ProtoTO – Part the Second

Hello everybody!

Welcome to part 2 of my adventure at ProtoTO this past weekend. In the first part, Bill and I arrived Friday night, then got up Saturday morning to play games. I played Tank Brawl. And that’s  as far as part 1 got, because there was so much to say!

For session 2, Bill went to show From the Mist, and I went to play Jewel Heist. Jewel Heist is a game by Joe Slack, owner and chief game designer of Crazy Like a Box. In this game, one player controls the thief, the thief’s accomplice, and a pile of actors who have been hired to confuse the detectives so that the thief can get away with the stolen gem in a briefcase. All of the other players control the 2 detectives trying to prevent this from happening.

Jewel Heist set-up smaller
The thief, the accomplice, and the decoys set up in the central room, where apparently they use 500 Watt bulbs. Or, I hadn’t yet been shown how to change the focus to adjust the lighting on my iPad.

The gem is in one of the briefcases, which can be dropped or passed from person to person. There are three exits, so the detectives have to plan their moves carefully so as not to let anyone get too close to one. Of course, while chasing a decoy away from one door, you’re leaving another one unguarded. If a detective lands in the same space as a criminal, then that token must reveal themselves to be the thief, accomplice or (once again out-of-work) actor. There is some deduction here as well, as the detectives can ask of a room that they’re in who is in there, and the criminal player must honestly answer that the thief is not in that room, the accomplice is not in that room, or the gem is not in that room. The criminals do have names on them, so the detectives can keep track of which are not the thief or accomplice, depending on the answer they get.

Jewel Heist smaller
A detective follows some suspicious characters with the intent to question some of them.

Joe apparently likes making games and has lots of ideas, so after we had played that twice, he brought out another for us to try. All of his games played quickly and were easy to learn, so we played four different games in the session time allotment of three hours.

The next game was Nothing to Declare, a game of smuggling illegal items through customs. At this point I became worried about Joe’s future career, and just what he was designing these simulations for, really.

This one had a real “Sheriff of Nottingham” feel to it. At least that’s what the others said. I’ve never actually played Sheriff of Nottingham, although I have heard a lot about it. In Nothing to Declare, players take turns with the role of customs agent, while the others try to sneak illegal item past them in their luggage, in order to sell the items on the Black Market.

Nothing to Declare layout smaller
The blue cards are the face-down luggage items. On the right you can see the top of the stern-faced customs agent mask for the player who has that role this turn.

To mix it up a little bit, each player also gets a character that gives them a goal or mandatory action. After I stashed my contraband in the luggage, other players’ characters had them randomly moving some items around, either swapping with someone else, or as in the case of the prankster, switching a few items without looking at them. I was the undercover FAA agent trying to catch the customs officer taking bribes to let people through. He didn’t, and when it came time to reveal what was in our cases, my response was ‘Where’d my crystal meth go?” With the exception of one item, all of my contraband had been swapped out of my luggage.

Nothing to Declare - character smaller
I don’t know how he managed to get the character to look like me and then have me randomly draw it!

When I was the customs agent, I cleared everyone because I didn’t find any contraband, and it turned out they were all carrying a bunch! It turns out that I’m really bad and picking out desired items from a hidden set (this will come up again later!)

After we had briefly discussed this one, it was time for Storage Wars, the game. Just like the show, players bid on a pile of stuff, hoping that it is more valuable than what was bid on it.

Storage Wars smaller
Okay, maybe I look like a cross between this character and my undercover agent guy.

Each player can only look at two of the four cards to determine what they want to bid on the lot. You might take cues from others’ bids if you see that they looked different cards from what you chose. Each card has the value of the item, but some cards are modifiers, like  “damaged”, “collectible”, or “moldy” that could decrease or increase the value of one of the items. In the end, Peter and I tied for the win with $0, because everyone else went a bit overboard on the bidding and didn’t recoup their bids with the value of the items that they got. I suggested that to make the game more like the show, when each player looked at and added up the value of their lots (at the end of the game), they should react, and then we should take a two minute break. Then before they tell us what it works out to, they should tell us what happened in the previous 5 minutes of the game.

I’m pretty sure there was a fourth game, but I didn’t write it down and I can no longer recall what it was! If you read this, Joe, could you tell us in the comments?

Thanks to Joe for sharing the games with us. Also, thanks to Peter of Jellybean Games, Angie and Behm, who go by The Grady Twins, for playing and making the experience so much fun. Major apologies to our other player whose name I’ve forgotten also. Once again, feel free to identify yourself in the comments.


Check back here for part 3, coming soon!