Recommend
22 
 Thumb up
 Hide
11 Posts

Mystery of the Abbey» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Game of Deduction, Wits, and Luck rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Jeremy Yoder
United States
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb

Overview

When I first learned about Mystery of the Abbey I was very intrigued. In my youth I enjoyed Clue, which many play only by process of elimination. But the more astute can use less obvious forms of deduction that may present themselves, either by accident or your own doing. Mystery of the Abbey also works with elimination and deduction, but allows more of the latter than Clue. Not only that, but there are plenty of different mechanics to shake things up.

The premise is a monk in the Abbey has committed murder. The player's job is to find the murderer's identity. Unlike Clue, you are only seeking the murderer's identity, but it's out of 24 different characters. (Also, you are not one of the suspects, but are a generic monk roaming about.) Each character is defined by 5 traits you use to narrow down the list. 3 of the traits have two options (beard/beardless, hooded/hoodless, fat/thin) and 2 traits have three options, which are rank (father, brother, novice) and order (Templar, Franciscan, Benedictine, which are essentially robe colors).

As you can see, 2 x 2 x 2 x 3 x 3 = 72 possible trait combinations, so while there's not one unique monk for each combination, each monk is unique. Quite the coincidentally diverse group!


Components

The board is a monastery and the six tokens are little monks. There are colored die (one side per monk token) and various card decks. The designers even included a little bell for when you call mass. (My three-year-old loves ringing it.) The artwork (both for the board and the monks on the cards) is good and stylistic, getting a huge thumbs up from me. Such quality and theme makes for a great atmosphere, giving it a kind of "Agatha Christie novel" feel.


Turn and Game Mechanics

How do you deduce the murderer? First, 1 of the 24 cards is placed face-down under the edge of the board. The rest are dealt until everyone has an equal number. The remaining few are placed face-down on the board to draw during the game. You have a card sheet showing an image of all 24 suspects with their traits clearly defined. You keep this in a thin little folder that contains an abbreviated version of the rules for quick reference.

You learn about other suspects in various ways. One is to draw from the pile with the few remaining cards when you enter the Parlor. Another occurs when mass is called and you pass cards to the player on the left. First time mass is called you pass 1 card. 2nd time you pass 2 cards, etc. This mechanic throws off Clue players at first, but get used to it, because there are other ways to take players cards and to lose yours. When passing cards, be smart and pass cards that either the other player already knows, or even better, that everyone knows.

The most creative method in this game is when you enter the same space as another player. You must ask them a question. It can be about anything, so long as the answer does not include the names of monks. For instance: "How many fat monks are in your hand?" or "How many novice Templars have you eliminated?" The person you ask then has a choice. They can refuse to answer by taking a vow of silence, or they can answer truthfully. If they choose the latter, it gives them the option to ask you a question that you must answer. Being clever in your questions and listening to all answers is key to winning the game.

Movement is set (either 2 or 3 spaces, depending on the version) which makes it nice to not rely on dice rolling. With all the rooms fairly close, this works well. Then when mass is called (every 3-4 turns, also depending on the version) all monks return to the starting space (chapel), after which cards are passed and an event card is drawn to shake things up a bit. Players may then move their monks like normal until the next mass.

There are other mechanics, including the script cards (good) and library cards (very good) that have their own conditions and rules. Each monk also has a private room. Entering someone's room allows you to take a card from him or her. But if that monk catches you in his room on his turn, you return the card and lose a turn.


The End Game

The end is based off a point system. In a certain room, you can either declare one of the murderer's five traits or his identity. A trait can be declared at any time in the game. Write it down. At the end when the identity is revealed, if you are correct, you get 2 points. If not, you lose 1. The identity can be guessed once all cards are in players' hands. Once you guess, if someone has that card, they expose it and you lose a turn and 2 points. If no one has it then you are correct, giving you 4 points and ending the game. The person with the most points wins.

