Reservoir Cubes preview

Reservoir Cubes Preview

As I’ve mentioned in podcasts and several other reviews, there are some board game themes that have been played out. Every time someone throws another space or Renaissance fantasy on the table, I’m immediately bummed out.

But heists? Now that’s a theme I can get behind. I’m a huge fan of the Burgle Bros series (and another one is coming!), and there are a few other games that scratch that same itch for me. It probably comes from my love of heist movies. The first (second? I guess it was a remake…) Ocean’s 11 movie is one of my favorites, and Bandits and The Brothers Bloom are incredibly underrated films. 

Another classic of the genre is Reservoir Dogs, known for its colorful (literally) cast of characters. Designer Davide Ghelfi has leaned into the polychromatic stylings of that movie with his latest print-and-play adventure, Reservoir Cubes.

Reservoir Cubes preview

Let’s Go to Work

In Reservoir Cubes, you’ll each be controlling your own group of 5 thieves that are breaking into and robbing a vault. These characters are each assigned to a color and named accordingly – Mr. Cash for green and Mr. Snow for white, for example. These characters can be represented by little printable characters, or by your own little cubes, which are placed on your printed sheet.

The vault is separated into several rooms, each of which has several different pieces of loot that can be picked up along the way. There are also cameras, which you’ll want to avoid so that they don’t slow down your movement. Or! You could just grab that screwdriver, which shuts down all the cameras in a room (that was easy).

Reservoir Cubes crew

The last five rooms each feature a safe, and you’ll need to break into each one in order to finish the game. Each of your characters is only allowed to open one safe, and they’ll need to pick up a key beforehand. Another caveat: you’ll want all of your criminals in the room when you crack the safe, or else you won’t get as much money and you’ll suffer a penalty.

You’ll have 20 rounds to pick up loot and break into safes, hoping to score as many points as possible. Take longer than that, and you’ll get more penalties. At the end of the game, you’ll tally up the value of your heist to see how you’ve done.

Are You Gonna Bark All Day, Little Doggy?

One of my favorite parts about this game is how movement works. You’ll be rolling cubes – they can be dice, or just plain ol’ colorful cubes that match your characters.

Instead of going by pips or anything, it’s all about where the cubes land. After your roll, you’ll pick one color to be the leader. The cube that has landed closest to the leader moves first, and they’ll go one space. The next closest then moves two spaces, and the third closest moves three spaces. The cube that’s furthest away is tagged as “lazy” for that round, and they’ll stay put.

I haven’t really seen this mechanic in a game before, and I found it to be quite interesting. It takes a while to wrap your mind around the spatial reasoning required to determine which cube needs to be your leader for a particular round. 

I initially tried the approach of, “Well, I need this cube to move two spaces, so I’ll prioritize that,” but found that often other cubes would get in the way and ruin my plans. Adding to the madness is the fact that each thief has a limited number of times that they can be the leader and “the lazy”, so you’ll need to be sure you have an appropriate balance.

You do have the ability to switch up the order in which the thieves move, or the number of moves that they receive. Making these adjustments will add to your “Gang Stress”, a limited resource that’s also impacted by all of those penalties I mentioned earlier. 

Each character also has a unique special power that they can utilize to impact how they move. Some will let you add to or subtract from the number of spaces they can move, while others let you change how you move, like in a zigzag or moving backwards (both of which you normally can’t do). These modifications are crucial, especially toward the end of the game, when space is limited and there are only certain moves that you can pull off.

You Shoot Me in a Dream, You Better Wake Up and Apologize

During the game of Reservoir Cubes, each character is only supposed to pick up one type of each loot. But what kind of thief limits themselves like that? 

If you pick up extra loot, the other thieves are gonna get a little jealous and want in on the action. So, you’ll end up in a Mexican Standoff. You’ll roll the cubes again, and the adjacency of the cubes determines the outcome. You’ll use a little “solver” on your player sheet to see who beats who. 

You may automatically win or lose the loot, or you may have to make a decision that forces some characters to receive injuries. You’ll want to balance out your greed a bit, or else your characters might end up dead, meaning you lose the game.

This mechanic is another that stands out, especially among print-and-play games. Sure, maybe it’s not all that different from rolling dice and counting the numbers, but it IS different, which I love. 

That’s a Good Idea. I Like That.

As more and more print-and-play games show up, it’s becoming more challenging to know what games are worth your time and money and which are just reskins of other things out there. I’ve backed several of the designer’s other projects, and I’ve loved them. I’m a big fan of Shot&Spin (which I’ll be reviewing soon!), and some of his ideas in the Breakfast Games series are the best I’ve seen for 2-player card games, let alone ones with just 18 cards.

His previous work seems to fall into different “eras” (sorry, Taylor Swift) – games in which you use a timer, or small two-player games with unique mechanics. This feels like the beginning of a new era, and I’m here for it. The game and mechanics are simple enough to understand, but they work very well together to create an immersive experience. Right now, I’ve only played the game solo, but as there’s not really any interaction between players, I don’t feel like the experience changes that much with more people. Whether going in it alone, or as a group like our thieves, this is one piece of loot that I think you’ll want to pick up.

Reservoir Cubes is launching on Kickstarter on June 11, 2024. These games are usually only available during the campaigns, so get your hands on it now!

A prototype of the game was provided for this coverage. Components and rules covered in this preview are not finalized. Read more about our preview policies at One Board Family.

Ric White

I teach math for a living and enjoy time with my super awesome wife, awesome kids and almost as awesome dog. I like card and board games, and I truly enjoy learning and experiencing new games whenever I can.

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