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Mystery of the Abbey
includes The Pilgrims' Chronicles expansion
List Price: $60.00
Your Price: $53.99
(Worth 5,399 Funagain Points!)
from 13 customer reviews
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The Abbot is frightened. The normally peaceful Abbey of Sainte-Pierre has been in turmoil for days over the mysterious disappearance of a young novice. All clues point to foul play and suspicions run high among the congregation's monks. The Abbot has called on several renowned detectives to solve this mystery. Who will be the first to identify and confront the culprit? Only those who carefully examine the clues in the Abbeys darkest corners can solve this vexing riddle.
Mystery of the Abbey is 'the thinking person's Clue' -- a new kind of whodunit boardgame, set in a medieval French Abbey. Players must solve the crime by moving through the beautifully illustrated Abbey board, searching for clues, questioning the other monks and using their intuition to uncover the truth.
The reprint of this game includes a new 12-card expansion pack called The Pilgrims' Chronicles.
- 1 Board game
- 6 monk miniatures
- 6 deduction notebooks
- 90 illustrated cards
- pad of suspect sheets
- 3 wooden monk dice
- 1 mass bell
- 1 12-card expansion pack
- 1 Days of Wonder WebCard
Average Rating: 4.2 in 13 reviews
Mystery of The Abbey
As typical of Days of Wonder Products everything in top notch. A stunning game board showing a birdseye view of an abbey or monastery is the first thing you notice. Illustrated cards, colorful resin monks, wooden monk dice, a metal bell to ring for mass and colorful note sheets and info folder with much information at everyone's fingertips. The rulebook is one of the best for explaining the game and getting people started.
There are three religious order living in this Abbey (Which actually took place in France when King Phillip confiscated property of religious orders, but that's another story.) Each suspect has different characteristics such as being a brother, a novice, or a father.They may be hooded or unhooded, bearded or clean shaven, fat or skinny. They may be a Benedictine, a Fransican, or a Templar. You gather information by going to cells of other monks and looking at their card. Going to parlour to look at cards put aside. Event cards often place cards on a bride or in various places in the Abbey to be stumbled on.
When you end your turn in the same room as another monk you may ask them a question. The type of questions is explained in the rulebook, but this is where the game really shines. The monks may declare grand silence or answer the question, in which case you are open to answer a question. You must be truthful in these answers. In that all will hear the answers you must be careful. It's one of the greatest parts of this game.
You can go to the library once to get a card that gives you a good advantage, but only if you hold the least cards in hand. Having a card taken early can therefore be a mixed "blessing". You may go to the abbot and make a revelation of one characteristic of the murderer. You score two victory points at the end of the game if you are right. You only lose one if you are wrong. This gives an incentive to mislead others by giving a false revelation. You may also make an accusation which if right ends the game and scores victory points. If wrong sends you to the chapel for penance. The game continues you lose victory points and a turn.
My Outlook on the Game:
I know Days of Wonder listed the rooms in Latin so they could use the same board for all languages, but in that these were the way we referred to each room when I went through the seminary it brought a cold chill down my spine. (I decided against life in the religious order and I am presently married and working in the community, but my memories of this lifestyle persist,) Played with the right people this is an excellent game that can really be a blast. I recently acquired this game in a trade on BGG and it has been played several times since it's arrival.Each game so far has been a lot of fun.
I can see how one individual who doesn't understand the rules or isn't into it can bring this game down. On the other hand, few games are fun with such people so they should probably be given a beer and directed to the HDTV set while you play anyway.
The strategic elements adds more intrigue to the game play. Here are some of the features that make this work:
* You have to carefully plan your moves since you can only move to one or two rooms per turn and you will all be called to mass every four turns giving everyone an equal advantage. This can be used to your advantage if you plan ahead.
* The element of being able to make revelations as you get them (and as soon as you are able to get to the proper room) adds an additional skill to the game since the number of correct revelations you give in a game gives you two points each at the end of the game while making a correct accusation gives you four. In other words, you could win by deductive reasoning throughout the game.
* The event cards and book cards give advantages that are surprisingly worthwhile. Adding even more elements to play so that the savvy deductor can sometimes be beaten by the connivingly strategic player.
* The fact that cards rarely suspect cards are passed around at different points in the game is also strategic if you are careful what you pass to your neighbor and what you manage to hold on to.
