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Questions about the design of Your Last Heist

The following questions may be particularly pertinent to people judging this game for TheGameCrafter's Gamehole Gauntlet Challenge. Or if you just want to learn more about the design decisions that went into the game before buying.

How is this game different from most co-op games?

Like most co-op games, Your Last Heist is all about collaborating with everyone at the table to achieve a common goal. So how does this differ from what's out there?

Mechanically, the most unique part of the game is what I call simultaneous action coordination. During the "Character Actions" phase, you are given a range of actions that you can take, but your actions can be interleaved with the actions of your teammates.

For example, you might be able to move twice and your friend is good picking locks. Maybe you move once, discover that there's a lock there, have your friend pick the lock, then you move into the next room.

These coordinations are something that can be decided by everyone at the table, or by simply coordinating with someone who is near you on the board who can help you out. As a result, not every discussion needs to be decided by the whole table, so this time becomes very chatty. The more you talk to each other, the more opportunities you'll find to do things more efficiently!

Contrast this to many co-op games that are turn-based, and you'll find there's a lot of downtime, tons of indecision, and the awkwardness that everyone else at the table is discussing your move.

A second difference is the campaign-style series structure. A standard scenario of 2-3 heists can be completed in one night. But you can also play longer. During this time, your players and skills will level up and you'll carry various bonuses from one game to the next. These smaller heists mean that:

  • You get the benefits of a role-playing game without a long-term commitment required
  • If you make a poor decision in one heist, you only have to live with it for this one heist instead of the entire game
  • You can play longer, multi-night campaigns where individual characters level up one-at-a-time, the boards get increasingly tougher, and the teams are more diverse level-wise
  • A rich storyline emerges about characters (and players!) getting better and better a coordinating great heists and applying that knowledge immediately to the next heist.

Finally, this game is unique in its use of theme for co-ops. I was surprised to see this, but while crime is a widely-used theme for board games, none of the BoardGameGeek's top 300 board games involve a cooperative heist game (i.e. where players take on the role of a criminal and work with other criminals to pull a heist). None. While many co-op games involve heist-like qualities, none of them have it as its explicit theme. Your Last Heist borrows elements from heist movies and real heists to make the gameplay immersive and unique.

What does this game do to minimize downtime?

This was crucial in my design and we carefully timed our games throughout playtesting.

The vast majority of the time in this game are in the Character Actions phase where players are deciding what to do. Rather than a turn-based system, Your Last Heist uses a simultaneous action coordination mechanic (see above question). Due to the board designs, players often finding themselves "pairing off" with similar objectives. Players paired off can coordinate with each other without having to bother the rest of the table with most of their decisions. Some decisions need to be made jointly by the table, too. This Character Action phase tends to be quite chatty with plenty of crosstalk. Nobody is waiting for their own turn!

The other phases, such as Roll for Security, are very fast. Roll for Security is under a minute, usually. Roll for Skill is instantaneous. The Escape Phase is under 3 minutes because it comes down to just one die roll for each player (and not usually every player needs an Escape roll). All of these phases are intentionally short to get back to Character Actions, which is where the fun is.

We also have some downtime in setting up the next heist after one is finished. During this time, we have done the following to assist downtime:

  • Players are leveling up their skills and characters while 1-2 people are setting up the board. The table is usually quite chatty during this time as people are discussing their decisions.
  • Tiles are all double-sided and they are all the same (mostly). So you don't have to sort and then place them. Just flip them to the side you need and place them where you need them.
  • Security tokens go in a bag, so they don't need to be sorted either. Just keep them in a pile next to the board and place what you need in the bag at the beginning of the heist.

Our playtests indicate that, once you're familiar with the game, board set-up takes 4-6 minutes.

What does this game do about the Alpha Player syndrome?

Alpha Player syndrome is where an experienced (or simply a confident) gamer tries to run the entire game and tells everyone what to do. It's a major problem with cooperative games. Some are calling it a social problem, others ask that board game mechanics mitigate this somehow.

Interestingly, we have not seen Alpha Player problems in Your Last Heist. This has to do with the way collaboration is structured: since all players are simultaneously working together, people are often working with other nearby players. There's a lot of chatter between two players to coordinate their sub-actions, and some chatter to the whole table like "I have a reveal, can anyone use it?".

Also, since everyone has their own set of actions and sub-actions, the Alpha can't really follow everyone's possible moves at once. When someone gets stuck, there's usually an Alpha-like moment where someone suggests a move, but this has been a pleasant experience.

Why no traitor mechanic? Seems perfect given the theme!

Yes, this game satisfies the two of the three Gamehole Gauntlet challenge criteria (RPG-style and extensive use of chits), and the third traitor mechanic falls right in line with the theme of heists. I could even get an extra point from the judges. Perfect, right?

