member, 207 posts
Mon 21 May 2018
at 13:26
Heist Games
Due to a weird spike in robberies, heists, and other grand theft in my home group's tabletop games recently, I've been thinking about heist-oriented games more generally. This eventually led up to this question:

What robbery/heist-oriented or -centric game systems are out there? What's good? What isn't?

To save us some time, here's what I already know exist:

  • Blades in the Dark
  • Leverage
  • Shadowrun

To be clear, I'm looking for game systems that are actually built around the concept, not just ones that can do it. I know Savage Worlds or GURPS or d20 can manage a good heist game, but unless there's a GURPS Oceans Eleven (hoo boy do I hope so) or d20 Heisters out there, generic systems won't fit the bill.
Genghis the Hutt
 member, 2491 posts
 Just an average guy :)
Mon 21 May 2018
at 16:58
Heist Games
It all depends on just how complicated you want to get.  Ultimately you could end up with a wargaming system and having to roll on hundreds of employees and thousands of customers just in a single casino, etc.  At some point you really have to get higher level and start abstracting stuff.

It's really a personal call as to how much you want to abstract.  I've had some wonderful heist adventures in D&D.  Then there's d20 Modern which led to Spycraft which is the premier real-world heist system, in my opinion.  You have Shadowrun if you want magic and ultra-high tech (currently unrealistic) mixed in with everything else.  I don't know about the other two you mentioned.
tusken eldritch
 member, 20 posts
Mon 21 May 2018
at 17:14
Heist Games
Fiasco was explicitly designed to simulate a heist/caper movie:
 member, 1275 posts
 "Hugs for the Hugs God!"
 - Warhammer Fluffy-K
Mon 21 May 2018
at 20:07
Heist Games
A new one called Dusk City Outlaws just popped from Kickstarter.

Dusk City Outlaws has a streamlined rules set that uses a sleek narrative dice system and player-empowering special abilities to let the players craft a story about a daring heist or a long con without slowing the game down to consult a rulebook. Everything the players need to know stays on the table in front of them for the duration of the game. For the Judge, the game's setting is a fantasy city sandbox, and the game provides a resource system that lets the Judge easily react to player actions and providing interesting challenges and plot twists without the need for advanced preparation.

It's sitting unopened on my desk and I've been looking for a reason to crack it open. If you're interested I could give it a flip otherwise a quick google search provides a list of reviews.

There is also the old TSR game Gangsters focused on cops vs. criminals of the 1920s style Chicago.

This message was last edited by the user at 20:08, Mon 21 May 2018.

 member, 208 posts
Tue 22 May 2018
at 00:07
Heist Games
@Genghis the Hutt: I hadn't considered Spycraft, but you have a point.

@tusken eldritch: I'd forgotten about Fiasco, thanks.

@praguepride: Hadn't heard about Dusk City Outlaws, so that'll be one to look into. I'm assuming you meant Gangbusters?
 member, 183 posts
 The broken clock
 is a comfort...
Tue 22 May 2018
at 00:28
Heist Games
VSCA Publishing’s Hollowpoint might be worth a look.
 member, 1277 posts
 "Hugs for the Hugs God!"
 - Warhammer Fluffy-K
Tue 22 May 2018
at 04:02
Re: Heist Games
I'm assuming you meant Gangbusters?

Yeah, that's the one! Great setting and decent rules all things considered about playing as either the criminals OR the cops (or reporters or private eye's).

The "adventure" books are almost all about being a cop or investigator. It's assumed that criminals will make their own stories with bootlegging and thievery.
 member, 209 posts
Tue 22 May 2018
at 04:07
Re: Heist Games
Yeah, I've got the old boxed set. It's a good one!
 member, 722 posts
 Creator of HeroForge
Tue 22 May 2018
at 04:22
Re: Heist Games
For those of you inspired by movies like Ocean's Eleven or Mission Impossible or TV shows like Leverage, I've come up with a system-agnostic way to run heist scenarios.