Regardless of the point system, usually the person who identifies the murderer is the winner, especially since ties go to that player. It's not impossible that the murderer identifier loses, but it's unlikely. In the couple of dozen games I've played, I think this happened once, and even then, the one who identified the murderer felt like the winner, so the point system is a mixed bag for me.


Final Thoughts

Deduction and clever questioning are the key components to winning, but that's not to say dumb luck (or the lack thereof) can't rear it's head. But I don't find that to be negative since this game is not about pure deduction. If that's what you require, this game may not be for you. Otherwise, I've had good times playing this with both gaming and non-gaming friends. I've also found that those who hadn't played Clue in years (but used to like it) really gravitated to this and enjoyed it the most.

You can also mess with people's minds. You can't lie when questioned, but creative minds can throw people off. For example, say someone asks you how many novice Templars you've eliminated. (There are 3 possible.) You truthfully answer 2. Later, you ask someone if they've eliminated Monk X, who is one of the three.. even though it's one you've eliminated. Someone may then assume you eliminated the other two... or someone may be wondering if that's a red herring since it obviously exposes the two you crossed off... or someone who swears you eliminated that monk is now simply confused. (Or maybe you actually asked about the one you don't have to make others think you're trying to throw them off.) You just can't know.

On a side note, this game comes with a few dozen suspect sheets. A good amount, but if you play a lot you'll need to buy replacements. That is, unless you do what I did and have a few laminated. So now in my box, I also keep dry-erase markers under the plastic holder where there's plenty of room. It works very slick and makes the suspect sheets completely reusable.


10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Monica B.
United States
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Thanks for the great breakdown. I love mystery themes, and I can't believe I keep overlooking this one.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Max Jamelli
United States
Chambersburg
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
MotA is a fun game. If you love Mystery Themes, you should definately check this out .
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Yoder
United States
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb

I'm curious if anyone has other mystery/deduction recommendations. I've ordered Mr. Jack and will be trying it next week, but I'll take others suggestions.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Carl Bussema
United States
Lansing
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
The problem we keep running into is "How many X have you eliminated?" ... they tell a truthful answer, but they eliminated someone incorrectly... and that throws the whole game off. You can ask "How many X are in your hand?" but that's not as powerful a question. So to us, the deduction element felt like it was meaningless, and it was really a race to see who could look at 23 cards first (or 20~ and take a lucky guess).
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Henry Allen
United States
Longwood
FLORIDA
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I think it's best to make it clear to everyone that they should mark the monks they've SEEN differently from those who they have DEDUCED to be in someones hand. This allows you to ask people what they've seen (which should get you an accurate answer) or you can take your chances and ask about what they've deduced (which could get you more information but could get you bad information if they've messed up).

Here are links to a couple of threads that discuss this:

http://www.daysofwonder.com/en/msg/?th=3926&start=0
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/126239
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Yoder
United States
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb

InfoCynic wrote:
The problem we keep running into is "How many X have you eliminated?" ... they tell a truthful answer, but they eliminated someone incorrectly... and that throws the whole game off. You can ask "How many X are in your hand?" but that's not as powerful a question. So to us, the deduction element felt like it was meaningless, and it was really a race to see who could look at 23 cards first (or 20~ and take a lucky guess).


Then you might as well play Clue.

I see a resolution to your problem in two ways: One is to do like Henry and others suggest, by specifying if you've seen it or deduced it on your sheets and ask questions to match. The other is to just run with the game as it is. We do the latter, which to me, is part of the appeal because it truly feels like a mystery; like I'm taking part in a story that doesn't always have clear cut answers.

By that, I mean when you're reading/watching a mystery, characters are not conveniently eliminated one after another until only one remains. Instead, you're given clues throughout until the final revelation. As a result, when we play, we know some info may be wrong. It's also nice that if you guess wrong, you can still play and win the game.

To put it in context of a story (but where MotA rules are applied and truthful answers must be given) the detective asks the cook, "Who killed your boss?" The cook says it definitely wasn't the maid, probably not the groundskeeper, and thinks it was the butler. Now that doesn't mean all of his info is correct, but he still answered to the best of his ability, which is what MotA does.

