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Mystery of the Abbey» Forums » Reviews

Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Review of Mystery of the Abbey) rss

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Michael Carpenter
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West Virginia
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BOX ART



The typically peaceful Abbey has been turned on its head due to the murder of Brother Adelmo. It is up to you and your companions to solve the case for the Abbot.



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Family
Play Time: 120 minutes
Theme: Murder Mystery
Number of Players: 3-6
Main Mechanics: Area Movement, Hand Management, and Set Collection
Components: Okay
Weight: Light


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
The theme and mechanisms blend in a strange way in Mystery of the Abbey. Due to the nature of the mechanisms the game seems to have a slight identity crisis. The rule book conveys the message of "You and your companions must find who killed Brother Adelmo", but the game's mechanisms and win conditions require you to compete over the information and see who will win the game. Does this bug me? No. Although it is worth mentioning when discussing theme and the way they mesh with the game design.



GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW:
Mystery of the Abbey is played over the course of several rounds. The number of rounds can vary from game to game but will typically be between 5 and 8 (from my experience). During these rounds players will be attempting to gather information through hand management and asking questions. To begin the game each player will receive a Deduction Notebook and a Monk Miniature of their color.

Deduction Notebook

Each deduction notebook shows 24 Monks, each with several distinct characteristics: Fat/Skinny, Bearded/Clean Shaven, Hooded/Not Hooded, Father/Brother/Novice, and Templar/Franciscan/Benedictine.

Each Monk also has a matching card. At the beginning of the game one of these cards is chosen at random and placed under the board to keep its identity hidden throughout the course of the game. Once that card is removed, all players will receive a number of these cards based on the number of players in the game. There will always be some Suspect Cards leftover to allow for more information to be obtained through other mechanisms in the game.



There are also other types of cards to be placed around the board during setup. There are bibliotheca cards, event cards, crypta cards, scriptorium cards, and mass cards.

Main Board


During the a round, players will each take 4 turns in player order. On a player's turn he or she must move his or her pawn up to two spaces. The player may not use the two moves to step out of and back into a room on the same turn. Once the player has moved, if the player ends his or her turn in the same room as another player then the active player must ask the other player a question (explained in detail below). Finally, the active player must perform the action that corresponds with the room that the player has ended his or her moved in.

Asking Questions
Asking questions is the a major part of the game. When asking a player a question the active player may ask ANY kind of question they wish other than a question that would be answered with the name of a Monk.

Examples of Acceptable Questions
- How many bearded monks do you have in your hand?
- Do you have the Father Sergio card?
*Notice you may use a Monk's name in your question, but the question cannot be answered with a Monk's name.

Example of an Unacceptable Question
- Which Monk in your hand is fat?

Once a question has been asked the player being asked the question may choose to:

1. Take a vow of silence: The question is not answered and the active player moves on with his or her turn.

or

2. Answer the question: The player answers the question and then gets to ask the active player a questions that MUST be answered.

Once all players have performed four turns in a round, the round ends and the first player will read the effects of the Mass card. Players will apply the effects of the card and then the deck of Mass Cards will be passed to the player on the left. The second Mass Card will then be revealed and each player will execute four turns in the second round of player.

Mass Cards


During the game players will be spreading knowledge about more Suspects Cards by passing cards to other players and from the questions they ask other players. As players learn more information about the suspects they will be marking the suspects off of the Deduction Notebook until one player feels they know a specific characteristic about the murderer or the identity of the murderer.

As players move around the board and end turns in different rooms the players will be able to perform the actions that the rooms provide. There are several rooms on the board but the most important in terms of winning the game is the Chapter Hall (Capitulum). Players will use the Chapter Hall to make revelations or make accusations about the murderer.

To make a revelation players will move into the Chapter Hall and claim to know a specific characteristic of the murderer. You may not make a negative claim.

Example of a Revelation
- The murderer is a Templar.

Example of an Unacceptable Revelation
- The murderer is not a Templar.

To make an accusation the player simply states who he or she thinks is the murderer. All other players will then state whether or not they have the accused suspect. If no players have the accused suspect then the player must be correct and the game will end. If the player's accusation is incorrect the game will continue.

Once the identity of the murderer is found players will count their score. It is important that players record their revelations and their accusations on paper throughout the game.