* The option of taking a "vow of silence" and refusing to answer questions people ask is a clever element (that can also be frustrating).
* The Latin monastery setting and the humorous monkish-shines of the game play make it murderous fun. I especially like sending people to penance (loss of a turn while they pray over their sins in chapel) for misplays or wrong statements.
This is great fun and extremely replayable but much more intriguing than Clue!
Mystery of the Abbey is absolutely the pre-eminent game to lead the charge against the often times stale offerings that grace most discount retail store shelves these days.
If you are considering buying a game that will truly make for an interesting 'family game night' then this game is it.
Repeat: This game is it.
Besides having the best theme of any game that I have seen to date, bar none.... this game just mechanically plays very well. It is very well balanced and it takes a good level of skill and experience to be able to question your fellow players effectively. Finally, it requires that you put advance thought into your strategy and then execute it.
I, personally, have yet to learn how to question people well... but I have seen others question extremely effectively... and have great success because of it.
In other words, while it is a blast to play, Mystery of the Abbey definitely requires you to think well... in order to play the game well. And since it is very, very, very easy to be immersed in the theme, you soon find yourself transported into playing a murder solving monk. Yet the game is light-hearted and will provide you with some laughs.
Buy a duster. This game will make you forget about your other 'tired' and true party games and will leave them collecting dust on the shelves.
Mystery of the Abbey is that good.
Ive never been a big fan of Clue, finding that the game was too easy and that when played with players of equal skill, the game tended to favor the person whose die rolls were better. But when I heard the Days of Wonder was making a game slightly similar to Clue, designed by Bruno Faidutti and Serge Laget two fantastic designers, I was intrigued. I knew that the other two games I had played by Days of Wonder (Fist of Dragonstones and Queens Necklace) had fun rules and fantastic components, and was expecting more of the same.
So is Mystery of the Abbey a worthy addition to the Days of Wonder line? The answer is that it is one of the most fun games I have ever played, with fantastic theme and components. Let me delve a little deeper, now
First, an explanation of the game
A board is set up in the middle of the table, representing an Abbey with twenty-seven rules. Each player chooses a plastic monk figurine and places it in the Ecclesia room. Each player is given a suspect sheet, which is hidden in a deduction notebook. The suspect sheet shows pictures of the twenty-four suspect monks in the game. A deck of twenty-four suspect cards is shuffled, and one is slid under the board the evil murderer. The rest of the cards are dealt out to the players according to the number of players playing, with a few of them placed on a separate deck on the board. Each player now knows some of the suspects who did NOT commit murder and can mark them off their sheets accordingly. Two dice (with 6 faces showing the colors of the players) are rolled, and put into the two Confessional rooms. Three decks are shuffled (event cards, scriptorium book cards, and library book cards) and are put in their respective places on the board. Crypt cards are also placed on the board (not shuffled, as they are all the same). One player places a stack of eight Mass cards in front of them. Each card has numbers one through four on it, and a small bell is placed on number 1. The first round then begins.
In a round, the first player moves the mass bell to the next number. If the bell is on number 4, it is moved off the card, and Mass is called. Otherwise, the player moves his pawn up to two rooms on the board. If the player lands in the same room as another player, questioning occurs. Then the player may proceed with the action (if any) that the room they landed in entitles them to.
When two players are in the same room, they must ask each other questions. Each monk in the game has several characteristics. They have an order (Templar, Fransiscan, or Benedictine), a title (Father, Brother, or Novice), a hood (hooded, unhooded), facial hair (bearded, clean-shaven), and girth (fat or thin). Every monk is different, and so a player can ask any sort of question to the person they land on. Examples of questions are: Do you have Brother Harold in your hand?, How many fat monks have you crossed off?, Where are you going?, How many hooded monks do you have in your hand?, etc.
The player has two options when asked a question. They can put a finger to their lips, indicating a vow of silence. This means they do not have to answer the question, but they also cannot ask a question in return. Or, the player can TRUTHFULLY answer the question, and then ask a question in return, getting an HONEST answer.
After asking questions (if any), a player may take the action of the room they landed in (if any).
- If they stop in a Confessional, they take one random suspect card from the person who last was in the Confessional (marked by the die). The die is then turned to show that players color.