  1. The Setup: Establish what resources the team has available. This always includes time and money, but might also include things like building material or favors to call in. Allow the team to decide how much of each of these resources they invest into the heist; they are all used up in the planning process and are considered spent at the end no matter what. For instance, a team might decide that the planning stage of a heist will require 36 hours of their time, plus $60,000, and call in favors from three contacts.
  2. The Plan: Let the team do their legwork and research. The time and money spent on this stage is a separate expense, and actually happens first. As they gather information about the target, they may decide on specific actions to set up or obstacles to overcome. Allow them to invest more time and money into getting what they need for this, and require them to detail what they buy/create/set up.
  3. The Execution: Once it's time to start the heist, run things as normal. Let them deal with obstacles using what they've come up with, and make their way through using what they've learned. But at some point in the process, let them encounter something that wasn't in their original plan.
  4. The Cut: Once they run into something unexpected, cut back to the planning phase. All the PCs standing around a table full of maps, or a virtual reality space, or whatever. Except this time, the obstacle is something they anticipated and it's now part of the plan. When they decide on an object and/or course of action, decide how much it'll cost them in resources -- and deduct those from the amounts they invested in the first step. For instance, a guard posted at a door might require the team to find his identity, dig up dirt on his past, and find something to use against him (like a weakness for a particular drink, or some way to blackmail him).
  5. The Return: Switch back to the execution scene, except this time whatever activity or object was done is now in place and ready to go. The PC might have a bottle of the guard's favorite booze, or an incriminating e-mail. Let them use it, get past the obstacle, and move on. Continue switching back and forth between the heist and the planning phase.
  6. Running Dry: At some point, it's likely that a resource runs out. Perhaps they took too much time digging into that guard's past. Maybe duplicating a vital key cost more than they expected. Once a resource from Step 1 runs out, it's out. No emergency funds, no desperate bids for more time. If the team needs something else for their heist, they have to find ways to get it without the resource they tapped dry. Perhaps a lack of time isn't an issue to acquire something, but its price triples. Maybe they can get that laundry truck right freakin' now but only by calling in a favor.
  7. Sink or Swim: If they planned right, and set enough aside in advance, the team can finish the heist and have it play out just like in the movies. And if things run out, things get tense, and the team will likely find themselves either playing out a firefight or an escape.

 member, 1279 posts
 "Hugs for the Hugs God!"
 - Warhammer Fluffy-K
Wed 23 May 2018
at 15:41
Re: Heist Games
I love the framework for this. What I find is problematic is that when given PCs in PbP a blank slate they all freeze up. It doesn't gel like in a face-to-face session where you can rapidly bainstorm up ideas.

I like the strategic aspect of it and what I would propose is to skip the planning entirely and just set things into motion so it would look something like this:

The Objective/Outline - You're looking for this object in this building protected by guards/lasers/robots whatever. At this point players just need to vote on if they're going loud guns ablazing, sneaking in after hours or trying to do a disguise/manipulation route. Just tell them "no wrong answers, anything works, just come up with an idea" so if they say "Sneak in through the vents? Done." or "Disguise as cleaning crew?" Done. How are they going to leave is the same thing. Exit loud? Exit by base jumping off roof? Try and walk right out with firefighters? Done.

Then set the boundaries. You have X amount of time, Y amount of money, Z amount of favors.

The Opener
Using their idea you set the scene, give them some time to RP out cleaning or cutting through the vents or what not. Then you hit them with the first major obstacle. Security grid or biometric lock or higher level guard not as easily duped.

The Cut
Cut back to the planning stage but this time the players know what they're up against and have a much better idea of the layout. They can come up with an idea and the GM arbitrates the time/money/favors expense of it. Reduced if players can come up with their own but obviously trickier. For example ID cards. If the players can forge them themselves then it's much cheaper but takes time as per system and they have to make appropriate checks. If they just buy some then it's more expensive but quicker and you can auto-pass them.

Next Obstacle
The scene goes on and their new plan moves along. Next obstacle. They have to find a key or make sure a specific person is at a specific place at a point in time or get a password.

Next Cut
Go back to the planning.

The Obstacle/Cut repeats until they run out of time or money or whatever. After that the heist plays straight. If they encounter something new or shit goes sideways no more contingency plans.

This makes me think that Shadowrun pbp isn't a lost cause after all...