Game: Fugitive

Release Year: 2023

Publisher: Fowers Games

Designer: Tim Fowers

Player Count: 2 players

Play Time: About 5 to 30 minutes

Rules Complexity: Simple

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Two-player board games tend to be symmetrical affairs, with both players starting with identical setups so that the better player can emerge victorious. But not all head-to-head games are like that.

Sometimes you get a game like Fugitive, in which the two players are basically playing two different games. Asymmetrical games like this are growing in popularity, and that growth is spurred along by the success of designs like Fugitive.

If you're looking for a unique two-player competitive game to add to your collection, Fugitive should definitely be on your radar. Here's what you need to know about it, my experiences with it, and whether it's right for you.

This review is based on my own personal copy of Fugitive, which I bought new directly from Fowers Games. While Fugitive first came out in 2013, I have the Second Edition that came out in 2023. Not a free review copy.


Fugitive is a cat-and-mouse hidden movement game where one player is the Fugitive who's trying to make an escape and the other player is the Marshal who's trying to track down and capture the Fugitive before they successfully get away.

The Fugitive is playing a bluffing game. They have a hand of Hideout cards that are played to represent where the Fugitive is on their path towards escape. The Fugitive's goal is to trick the Marshal so they can't guess which Hideouts they've visited.

The Hideout cards are numbered from 0 to 42. The Fugitive plays Hideout cards to a central timeline, starting with 0 and eventually reaching 42. (The Hideout cards are played face-down, so the Marshal won't know what's played.)

Now, here's the catch: the next Hideout in the timeline can only be up to 3 values higher than the previous Hideout. For example, the first Hideout will always be 0, so the next Hideout played must be either 1, 2, or 3. The one exception to this rule is that extra Hideout cards can be attached to Sprint.

Every Hideout card also has one or two Footprints on it. When playing a Hideout, the Fugitive can tack on additional Hideout cards to increase the maximum potential value of the next Hideout card in the timeline by the number of Footprints. (Hideouts are played face-down, but the attached cards for Sprinting are played face-up.)

So, if the Fugitive is Sprinting from Hideout 0, they might attach two more cards with a total of three Footprints to increase where they can go. Instead of being limited to Hideouts 1, 2, and 3, the extra Footprints allow them to play Hideouts 4, 5, and 6, too.

The Fugitive starts with Hideouts 1, 2, 3, and 42 in hand. Every turn, they draw another Hideout card into their hand. The Hideout cards are divided into three stacks: the first stack contains Hideouts 4 to 14, the second stack Hideouts 15 to 28, and the third stack Hideouts 29 to 41. The Fugitive decides which stack they want to draw from, so they have some control over the Hideouts in their hand.

Once the Fugitive plays Hideout 42, they escape and win!

The Marshal is playing a deduction game. Their goal is to correctly guess all of the face-down Hideout cards played by the Fugitive. When a guess is successful, the respective Hideout card gets flipped face-up.

The Marshal gets one guess per turn. They also get a handy notepad with all the numbers from 1 to 42, and they can cross off numbers as they make guesses. They can also keep notes to aid them in making deductions.

The Marshal also gets to draw a Hideout card every turn. Not only does this take away potential movement options from the Fugitive, but it also gives the Marshal information as to where the Fugitive can't be. As more Hideouts are taken out of the game, the Marshal is better equipped to make logical deductions.

The Marshal will also want to pay attention to which stacks the Fugitive draws from, as this will give information as to where the Fugitive might be.

If the Marshal can guess all of the Hideouts before the Fugitive escapes, they win!

Setup and Table Footprint

One of the best things about Fugitive is that it's pretty quick to setup, so you spend more time playing than preparing. It's really as simple as this:

  1. Shuffle the Hideout cards into their respective stacks.
  2. The Fugitive draws their starting cards.

When it comes to two-player-only games, fast setup times are really important for me. Not only do I want to get right into the action, but I also want to be able to reset quickly so we can knock out several games in a row. Fugitive offers that.

If there's one thing that surprises me about Fugitive, it's that it takes up more table space than I thought it would. Not that it takes up a TON of space. You can definitely play this on a standard card table, a coffee table, or even a side table.

However, if you're looking for a versatile portable game that you can play in tight spaces—like on an airplane or even a laptop desk—you'll have to keep looking. A full game of Fugitive does require a non-trivial amount of space.

Learning Curve

Fugitive is a thinky game of deduction, but it's a straightforward game.

The hardest part is wrapping your head around the fact that both players are playing two different games, but those two halves mesh very well in an intuitive way. The overall flow makes sense, especially once the Hideout cards click.

The Sprint mechanism might trip up non-gamers, particularly for the Marshal player who needs to understand how Sprinting works in order to deduce where the Fugitive might be. But Sprinting is easy to understand with an example.

