We’re halfway through my 12 Days of Holiday Game recommendations! Now over the last two years, my first nine picks were in no particular order, and I saved any ranking for my top three. I’m doing something different this year. Today may be day six, but this game is not only my Number Three pick of the year; it’s also a teaser for my overall Game of the Year.

Today’s game is Grifters, and it feels weird to have to shine a light on this one. Grifters exists within the same world as the incredibly popular Resistance and Coup card games, but seems like it’s become to be their forgotten sibling. (The William Baldwin of the group, if you will.) But Grifters is an excellent game, and it deserves way more credit than it gets.

In Grifters two to four players take on the role of rival criminal organizations, competing over a limited supply of money, jobs, and specialists. When any one of those three supplies run out, the game is over. At the beginning of the game, each player will start with a hand of six cards. Three of those cards will be the game’s three ringleaders (Mastermind, Thief, and Pickpocket), and three will be randomly drawn from the specialist deck. Players will recruit additional specialists throughout the game either by drawing from the deck or stealing them from other players.

Specialists in Grifters either work solo or as a team. If a card is played by itself, follow the rule text on it. (For example, playing the Mastermind would allow a player to add more specialists from the deck to their hand.) To complete a job, multiple specialists are played as a team. When this happens all of a card’s printed rules are ignored in favor of what suit it is. Each job requires a combination of one or more of the game’s three suits (red, green, and blue) to be completed. (For example, when played as a team the Mastermind simply counts as one blue card.) Players can choose to either play a single card, or as many as they need to complete an available job.

My favorite mechanic in Grifters is in its player boards. Each player has a hideout with a multistage discard area, representing the time their specialists are laying low after an assignment. When cards are played, they go into the “Night One” space. At the beginning of every turn, players will move any cards from Night One to Night Two; from Night Two to Night Three; and from Night Three to the Refresh area. At the end of a players turn, they put any cards in their refresh area back into their hands. The heat is off; time to get back to work.

Much like Honshu, and Bad Beets, Grifters is a small box game that’s easy to teach. It’s also a game that does a great job of merging mechanics and theme. Between assembling the perfect team for a job, and having that team lay low for a few turns afterwards, it feels like a heist game. Having to race against the other players for the perfect team and the perfect score—all the while stealing specialists and resources from each other—definitely gives the whole experience the cutthroat feeling of rival crime families carving up a city. If you’re a fan of quick to play, highly competitive player-vs-player games, you should check out Grifters.

Grifters is published by Indie Boards and Cards.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.