There’s no Sherlock Holmes in Antihero, just two more or less symmetrical Professors Moriartiy, Napoleons of crime, plural. You play as the master thief helming a gang of n’er-do-wells in Victorian kinda-London, and your opponent does likewise. You can employ violence, or palm-greasing, or sheer territorial expansionism, but regardless, deception is compulsory.

Antihero leans heavily on the kind of stuff that’s a giant pain to keep track of in a non-digital setting—skill trees, for instance, with two currencies to spend on Sneakery, Stabbery, and Skullduggery—but its also draws heavily from (complicated, German-style) tabletop games, with an emphasis on withholding information from your opponent, bluffing, double-bluffing, quintuple-bluffing.

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Certainly, the game rewards thinking several moves ahead, but as with certain games of chess and all good games of poker, the real goal is to coax the other player into planning for a scenario that won’t, in fact, ever play out. Not so much guessing what they’re thinking as guessing what they’re thinking you’re thinking, and conning accordingly.

Having your urchins hold two churches to blackmail the clergy might help you win, but that’s not half as satisfying nor half so devastating as knowing which of those two churches your enemy will try to take from you in a turn or two, and laying a booby trap there. Or letting your rival thief think that’s he’s thwarted you by ponying up for a bribe before you could afford it, only to spend your heard-stolen and well-hidden assets on an even pricier bribe on your next turn, and winning right then and there. That’s the stuff of cackling malfeasant joy.

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