Room-in-a-box, Dec 2018
Heist In Venice follows the normal Deckscape format with a couple of twists. Your mission is to steal a €1 billion Euro poker chip from a casino, and in the tradition of heist movies, you have a team of specialists: here provided by a set of six character cards, which are supposed to be divided between the players. Each card has two or three pieces of clue information on the back, which only the card’s holder is allowed to look at. (This doesn’t mean you need six people to play the game, since one person may have multiple characters.)
As usual with Deckscape, the game is entirely contained in one deck of cards – except, in this case, by the addition of an printed sheet that you’re told to unfold at a particular point in the game. Cards are a mixture of narrative / instructions, ‘item’ cards that you keep for later, and puzzle cards. The only way to check your answer to a puzzle is to flip the card and look at the answer on the back; if you got it wrong you note down a penalty mark, but proceed either way.
The linear structure is broken up by a couple of points where you have multiple stacks to work through in parallel. However, unlike in previous Deckscape games, that mechanism seemed to make less narrative sense and also to allow rather less parallel play than it appeared.
I was also unconvinced by the game’s main innovation. Having player-specific character cards, each with clues available only to that player, is a really good idea for improving gameplay for larger groups. The problem is that a home game based around small cards is never going to play well with 4+ people, individual character cards or no. And having that player-specific clue information means that quite a few of the game’s puzzles are fairly trivial once you’ve worked out which character’s clue to use with it.
As a result, the game feels both easier and less reliable than the other titles in the series, with too many gotcha penalties and weak puzzles. A certain memory-based element also contributed to that, as did some puzzles that worked okay as puzzles but made little sense in terms of the story, making us second-guess our answers.
It’s not a write-off – there were also plenty of puzzles I enjoyed and it was still a fun game. But that was marred with just a bit too much frustration, and it wasn’t a coincidence that after playing this one I didn’t get around to buying more of the Deckscape games for a full year.