Review: Mystery of the Abbey – monks have secrets

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Monastery hosts monks living in three groups. And everything seemed to be just fine in this settlement, but only until we found the body. Suddenly, the whole abbey is on foot. Benedictines and Franciscans accuse put blame on Templars, while they claim to never be able to do anything so terrible. Helpless body had issued its question and we were instructed to find the culprit.

It’s all on us. We were employed by duo of designers, and , who created game called under flag of . Today, it is more of a classic, since the game was first released in ! Today, it is distributed in Europe by .

The box is typically square and on the cover, we see monks in front of the abbey, looking quite innocently, as if nothing was ever wrong. But we do not let them to drunk us by a roll, we enter the box and find a big game board with a map of the monastery pictured from an aerial view. It is divided into a series of rooms and spaces for cards.

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There are trays with space for a total of one hundred different card types, whether it’s an event, library or scrolls of suspects. There are also plastic figures of monk investigators, three dice with symbols, notepad for making suspicions and folded sheets with an overview of the games, that can be simultaneously used to conceal your notes. It all ends with one metal bell to summon all for the mass.

At the beginning of the game, players will prepare a common board, choose their monk and place his miniature into the chapel. Everyone gets one scribbling sheet of suspicion and hides it in his folded help card. Two dozen possible suspects serve as source to randomly select one card and slide it under the game plan. This is an offender, whose identity no one knows.

Several other suspects are placed in the upper left corner, while the remaining suspect cards are dealt to player’s hands. So everyone knows identity of three to six innocent monks (depending on the number of participants in the game). Remaining types of cards are shuffled and laid into place. Mass cards are ordered by numbered key. Top card of this deck is marked with a bell on its number one space. Two dice are rolled and placed in confession chamber. The game can then begin.

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Players take turns, when they carry out all their options and then pass to next player in the sequence. Player must move his monk by one or two rooms in any direction, following corridors as the rooms are connected by doors. If their figurine ends its movement in the room, where one of the opponents is standing, it is time for questioning. The active player may ask one question, and that one can also ask in return. Question must somehow relate to the cards and it goal should be to try to determine identity of some opponent cards. You can ask for one of the parameters or specific characters, its all up to the player.

After the questions or in situations, where a monk is alone in a location, it is time to take advantage of room action. Players can variously peek at cards of their opponents, either through visiting of their dormitory (risking to be caught!) or confessional room. Players also have an opportunity to obtain special action cards from scroll room or a library, which may be entered only by player, who has the least cards of all in his hands. Through visits to some of the rooms, players may also learn the identity of monks set aside (= innocent). In the lobby, players can finally utter an accusation.

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This is only possible, because each of the monks has five characteristics, that make him unique. In addition to physical parameters (beard, fatness and hood), there is also his order and level (father, brother, novice). Based on the information gathered, players may herald a revelation. Such estimates are recorded on paper during gameplay and evaluated only at the end of the game. On the other hand accusation talks straight about a particular person. But if someone else has this monk card in his hand, he must show him and author of incorrect accusation should go to repent (as when he is caught searching room of another monk). He spends one round there, praying and then continues playing.

At the beginning of each round, first player moves bell one position further on the mass card. When it reaches fourth position and should leave it, it is time to convene a common praying. All player pieces gather in the chapel and players pass several cards from their hand to rival on the left hand and receive different cards from the neighbor on the right. New guidelines from event card affected life of the monks and bell is moved to the next mass card in the deck.

Game continues until the moment, when some monk is accused and no one can call it wrong. Such a monk must be guilty and the one, who revealed it, gets four victory points. To be a victor, all players need also to receive some ponits for proper guess during gameplay (two points for each correct answer), but points are also deducted for incorrect revelation or accusation. The winner becomes not the successful detective, but whoever contributed the most to overall investigation, therefore owner of the highest number of points.

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Over the years, what is on the market, Mystery of the Abbey became a very popular game. More surprising is the fact, that we got to play it only a few weeks ago. And its time for little bit of regret, because this game is great deduction fun.

First unique parameter of this game are answers. These are done quite openly, so every piece of information is revealed not only to you, but also to others. At the same time, they are holding cards suspicious, that nobody else knows (until the next passing), and thus have certain advantage and leverage over each other. But noone tells them, which cards shall they pass during next mass, so its reasonable to keep the starting ones in hand. Now identity of the culprit may be found out by questions, that are of a different nature (for example, if a player already eliminated any particular monk from the suspects).

All interviews belong inseparably to wandering around the monastery. For some question to even appear, two monks must meet in the same room. Otherwise, you will try to use special room actions, receive special cards and a peek into the hands of others without asking them. All findings can then be marked into your notepads, pretty secretly, behind the screen.

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Unveiling the perpetrators is not enough to win. The player must be active throughout the game, otherwise he is in risk of being jumped over by another player, even when he stays the best crime solver. Ability to deduce during the play is absolutely crucial, because the players have largely the same information and therefore everything depends only on how they work with them.

Enormous impact on the overall impression has a theme. The atmosphere here is working to perfection, players attend mass, repent and all in the name of God. The game includes dice, but they are not here to be rolled. Instead, they merely indicate last monk, who visited the confession booth and it is therefore possible to reveal some of his secrets, if you arrive after him.

When you opt for investigation of murder in the abbey, you should count on the fact, that the game definitely will not be very short. All that finding goes far beyond an hour and more approximates ninety minutes. Sometimes even more. Depending on the number of players, it also will motivate you to invite multiple opponents. That’s because the game is better for more people, preferably five.

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Mystery of the Abbey is a beautiful game, but most players will appreciate it for providing something else entirely. Its a bit different deduction game, but the tone remains partially true to that old classic Cluedo. But it is far fairer and more balanced. Coincidence does not play a big role here and many special events makes it interesting and unpredictable. Mystery of the Abbey certainly deserves its position among classics.

DesignerBruno Faidutti, Serge Laget
ArtistCyrille Daujean, Julien Delval, Emmanuel Roudier
PublisherDays of Wonder, Edge Entertainment, Giochi Uniti, KDS Distribuzione (Italy), MultiSim
Year Published1995
# of Players3 - 6
User Suggested # of Players Best with 6 players
Recommended with 3, 4, 5, 6 players
(80 voters)
Playing Time90
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(27 voters)
Language DependenceModerate in-game text - needs crib sheet or paste ups
(24 voters)
CategoryDeduction, Medieval, Murder/Mystery, Religious
MechanicArea Movement, Dice Rolling, Events, Hand Management, Paper-and-Pencil, Set Collection
ExpansionMystery of the Abbey: The Pilgrims' Chronicles
FamilyGame: Mystery of the Abbey, Religious: Monks/Abbots & Monasteries/Abbeys
Primary NameMystery of the Abbey
Alternate NamesDas Geheimnis der Abtei, Meurtre à l'abbaye, El Misterio de la Abadía, Il Mistero dell'Abbazia, Mystère à l'Abbaye, Het Mysterie van de Abdij, 修道院殺人事件

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Mystery of the Abbey – monks have secrets
Final word
Mystery of the Abbey is the perfect entertainment for wider family circle and thoughtful players. That's because the game will need at least four players to be really enjoyed. Although the game is simple, it contains a number of different actions and opportunities, that need lots of text. The game is all mainly about the ability to deduce the correct answer from the evidence before others do it. Indeed, it is a true detective work. It's a little longer, but still fun. It's no secret, that Mystery of the Abbey is a really good game.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
great gift for lovers of deduction
public questioning
less chance
lots of cards and other events
motion not governed by dice
ideal family fun
Cons
deduction games have it tough to stand out
length of the game
4
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