I can see where that would be a point of frustration for some, especially if you have people that are horrid at deduction and are guessing everything. But at the end of our games, even if some have guessed and/or deduced wrong, we laugh and have fun discussing how we came to our various conclusions...

Kim: "I thought you said you eliminated Father Michael!"

Bob: "I did! I thought Mark had him when he took that vow of silence."

Mark: "That's what I wanted you to think. So why did you guess Novice Guy two turn ago?"

Deb: "I had it down to three, but I thought Kim was going to declare it on her next turn, so I went for it."

Kim: "Actually, I was heading for the parlor. I still had four suspects! But how did you know it was Father Michael?"

James: "I was 80% sure it was either him or Brother Malachi. If I was wrong, I would have guessed the other as soon as possible. And with my crypt card, I could zip down there in one turn."

Mark: "Oh, man! If you had guessed Brother Malachi, then I'd have known it was Father Michael and won! But how in the world did you know the murderer was thin so early in the game?"

Kim: "I didn't for sure, but I had eliminated twice as many tubbies as beanpoles, so I played the odds."

James: "You guessed? That's funny, because I technically hadn't eliminated Brother Cuthbert. He was the 20% I was unsure about."

Deb: "So why did you later say he was fat, even though your wife said he was thin?"

Bob: "Because Kim's usually wrong!" *smack*

And so on. Or at least, that's how it plays out for us on our best games -- we just laugh instead of viewing it as a source of frustration. That's why in my review title I say this game involves deduction, wits, and luck. But that's simply how we play. Going the other way should work fine if you require it to be completely logic based.



5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Yoder
United States
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb

BTW, I should mention that we almost always play the quicker, 6-player version, no matter how many players we have. Which includes...

1) Move 3 spaces rather than 2.
2) Start with the second mass, so first time mass ends, people pass 2 cards rather than 1.
3) At the start of mass, put the bell on the second space rather than the first so that masses occur sooner.

We find it makes for a quicker, more enjoyable game that really helps cut back on some of the downtime between turns.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
(\____/)
Finland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
JYoder wrote:

I'm curious if anyone has other mystery/deduction recommendations. I've ordered Mr. Jack and will be trying it next week, but I'll take others suggestions.

Have you tried Inkognito? We have played it a couple of time now with our group (all devoted MotA fans) and have found out that there are similarities between these two games. Plus it also has that nice mystery feel/theme going on, although not as strong as in MotA.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Yoder
United States
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb

No, I hadn't heard of it, but I'll check into it. Thanks.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Farrell
Australia
Aspley
Queensland
flag msg tools
Averagely Inadequate
badge
Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
mbmbmbmbmb
tommih wrote:
JYoder wrote:

I'm curious if anyone has other mystery/deduction recommendations. I've ordered Mr. Jack and will be trying it next week, but I'll take others suggestions.

Have you tried Inkognito? We have played it a couple of time now with our group (all devoted MotA fans) and have found out that there are similarities between these two games. Plus it also has that nice mystery feel/theme going on, although not as strong as in MotA.


I love MotA and have only played Inkognito once, but it was very good. In my play of Inkognito I quickly deduced who my partner was (and he did as well, which made life easier). We then figured out what we had to do, except that both of us figured out different things. Either I made a wrong deduction or someone gave me a bad clue... anyway for a couple of rounds we were obviously playing against each other, so I started reinvestigating and eventually decided he was right. We won the game and discovered that our opponents still hadn't figured out that they were our opponents :-). It was good fun.

Other deduction games I've played are Coda - very good, but not a main feature game; Black Vienna - also very good but without the theme; Sleuth - both plays have been decided by luck; Code 777 - probably the best other than the two mentioned above but also lacking in theme. There was another I played but I forget its name and didn't like it so much anyway.

Zendo is an induction game, and that may work for you as well.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.