(Disclosure: Nerdbloggers does not accept payment for Kickstarter previews. In this case, we were provided with a .pdf of the game components and rules and built a prototype for review.)
Preview: Jailbreakers: Plan Your Escape
In their own words: “Jailbreakers: Plan Your Escape is a press your luck dice and card game where you take on the role of prisoners plotting their escape!”
Components: I was playing with a self-built prototype, so I can't comment on components. We were all happy with the game art, but felt the card layout and small iconography made it difficult to see what was necessary for crafting or an escape plan from across the table. The higher-resolution and better color- correction of a professional production could fix that problem.
Game Play: Jailbreakers is (sort of) a worker-placement game with dice being used to randomly determine which locations on the board (actually a grid of twelve location cards) are available to a player each turn. Most of the locations allow players to acquire materials that can then be used to craft items.
Items do two things in the game. They each give the player who owns them an ability that they can use, and they also can be used to satisfy the conditions of one of the available escape plans. Using an item for its ability doesn't use it up, but using it in an escape puts it at risk.
Once players have the items required for one of the available escape plans, they can attempt an escape. This is where the “push your luck” mechanism comes in to play. The escape deck is made up of a mixture of success and failure cards. Players must turn over a number of cards (based on how many items were used in the escape) without revealing two failure cards. After one failure card has been revealed, players can cut their losses by pulling out of the escape and turning over half of the items used in the attempt, or they can continue forward and “push their luck.” If the rest of the revealed cards are successes, the prisoner escapes. If another fail card comes up, the escape fails and the player loses all the involved items.
As soon as one player manages to free two of their prisoners, he or she wins the game.
My Take: Jailbreakers: Plan your Escape gets a thumbs up from me. I'm a big fan of “push your luck” games, and the “push your luck” element here provides a lot of tension. The use of dice to limit the “worker” placement options works pretty well (Rule-check Warning: be careful not to put out too many guards for the number of players—which we did the first time—as the options will be too limited), but it is frustrating in later rounds to have no options that advance your escape attempt or strengthen your position.
Crafting in games is almost always a problem. The fact that you are using whole turns just to collect materials that you get no immediate benefit out of means a lot of turns feel empty and rote. Jailbreakers doesn't address this problem in any way, but it does make crafted items useful for things other than just escaping, which means most turns end with the player advancing his cause in some way. I also like the dilemna created by those items: do I use this awesome item to escape or do I keep it to make it easier to collect other materials?
In the end, I'm excited to see the production copy of this game. It has a unique theme, plays quickly and scratches that “push your luck” itch really well. I