Review: The Guild of Thieves

(At last! This one has been a long time coming. The Guild of Thieves - Details (

Ace of Spades

Magnetic Scrolls’ The Guild of Thieves was high on my to-play list for a long time. Not anymore! See, it was abandonware for a long time, but none of the DOS-downloads I tried would work in DOSBox. Then the game was reworked for play on smartphones so it wasn’t abandoned anymore. Now you had to pay for it. But… the nice people over at the Magnetic Scrolls Memorial website have put up the reworked version for free play in-browser. Thank you, nice people at Magnetic Scrolls Memorial!

In this online version, the gameplay of the original has not been changed as far as I could tell (comparing to older reviews and to other games of the same period). UNDO doesn’t work, so RESTORE is your friend (trust me, when you’ve locked yourself up in a tight cramped space with no exits, it’s your best friend in the whole wide world…) X object doesn’t work either, but you can use L object instead. Lastly, you can make an account to get access to your saved games from different devices.

The Guild of Thieves starts out on a wide stretch of woodland and wheatfields. To earn your membership of the Guild, you must find all the valuables in the surrounding region and steal them. There are three big areas of interest you need to gain access to, and each of these has its own locked doors and other bottlenecks to get through. I loved this map. The feeling of a wide world to discover with enticing puzzles to get around that next corner. Also a lot of fun for the mapmakers among us. (I color-coded my map…)

At first, the different parts of the map seem disconnected, not only literally but also in atmosphere. There’s a temple, a castle (not the medieval type but the later, overgrown lordly manor type), an undergound section,… that don’t seem to have to do much with each other. As you solve puzzles and the map slowly opens up, the different areas are brought together nicely by the solutions of the puzzles. Information you need for a tunnel is found in the temple for example.

The puzzles are great… They are all understandable in hindsight…

No, seriously. The first few puzzles you’ll encounter are well hinted and logical. The further you progress in the game though, the more difficult it becomes to deduce the logical steps of a solution from the clues. Add to that that some puzzles require you to make preparations on the other side of the map before attempting to solve them and you will understand why, yes, RESTORE is your best friend. This does mean that when you finally understand how the different pieces work together and the solution clicks, it’s very satisfying. Also, the nice people at Magnetic Scrolls Memorial have provided a very good narrative walkthrough should you become overly frustrated. Thank you, nice people at Magnetic Scrolls Memorial!

The writing is what it needs to be in this type of adventure. Good descriptions, the occasional joke and a more verbose passage here and there in an important location. The Guild of Thieves is a rather serious game. Stealing the treasures and becoming a Guild member is important to you, so there’s not too much goofing around. Fortunately, the Master Thief who’s following up on your progress brings some comic relief to the story now and then.
The game’s responses to failed attempts are mostly unhelpful, but don’t let that keep you from trying to solve the puzzle. You may well be on the right track. Rewording commands can do wonders for a parser who doesn’t know that much English.

When I started playing, I was pleasantly surprised that there were beautiful pixel pictures of the locations. It later became apparent that these are not very well adjusted to the flow of the game. It can be distracting to read about the field of golden grain you’re supposedly in while you’re seeing a dank cave above the text.

The story is just the barest excuse for a puzzle romp, but an engaging and entertaining romp it is.

Great and interesting map with very good and challenging puzzles. Highly recommended!

*You’ll get it when you play it.


I felt uncomfortable when reading the first paragraph. Did I get that right that you exclaim happiness over having saved 1.49 GBP that now don’t flow into the further restoring of the originals and development of the modern versions? That sounds… disappointing. The guys at Strand Games do a great job at conserving interactive fiction history.

Isn’t the guy who made the Magnetic Scrolls Memorial one of the ones who started Strand games? I’d assume that they left up the free one on purpose.

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–>GrueSlayer: “Did I get that right that you exclaim happiness over having saved 1.49 GBP that now don’t flow into the further restoring of the originals and development of the modern versions?”

I exclaimed happiness that I could play one of the classics that I had long wanted to play in a very good online version without having to pay for it. I do not have much money to spare and even less to spend on entertainment (1.50 euros is the price of a loaf of bread.) So, once again, thank you nice people at Magnetic Scrolls Memorial.



Strand Games is currently me (hugh) and StefanM from the Magnetic Scrolls Memorial, also we have Stefan Bylund who’s working on the ZXNext versions. Also Dettus on this forum with a new MS terp (with rather cool ascii art!).

We’d actually like to make all the games free. But the plan was to charge a small fee to cover webhosting etc. Also if it brought in enough coins, we could pay for some new artwork. The desktop games are hosted on where people can add a donation if they wish. Some people have been very generous. Thanks! But we don’t expect donations and are aware that some people can’t afford much.

We had several new artworks included in Jinxter.

We support free versions elsewhere as best we can, like the ZXNext versions.

This is no “get rich” plan :slight_smile:

Regarding the games, those remastered so far have had several changes including bug fixes (original ones!!). Some changes were necessary to make the games less annoying and some were just good ideas.

We have a switch in the setting “classic vs modern”, You can actually switch off all the changes apart from bug fixes if you want.

For example;
There was a long time bug in the Guild of Thieves where you could avoid winning the “rat race”. In the remaster this has been fixed. Also the annoyance of tripping over and breaking the lute!

We fixed stupidly small inventory allowance, so you dont have to keep dropping things then going back to get them. Annoying waste of time!

We’ve also done a lot of work trying to restore the original images as best possible. Even on a phone today, the originals are way too small!

Currently we’re working to remaster Fish! which will be called “Fish Resurfaced!”, and im hoping to get some new artwork for that too (any takers? is paid work!)

We have a number of new technologies in progress;

We have a GUI that’s tested on mobile and desktop.

We have a json based interface between the GUI and the game engine(s) called IFI, which works a bit like glulxe but is a messaging system rather than an API. Our GUI can work with different game back-ends, including ones not in-house, for example the XVAN system by Marnix.

We have a new IF authoring technology called Strands, that I’m hoping to use to author an entry into ParserComp. It also does choices. Strands can work as command line, GUI or web-based.

We’d like to make new games and maybe do Scrolls sequels. Phil South (from Fish!) is working with us on a concept for Fish2!

There’s also a synopsys for a Guild of Thieves sequel that Rob Steggles (the original author) has expressed an interest in writing.

Let’s hope so anyway.


Whoa! This is awesome news!


That all sounds like a great work of love for the IF-medium, its history and its future! Very much appreciated.

I probably played The Guild of Thieves in original mode. I broke the lute (twice) tripping over the doorstep and there was an inventory limit (which was not too small. Plus, playing these older games has taught me it is always a good idea to have a central cache location where you can stash your stuff.)

I very much loved playing the game and I plan to play the others on MSM too. Thank you for making them available.

I will be playing and voting in ParserComp. I look forward to see your game.



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Thanks for the great review, this has been on the list of classics I intend to play when time permits.

There are indeed several Magnetic Scrolls games available for free on the Magnetic Scrolls Memorial, playing them is not a cause for scolding.