Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Wojciech Rzadek


No. of Players:
2 - 4



The SPIEL '10 convention at Essen has seen a rather strong performance of small Polish publishers, and games like 51st State, K2 or Magnum Sal all could convince the spectators on terms of both rules and design. However, these games were not the only novelties coming from Polish publishers, and so the booth of newcomer ADMONDO also could be found in hall 4. As it is quite common these days, author Wojciech Rzadek has chosen to publish his new game about Gentlemen burglars under his own small label, and so I stumbled upon his game Abetto which features some interesting looking artwork and uses a small roulette for solving conflicts in the game.

As indicated, the players take the roles of different ladies and gentlemen, and all of them are up to some burgling into houses of respectable citizens. Thus, the whole playing area is made up from face down house-tiles which show only the roofs to the players, and at the beginning the players randomly set up their city quarter by arranging the house tiles into different residential streets with either one- or two-storey buildings. The center of the playing area is made up by Roulette Square (a large tile where the roulette wheel is placed), and the placement of houses must start at this square. When the whole city quarter is set up, each of the players receives one burglar figure and the matching character sheet and the places the figure on one building bordering Roulette Square.


In Abetto the burglars enter the houses from the roof, and so all movement of playing figures is made on the tops of the houses and not on the streets. Player actions like movement or the committing of a burglary all have a cost in terms of "fatigue points", and for every action a player takes he has to substract a corresponding amount of fatigue points from the current fatigue balance of his character. Thus, it costs one fatigue point to move from one house to the next, or two points either to climb a two-story building or to jump over a street onto an opposing row of houses. Likewise, a character has to deduct two fatigue points for committing a burglary, and in this case the player is allowed to turn over the house tile on which his character is currently standing.

Each character possesses three different characteristics which are symbolized through differently coloured cubes, and these are valuables, bravery and romance. The game runs for a total duration of seven rounds, and after the seventh round each player adds up the total value of each of his characteristics, and the players then compare the values of their LOWEST characteristic. The player with the highest value in this characteristic will have won the game, and as might be guessed the committing of a burglary is one of the main ways in which a characteristic can be increased. Thus, the downside of each house tile shows a room and the loot which can be found there, but in order to find out whether the burglary is a success the roulette wheel needs to be consulted. So, the active player makes three bets, two of them on roulette numbers and one on a roulette-combination (black-even, black-uneven, red-even, red-uneven), and then all other players are allowed to make three bets on numbers as well. When all bets were made, the wheel is spun and the result is compared with the bets the players made. If one or more players did bet on the winning number is of them is allowed to claim the full loot of the burglary is indicated on the house tiles, whereas otherwise the active player's bet on the roulette-combination will be considered. If the result matches on both indications, the burglary is a full success, whereas a match only on one indication means a partial success. Both types of successes mean that the player may take one or more characteristics cubes as indicated on the house tile, but if no indication matches the burglary will be a failure and the character remains empty-handed.

As you can see, the roulette wheel serves a randomizer which offers a bit more sophistication than simple dice, but in the end the result of a burglary all comes down to a player's luck when spinning the wheel. Another possibility to gain characteristic-cubes is through a duel with another character standing on the same roof, and here both duellists name a prize in characteristics cubes which must be handed over in case they win the duel. Then, once again the roulette wheel is spun after the players have made their combination-bets, and depending on the outcome the duel this may either lead to a player handing over some characteristic cubes or a draw.

Quite similar to the duel also is the shooting action, but instead of attacking a player on the same building the shooting action can be made from a distance. The result is once again determined by the use of the roulette wheel, but in difference to the duel the victim of a shot only may lose characteristic cubes. If the shot misses, the attacker has to hand over some cubes to the bank, but the victim never may profit from a shooting attack.

Thus, it might be suspected that the players might restrict themselves to a lot of shooting, but here the rule falls into place that each player is limited to one shooting action each turn. In addition, each player is limited to a maximum of three actionsapart from the one possible shot the actions may be used for committing a burglary or to move. In terms of movement, one action may be used to move on a straight line as many rooftops as the player desires (and can afford in terms of fatigue points). With the consumption of fatigue points a character gets more and more tired, and whenever the fatigue level falls below a certain amount the player will have to face restrictions like the loss of the shooting action or of the possibility to commit a third action each turn. To gain back some fatigue points, a player also may opt to rest, and this fourth type of action will bring back a total of four fatigue points.


Two additional features are used to spice up the basic game, and these are gadgets and tasks. Thus, each house tile does not only feature loot in terms of characteristic cubes, but also a gadget card which may be taken in case of a successful burglary. Each character can hold up to five different gadgets, and these cards are kept secret because they can be used either to hamper an opposing player or as a reaction thwart some hostile action. Thus, a "Cup of Espresso" keeps a player from resting for a whole turn, whereas a "Mad Dog" will spoil a whole attempted burglary. On the other hand, positive gadgets like a "Pistol" mean an additional shooting action or a "Rabbit's Foot" may be used to influence the result of the roulette. Overall, the gadgets all must be discarded after use, but they serve nicely to increase player interaction and to give the game some additional variety.

The tasks on the other hand are revealed at the beginning of each round, and the task then applies to all players for the duration of the whole round. Thus, the tasks set a general condition which is either helpful or hampering for all players, and these events may vary from additional rewards to players who succeed in performing a specific act (jumping over a street, two burglaries in the same turn etc) to restrictions like the appearing of a guard which will forbid burglaries for the whole round.

As indicated above, a successful career as a lady or gentleman of the underworld depends mostly on a player's luck while operating the roulette wheel, and so the possibilities for strategic decisions in Abetto remain rather minute. Instead, the players constantly will have to calculate which risks they should take, and they will have to keep in mind which gadgets were gathered by their opponents in order to prevent some surprises while planning an attack. Nonetheless, some gadgets can be used against the leading player to hamper him regardless of a specific situation, and so Abetto makes it quite difficult to stay in lead once a player has accumulated better characteristics than all competitors.

On a technical standpoint the game works on a solid set of rules, but optional rules like the gadgets, tasks and the compulsory movement rule all should be used in order to keep player interaction high and to give the game a satisfactory entertainment level. However, at least German players will face some difficulties when trying to understand the rules, since the German edition of the rulebook is a rather unpleasant read due to an awful lot of "babelfishing".

On a more positive note, the situation is much better with the English rulebook, and here the players will have no problems to understand all elements of the game. Due to its nice artwork and the unusual use of the roulette as a replacement of a dice, Abetto offers the players an adventurous experience with some possibilities to annoy the other players, and so the whole setting of gentlemen burglars is reflected quite well in the course of the game. The high influence of luck will be tolerable for players who are determined to avoid a strategic heavyweight or a long-lasting adventure game like Talisman for their gaming session, and if you keep in mind that Wojciech Rzadek and his team are first-time authors the result of their efforts is recommendable.

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany