Just because an idea is old, doesn’t mean it’s not fun
Way back in March 2017, I looked at a new Kickstarter called Stop Thief! from Restoration games. It was a new Kickstarter, not really a new game.
Stop Thief was a game released in the late 70s with many new ideas. It had hidden movement deduction, at a time hidden movement games weren’t exactly the rage. It had an electronic device to take the place of the thief, so everyone could play as a detective. This was before PC’s and Smartphones – you needed to build a dedicated device!
Players would gather around a board and try and capture the thief from the sounds from the ‘crime computer’. It was a great idea and a possible inspiration for the other ‘before it’s time app game’ – Dark Tower.
Playing with the new Stop Thief!
The core of the original game is still completely intact. Players take the part of private investigators and use sound clues and logic to try and anticipate the location of a hidden thief on the board.
The layout of the board has changed from the original game, but not how it works.
As you can see in the photo, there are a series of dots connected by footsteps. These footsteps represent the paths that the thief can take. The thief will travel on their turn between a numbered dot to another, players must travel along each dot (empty and numbered).
Red dots represent places robberies, and the square locations with the circle around them in the center and corners represent the subway used to fast travel. That’s it mechanically – there are also heaps of jokes and references in the art!
Each dot has a sound clue provided by the app. A door opening is a doorway, echoing footsteps are walking inside. Glass breaking means the thief has entered a window space. Busy rushed walking means they are outside. Muffled announcements mean they have taken the subway – the thief has moved to a different part of the board!
The sound you don’t want to hear is the alarm – that means another robbery has taken place! Upside though the places these can occur are limited, so you will have a good idea where the thief is.
To capture a thief, you need to be on or adjacent to a location you think the thief is at. You then attempt to make an arrest using the app. To do so, you just enter the three-digit number you think the thief is on.
Then you just need to wait for the app to tell you if you were successful or not.
And that wait can feel like forever. If you are correct, you get a reward for catching the thief – but if you’re wrong, you have to pay a $1,000 fine for wasting the police’s time!
The first player to reach a set money goal (between $25,000 and 45,000) retires to Hawaii and wins the game!
But there is more – there are different modes of play!
Catching the thief is almost always the same type of game, but one of the additions made to the new Stop Thief! was new play modes.
You can play cooperatively – great for teaching new players, especially if you want to stay in the game as well.
The basic differences from the base game are that there are seven thieves that are operating as a single entity, and each time you make an arrest you make the gang smaller.
Catch all seven and you win! However there is a pile of cash at the side of the table, that is used by the group and goes down when more robberies occur. If this stash runs out before you capture the gang, it’s game over.
There is also a solo mode and a one-vs-many mode – these are great additions for even more gameplay options!
Solo mode is basically co-operative mode but with a single investigator. It works, but it’s a little harder as you can’t ‘hedge your bets’. Even when you narrow in on a thief, there are plenty of occasions that they can be in one or two locations – this coin flip can ruin competitive games, but is manageable in the coop game.
One-vs-many is similar to the cooperative style of gameplay where there is a single gang running around, but this time the group is being controlled by a player!
The device is always held by the thief player, and the app shows all legal movement and plays the clues appropriate to the selected locations. This is great, and is something I wish would be done for more hidden movement style games. This way, even if you are mostly new to the game, you can take the part of the mastermind without making a mistake that can ruin the game for everyone else.
So it sounds like a simple gimmick game
I can’t avoid that – in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what Stop Thief! is. The original game was a pioneer in using electronics with the game, so it was essentially built around a gimmick.
That said, this is a game that will fit many players of many ages, and while it may not be a Friday night regular, Stop Thief! is a game that I will stop and play anytime.
Younger kids want to play? Walk them through the first few games in cooperative mode, and then when they get it, let them loose on the competitive game.
Are the paths to easy to work out now? Increase the difficulty. Playing at higher difficulty levels means the thief can stop or double back on themselves.
Stop Thief! may not be the flashiest game with the deepest story or branching elements, but it is a game that has stood up over the years and will continue to be played for years to come.
It just goes to show that a great idea will hold up over time. There aren’t many games that people today will look at if you tell them it’s over 30 years old, but Restoration Games has managed to do just that. Stop Thief! was the game that had me first interested, and they have kept me hooked ever since.
Using an app to replace the original crime computer was a great idea and the feeling of dread as you wait for the app to tell you if you found the thief or not is real.
A great game and a fun time no matter how you play, Stop Thief! is highly recommended.
Until next time,
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