Adam and Alycia Whitney
Know Chance Games
3 - 7
I was lucky enough to get in on a game of Stealing Mona Lisa at a local game day called Well Played Weekend. This is a monthly, all day, gaming event in the Atlanta area that typically draws around 80 folks all interested in table top board gaming. There is a large library of available games that anyone in attendance can enjoy and regulars of the event also bring several games from their own collection to share. This past Saturday, Adam Whitney, of Know Chance Games, was there with a pre-production copy of his latest game, Stealing Mona Lisa, which will soon be on Kickstarter. I sat in on a five player game and I’m glad I did.
Stealing Mona Lisa was immediately fun. There wasn’t a huge barrier to entry of figuring out exactly what you are supposed to be doing or trying to define a strategy. Instead, the rules were explained, we jumped right in, and everyone had a blast. The game, while not being humorous in and of itself, led to quite a lot of laughter around the table. More and more, I’m looking for games that encourage lighthearted laughter and Stealing Mona Lisa certainly fits the bill.
In Stealing Mona Lisa, players take on the role of art thieves and are competing to have the most valuable paintings in their possession by the end of the game. Every player is dealt a hand of five cards at the beginning of the game. These cards represent the skills you have for your current heist. You may have a getaway driver, a safe cracker, a blueprint of the art museum, etc. Each skill is represented by a single card and each card has a number value. Once each player has five cards in their hand, a draft begins and every player will select one card to keep and pass the others to their left. This continues until each player has a new hand of five cards.
From these five cards, players will choose which ones they want to commit to the robbery and place them face down on the table. A central playing area contains a number of paintings that are available to steal. The art on the cards depict actual real world historical paintings such as The Birth of Venus, Starry Night, and of course, Mona Lisa. Each painting is worth a different amount, listed in millions of dollars, and requires a different set of skills to successfully steal it. Players must match the required skills printed on the art they intend to steal with the skills in their hand that they drafted.
Here comes the fun part. The skill cards are played face down. You can play as many as you want, up to the number of cards in your hand (which after the first round is a max of 8 cards). After everyone has placed their skill cards face down on the table, all players simultaneously select the painting they want to steal. If no other player chooses the same painting you did, you get that painting without revealing the skill cards you played; they go back into your hand without being shown to any other player. If you choose wisely, you can bluff your way to a successful heist, possibly without having the skills needed to actually complete the job.
If two or more players go for the same painting, however, each player reveals their skill cards. Players that don’t meet the required criteria can’t steal the painting in question and their skill cards go back into the main draw deck to be reshuffled. If two or more players have the necessary skills, they total up the point values in those skills and the player with the highest value is the better thief and takes home the stolen prize.
The art theft phase, with its possible bluffing, simultaneous selection, and a possible skill card reveal, is a lot of fun and is what makes Stealing Mona Lisa an easy purchase. We laughed a lot during this phase. During one turn, every player selected the same painting, and when this happened a second time, we had an “Are you $#@%^#! serious!?” moment, which caused even more laughter. Most of the time, though, only one or two people would select the same painting, meaning at least one person avoided having to show their skill cards.
Stealing Mona Lisa is a clever game that has more going on than one might think. It combines card drafting, bluffing, simultaneous player action, and set collection with a fun theme. The small footprint and easy to learn rules make Stealing Mona Lisa a great family game. Because of its quick play time, Stealing Mona Lisa is also a perfect filler or intro game to start off gaming night. I can see this game getting a lot of play time, regardless of the type of gamer at the table.
Stealing Mona Lisa is currently on Kickstarter; head over there and pledge today.