February 6, 2009

Saboteur is a light card game by Amigo (published by Z-Man Games in the U.S.).  Game design by Frederic Moyersoen, playable with 3-10 ages 8 and up in about 30 minutes (although this is definitely a more the merrier type game).


(image courtesy of http://www.amigo-spiele.de/)


Similar to Bang! or Werewolf, players are dealt alignment cards at the beginning of the game which will tell you if you are a good dwarf or bad dwarf.  You will either work to help the team reach the gold or try to sabotage their attempts.  This is accomplished by the primary mechanic of laying down path cards to create a maze-like path to one of three face-down destination cards.  Only one holds the gold, but special map cards can allow the players to look at one of the goal cards secretly.  The path cards may contain dead ends (good for the saboteurs) or branching options which may lead further down the path to the gold. 

The other kind of cards (Action cards) at play here are the equipment cards, of which there are three: lamps, picks, and mine carts.  One set breaks your opponents’ equipment; the other repairs your own or a teammate’s.  These, along with the powerful Cave-in Action cards, are the primary way to mess with your opponents’ chances to win the round.

Three rounds are played with the winning side in each round gaining gold nuggets which are tallied at game end to determine an overall winner.


Not a ton of strategy here.  Unlike Bang!, where one usually wants to hide his alignment (at least to a point), there is not much to be gained by subterfuge.   However, it is possible to derail the good dwarves with timely play at the end of the round, so the saboteurs could elect to stay hidden if they want.  Much would depend on the number of players and playstyle of the particular group. 

But one shouldn’t write Saboteur off just because it isn’t a deep game.  It’s strength lies in the fact that it can be a fun, light filler for a large group.  Not many games can accomodate this many without bogging down.  Usually, adding more players can add greatly to the downtime and overall length of the game, but happily, that’s not the case here.  A large group can still quickly play a game and have a blast doing it.  In fact, while Saboteur is fun with 3-4, once you start getting 5, 6, and 7 involved, it only gets better.


Components/Presentation: 9/10 The cards are robust, and the artwork is cartoony in a flavorful way.  The rulebook is full-color and very clear.

Theme: 9/10 I found the theme to be very engaging, especially considering the idea of rogue dwarves causing cave-ins to steal the gold for themselves!

Mechanics: 7/10 Perfect for a light and fast game which accomodates a lot of players easily.

Replay Value: 8/10 This one will see a lot of play for us whenever a large group is involved.

Fun Factor: Fun Factor is probably dependent on the number of players.  As stated earlier, less is not more.

Overall: 7/10


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