  • rules of movement
  • luck with the dice
  • and the opponent

Arrange the board as shown, to present each gang of thieves with four doorway colours, and a black dragon in the bottom right corner.

Black squares are the walls of the labyrinth, the white squares are its pathways, and colour squares are locked doorways. On a turn, the matching colour keys on the dice unlock two of these - so that two thieves may move from one pathway to another (no more than one move each), or steal the treasure from the opponent, or pass it to an accomplice. White are universal keys that enable the same actions as the colour keys. Players can only use black keys in two situations: to steal the treasure from the labyrinth’s centre; to escape it and win.

Stealing the treasure requires that a thief is on a pathway next to it, and has a key to the separating doorway. The coin is then placed on the thief and moves with it until passed to an accomplice, or stolen by the opponent. Escaping the labyrinth requires three things: a thief with the treasure on their exit, an accomplice next to it; a black key.

Only one thief is allowed on each pathway. Players cannot place a thief on an opponent’s exit pathway, or more than one on any of the three surrounding it. Players cannot place more than two thieves on the four pathways of their exit. Passing the treasure back and forth between thieves in the same turn is forbidden. Finally, except when pathways are blocked or unavailable, players MUST always use the keys the dice deliver. Now flip a coin to decide who begins.

Rules of Movement and the Dice

Each player’s turn begins with rolling the pair of dice. The two colours that face up are keys to the coloured doorways. Players may use these once each for two of their thieves to move through these - individual thieves can only be moved from one white pathway to another in each turn, never two.

Red, yellow, green & blue keys

These unlock their matching doorways, enabling movement of thieves from one pathway to another, stealing treasure, and passing it from one thief to another.

White keys

These are universal keys that unlock any colour of doorway and enable the same actions as the colour keys, but not those of the black keys.

Black keys

These are the only keys that can open the central black square of the labyrinth and its two exits: see First Stealing the Treasure and Winning the Game. In all other situations, they don’t enable action.

Players will not always be able to use the keys the dice give them:

  • If the pathways behind available doorways are occupied
  • If they do not have the keys for the available doorways

In these situations, they lose the opportunity for action in that turn.

First Stealing the Treasure

A player must first get a thief to one of the four pathways that surround the labyrinth’s central black square. To be able to steal the treasure from it they must, in one their turns, roll a black key.

Theft, movement and passing

Once they have a black key, the player can take the treasure and place it on the back of their thief. It now moves as one with the thief until they pass it to an accomplice or one of their opponent’s thieves steal it.

Stealing from the Opponent

A player must first get a thief to a pathway adjacent to the opponent’s thief carrying the treasure. To be able to steal it from them they need a key that unlocks the separating doorway.

Moving and stealing the treasure

Use one key to open the doorway to move a thief into position, then use the other key to open the doorway and steal the treasure.

Stealing the treasure and moving

Use one key to open the doorway to steal the treasure, then use the second key to open another doorway to move away.

Stealing and passing the treasure

Use one key to open the doorway to steal the treasure, then use the second key to open another doorway to pass it to an accomplice.

Players will not always be able to use the keys the dice give them:

  • If the pathways behind available doorways are occupied
  • If they do not have the keys for the available doorways

In these situations, they lose the opportunity for action in that turn.

Movement with the Treasure

Players can move the treasure twice in a turn if they have the keys from the dice and the doorways and pathways are available.

Moving and passing

Use one key to open the doorway to move the thief with the treasure, then use the key from the second dice to open another doorway to pass the treasure to an accomplice.

Passing and moving

Use the key from one dice to open a doorway to pass the treasure on to an accomplice, then use the key from the second dice open another doorway to move this thief away.

Passing and passing

Use one key to open a doorway to pass the treasure to an accomplice, then use the key from the second dice to open another doorway to pass the treasure on again.

The Imperative of Movement

In all situations, unless pathways are blocked or unavailable, players MUST use both colour keys delivered by the dice in their turn - even if doing so means they must move their thieves or pass the treasure in directions they do not want.

Forbidden Movements

To challenge players’ ingenuity

  • Placing more than one thief at a time on a pathway is forbidden.
  • Passing and returning the treasure in the same turn is forbidden.
  • Passing the treasure to any of the opponent’s thieves is forbidden.

To prevent stalemate

  • Placing a thief on the opponent’s exit is forbidden.
  • Placing more than one thief at a time on the three pathways surrounding an opponent’s exit is forbidden.

To ensure reversals of fortune

  • So that stealing the treasure is always possible, even when a thief carrying it is on their exit, placing more than one accomplice on the three surrounding pathways is forbidden.

Winning the Game

To escape the labyrinth with the treasure players must achieve three things:

1.

They have their thief with the treasure on their exit pathway.

2.

An accomplice is on one of the three surrounding pathways.

3.

They have a black key either:

  • In the same turn as they move their thief with the treasure onto their exit pathway
  • In the same turn as they move an accomplice to one of the three surrounding pathways
  • In a later turn while the thief with the treasure and the accomplice are still in place.

When the player achieves all three simultaneously, they can move their thief with the treasure over the dragon sigil to leave the labyrinth and win.

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