For many game players, a foundation was laid with characters like Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett, and Colonel Mustard. And, although most of us have graduated to improved fare, Clue still has a special place in our hearts. The deduction game challenged us a bit, unlike the roll-and-move monotony of many Ameritrash games.
While we may have moved on, the deduction game genre still has the potential for being pretty fun. Games like Scotland Yard, Black Vienna, Mystery Express, and one of my favorites, Letters from Whitechapel, are games that cause you to think, subtract, and deduce and are wonderfully enjoyable. Add to that list an old favorite, Mystery of the Abbey, which has just been reprinted again.
Like all Days of Wonder games, Mystery of the Abbey boasts some top-quality components. In addition to a great-looking board and six miniature monks, the game comes with 102 illustrated cards and a deduction notebook and enough suspect sheets for fifty individual plays. Additionally, there are three customized dice, a Mass bell, and a rulebook.
The premise for the game is that poor Brother Adelmo was found at the base of a cliff outside Templars’ Abbey and the whispers in the cloisters suggest one of the other monks had something to do with his death. It’s up to you and your companions to find out who killed Brother Adelmo.
Each of the monks at the abbey can be classified by five important characteristics. There are three different orders, Templars, Franciscans, and Benedictines, in each there are titles of Fathers, Brothers, and Novices. Monks can be hooded or not, bearded or not, either fat or thin. In total there are 24 suspects.
There are four turns that make up a round and each turn consists of four steps: On the Mass card, the first player moves the bell forward one spot (when the bell reaches four, the next turn calls Mass, more on that in a moment). Players then take turns moving one or two areas.
If your monk ends in a space with another monk, you can ask a question of your companion as you try to eliminate suspects. The other monk can reply, which allows him a question, in turn, or take a vow of silence in response to your question.
Then, depending on the space where you end your movement, there may be an action associated with the space. These actions involve everything from gaining another suspect card, gaining information from a companion, earning a free turn, or taking a card that gives you an immediate or future advantage.
Play continues until Mass is called, when all monks return to Chapel. At this time, each player passes two suspect cards to the player on their left and an event card is read. Event cards can have minor consequences on the game or huge implications. Play then continues, as before, until the next Mass.
Players earn clues and suspect cards that allow them to eliminate suspects and, oftentimes, entire orders of monks by their characteristics. When a player is confident, he can appear before the Abbot in the Chapter Hall.
At this point, a player can make a revelation, “The culprit is a Templar,” or an accusation, “It was Brother Harold.” In the case of a revelation, a note is made and – when the suspect is revealed – the player who made the revelation wins or loses points based on the statement’s accuracy. (A player can win based on these points, without identifying the guilty party.)
In the case of an accusation, when a player identifies a suspect, all the other players review their suspect cards and reveal the suspect card if they have it. If not, the guilty party has been identified and the game ends. Points are added up and a winner is identified.
The reprint of Mystery of the Abbey includes the Pilgrim’s Chronicle expansion (an additional 12 cards) and is recommended for players 8 and older. This is one game where I would lean a bit toward the older side of the age recommendation. Since it is a deduction game and your decisions and deductions are going to be based on feedback you get from other players, it is important for your fellow monks to be paying attention — a task that may be asking a lot of an eight-year-old in a 60-90 minute game.
That said, we really enjoyed Mystery of the Abbey and it represents a fresh take of the deduction game. As someone who missed out on previous printings, I am glad we got the opportunity to play this game because it is a great family game with lots of interaction and a level of difficulty that can be appreciated by both younger and older players.
Stealing and passing cards can really throw a wrench in your search and the cards keep everyone on their toes, but it is still really great fun. While I’ve only played the game with my family so far, I suspect that Mystery of the Abbey will also go over well with my gaming group. If you’re into deduction games at all, give Mystery of the Abbey a play — it’s the perfectly natural deduction.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a sample of this game.