Scoring:
- Each correct revelation: 2 points
- Each wrong revelation: -1 point
- Correct accusation: 4 points
- each wrong accusation: -2 points

The player with the most points is the winner of the game.



ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.

Depth of Strategy


This is not an extremely strategical game in my opinion. I am not sure it intends to be all that strategical. What this game offers is an improvement on Clue. The design suggests a more flexible approach to a murder mystery board game. I appreciate that and am not holding the lack of strategy against it in my assessment.

I will say that with rooms providing different there are ways to orchestrate an approach to solving the case. The different types of cards will allows players an opportunity ti bend the normal rules of acquiring information at times so it is useful to not simply ask questions and wait to get new Suspect Cards at the end of the round.

I will cover my thoughts on this in mu Final Thoughts in more detail but know that Mystery of the Abbey is not going to require you or any other player to formulate a step-by-step strategy from start to finish. In my opinion there is maybe one or two ways to approach this game and the player who manages to do it the quickest will typically win.


Depth of Strategy:
1.5 = There are one or two distinct ways to play this game.




Replayability


I see very little replayability in this game. I have almost no interest in playing this game anymore because every play feels the same. This repetitiveness shows up quick too. It isn't a game that you play to death and finally get tired of it. It is more of a game that intrigues you with its theme and improvement on Clue but then has very little flexibility that allows it to differ much from game to game. Every game feels as though you are hoping to get to certain rooms quicker than the other players and you are wandering around from room to room waiting to see new Suspect Cards. Again, there are smarter things to do while you are waiting but for the most part some turns feel pointless.

Replayability:
2.0 = Heavily reliant on the group.




Quality of Design


Area Movement: Players may mover a fixed number of spaces each turn. This levels the playing field when comparing this mechanism to the roll and move mechanism but it has it's own issues in terms of which players start closer to certain rooms (further into the game).

Hand Management: I may have made this mechanism seem lousy but in reality this is probably the most stimulating area of the game because this is where I have to make good decisions about what information to give to other players. It is also easily the most fun part of the game to get new cards and see if I have gotten any new information.

Set Collection: This is a somewhat unique take on Set Collection and I do enjoy it but it just isn't implemented in a way that is engaging and fun. Instead, it feels as though I just sit there and wait for information that there is no way to obtain if other players don't answer my questions.


Quality of Design:
2.0 = One or two flaws ruin the experience.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
Mystery of the Abbey does something well... It makes you stop and say... "I liked Clue and this sounds WAY better!" So you start researching it a little more and you think... "This sounds like a game I could get into." That is just about the only thing Mystery of the Abbey does well, for me at least. The game offers you this enticing flexibility that will make the game feel like you are investigating a case, not just marking things off of a note pad like Clue. Unfortunately, this enticing hope for improvement falls flat.

It sounds as though the questions are going to make the game seem so different but once you play you realize there aren't that many ways to spice up the questions. You're not asking if the suspect was in his room the night before at 7:00 pm... You are asking... How many fat monks do you have marked off? The whole mechanisms comes back to asking questions in a way that help you with the process of elimination. Not only are the questions kind of boring, the other players don't even have to answer the questions when they realize it is too beneficial to you and the other players. Therefore, if players wanted to deny all questions the game would move along at a snail's pace.

I wanted so much to like this game. When I opened the box and saw how beautiful the board was and how awesome the Deduction Notebooks are I was pumped to play it. Then we played it and I won, and yet I felt like I didn't do anything different than anyone else to have won. Then we played it again because I thought maybe I needed to get a better hold on how to ask questions... and again it felt like the questions were dull and I thought I was winning but some information had been given incorrectly during the game so it caused me to go down the wrong route and the person who gave the information incorrectly won the game. Not winning that game didn't upset me about losing, but it did make some glaring holes in the game shine.

Mystery of the Abbey is a slight step-up from Clue and will get some new gamers interested but I wouldn't suggest this game to anyone that is looking for a solid game for their gaming group. A family could potentially enjoy this also, but I think the game's longevity will simply die after a few plays.


Overall Rating -
Mystery of the Abbey was a disappointing let down.