- Six spaces on the board represent the personal cells of each player, and are color-coded to match. If a player visits another players cell, they can randomly draw a suspect card from the cells owner. However, if the owner enters the cell and catches the snooping player, the snooper must give back the card, immediately return to the Ecclesia, and do Penance (lose a turn).
- In the Scriptorium, a player draws a Scriptorium card, and plays it immediately or keeps it, depending on the cards text.
- In the Library, a player draws a powerful Bibliotheca card, and plays it immediately. However, a player may only enter the Library if they have the least suspect cards in their hand currently, and they may only do so once per game.
- In the Parlor, a player draws the top suspect card from the suspects draw pile. If there are no suspects left, the player can ask a player for a card. (i.e. Show me a Father, or show me a bearded fat monk.) If the player asked has a card matching those characteristics, they must give it to the player asking. If they dont have the card, tough luck for the asking player!
- In the Crypt, a player receives a crypt card. These cards can be played on future turns to give the player one extra turn. Only one crypt card can be held at a time.
- In the Chapter Hall, a player may make a revelation or an accusation. All revelations made are written down, and checked at the end of the game. Revelations must specify one characteristic of the guilty monk. (i.e. The culprit is fat). An accusation specifies exactly who the murderer is (i.e. The culprit is Brother Emmanuel). If no other player holds the card of the accused monk, the game is over, and points are tallied. Otherwise, the player who holds the card shows it, and the accusing player must go to the Ecclesia and commit Penance.
- All other rooms are empty spaces.
When the bell moves off the number 4, Mass occurs. All players pieces are moved to the Ecclesia, and the instructions on the Mass card are followed. (Pass a certain number of cards to the player on your left) An event card is also drawn, and the effects are followed. The next Mass card is revealed and passed to the player on the first players right, becoming the new first player for the next round.
At the end of the game, scores are tallied. Each correct revelation scores the player two points, while incorrect revelations cause them to lose a point. Discovery of the culprit gets them +4 points, while false accusations cause them to lose two points. Whoever has the most points is the winner! (In case of ties, the person who accused correctly is the winner.)
Some comments on the game:
1). Components: The components for this game are amazing in their quality. The suspect sheets (50 of them) are full color, and are so nice that we felt bad writing on them. I think in future games, well use pencil, and erase, so that we dont waste them. The little plastic monks are funny looking and are of good quality. The board is a masterpiece, with beautiful artwork, but very distinguishable rooms. The dice are of good quality, and the little bell included is an unnecessary but very nice touch. All the cards are of superb quality, and have great artwork on them. The artwork for the suspect monks is especially striking with a strong cartoonish flair. The box is a good sturdy, square box, with a nice plastic inset that holds the components nicely. Days of Wonder makes some of the best components Ive seen in their games, and Mystery of the Abbey is their best effort yet. You certainly will get your moneys worth of components in this game!
2). Rules: The rules are very easy to understand. They are printed in an eight page, color booklet, with many color illustrations and examples. A list and picture of the components is very helpful, along with an illustration on how to set the game up. Everything is very clear, and despite the length of the rules the game is very easy to teach and be taught. Novices to board games will learn the game as quickly as board game fanatics. At the end of the rules are included some variants for game play, which help speed the game up, or take out the randomness.
3). Theme: The game is dripping with theme. The idea that you are hunting down a rogue monk who murdered his comrade is a lot of fun. The little bell, the artwork, and the rules all help to contribute to this theme. Mystery of the Abbey is one of the best themed games I have played in a long time!
4). Strategy and Luck: The game is very tactical, in deciding where to go, and what questions to ask. I will admit, however, that the cards especially the event cards, can cause a bit of randomness and chaos in the game. I personally like that a lot, but some people who want pure strategy may not. If so, however, they can remove the event cards. The library cards are also extremely powerful. I think that its a good thing to give them to the player with fewest cards, but some may not like it. So if thats the case, they can remove those cards from the game easily. These modifications are extremely simple to make, and remove luck, adding strategy. I personally like the game the way it is, but others may like the additional strategy and less chaos.
5). Fun Factor: Any way you look at, however, the game is fun. Sometimes, it may get too fun for players, like when an event card insists that all players sing, Are you sleeping in a round. But we had a blast playing the game! Its a lot of fun to try to figure out who the culprit is, and deciding where to go. The atmosphere created by the game is one of lightness and fun. Its not easy to figure out who the culprit is, but at the same time its not extremely hard either. Everyone has a good chance, and it doesnt hurt your brain while doing so. Mystery of the Abbey gets high marks in the fun department.
