Larceny in brief:
A heist-themed party game utilizing the mechanics from Apples to Apples / Card Against Humanity
Yes, there it is upfront – the juxtaposition of Larceny with Apples and Apples / Cards Against Humanity. There’s no way around it. Any time you see a game which features players submitting cards to a judge who then picks their favorite among the lot, you will find comparisons to Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity, the leaders in the field. Sorry. But it is inevitable.
But wait, there’s more to Larceny than either of these games (henceforth referred to as A2A-CAH). I promise. Keep reading.
For those of you who are not familiar with A2A-CAH, I shall explain. The game Larceny consists of three decks of cards:
- The first deck is comprised of cards referred to as “The Scores”. A Score is what players are trying to steal that round. Examples include “The Original Batmobile” and “The Moussaieff Red Diamond”. 1 Score card is turned face-up every round.
- The second deck is comprised of cards referred to as “The Catches”. A Catch is a problem that a player will encounter during the Heist. Examples include “Bloodhounds”, “Loud Alarms” and “Lava”. 2 Catch cards are turned face-up every round.
- The third deck is comprised of cards referred to as “Fixes”. A Fix is a trick a player has up their sleeve to mitigate the problem presented by The Catch. Examples include “Wetsuit and Scuba Gear”, “Big ol’ Mustache”, and “Old Sewer Tunnels”. Each player begins the game with a hand of 7 Fix cards.
All of the cards have some sort of flavor text on them, either describing the items in more detail or providing some sort of snarky comment.
In the basic version of the game, one player is designated to be the Chief (Judge) for the first round, and the Chief passes to the next player at the start of each subsequent round. The Chief will begin the round by flipping over the Score card and the 2 Catch cards.
All other players (members of The Crew) must submit a card to the Chief, face-down, for each Catch. After all cards have been submitted, the Chief collects all the cards and turns them face-up next to the appropriate Catch, reading each card out loud. Players may choose to keep silent in order to remain anonymous or they may choose to argue the case for why their Fix card defeats the Catch. The Chief then selects the Fix card they like best for each Catch. The person who submitted the chosen Fix card receives a point. If the same player submitted both of the cards that were chosen, then the player also receives the Score, worth a bonus point to their score.
However, there is more than 1 way to play Larceny. There were 7 variants described in the prototype rulebook I received (well, technically 8, but the final variant, “Brainstorming”, seemed more like a card-throwing exercise than an actual game).
– An improvisation game where The Crew, equipped with 7 Fixes, must work together to overcome 1 known and 1 unknown Catch (“Black Bag Job”)
– A competitive team mode with a best-out-of-seven format (“Troubleshooters”)
– A co-op roleplaying non-competitive format (“Heist”)
– A Rube Goldberg-esque storytelling format where players must submit 2-5 Fixes during a heist instead of just 1 Fix (“Best Laid Plans”)
Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.
Did I Like This Game?
Here’s the thing – I like Larceny, and I like Larceny better than Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity. While A2A-CAH are both very popular and (semi-)enjoyable games, they are basically word-association exercises featuring limited vocabulary and pop-culture references. A2A-CAH often boils down to “What card in your hand is most or least related to the card on the table?” and can be played on auto-pilot. Larceny, however, can be more than an exercise in repetition if you choose it to be. When played the right way, it can be a fun foray into creativity and storytelling.
For example, we had a round where two Catches are on the table but players can only play 1 Fix. That Fix must somehow tackle the challenges presented by both Catches. The Catches that round were “Ace Reporter” and “Quicksand”, and the winner had played “Forklift”, explaining how they would create a fake patch of quicksand, pretend to be a nun drowning in it, and scream to the Ace Reporter to use the forklift to lift them out of the quicksand. However, the forklift would be programmed to back into the actual quicksand, thus suffocating the reporter and providing a safe stepping spot in the quicksand for the thief to finish the heist.
In other words, Larceny can be a storytelling game if your group decides to play it that way. And if you choose to make it a storytelling game, Larceny becomes more like Fiasco or Once Upon a Time or The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen than A2A-CAH. This idea is even furthered in the “Heist” format, where the group pools their Fixes together to tackle a primary Catch. My group liked the co-op format of the Heist variant – they all had fun and actually liked that there was a format that didn’t involve scoring points.
But Larceny doesn’t have to be a storytelling game if your group doesn’t want to exert the effort. The game can be reduced to the word-association exercise format of A2A-CAH if people complain that the game involves too much thinking.
This simple game was fun and kept the interest of everyone at the table, gamers and non-gamers alike. It kept people engaged even when we took it with us to a bar and played for a couple of rounds. The creative-minded people enjoyed improvising and being rewarded for quick-thinking, and the less creative people were entertained by the others’ stories and occasionally surprised by their own quick-thinking.
One thing that Larceny could do better:
I hope that the game designers will include a summary of the available variants on the back page of the rulebook. I was flipping through the rulebook during games to try to remember what was available and verbally reminding people which variants we had tried.
General Play – 2 Catches. 1 Fix per Player per Catch
Best Laid Plans – 2 Catches. 2-5 Fixes per Player (to accommodate both Catches).
Worst Laid Plans – 2 Catches. 1 Terrible Fix per Player per Catch.
On The Run – 2 Catches. 1 Fix per Player (to accommodate both Catches). Hand size limited to 3 Fixes.
(I admit to bias – I am a big fan of summary sheets in general)
Larceny is a pretty fun group game. It is more worthy of the label “game” than its A2A-CAH counterparts, in my opinion because the game doesn’t do the work for you. You have to come up with creative solutions in order to score points rather than let the cards tell the jokes. It is also flexible enough to accommodate many types of gamers – those who want to create, those who want to logically reason their way through situations, and those who simply want to sit back and enjoy the show. It is also appealing to both people who like to play competitively and people who like to play cooperatively. I would recommend this game to nearly anyone except for people who do not like party games or those who prefer more silent, solitary kinds of games.