If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple

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Moose Detective
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Mystery of the Abbey is one of my favorites so I'm obviously going to disagree with this review. Except for the bit about some of the monk's rooms being closer than others - that's a design choice that I never understood.

But.. how much the questions can vary is as reliant on the players as a game of Dixit is. There are better questions that "how many fat franciscans do you have" although that type of question will still pop up regularly. Breaking things down into columns or corners instead of colors of rows is one slight tweak. Asking questions to someone right after one of you stole cards from the others always gives ONLY YOU information. "How many more monks are in your hand of the order you just took from me?" Gives you and only you information. The rule book also gives examples on how to use questions to direct/block other player's movement "Are you going to the chapter hall this round?"

Yes, the game will be bland if everyone always chooses a vow of silence. Just like the game will break if someone lies. But I've never had this problem in all the games I've played.

Sure the game isn't a heavy strategy game, but it brings out table-talk and chatter and trash talk while still having gameplay that favors the "best thinker" while still being winable by everyone.

If you have a problem with the questions mechanic, you may want to try Mystery Express. Which is out of print but still occassionally findable on BGG.

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Michael Carpenter
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Okay, I don't feel adamantly about the game enough to debate over it but I would like to ask you a couple questions about it.

1. Am I wrong to say that the game is pretty similar from play to play?

2. If you think back to when you first heard about the game... Did you expect the question mechanism to be more or less exciting than it actually plays?


I would like to say that you are right in saying that the game won't suffer from all vows of silence and I don't mean for it to sound as though I deal with that but it is a very obvious option to withhold important information when it is smart to...

I think I gave the credit in the areas that the game deserves credit:

- production value
- aesthetics
- step-up from Clue
- generates interest (but I feel it falls flat, to each their own)
- improvement on movement mechanism

I just don't think those things makes the game good enough to outweigh the issues I have with the lack of excitement generated from the main mechanism (questioning).
 
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Emperor Penguin
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I have had pretty much the same experience and therefore the same opinion as the original poster.
I am not ready to give up on it just yet, but when I am in the mood for this type of game I prefer Lady Alice or Sleuth
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Moose Detective
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MariettaTennis wrote:

1. Am I wrong to say that the game is pretty similar from play to play?


No.You're not wrong. But I would say that's true about almost all of the games I have. To me, Blood Rage still feels like Blood Rage whether I'm playing the Loki strategy or you are. Catan still feels like Catan whether I'm brick-wood-roading or ore-wheat-citying.

MariettaTennis wrote:

2. If you think back to when you first heard about the game... Did you expect the question mechanism to be more or less exciting than it actually plays?


I've had Mystery of the Abbey since the 90s. I think it was in my second ever order of modern games. That was before I knew enough about games to have crazy expectations. I think I just like deduction games overall, and this one is more accessible than something like Alchemists and has more player interaction through the questioning than other games where it becomes straight logic (and therefore being even MORE samey)


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Michael Carpenter
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I think both of those answers are fair. I agree that games feels pretty similar from play to play but I think it's agreed upon within the hobby that some games do a better job making that feel more fun than others. I completely get your point though. As for your second point I would say I think my expectations may hurt this game. I like deduction, I think I just wanted it to be more than it is. That's not the games fault but I do think it is within reason to not like a game much that doesn't meet your expectations. It doesn't mean the game is bad and I hope I don't make the game sound broken. It isn't. However, if I'm expecting a steak and someone bring me chicken the chicken doesn't meet my expectations and even though I like chicken, I think that portion would be tainted by my expectations. That may be what happened here for me but I think I made some points that are worth noting about this game for those considering it. Even if we seem to disagree, I want to thank you for reading and commenting. I write reviews so I can engage in discussion with people about games! So thank you.
 
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Sven F.
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MariettaTennis wrote:
Once all players have performed four turns in a round, the round ends and the first player will read the effects of the Mass card. Players will apply the effects of the card and then the deck of Mass Cards will be passed to the player on the left. The second Mass Card will then be revealed and each player will execute four turns in the second round of player.


I interpret the rules as the mass cards should be passed to the player on the right, rather than to the left. Maybe not very important, but...
 
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Michael Carpenter
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Just checked the rule book and it looks like you pass the cards to the player who took the last turn in the previous round. Thanks for the heads up!
 
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