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Subject: Oh brother! It's wholly better than 'Clue'! rss

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Ron Olivier, Sr.
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Mystery of the Abbey » Forums » Reviews
Oh brother! It's wholly better than 'Clue'!
When I found out that my daughter-in-law’s favorite classic game was ‘Clue’, I realized that I’d never researched any ‘gateway’ game for fans of that game. I’d seen a lot of ‘How to Host a Murder’ games in some game stores, but never anything that caught my attention. It didn’t take much research to find that two games kept coming up – ‘Sleuth’ and ‘Mystery at the Abbey’. A closer inspection led me to believe that ‘Mystery at the Abbey’ was just what the doctor ordered.

Components: Three words…’Days of Wonder’.
The gameboard features the layout of the abbey, and it’s a gorgeously thematic layout. The room names are written in Latin (the cheat sheets label them in Latin and English). The placement outlines for the different decks of cards are at the corners of the board so that the cards don’t impede the game.
The pawns are miniature monk statuettes of different colors. The cards are artfully simple, the cheat sheets are colorful, helpful, and well laid out, and even the suspect sheets are nicely designed (though I wish that more of them were included). All in all, the quality of components here is exemplary.


Rules:
The rule book is in a very familiar layout, so anyone owning Ticket to Ride or Colosseum should be used to the format. It’s a good thing, too. Your first game or two might find you in the rule book quite a bit. It’s not that the rules are complex – they’re really not. But a newbie to this game will probably refer back for clarifying what constitutes a ‘legal’ question, when to play a particular card, and what happens in certain rooms. (The cheat sheets can be a valuable source of this information once people get into the habit of checking them). Once you get the basic hang of it, it’s pretty easy. We had four newbies (and no one who ever played), and were able to get the hang of the game pretty quickly.

Theme: One of the 24 monks has killed brother Adelmo. Three to six players act as sleuths to try and find the killer by asking questions of the monks and receiving clues in a variety of ways. On one level, the game is very thematic. The old-style fonts used on the cards and board, the rustic looking floor plan, the miniature ‘mass bell’ are all designed to enhance the mood. But there’s knowing wink (with tongue planted firmly in cheek) with cards that require players to sing ‘Frere Jacques’ in rounds or deliver questions in a chant. You’ll love the theme, but you’ll never forget that it’s just a game (and a fun one).

Gameplay: Each hour in the game, a mass card is turned and mass is held where all the monks gather in the Chapel. After mass, they have four moves (three moves if there are six players) to roam around the building searching for clues. Each move consists of them traveling to one or two rooms (three rooms for six players). When their move ends with them sharing a room with another player, they can ask that player a question to help narrow down the suspects. That person can take a vow of silence or answer the question. If he answers, he is allowed to ask a question in return.
Several rooms entitle the player a benefit, such as choosing a card from another player of gaining a card that can grant them information or a free turn or some other benefit. This is in addition to the ability to question another monk. The Library can give you access to a wealth of information, but you can only go there once (and only when you have less cards than anyone else. ‘Penance’ can also be declared on someone who misbehaves, such as forgetting to move the mass bell or not sing ‘Frere Jacques’.
One special room is the Chapterhall. Players must travel to this room if they wish to make a revelation (release positive information about the identity of the killer, such as ‘He had a beard’ or ‘He was a Franciscan monk) or an accusation (naming a specific suspect as the killer). It is room that is farthest away from the chapel.
After four turns, the bell is rung and players return to the chapel. Each player passes a certain number of his cards to the player on their left. An event card is drawn and acted upon. The next mass card is turned over, and a new round begins. The game ends when someone makes a correct accusation (the card depicting the killer is not in anyone’s hand). The winner is the person who has the most points. Points are given (or taken away) for making correct/incorrect revelations and/or accusations during the game.

Good Stuff: This game is a lot of fun to play, and some of the event cards really enhance this experience. Unlike Clue, which proceeds logically and methodically producing a two-dimensional game, this game features a variety of ways to obtain information. There is more interaction between players, which keeps the game moving along pretty nicely.

Bad Stuff: The game can be a little bit long for the genre, especially at the beginning when information is scarce. The cards in the Scriptorium and the Library vary in their usefulness, so it’s just plain luck as to what you get from there. Questioning is somewhat of an art form that evolves as you learn the game better.

Overall: This game rocks. Not only is this a great ‘gateway’ game for Clue fans, it’s a fun way for experienced gamers to spend a couple of hours ‘out of the box’ from brain-burning strategy games. It’s an irreverent (doh!) mix of logic, luck, theme, and occasional goofiness, which makes for a very pleasurable gaming experience.
Is it worth getting if you have ‘Clue’? The game is pretty expensive (The original price was $50, but I got a 20% off deal), so it’s a borderline call. Considering the quality of the components, and the fun factor of the game, my personal opinion is that the game is different enough and fun enough to warrant the purchase, even if you already own Clue.



