- Number of Plays: 6 (since I started recording my gameplays, I have dozens more from 2017 and 2018 that are lost to time)
- Game Length: 15 minutes
- Mechanics: Hand Management, Hidden Movement
- Release Year: 2017
- Designer: Tim Fowers
- Artist: Ryan Goldsberry
How tense can a single deck of cards feel? Can you imbue all the excitement and fear of a get-away chase into a simple little card game? Prior to 2017 I would have been skeptical, but that’s the year Fowers Games published Fugitive, a 43 card two player game, set in the world of Burgle Bros. Thematically, this takes place at the end of a Burgle Bros game with the Rook trying to escape from the Marshall who is hot on his tail.
Fugitive has the distinction of being the first game I ever backed on Kickstarter. I was caught up in the excitement of getting more from the Burgle Bros. world, especially considering Burgle Bros. was both mine and my wife’s favourite co-op game. To this day, it sits high on my top games of all time list.
How to Play
To begin a game of Fugitive, the 0 card is placed in the centre of the table, and the cards with the number 1, 2, 3, and 42 are given to the Fugitive. Then, the rest of the cards are broken into 3 decks, 4 – 14, 15 – 28, and 29 – 41. These decks are shuffled and placed where both players can access them. The Fugitive draws 3 additional cards from the first deck, and 2 more cards from the second deck. The only thing the Marshall gets is a dry-erase board to scribble down notes.
Gameplay alternates between the Fugitive and the Marshall. The Fugitive will draw a card from any deck, then they may place a hideout. The Marshall will draw one card from any deck, then make a guess as to which hideout the Fugitive as placed on the table. If the Marshall wants, they can guess more than one hideout at a time, but if they get any wrong, none of the hideouts are revealed.
Fugitive is a quick two player only game where one player is trying to evade the other. To win, The Marshall needs to discover all the Fugitive’s hideouts. For the Fugitive to win, they must play the #42 card onto the table. The catch is, the Fugitive can only play cards in ascending sequential order, and only able to skip over 3 numbers at a time. At the start of the game with the #0 on the table, the next card played must be a 1, 2, or a 3.
The Fugitive can break this rule by playing additional cards face down when they place a hideout. Each other card will have a number of footprints under the number. The number of footprints played is the number the sequence can be extended. By playing two cards with two footprints each, the Fugitive can make a leap from card #3 to #10! This is a gamble however, should the Marshall discover that hideout, the footprint cards will be revealed as well, giving the Marshall even more information.
Fugitive is a fun game. My favourite memory of this game happened when I first introduced it to my brother. I made him play the Marshall role first. Simply because I was the more experienced player, I managed to escape with relative ease. He quickly proclaimed that the Fugitive role is obviously the easier role to be in, there’s not enough time for the Marshall to find ALL the hideouts!
Then we switched. As the Marshall, I generally employ the road block strategy of stocking up on cards from the last deck, filling my hands with high valued cards. The Fugitive is lulled into a false sense of security, meandering around with half a dozen or more face down, hideous. Once they get to the last third of their escape, it’s too late. With all my previous guesses, I’ve deduced the vast majority of hideouts and correctly guess over half of them with a single turn. They are forced to stall as they need to draw more cards to stock up on footprint icons in order to make the long leap between hideout spots, not realizing the sheer amount of information that I already have. They’ll only have a scant few places to hide, and I already know them all. The trap snaps shut, and the Marshall wins!
To an inexperienced player, both sides feel impossible. As the Marshall, you’re in the dark, it’s difficult to make the logical leaps necessary to deduce how the Fugitive is snaking their way through the city. As the Fugitive, it feels like you have a spotlight on you, every move you make is telegraphed and the Marshall is just toying with you, like a mouse cornered by a cat.
I need to commend Fugitive, as it manages to achieve a great deal of thematic tension in a mere 43 cards and 15 minutes of gameplay. The feeling of momentum, the tension of hiding, and the joy of misdirection are all present in this little game. Much like its spiritual prequel Burgle Bros., adding an appropriate soundtrack can ratchet up the ‘Catch me if you can’ vibe that this game evokes.
The production is also top-notch. The box is styled as a tiny briefcase with a magnetic latch. The cards have a good linen finish, giving them a premium feel and the art on each card is unique and shows the story of the Fugitive enlisting the help of his comrades to evade the Marshall.
I’ve found that Fugitive doesn’t always make a great first impression. A few people I’ve introduced to the game bounced off of it, citing it too stressful, or too difficult to play well right off the bat. It’s anticlimactic when the Fugitive gets fully caught only a few rounds into the game, thanks to some lucky guesses by the Marshall. It’s a shame because I really enjoy this game. Unfortunately because it’s a 2 player only game, it doesn’t hit my table very often, as it’s quite rare that I sit down at a table with only a single opponent. That being said, it’s a great game that I would happily play at any opportunity.