Saboteur Review

A game that I recently picked up because it supports 3-10 players is Saboteur.  This is a game that I felt like writing about, but I only have a little bit to say - I really need to figure out when I call a review a "Mini" review and when I don't.  Maybe I should call this a "Semi-Mini" review?

Choose your identity
Saboteur is a hidden identity game (like Bang! and The Resistance).  In it, some players take on the roles of Dwarven miners - their goal is to dig a tunnel to reach the gold.  The other players are Saboteurs - they are attempting to prevent their fellow Dwarves from reaching their goal.  To setup the game, there are three potential goal cards - one with gold, two with coal.  These are placed face down with a card's width between them, and a start card is lined up with the middle goal - but with seven card's height between them.  On each turn, you can either play a path card, an action card (a misfortune, an anti-misfortune, a map, or a cave in), or you can simply discard a card.  After you do one of these things, you draw a new card.  Play continues going around until either the miners have created a path to the gold (at which point they all get victory point cards with the person completing the path getting the most - and telling his buddies that it was like that when he found it!), or the Saboteurs have prevented them from being able to do so (at which point they get victory points).  Shuffle, re-deal, repeat.  You play the game over a series of rounds (I believe three rounds is standard), and whoever has the most points at the end wins. 

The first, and most obvious, pro for Saboteur is the reason I bought the game - it can support 3-10 players.  And, though I haven't played it with all of the different numbers, I think that it would play fairly similarly with any number of these players.  Yes, you will have less control and more downtime with more players, but since you are also attempting to figure out who the Saboteurs are (and convince the other players that you aren't one!) I think that you will still be equally engaged throughout even the bigger games.

My biggest con for Saboteur is that your "secret" identity really isn't very secret - at least not for long.    Either you are actively helping the other team, or there is a good chance that they will figure you out.  There are some exceptions for this - like if you actually don't have any good cards you can play, so you start discarding.  Overall, though, it seems like if will be figured out pretty quickly.  This might not be the case as much in a really large game (one person might be able to evade your notice until late in the game), but in order to do that, they would probably be doing something helpful - which hinders their team's goal.

Action cards
The next con that I have is that it seems to be too easy for the miners to win.  This might be me being incredible naive because I haven't played enough, but from the games that I have seen, the dwarves normally win.  And, these games were played with seven players.  Yet, if you play with eight or nine, you still have the same number of Saboteur cards, but you increase the number of miners!  This dilutes the number of Saboteurs, thus making it easier for the miners.  Another factor in this would obviously be the paranoia level of the players - if everyone starts off by assuming that all of the other players are evil, thus throwing misfortune cards on good players, then the "team effort" is doomed for failure.  However, if the (good) players starts off the game assuming that most everyone will either be helpful or at least pretend to be for a few rounds, then you can quickly build a path to the goals (and make the Saboteurs desperate, thus forcing them to reveal themselves). 

Overall, I give Saboteur a 6.5/10.  Everything about it (except for maybe the secrecy of your "secret" identity) works, but nothing about it really pulls me in and makes me want to play again.  If I want to deceive my fellow players, I'd rather play Battlestar Galactica, The Resistance, or Shadows Over Camelot.

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