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Rod Batten
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Good review and nicely written! Thanks!
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Zack Stackurski
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Very nice review. I'm a bit Clue fan and have been keeping an eye on this game. Its nice to hear it works so well as a gate to something more complex for Clue players.

Did your daughter in law like it more than Clue?
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Ryan W
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I got this several years ago thinking the same thing: Uber-Clue.

But the few times I went to play it, it just didn't work for me. Too much random luck with trading all the cards all the time. Strangely I find Clue to be more deductive, although tedious. I traded MotA away a few months later.

Sounds like Mr. Jack may actually be a better deduction game.

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Pete McCartney
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Great Review, this was the second DoW game I bought, after TrR, and It has been one of my most popular to bring out, my parents are addicted to it

FYI: in a less than 6 player game you are only allowed to move 2 spaces.
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Ron Olivier, Sr.
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ZackStack wrote:


Did your daughter in law like it more than Clue?


Yes, and I think that this is now here favorite game!
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Carl Bussema
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maxac wrote:
I got this several years ago thinking the same thing: Uber-Clue.

But the few times I went to play it, it just didn't work for me. Too much random luck with trading all the cards all the time. Strangely I find Clue to be more deductive, although tedious. I traded MotA away a few months later.

Sounds like Mr. Jack may actually be a better deduction game.



Yeah, I didn't like this either. We ran into a problem where one player had applied bad logic and marked off a monk he hadn't really seen. In clue that's only going to get you in trouble, but in MotA, it gets everyone in trouble when he's later asked questions involving that monk.
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ɹǝpun uʍop ʞǝǝƃ
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Don't you mean "Holy brother! It's better than 'Clue'!"?

Nice review.
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eryn roston
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InfoCynic wrote:
[ We ran into a problem where one player had applied bad logic and marked off a monk he hadn't really seen. In clue that's only going to get you in trouble, but in MotA, it gets everyone in trouble when he's later asked questions involving that monk.


I like Mystery of the Abbey quite a bit, but this CAN be a problem and unfortunately it kinda ruins that particular session.

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Yours Truly,
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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InfoCynic wrote:


We ran into a problem where one player had applied bad logic and marked off a monk he hadn't really seen. In clue that's only going to get you in trouble, but in MotA, it gets everyone in trouble when he's later asked questions involving that monk.


That's why it's a good idea to establish a rule at the beginning of the game that people have to be able to differentiate between monks they've actually seen the card of and monks they've eliminated. That way, during questioning, you can play it safe, and ask questions about whether they've seen certain monks or not, or play it more risky (which might be a better pay-off but is vulnerable to faulty logic!) and ask about monks they've personally eliminated.
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Chris Shaffer
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
That's why it's a good idea to establish a rule at the beginning of the game that people have to be able to differentiate between monks they've actually seen the card of and monks they've eliminated.


Definitely - we use this rule as well.
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Carl Bussema
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TheCat wrote:
JohnnyDollar wrote:
That's why it's a good idea to establish a rule at the beginning of the game that people have to be able to differentiate between monks they've actually seen the card of and monks they've eliminated.


Definitely - we use this rule as well.


And people actually remember to keep that good of notes? I am... skeptical, perhaps... and I play with a pretty good crowd usually. If even one player screws up once... it's over. Do I get to mark it as seen if you say you've seen it, or is that just deduced? So maybe I need "seen" "eliminated" "seen by someone else" and "eliminated by someone else" and then I can ask another player how many fat fathers he's seen or eliminated because someone else saw them? ... I'm not saying it couldn't work, I just remain... skeptical.
 
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Andrew Faehnle
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Ugh, no way. As with many people here, I agree that the reliance on the results of other peoples' deductions makes this game far inferior to Clue.
 
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Yeah, I played a game a couple weeks ago where one person had been crossing off stuff she probably shouldn't. Long story short, by the end of the game, every player had crossed every monk off of their sheet because of our innocent reliance on her poor logic. Since we had no way to move backward in the game at that point, it turned into an accusation-fest in which every player was alternating between moving out of Chapter Hall and then moving back in to make an accusation- until someone could guess right.

What frustrated me the most about this was that the girl who screwed up the game in the first place was the one who ended up guessing right. She had made several revelations (some correct, some incorrect) earlier in the game, and ended up winning with 0 points.

When playing with people who go about their investigations wisely, this is a great game. I find that a good investigative strategy in MoA results in a win more often than in Clue (perhaps that's just me.) However, it is more fragile than Clue in that one person can unknowingly wreck a game, and this is frustrating.

I like the idea of requiring players to differentiate between monks they have seen and monks they have crossed off using other tactics, I don't feel this would be unreasonable and would almost certainly fix a facet of the game which ocassionally (and devastatingly) breaks.
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