Langfinger / Sticky Fingers is a 2009 game. It is an entry-level worker placement game. You are thieves breaking into homes, stealing valuables and selling them to collectors. Whoever is first to earn $20 wins the game.
The cubes are your workers, and the pawns are your score markers. Along the edges of the game board there are five regions. These are where you get to place your workers. Everybody takes turns placing one worker at a time. The earlier you place a worker in a region, the more advantage you will have, in the form of having more options or better options.
Once everyone has placed all workers, you start the second half of a round, which is to perform actions. You resolve actions region by region, from Region 1 to Region 5.
You start the game with a random character. Your character gives you a free tool. You get to use this tool once per round.
When setting up a round, you place cards along the edges of the game board. Region 1 is at the bottom. Here you have tools and whoever comes here gets to collect two tool cards. The earlier you come, the more options you have. Region 2 is on the left. Here you have treasures to steal. You need specific combinations of tools to steal specific treasures. When you steal, you consume the tools, i.e. you discard the tool cards. Naturally the earlier you attempt to steal the better it is, but being late does not necessarily mean failure. If all the players before you intend to steal a treasure which is different from the one you are eyeing, the first among them will get it, while the others may not have the right tools to steal the treasure you want. In this case you will be able to steal what you want.
Region 3 is at the top left. You get to swap tool cards here. You discard some cards you don’t want to hopefully draw cards you want. The exchange rate varies depending on which specific worker placement spot you manage to claim, e.g. 1 for 2, 2 for 3, 2 for 2. Naturally if you come early you get to claim the better spots. Region 4 is at the top right. This is similar to Region 2 in that you get to spend tools to steal treasures. One important difference is when you aim for a treasure here, you may not have all the tools you need yet. You can try to swap tools in Region 3, gambling that you’ll get the tool you need.
Region 5 is on the right. This is where you get to sell treasures to collectors. Of the many treasure types, only one converts to cash directly. For the rest, you need to find a willing buyer.
This particular collector will buy either a gold bar, a statue or antique coins. If you sell her a gold bar, she pays $2 more. Some collectors have special demands, e.g. insisting on buying two paintings at the same time. These collectors are harder to satisfy, but if you manage to provide what they want, you save an action. You are killing two birds with one stone.
Langfinger has high player interaction. Everyone wants to do the actions in the five regions almost all the time. You want to be everywhere but you must always pick just one spot to place your worker. The rules are straight-forward, but you are constantly presented with tough decisions. Sometimes you know you are trying your luck when you place a worker. You hope that other person doesn’t take the tool you need, or doesn’t steal the treasure you’re eyeing, or doesn’t meet the collector you plan to sell to. Many worker placement games are deterministic, but here we have a thrilling, chancy element.
The game is a race to $20. Your progress will be irregular. A complete cycle of collecting the right tools, stealing a treasure and eventually selling it may take a few rounds to complete, and you may be working on multiple projects at the same time. The treasure you want may be taken by someone else before you manage to do it, forcing you to repurpose your tools for something else that comes along later. You have to watch your opponents closely to see whether you are aiming for the same tools, treasures or collectors. In our game the leading player was often targeted. Others tried to grab the collectors he was going for to attempt to delay him. You can see what types of treasures others have on hand, and you can use this information to deny them collectors they want.
I was a little slow, but that ultimately helped because I wasn’t perceived as a threat. In the final round, another player would likely have exceeded $20, but he was stopped – the collector he wanted to meet was whisked away by someone else. I had two paintings on hand, and I was fortunate to have a collector who wanted to buy two paintings. The money I earned from this transaction was enough to push me past $20. So I came from behind to win the game, benefiting from the brutal competition among the leading players.
The game board also serves as a reference sheet. The number of cards to be set up in each region depending on the number of players is shown on the board. No need to flip through the rule book or look up a separate reference card.
On the right there are only three treasures available but four players have placed workers (cubes). This means the yellow player placing the 4th cube is hoping that one of the earlier players will fail, leaving a treasure for him.
These were the two paintings which brought me victory.
Competition for collectors was fierce. All four players were here.
I classify Langfinger as a family game. The game mechanisms are straight-forward and easy to pick up, so this game will work for casual gamers. It is a light strategy game with a quick tempo. Not many rules, but plenty of meaningful decision points. It’s a clean design.
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