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Subject: First time in the Abbey (four players) rss

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Yours Truly,
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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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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Players: Emile, Linda, Pierre, and myself.
Location: Durham, North Carolina, USA
Date: April 27, 2007

This was the first time any of us had played Mystery of the Abbey. I had read through the rules a couple times ahead of time, and had fiddled around with the board a bit. I gave everyone a brief rules run-through, and then we jumped into it!

Since we were all newbies, and this was supposed to be fun after all, we didn’t impose penance on incorrect bell movement for Mass cards, and helped each other remember how and when to move and ring the bell. We did keep the penance rule for ransacking the rooms though, since that’s a calculated risk and less prone to confusion. Part of the issue with the bell movement was that we had a hard time with resetting the start-of-turn counter-clockwise one player after each clockwise cycle of 4 players (aka “last person in one turn goes first in the next turn”). We were so focused on the other aspects of the game that it wasn’t always easy to remember who had started a particular cycle, and which person should therefore start the next. We had the stack of Mass cards at the same place on the game table the whole time, but we’re thinking of moving it with each cycle next time, so that it’s always in front of the person who started that cycle. I’m not sure if the rules explicitly state that it should work this way, but it seems like a useful way to keep track.

At first people were a little overwhelmed by the open-ended nature of the questions, and had trouble figuring out what to ask. Then we settled into a rhythm of asking how many of this or that characteristic that people had in their hands. I happened to have a lot of Franciscans, and had to reveal this fact during one question. At that point, Linda had accounted for all the Franciscans except for one, and had asked all the players, so she made the first revelation: the murderer was a Franciscan.

At the first Mass, the event card declared that “in the memory of the late Brother Adelmo” the Abbot ordered us to do penance via one hour of silence, and until the next Mass we could only ask yes/no questions. There were several groans and complaints, but then people started coming up with really effective questions, so this card actually helped us to learn some game strategy.

The Parlatorium cards disappeared quite fast, as both Pierre and I adopted the strategy of going there to eliminate suspects. There were a couple of room ransacks (but no one got caught!) and Confessional visits, but the Scriptorium proved the most popular, with each of us visiting for books several times. Surprisingly, no one visited the Bibliotecha at all. Every time we did a card number check, Linda and Emile were always tied for lowest number of cards, so neither was allowed to go. Pierre and I, after our gluttony at the Parlatorium, always had a lot of cards.

The second Mass was a real turning point in the game. After exchanging cards, we drew a processional event card, directing us to immediately proceed to the next (3rd) Mass! So within just a few minutes, we had all exchanged 5 cards, and the pace really picked up. The Parlatorium apparently didn’t like staying empty, because at the third Mass a Spring Fair event card occurred, drawing many visitors to the Abbey. We each had to place one random card from our hands back into the Parlatorium.

At this point, I had narrowed it down to 2 clean-shaven and 4 bearded suspects. So I took a gamble, and made a revelation that the murderer was bearded. At that point, Pierre had narrowed it down to just 2 or 3 monks, but needed to check my hand to make further eliminations, so he started frantically chasing me around the board. Linda realized with a gasp of horror that her earlier Franciscan revelation was an error, and made a new revelation that the murderer was a Benedictine. Emile then had the advantage of going twice (last in one cycle, first in the next), and after one encounter, confidently made the accusation that it was Benedictine Novice Charles, a quite portly, bearded monk with freakishly large hands. I never really trusted Charles anyway, sneaking around peering out of that hood of his. Emile was correct, winning the game!

Final score: Emile 4, Me 2, Linda 1, Pierre 0. Since we were all new at this game, and had to have a rules run-through, it took us around three hours to play. We took it at a nice slow pace though, with plenty of banter and laughs. We realized after the game was over that we had missed a rule: there were still some cards in the Parlatorium at the end, leftover from when we had to each randomly place a card from our hand into that room, so technically an accusation was not supposed to be made until that room had been emptied! Well, we’ll know for next time.

In all, we had a great time, and were all impressed by both the game design, and the quality of the components. The art and detail on the game board and the suspect cards/sheet are amazing, and it was fun after the game to just sit there and admire the game, and discover little details here and there like the chickens scratching and clucking in the Cloisters. Looking at our suspect sheets at the end was interesting, as two of us had politely used the tiny little checkboxes at the monks’ feet, and the other two players had drawn large slashes through their eliminated suspects. The latter being much easier to keep track of, but I couldn’t bring myself to deface the wonderful illustrations! I can’t wait to play again, and refine my note-taking and questioning strategy.
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Travis Easton
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Casey
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I think the rules do state to keep the mass deck with the start player for that round, but I don't recall. We have always done it that way, and I would recommend it.
 
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