PAX Unplugged 2017: Restoration Games Brings Back Classics Stop Thief! and Downforce

Justin Jacobson and Rob Daviau formed Restoration Games with the goal of bringing forgotten games back for ‘another turn’. They specifically target popular games that have been out of print for at least ten years, but not to simply reprint them. Many of the games that had flawed mechanics or are otherwise ripe for modernization are updated, in addition to having their assets restored. The result is an authentic experience based on the original game that plays even better than before. At PAX Unplugged, we got a look at Stop Thief!, an electronic board game originally published by Parker Brothers in 1979, and Downforce, an update to Wolfgang Kramer’s series of auto racing card games that date back to 1980.

PAX Unplugged 2017 - Stop Thief Board - The Outerhaven

The restored board for Stop Thief! features new art.

In Stop Thief!, players are tasked with hunting down criminals that they can only hear. The game originally shipped with a large electronic device called a ‘Crime Scanner’ that players used to track their targets around the board. It would play sounds like footsteps or breaking glass at the beginning of every round, which gave players hints about where the crooks might be or where they were going. Once players had pinpointed the perp’s location, they’d dial the number corresponding with the tile on the board into the Crime Scanner, which would dispatch police. A correct guess would result in a successful arrest, and reward the player with a bounty.

In addition to updating the board with new original art, Restoration Games have turned the Crime Scanner into a free app, effectively catapulting the game into the modern age. Their successful Kickstarter campaign included stretch goals for several different difficulty and play modes, which will be added to the game through the app as they complete testing. Stop Thief! supports 2-4 players, with an average playtime of 30-45 minutes, and is available now.


PAX Unplugged 2017 - Stop Thief App - The Outerhaven

The Crime Scanner electronic device from the 70s edition of the game is now an app.


Downforce is built on the auto racing card system by noted German board game designer Wolfgang Kramer. Kramer, who has designed over 100 board games, developed a mechanic wherein players play cards to move their cars around a track, but most cards also move other players’ cars. This creates opportunities for strategy as players try to play cards that benefit them but hinder their opponents. This system was used in Niki Lauda’s Formel 1, Daytona 500, Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix, and Top Race, the latter of which is the inspiration for Downforce.

At the beginning of the game, players receive movement cards and bid to acquire the vehicle best suited to their hands. Older games in the series used Monopoly-style money for this and other betting that takes place during the races, but Restoration Games explained that they tweaked this system for the restored game. The auction is streamlined by leaving out the play cash, and instead players use the value of the movement cards in their hands to bid on the cars. Downforce supports 2-6 players, with an average playtime of 30-45 minutes, and is available now.

About The Author

Aaron Sanders

After upgrading from an Atari 2600 to an NES on his seventh birthday, Aaron grew up on old school platformers and classic PC point and click adventure games. An IT professional by day, he freelances design, video editing, and illustration in his free time.