Overall, Fugitive is not a difficult game to grasp. The rulebook is tiny, the rules are clear, and the gameplay is smooth.

Game Experience

Decision Space

Fugitive is a pretty one-note game, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. One-note games can be fun as long as the note is interesting, engaging, and amusing—and that's the case here. Fugitive delivers a very specific kind of experience and it's really good at making the most of that experience.

As the Fugitive, you're mainly focused on being unpredictable and trying to muddle your Hideout plays as much as possible. You know your limitations and you know that the Marshal knows your limitations, so what's the best play?

Well, technically, the "best play" is one that gets you to Hideout 42 as quickly as possible. You need to get there before the Marshal drains you of potential Hideouts and collects enough information to deduce the trail you've left behind.

At the same time, moving as quickly as you can is decidedly NOT the best play because the Marshal will easily sniff out the path you've taken. You need to throw the Marshal off your trail, and that means intentionally making subpar plays.

So, what are the different ways to trick the Marshal?

You can add Sprints to your next Hideout but not move very far. For example, if you play a Hideout with three Sprint cards attached, you drastically expand the possible Hideouts it could be—but if you limit how far you move, the Marshal might waste several turns trying to pinpoint what that Hideout actually is.

You can draw from different Hideout stacks to signal that you're further ahead than you really are. For example, if you're drawing from the stack of 29 to 41, the Marshal might assume your next played Hideout is in that range... but maybe you're still in the 15 to 28 range and holding onto those Hideouts for later.

You can play a Hideout that the Marshal previously guessed incorrectly. This move is sneaky! For example, if the Marshal guesses that you've been to Hideout 13 and you say No, they might cross off Hideout 13 on their notepad. If you then play Hideout 13 afterwards, the Marshal might not guess 13 again for a long time.

The Fugitive side is all about timing and creativity, trying to assess what the Marshal thinks you're going to do and then going in a different direction.

As the Marshal, you're trying to get into the mind of the Fugitive and figure out what sorts of tricks they're pulling to throw you off their trail. Equally important is the possibility that they aren't pulling any tricks at all, in which case you might outthink yourself and lose their trail through your own fault.

One half of successful Marshal play rests in knowing what kinds of tricks are at the Fugitive's disposal, so it helps to have played the Fugitive side a few times. Once you've experienced that side, you know what's possible.

The other half of successful Marshal play comes down to your logical deduction capabilities. As various Hideouts are crossed off of your notepad—whether through drawn Hideout cards or correct/incorrect guesses—you'll need to fill in the gaps and look ahead to what's literally possible via the remaining Hideout cards.

But concrete deductions are actually somewhat rare. Fugitive is more about playing the odds and smartly making guesses that will gain you as much information as you can get from wrong guesses. It's more about figuring out how to eliminate as many Hideouts as you can with a single guess.

To that end, Fugitive is extremely thinky when you're playing the Marshal. Analysis paralysis isn't off the table, and some might even find it stressful.

Luck Factor

There's a little bit of luck in Fugitive, but not enough to influence the end result of any individual game. Any time there's a shuffled deck of cards involved, there's going to be luck involved as well. No surprise there.

In Fugitive, this mainly affects the potential Hideout cards available to the Fugitive on any given turn. They draw from the Hideout stacks, and those are the only cards they can work with. However, there are two forms of luck mitigation here:

  • The Hideout cards are divided into three stacks, so the Fugitive can choose which section to draw from and have more control over their options.
  • Even when the "wrong" Hideout cards are drawn, they still have an alternative use for Sprinting. In other words, there are no useless draws. Every Hideout card is valuable in some way, minimizing the impact of luck.

All in all, the luck element is just there to muddy the bluffing and deduction. It forces the Fugitive to adapt to limited options and also prevents the Marshal from having perfect knowledge of what the Fugitive can do on any given turn.

Fun Factor

Both sides of Fugitive are fun, but in different ways.

For the Fugitive, there's a constant sense of tension as you're just hoping the Marshal doesn't call out the correct Hideouts—and whenever they do, that sense of tension ratchets up to the next level. It's actually nerve-wracking—in an entertainingly good way—when you're down to one Hideout and trying to outsmart the Marshal.

For the Marshal, it's a quieter kind of fun that's rooted in the satisfaction of getting things right. There's less tension but more pressure as you struggle to pinpoint the Fugitive's Hideouts, and that pressure mounts with every additional Hideout. You feel them slipping away, which makes you think even harder.

There isn't much table talk in Fugitive, which is worth keeping in mind. Both sides will be silently working out their plans in their heads, and there isn't much reason to talk to each other. You have to be okay with sitting and playing in silence.