6). Lying and Cheating: However, all players must tell the truth and not cheat during the game. Any player who does so (even unintentionally) can ruin the game for all others. Careful attention must be paid to questions asked and answers given. We had no problems with this, but I have heard of other gaming groups who did, and I certainly see the potential for this.
7). Playing time: The game takes anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. If players dont have that much time, however, some rules can be changed to speed the game up (like moving up to three spaces). We thought the game went quickly, as it was so much fun to play, anyway!
Despite this, however, I highly recommend Mystery of the Abbey. Bruno has once again designed a game that is massively fun, yet has some strategy and tactics in it. A great theme, great components, and good rules certainly dont hurt at all. I know this game will be asked for many times in the future in my group, and I certainly will have no problem in bringing it out. I especially like the little detective notebooks, which not only provided a summary of the rules, but some strategy tips also. Days of Wonder has provided us with a fantastic game, and if you dont own it yet, it needs to be on your shelf!
This is an excellent game. I love Clue, and from the moment I first heard about Mystery of the Abbey, when a friend who had played it told me it was 'Clue on steroids,' I knew I had to have it. I didn't even bother playing it before I bought it because I knew I would love it, and I do!
One of the big differences with, and advantages over, Clue is that you have a clear shot to any room you want to go to without fear of another player dragging you elsewhere on the board, with the exception of going to Mass. Also, you really have to dig for clues to the killer's identity, whereas in Clue it's mainly guessing.
Clue will always be the master detective game for me, simply because I have so many fond memories associated with it; and Union Pacific is still, so far, my favorite European-style game. But Mystery of the Abbey definitely runs a close second to both, and I would highly recommend it to any gamer looking for a fun time.
Our group consists of gamers in their thirties, all of which have been playing strategy games for a decade or two.
Some of them were rather scptical when I brought this game to our weekly game session, noticing the '8+' on the box, they thought the game was too simple.
We quickly realized that it takes real skill to ask questions that give *you* information while carefully avoiding giving information to anyone alse about your own hand - which can make the game quite challenging for experienced gamers.
We did, however, decide after the first game to implement the 'burn the library and destroy those dangerous books' optional rule, as those cards made the 'luck' factor too high for our liking.
In short, this is one of the games that are both suitable as a 'family' game, but also for a group of experienced strategy gamers.
Whenever one approaches a new game, all kinds of strange thoughts run through the head. Is the game going to be the same as Clue? Will the game be boring? Will I enjoy the game because it is different? The board proved beautifully designed, and it is fairly easy to find the movement locations. One just has to remember doorways as the logical place for movement from area to area.
Mystery of the Abbey grows on you. You start out (at least, the five of us for a 3-6 player game) wondering whether the individual monks will have enough places to move with a movement of 1 or 2. You have keep in mind these three points: (1)move, (2)encounter, and (3)action. Our objective was to find out which monk did the dastardly deed. Most of the players first moved to the Crypt from the Chapel, because they wanted to ask other players a question. You can only ask a question if you encounter another player. Examples of questions were: Do you have a novice and a templar named Thomas? How many unshaven monks do you have in your hand? Do you have any monks in your hand named Cuthbert, Bartholomew, or Julian?
As the game progressed, we discovered most players had gone to the Crypt to obtain cards for extra movement allowances. Unfortunately, I busily went off the Scriptorium to obtain other types of cards, such as a chance to move the monks one turn anywhere on the board. I settled on their own cells for their random movement, which they were asked to leave immediately on the next turn. Normally, you can draw from another player one of his or her cards and then do penance after occupying the Cell of a Yellow or a Black monk, for examples.
The time counting proved particularly valuable in the game. You have a little tinkling bell that calls five masses during the game. The players have to watch closely the four turns on each of the mass cards. All monks have to return to the Chapel when Mass is called. Therefore, one is limited on the next-to-the-last play before Mass.
As the game became heated with the questions and the often responses from one player to take a vow of silence, one player was sure he knew who killed the other monk. After the comment from one of the players that the criminal was unshaven, another player announced he was sure the criminal was Cuthbert. A player has to go to the Chapter Hall (Capitulum)to announce even a partial guess, such as shaven/unshaven, bearded/non-bearded, or hooded/unhooded. These announcements are called revelations. You achieve two points, for example, for a partial revelation (bearded/unbearded)if you are right. The public revelation of Cuthbert cost the announcing player -1. We removed the player from the game at that point, but the announcing player should have been moved to the Chapel for penance.
