Saturday, August 07, 2004

In The Name Of Catching Up.

Well, we've fallen behind on the blogging front, and I imagine that generalized WAGS-wide real world business is to blame. No matter, we'll just get caught up here.

TWO Wednesdays ago we tried out Mystery of the Abbey which seems to be influenced in roughly equal parts by Umberto Eco's The Name of The Rose (later made into a film) and the board game Clue (also later made into a film). There was, I believe, a game of Zero afterwards, but I had to jet a little early, so I'll leave that part of the evening for someone else to fill in.

Our first round was with 5 players, and I found that it went a little bit slow, as the first time with new games often do. The game consists of passing cards and asking questions to eliminate possible suspects in a murder. There are a few forms of bonus cards, but for the most part, things are pretty straightforward. Points are scored for revealing information about the killer (hooded or not hooded, bearded or cleanshaven, order, rank, etc., etc.), or for revealing their identity. When the killer's identity is revealed, the game ends. In round one Kozure won, by deducing that Father Galbraith was the murderer. Please note: Tili played, and Shemp did not win.

Round two went much more quickly, with me, Shemp, winning by deducing that the killer was once again Father Galbraith (nefarious Franciscans~!~). Please note that this was a 4 player game, with Tili sitting out.


1) Our games went very quickly, with most people knowing most of the information. I think that in future hands all players would be trying harder to keep things to themselves, either by holding cards back, or by declining to answer questions, as allowed by the rules. I think if that happened, things would be a bit more, say, Intriguing.

2) I like the extent of the different questions possible, and wonder about making things even more difficult by adding characteristics to the existing monks (something that could be done by printing new suspect sheets). I know that Wearing Pants/Pantsless was suggested during our games, and I'm sure there could be others.

3) Fun, slightly strategic game - I actually think it would work well as a party game, much as Clue does, but it does keep things more interesting. Not a knockout in my opinion, but quite solid. Methinks a 6.5, subject to upward revision.

I'm out.

PS - Eco wrote the essay "Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt". I come back to it from time to time, and recommend it as worth reading. I'll let y'all fill in the blanks as to why I think that.


  1. I wasn't crazy about this game... can't say why exactly but it wasn't working for me. I had the sense that the questions where ultimately futile since everyone was getting the same information (and my feeling seemed justified when in both games we were almost all ready to take guesses on the same turn). In that sense, I actually found Clue to be superior in one way: the question is asked out loud, but the answer is secret. Surmising information from the question can be done, but a cleverly worded question benefits the one who asks more than the other players. I've since read that many feel that the "questions asked" in this game reveal more about the player asking than the answer does. Seems like a weakness to me. It's entirely possible that we just aren't asking the right questions, but do we really have to become olympic level gamers to just play the game? Anyway, my personal opinion is that the game is beautiful, the components top notch, the idea is great and even some of the mechanics are really good (returning for mass and doing the prayer action was a highlight for me)... but the sum is, sadly, less than it's parts.

    Rating: 4

  2. See, I never liked Clue that much, apparently for the reason that you enjoyed it. And, I don't think any Olympic-level gaming or questioning would be required to make things a little more up in the air - playing things a little closer to the chest would suffice.

    Actually, I hadn't thought of this originally, but there is always the possibility of asking questions that would misdirect one's opponents as well - we made very little use of the skinny/fat bearded/shaven and hooded/not distinctions, I think.

    But, I'm not really trying to change your opinion - just saying that I don't think anything more than a few more plays would be necessary to sharpen up the intrigue factor.

  3. For the sake of completeness, the game played after Shemp left was indeed Zero, with one round being played.

    Easy and Hapi teamed up in their P40B and F4Fs against my Zero and Ki-43 combo. It was a pretty hard-fought battle, with lots of altitude changes this time (people know what differences altitudes can make now); in the end...

    I've actually forgotten who won.

    I believe that I managed to shoot down Hapi's wingman and Easy's leader, and I lost two wingmen by game's end. This would ordinarily be a tie, but the handicap for aircraft quality tipped the scales in favour of the Allies, giving them the win.

    I may be recalling events incorrectly though, so Hapi and Easy are welcome to correct me.