Card Game Review: Saboteur
Rating: 8.8 out of 10 stars
What I hope to accomplish with my card game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.
Saboteur is a fantasy bluffing game that uses hand management and hidden roles. It also has a notable take-that mechanic. Players play as dwarves mining for gold–except at least one of them is a hidden traitor!
It’s a game for 3-10 players that is supposed to take 30 minutes. (In my experience it takes at least 45 minutes.) It is meant for ages 8+, but I could see it being difficult for an eight-year-old the first couple of times. I think it would work best for ages 10+.
Gameplay (8 out of 10 stars)
Basically, in this game you play either as a gold miner or a saboteur. The objective for the gold miners is to place find the gold, while the role of the saboteur is to prevent the gold miners from reaching the gold.
The way you do that is by using path cards, shown above. Most path cards can be used to get closer to the goal, but there are some dead end path cards that saboteurs use. The three brown cards at the top of the picture have either coal or gold under them.
Throughout the game, players can check what’s under one of the brown cards by using a map card. A map card is an example of an action card. Action cards can be identified by their white border.
Anyone is free to tell the truth or lie when using a map card, so it is generally good to have a second person verify the location of the gold or coal if possible.
There are also attack cards among the action cards. Saboteurs can use them to sabotage miners, and miners can use them to sabotage saboteurs. When a player is attacked with one of these cards–breaking their lantern, pickaxe, or cart–they cannot play any path cards.
Broken supplies can be repaired using the cards shown below, matching the type of equipment. After the equipment is repaired, the player can use path cards again.
There are is also a type of card that removes a path tile from the board–a tunnel collapse card. This can be helpful for the saboteur or the miners.
There are three rounds in the game and there are two ways to end each round. One way is for one of the players to find the gold. In that case, the miners win, and the player who put down the last path card gets first pickings of the spoils.
The other way is for the saboteur(s) to win the round by making it impossible for the miners to reach the gold. Once cards run out in the decks, they are not reshuffled, meaning the miners have a limited amount of time to reach the gold before they run out of useful path cards.
If the saboteur(s) win the round, they receive 3 gold each. This is because it is harder to win as the saboteur.
After 3 rounds, the player with the most gold wins.
(As always, for a full rules explanation, read the actual rulebook because I just provided an overview.)
Design (9 out of 10 stars)
Design includes two categories: art and components.
The art was created by Andrea Boeckhoff and is generally pretty simplistic. However, as shown above, the artist included details in some of the path cards that are playful and creative.
This is a card game that fits in a tiny box, so don’t expect anything fancy. The components include path cards, action cards, gold nugget cards, gold miner cards, and saboteur cards.
The rules are included on a single page and yet sufficient.
The advantage of the components in this game is that they fit in a really small box that is shorter and more compact even then most books.
Strategy (10 out of 10 stars)
Strategy is cooperative for most players and consists mostly of teamwork and knowing what cards are best to use when. The game requires a lot of attention on the part of the gold miners to be able to realize who the saboteurs are and stop them.
Also, since the last person to place a card before the gold is revealed gets first pickings of the loot, there is a tiny bit of competition and cooperation is still very self-focused.
There is more strategy for the saboteur(s). For one thing, they want to find out who the other saboteur (or saboteurs) are without blowing their cover. Saboteurs also have to decide whether to act decisively at any point in a way that reveals their wicked intentions, but it is more effective.
Originality (9 out of 10 stars)
The originality is high in this game. Using cards like tiles to reach a goal is interesting, as well as the bluffing aspect allowing you to get away with being the saboteur for as long as possible.
Unlike in some games, you don’t lose if someone finds out the saboteur–you just get to keep on playing.
Replayability (8 out of 10 stars)
Replayability is decent. You go through the same pack of cards every time, but who is the saboteur and the number of saboteurs is pretty random and makes playing it multiple times still enjoyable.
I would certainly recommend this game. It is low complexity and functions perfectly as a gateway game for those just starting out in the board game hobby. Yet it is challenging enough to engage more serious board gamers as well.