Our group figured that the game can be played over for at least 27 possibilities of culprits. The game possesses versatility, and the questions also aid all the players as public announcements. As with Clue, it is best not to guess too early. When encountering another monk in the Confessional, for example, you can always draw from the encountering player's hand. Then, of course, the colored monk die is turned to your color so someone can encounter you on the next turn. One of the players remarked it is the best game he has played in some time. Another player mentioned he considered Mystery quite a good game. Having played Museum (a Clue variant game), I liked Mystery even more.
By the way, we eventually convinced the player with a vow of silence to say a few words. One is forced to say words if you ask someone else a question while encountering. Reciprocating has to occur if a question is asked. The vow of silence is not golden in this game.
After 5-6 games, I can say that our group likes this game a lot. We usually play the likes of Settlers, Princes of Florence, Entdecker, Puerto Rico and so on. My friends were a bit reluctant when I pulled out Mystery but now this is the game they always want to play. The atmosphere is exellent, and the gameplay very good. There is some luck to it and some powerful cards that add chaos to the game, a Faidutti signature. But I thought that it had just the right amount of it and that it actually adds to the game. The rules do provide for variants that make the game more strategic and less luck dependant by removing certain cards from the game.
My only complaint would be that the game can bog down when some players decide to find the perfect question. We were able to manage this by imposing a time limit. All in all, an excellent game in the genre and loads of fun.
I like this game. The more I play it the better I get and the more strategy I realize it possesses.
I like how even when it is not your turn, you can gain information by listening to other people's questions and answers. It is fun to take the vow of silence and not answer people's questions when you know it is going to frustrate them. If you like games like clue and guess who you will probably like this game as it improves both of those games to an adult level.
This game is definitely Clue with a twist, but I don't know if the twists are an improvement. The questioning is confusing. What possible information can be gleaned by finding out how many bearded monks someone has? The only valuable questions in our groups experience are about specific monks.
Don't expect someone to sit down and learn how to play in 30 seconds either. Everytime we introduce someone to this game, they really have no concept of what the best thing is to do. As a matter of fact, after playing five or six times, I don't know what is the best thing to do.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the game is the fact that just as you are making progress, you are dragged back to the start for "Mass" and are forced to pass an ever- increasing amount of your cards to the player on your left. This makes it very hard to keep secrets.Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the mystery, and some of the book cards and mass cards add interesting twists. Also, the artwork is extroardinary. But sometimes we will merely make a random guess just to get the game over with, and move on to a game we like better. Amazingly, we usually guess right.
I am happy to see this game finally published in English. There are many good things to say about the game but I won't restate what everyone else has already said.
What I will do is say that the start of the game is difficult, especially for new players, because you just aren't sure what to do. So you may feel like you don't know what you are doing and that you aren't really accomplishing anything.
The most important aspect of this is that everyone wants to ask questions, but when you have so many suspects still listed on your sheet, it comes down to the recurring question I have seen others mention which is 'what question should I ask'?
Later in the game, your questions help you narrow things down, but early on it seems they do very little. Of course, maybe I just haven't seen anyone come up with any 'good' questions yet!?
But, the lower rating is simply due to what I am looking for, and if you are excited by what the other reviews have to say, by all means get this game and give it a shot!
All the components in the game are top, top notch! Even if it were a crummy game, I'd stll want the board and other bits for role-playing or something!
The game itself reminded me of the old game Sleuth--trying to gather information to eliminate suspects by categories. Great rule book. I have not yet figured out a good system of keeping records of what the other monks reveal when questioned. It was over all too quickly! I wanted to keep playing and explore more than I wanted to solve the mystery.
I was very excited to play the game when we were reading the instruction. To me it sounded like a more intense, grown up version of clue. Unfortunately playing was terrible. You can never move very far in a round before you have to start go back to the beginning room and then by trading cards so much you can't tell if the person you are asking about is somebody new or the card you had before.
We played two games of it just to be sure, but we all hated it. Thankfully we only rented the game.