Truthfully, the game designer (Andy) doesn't like traitor mechanics. He finds them stressful. And he didn't want to spend hundreds of playtesting hours on a mechanic that gives him anxiety even if it's done well.

But maybe someday he'll build it into an expansion if people really want it.

Is this game color-blind accessible?

I believe so. One of our main playtesters is red-green color-blind and provided feedback throughout the process. We have also tested our artwork with the Daltonize colorblindness simulation algorithm to ensure that the information is properly transmitted. In particular, the Planning tokens are different enough that a colorblind player can distinguish them easily on the board.

What was your playtesting process?

Early, often, and diverse. For five months straight, I ran 1-3 game nights per week playing the game. I got feedback from non-gamers and hardcore gamers. All friends, some were friends-of-friends. The ages ranged from mid-twenties to sixties. Professions ranged from artists to doctors to academics to software testers. Our list of playtesters can be found on our GitHub page in the PLAYTESTERS.md file.

Blind playtesting is the next step in my development process.

We took much longer than 30-40 minutes on a heist. What gives?

The first few times you play the game, especially if everyone at the table is new, a heist might take closer to an hour. As you play more, you'll find ways of communicating efficiently and effectively and the heists will take less time. That being said, some groups are just a little slower than others. Even when it's slower, our playtesters report that they lose track of time anyway and don't notice the time passing.

Here are some tips for speeding up collaboration:

  • Share with the table what problems you can solve, rather than your options. For example, "I can unlock this lock over here for one Idea" is better than "Ok, I've got an unlock, a subdue, and two moves, but if I...".
  • Most boards tend to have a natural pairing off of players. Feel free to just work with the people who are near you on the board. Change your seat at the table if it's easier than talking across the table.
  • Don't be afraid of multiple conversations going on at once.
  • Don't bother talking about strategy during the Roll for Security phase - wait until everyone has done Roll for Skill.
  • Not everything needs to be cleared by the whole table. If your move is obvious, just take it and most people will be fine with that.

Do you really expect people to read all of these FAQs?

Nope. But some people will. (Hi there!) I'm trying to do something different here by being transparent about my design process so you can make the best purchasing and/or judging decision.

How is this related to Masters of the Heist?

Masters of the Heist is another of my own creations that I submitted to TGC's Micro-game contest back in 2013. In fact, I've been making lots of these heist games for years. I view them all in the same universe. Masters of the Heist has a similar artistic style, but it's a completely different game. It's a head-to-head micro-game whereas this is a cooperative big box game.

Masters of the Heist is currently not available for purchase, but I will be revisiting it someday.

Questions about the Rules of Your Last Heist

What if I'm standing on an Unlocked tile and Reinforcements are called?

You may exit a Locked tile, but you may never enter a Locked tile. The Unlock sub-action does not apply to your current tile.

Can a hex tile have more than one Security chit on it?

Yes. In this case the effects and sub-actions necessary to pass through those tiles stack. For example, a hex with two Locks on it needs 🔓🔓 to make it passable.

Can MISDIRECT or GREAT IN A PINCH modify a security roll from 4 to 1?

Yes. And vice versa.

Can AUTOPWN or EXPLOIT be used on yourself?

No. It must be another (different) character.

How am I supposed to pronounce AUTOPWN?

There is no widely accepted pronunciation, so you can't go wrong. We don't recommend pronouncing it "auto-pawn" because that could be confused with a game pawn. The origin is from "owning" someone's computer, and typing it so fast that you hit the "p" key instead of the "o" key. I (Andy) pronounces with the "p" and it rhymes with "own".

Can a Street Urchin get a 👊 from a Script Kiddie's AUTOPWN?

No. Any player with "Cannot 👊" may not be given that sub-action.

Does a character with ADRENALINE get an idea with a AUTOPWN or EXPLOIT?

Yes! Because the sub-action was "given" to that character.

Can you use the Help Out rule during the Escape Phase?

No. Sorry.

For the Tunneler's BREACH action, can other characters use the exit?

Yes! It's just a regular exit.

For the Tunneler's BREACH action, what if we run out of entrance/exit chits?

You may still use the action, just improvise an exit tile (e.g. move one that is irrelevant to your situation).

Can I pick up loot during the Escape phase?

Yes! And you may drop loot if you want to transfer to someone else. Note that you CANNOT first roll your die, AND THEN determine if you have enough ideas + die roll to loot. You must use your ideas and declare your escape plan, THEN roll your die to see if you got enough Escape Moves.

Does my path out of the Escape phase need to be the shortest path?

Nope. Sometimes going out of your way to get some loot is an option.

Is there any possible way to unlock a lock in the Escape phase?

No.

For the Angry Locksmith EFFICIENT PICKER ability, can you use it if you don't actually USE the Unlock sub-action but take the action nonetheless?

Yes. The wording says you may spend an idea if the action you take has an Unlock - not necessarily that you take it.