I love the pacing in Fugitive. It's tense right from the start, especially for the Fugitive who needs to figure out a way to slip away from the Marshal, but also for the Marshal who's best chance of capturing the Fugitive is right at the beginning.

If the Fugitive manages to slip away in the first few rounds, they can buy themselves a bit more time and room to make some creative plays, but they'll also need to draw Hideout cards to make those moves. There's a risk-versus-reward between Sprinting to the end or taking it slow while leaving a jumbled trail.

But the Marshal has just enough information to keep making educated guesses. Whenever they make a correct guess on a Hideout, it puts wind in the sails and gives them a deductive boost that can snowball into an unexpected victory.

With every turn, Fugitive progresses towards its end. There's a natural timer that puts pressure on both Fugitive and Marshal, and it all leads to a climactic finish. One wrong move from either side can cause the whole thing to crumble.

So, sure, Fugitive can sometimes end in the second round if the Marshal starts off with some strong guesses. But most of the time, it's a taut cat-and-mouse chase that lasts about 20 to 30 minutes, and the game arc across that play time is just fantastic.


All things considered, I think it's easier to win as the Fugitive than it is as the Marshal. After all, if the Marshal misses even one Hideout, they can't win. However, experiences can differ. Read around the web and you'll find that some people think the Marshal is a lot easier to play!

One of the really nice things about Fugitive is that it has a built-in self-balancing mechanism called the SHIFT system. The SHIFT system is a set of 9 cards, where each card is split in half with special benefits for both Fugitive and Marshal.

If you notice a disparity in the game's balance, the weaker side can simply draw a random SHIFT card and use the benefit on that card to get a slight advantage. If the weaker side is significantly weaker, they can use multiple SHIFT cards.

In fact, what's doubly ingenious about this system is that you can use it however you want. Even if you feel both sides are perfectly balanced, you can still give each side an equal number of SHIFT cards to change up the gameplay and inject some freshness into it. A little bit of variability can go a long way.


Fugitive isn't the kind of game I want to play all the time, but it's a game that's going to stay in my collection because it really scratches the bluffing/deduction itch well and it's an engaging hidden movement game with only two players.

Here's why Fugitive maintains its fun across repeat plays:

Two games packaged as one. The Fugitive and Marshal aren't just two different characters with different abilities. They're fundamentally playing two different games, which means switching roles is like switching games. If you alternate roles across repeat plays, Fugitive stays fresh and interesting.

Creative depth when playing as Fugitive. The creative component when playing the Fugitive results in some truly thrilling moments where you actually feel like you've slipped away from the Marshal through clever plays. That tension and relief has an addictive quality to it, all while making you feel smart for pulling it off.

Logical depth when playing as Marshal. The logical component when playing the Marshal comes to a head when you're able to eliminate all possible alternatives and successfully pin down the Fugitive. The sweeping sense of relief and victory wash over you, and you feel smart for catching them in time.

SHIFT cards keep things balanced and interesting. The small tweaks offered by the SHIFT system really elevate the replayability of Fugitive. One of the worst things about two-player head-to-head games is that they fall flat when players are of unequal skill, but Fugitive can be played by any pair with equal footing.

Production Quality

Fugitive comes in a tiny little box that's extremely portable, one of the few "pocket games" that can actually fit in a pocket. But Fowers Games didn't cut any corners to get it that small. In fact, the production is pretty impressive.

The graphic design and iconography are clear and intuitive. There's no unnecessary clutter on the cards. All of the important information is front and center and easy to read, and it's all designed in a way that makes sense. You can watch two people play the game in silence and you'll be able to catch on to how it plays.

The cards are thick and made of PVC. These plastic cards have a matte texture that makes them easier to shuffle (as compared to smooth and glossy plastic cards). The cards are thick, waterproof, and noticeably durable. Maybe a little too slippery right out of the box, but it gets better over time.

The Marshal's marker doesn't have an eraser. My biggest complaint with Fugitive's production is that the marker doesn't have an eraser. To be fair, you only erase at the end of the game. But still! Erasable markers should always come with erasers.

Much praise for the included player aids. Fugitive comes with a reference card that keeps the Hideout stacks organized, which I really appreciate. Both Fugitive and Marshal also get their own player aid cards with role-specific instructions on how to take their respective turns. It's just a well-guided experience.

The Bottom Line


Recommended Score Guide
  1. Tense, witty battle of hidden movement, bluffing, and deduction
  2. Fantastic pacing that crescendos to a climactic finish
  3. SHIFT system keeps game balanced despite player skill differences
  4. Premium production, quick setup, modest table footprint
  1. Could be stressful for gamers who struggle with deduction
  2. Very thinky, can sometimes lead to analysis paralysis
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