Fate selects the murderer: Shuffle one of the Suspect Cards facedown, out of play. Deal everyone a hand. Each named suspect is identified by five characteristics: Size, Rank, Monastic Order, Bearded/Clean-shaven, and Hooded/Bare-headed. You may question a competitor about his hand when your pawn lands on the space beside his. Answering gives him the right to seek information about your hand.
Entering certain rooms allows you to draw another Suspect, swipe a competitor's Suspect, draw an Action Card (allowing you to peek at others' hands or interfere with their movements), guess and declare one characteristic of the culprit, or end the game by correctly identifying him (when nobody will have his card). Earn and lose points for correct and incorrect guesses. Highest score wins. We deduce that you'll relish resolving this unholy mess.
Brother Adelmo is dead and foul play is suspected. You are charged with the task of discovering which of the resident monks in this formerly quiet and peaceful abbey is responsible for this evil deed.
Welcome to Mystery of the Abbey, the entertaining 'who-dunnit?' game from Bruno Faidutti. The game was originally released back in 1996, but has undergone a new face-lift by Days of Wonder. And what a face-lift! This new edition is beautiful, with fantastic artwork and wonderful components, down to the highly detailed monk tokens and the tiny little bell that is rung when mass is called.
The attractive appearance of this new edition was enough to entice me to finally give the game a try. You see, I'm not normally a fan of deduction-style games. Oh, I used to enjoy Clue, but games such as Code 777, Black Vienna, Sleuth and other deduction oriented games are just not my style. Thus, when opportunities arose to play Mystery of the Abbey in the past, I always shied away. However, who could pass up the opportunity to play this beautiful new version - especially when it was being taught by the designer himself!
The board depicts the Templars' Abbey, which is comprised of numerous buildings and rooms. Players represent visiting monks who are charged with the task of solving the recent murder of poor Brother Adelmo. Only one of the 24 monks has committed the deed, and players spend time visiting various rooms and questioning each other in attempts to discover his identity.
Players each receive a colorful suspect sheet, which contains illustrations of all 24 monks - in full color! Monks are divided into several different classifications: Fathers, Brothers or Novices and Templars, Franciscans or Benedictines. Further, each can be further identified by other characteristics, including beard versus clean-shaven; hooded versus no hood; or fat versus skinny. It is these characteristics that are often inquired about when questioning other players.
The deck of monk cards is shuffled and one is placed face-down by the board. This is the villain. Players then each receive a certain number of monk cards dependent upon the number of players (with four players, each player receives 5 cards). The remaining monk cards can be obtained when players visit the Parlatorium. Oh, yes, since this an old Catholic monastery, the names of the room are all in Latin!
When players receive their monk cards and obtain information concerning other monks during the course of the game, they should mark this information on their suspect sheets. There are small little icons to assist with this record keeping, but each player is free to devise whatever recording method they feel serves them best. The idea is to obtain information about the monk cards that are in play and eliminate as many monks from suspicion as possible. Keeping concise and accurate record of the information obtained is essential to playing this game well - but there's the rub. You see, cards change hands so often that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to keep track of which players have which cards. There are so many random factors and hidden card switching involved here that lovers of pure deduction games will find themselves quite frustrated. However, if you can handle this healthy dose of randomness, the process is quite enjoyable and entertaining.
Players begin the game in the chapel, a place they will return to often during the course of the game. On a turn, a player may move his token up to two spaces. If he lands in a room with another monk present, he may ask that player a question. The question can be phrased in just about any manner, with the notable caveat that it must be able to be answered in a fashion that does not give the suspect's name. Some examples of valid questions:
'How many bearded monks do you have in your hand?'
'Have you eliminated any hooded Benedictine fathers from your list?'
'Do you have the Father Sergio card?'
The player may either decline to answer the question - pleading a vow of silence - or answer it truthfully. If he does answer the question, then he may then ask a question of the phasing player in return, which must be answered truthfully. It is this questioning process that is at the heart of the game and usually reveals the most information about the various suspects.
Most of the rooms in the abbey allow the player to execute special actions upon entering them. Several of them involve the drawing of cards, which can be used to somehow affect game play. Yes, this does inject quite a bit of randomness into the game, but, hey - it's a Bruno Faidutti game, so what did you expect? A few have expressed concern that one or two of the cards may be a bit too unbalancing. If you feel that way, it is an easy matter to remove the cards that you feel are too powerful.
