When I heard that Uwe Rosenberg had brought out another 2 player strategy game, I was instantly drawn to it. Being a Patchwork addict, I almost needed it before I had seen it. I was expecting some sort of polyomino play. And, whilst Robin of Locksley does include tiles, they are actually very uniform in shape. As such, this was not going to be the “Tetris” king’s usual fare! This game is a race to the finish line. Twice around the board in fact!
In Robin of Locksley, as you may have guessed, you are both thieves! Trying to steal loot from the Sherriff of Nottingham in order to pay off the ransom demanded by King Richard’s captors. Peace is promised if Richard the Lionheart can return to England and resume control. Eh? Okay, so not exactly the golden-hearted, arrow wielding champion of the poor that we have come to know, but hey. This is Robin Hood, just not as we know it.
Setting the Crime Scene!
Set-up is simple. You have one stack of 60 Loot tiles and a stack of frame tiles. Frame tiles are also double-sided. Daytime for easier mode, and nighttime for a more challenging game.
Lay out a 5 x 5 square of randomly selected loot tiles (with treasures facing up). Then place a random selection of small and big corner frame track tiles around the outside edges. The starting and finishing tiles never change, but the rest are random and placed out with each player’s bard meeple at the start. Each player takes their knight meeple and they go at opposite ends of the board. Take the tile you have placed your knight on and flip it over so that you start the game with a coin.
Play works thusly: On your turn, you are going to move your knight in a Chess-like “L” formation and take the tile you land on. Replace the space you left with a new loot tile from the stack.
Players can also move along the outer track if they satisfy the criteria on the next frame tile. Or, you can spend a coin to skip a tile and keep going to the next one. You aren’t restricted to moving just one space either; you can go past as many tiles as you satisfy, or can afford. And you can make your moves in any order. Move along the track, move your knight, collect a tile, sell a collection (or satisfy the next track tile), and move along the track again.
I should mention that as you amass loot tiles of the same colour, you are building collections. And on your turn, if you have at least 3 loot tiles of the same colour, you can sell them for coins.
Whoever gets twice around the board first (or laps the other player) is the winner.
Light and Lucky Strategy!
Robin of Locksley feels like quite a light game to us. Knowing what each edge tile requires in order means that you can pretty much see what you will need to do to keep pace from the get-go. That means you can plan your moves accordingly. Or, if the track requirements look tricky, you can cash out. Focus on collecting colours, building sets, and paying your way around the board. In fact, you could ignore what the track actually demands entirely if you are willing to pay your way to victory.
Having said that, you have to be in the right place at the right time to collect the loot tiles you need or buy out. And your opponent will be doing the same thing. On that basis, the game space is quite dynamic – the tile landscape changes each turn. Which can mean the move you were planning might not now be as useful, or even possible, once the other knight has galloped along his desired L shaped path. That luck element helps to keep games interesting, but it may not suit players who do not like the unpredictability of random draws. It might also mean that you choose to sacrifice collecting a loot tile you want simply to block the other player from collecting something juicy just revealed.
So there is definitely some strategic play inside the box. And I should mention the box. For the volume of contents inside, it’s huge. And I mean way too big. Heavyweight game box territory. They could have easily stacked the tiles into something 1/3 of the space. The tiles are lovely though – really bright, colourful, and nice in your hand. They are also made from thick, quality cardboard so should fare well over repeated plays. For all the colour, however, I wouldn’t say the theme is particularly strong. Yes, there is the well-known tale of Robin Hood in the background, but this is an abstract strategy game that could have borrowed any number of settings and played the same.
Robin of Locksley is also quite speedy. Probably unsurprising for a race game! But no game has lasted longer than around 20 minutes for us. That’s not a bad thing, mind you – we like shorter games. However, over repeated plays, we have found that the first player has a big advantage. They always have an extra turn without the other receiving anything in compensation. And in a race, another move can be (and evidently is) a big deal.
Being able to mix and match the frame tiles (even combining day and night tiles and reducing or expanding the size of the grid), and the ever-changing tile landscape, does keep the game feeling fresh.
Overall, I would say this is a good gateway level strategy game with a simplified Chess type vibe. The colours are pretty, the gameplay is speedy, and, if you like a sprinkling of luck added to your abstract, then this could be a good one for your collection!