Diabolik: Heists and Investigations is a hidden movement/deduction game for two teams which can be played by 2-4 players. With its theme and look inspired by the comic book series created in 1962 by Angela and Luciana Giussani, the game is designed by Luca Maragno with art from Matteo Buffagni. Diabolik is published by Ares Games, DAM Things! and Pendragon Game Studio.
The hidden movement mechanic has underpinned many well-known games, and fans of Fury of Dracula (FFG), in particular, will find a number of parallels in Diabolik, but what sets this game apart is the interaction between the two teams via hand management and action selection, ensuring that each game will be highly strategic as well as tense and exciting.
The game comes with an introductory scenario to enable players to get to grips with the rules for movement, which is a good idea, but you probably won't want to play to the end of it: unless either side gets lucky, it can take a long time. The step up to the full game is not too drastic, so some people may prefer to jump right in with that anyway.
In the full game, the criminal team have three heists lined up, and they win if they can complete any two of them. Meanwhile, the police team will try to follow clues related to those heists while also tracking down the criminals to increase the danger level for them. If they can do enough to raise the danger level, the criminals are thwarted and the police win.
From the title, you might think the theme sounds dark or even demonic but this certainly isn't the case: there isn't even any death in Diabolik, as characters only ever get wounded. The theme is carried well, but it is a shame that the Police team are described in the English rules somewhat inconsistently as 'Police Officers' as well as the frustratingly gendered term 'Policemen'. This makes it hard to work out which rules (and which cards) apply to the Police main characters, or their underlings, or both.
The game will ebb and flow, with the criminals making swift progress one minute and then the Police making a great breakthrough the next. It's hard to tell who will win, and nothing is guaranteed until the very end... This keeps players fully involved and on their toes throughout but it does make it difficult to predict how long the game will take.
There is excitement from start to finish, but be warned that early games can be plagued by rules queries and fatal misunderstandings that can easily ruin everything in a game that hinges on accurate adherence to the rules. The 48-card decks available to each team ensure brilliant twists and turns but do create complicated exceptions to the normal rules which are difficult to resolve, even with the helpful FAQ section. An online version would be brilliant, taking away the difficult housekeeping and allowing players to focus on what matters. Nevertheless, Diabolik is a very well developed game and players who put the effort into learning it will soon overcome administrative challenges and enjoy out-scheming each other time and time again.
(Review by Matt Young)