Here are a few examples of the room effects:
Cells: No wonder monks are so somber: they have to live in cells! If a player enters the cell of an opponent (a 'no-no', according to monk code of honor), the player gets to take one suspect card from that player's hand. If, however, the owner of a cell moves into the cell and catches you invading his private domain, you must return the stolen card and are then sent immediately to the chapel for penance.
Scriptorium: These cards have a wide variety of effects. Some of them must be played immediately, while others can be saved and used at an opportune moment. Extra turns, taking of cards, rearranging the turn order, etc. - all are possible effects of the Scriptorium cards.
Crypt: Entering the crypt not only gives you the creeps, but rewards you with a card allowing you to take an extra turn when you desire. Players may only possess one Crypt card, however.
Bibliotecha: A player may only enter this sacred domain if he possesses the fewest suspect cards. Further, a player may only enter this room once during the course of the game - it is that sacred! The player is rewarded with a powerful card that often grants riches of Biblical proportions. Since cards change hands so quickly in this game, it is wise to enter the Bibliotecha as soon as you meet the conditions. Otherwise, the window of opportunity may close quickly and you will never be able to enter.
Confessorium: There are two confessionals, each containing a color-coded die. When a player visits the confessorium, he randomly draws a card from the hand of the player whose color is face-up on the die. The die is then turned to reveal the color of the player who is currently occupying that confessional. I tend to spend a lot of time in the confessional, which takes me back to my youth as a Catholic!
Capitulum: This is the great meeting hall and the only place (without a special card) where players can make revelations and accusations. It is also located at the far-end of the abbey, so a player usually has to make a bee-line for it at the beginning of a turn.
The game is played in cycles of four rounds per turn. One player is given the deck of mass cards and a tiny bell is moved to the appropriate number on the card with each passing round. A player's turn consists of moving his token, asking questions (when appropriate) and exercising the powers granted by entering a room. After each player has taken a turn, the bell is moved to the next number on the card and the process is repeated. After each player has completed four turns, the bell is rung and all players return immediately to the chapel for mass.
At this point, the effects listed on the mass card take effect. This involves the passing of suspect cards to the player on your left. The number of cards passed increases by one with each passing turn. It is wise to attempt to keep track of which cards you possess that the player on your left has already seen. This way, you can pass those cards to him at this time and thereby not help him in his sleuthing. After the cards are passed, an event card is drawn and its effects occur. Finally, the bell and deck of mass cards is passed to the left and a new turn begins.
A word of caution for the 'keeper' of the mass cards. If he fails to remember to move the bell following a round of play, he is forced to return to the chapel and do penance, thereby forfeiting his turn for that round. Silly, but still fun.
During the course of the game, players may make revelations. To do so, they must travel to the Chapter Hall (Capitulum) and state aloud one characteristic that they feel the murderer possesses. For instance, they might claim that the murderer has a beard, or that the murderer is a Brother, etc. These revelations are recorded and points will be awarded or subtracted at the end of the game, depending upon the accuracy of the revelation. 2 points are awarded for each correct revelation, while 1 point is subtracted for each incorrect revelation. No two players may make the same revelation, but one player may make contradictory revelations.
When a player feels confident that he knows the identity of the murderer, he may travel to the Chapter Hall and make an accusation, stating flatly the identity of the monk that he feels is the murderer. If another player possesses the card for that monk, he reveals it and the accusation is proven false. The accuser loses 2 points and is moved to the chapel for penance. If, however, no one possesses the card, the accuser looks at the hidden murderer card to verify his accusation and reveals it to everyone. He is rewarded with 4 points for his brilliant detective work.
At this point, scores are tallied for each player, verifying the accuracy or inaccuracy of previous revelations. The player with the most points is the master detective and is rewarded with a Gregorian chant CD by the Abbey prelate.
Much to my surprise and delight, I've thoroughly enjoyed my visits to the Abbey. The game is fun to play and not too taxing on the brain cells. Yes, there is deduction work to be done and players must exercise their brains a bit, but there is also enough randomness involved to keep everyone involved and competitive. The brilliant detective in your group will not always win. The randomness may shake things up a bit too much for the purist, but will make the game more accessible and enjoyable for most folks. It has gone over well with folks both in my gaming group and with my wife and casual gaming friends. Although I have no desire to enter a monastery permanently, I'm certainly looking forward to further visits to this one!