Pushing Your Luck
Tripwire’s contributing writer Simon Kennedy takes a look at VR Distribution’s Saboteur…
Dwarves love to mine apparently. They love nothing more than searching for gold in the caves of some far away mine. Snow White taught us this. Sleepy, Plucky, Picky and the gang (I think that’s their names) were never happier than swinging and smashing. SABOTEUR from Amigo goes one step further. It now has an additional dwarf thrown into the mix. No other than Saboteury. An evil dwarf that wants to stop the fun of the picks striking rock and the gold that follows. Designed by Fréderic Moyersoen and designed for 3 to 10 players (nice in the time of quarantine!) It is designed for players that are 8 and over and should take 30 minutes (our game took 40 mins and could have gone on longer.)
SABOTEUR has a strange aura around it. It was released over 15 years ago. It’s a critically well-trodden game. You can see this simply by looking at Board Game Geek (the bible of the board industry.) I will parrot much of what has been said before. It visually feels like a twee idea and the release has not altered. The silly looking dwarves, the rather bland tile cards. Then you get the odd-looking flip cards that seem to originate from the Victorian era. Then the mechanics of the game. Upgraded since by games like BANDIDO. Your draw and place. That’s the turn. It is a thing done so often that you now despair about seeing it again. Playing it again. We don’t want another card placement game. We don’t want thought control. This dark sarcasm is not warranted though. For great ideas and even greater mechanics work always and forever. You know this. I know this.
SABOTEUR is a game of tile placement and pushing your luck, all while one (or more up to 3) players are out to give you the shaft (literally). This needs little more added to it than that to be exciting. Players are constantly in flux. They are constantly kept in a suspension of fear, optimism and deviousness. You can play it in a myriad of ways and come out each game with differing results. Play casual and get stung. Or not. Play serious and plot. Get stung. Or not. This is the games real strength. Play is designed to be freaky. Frantically trying to subdue the sabotage that is impending. Players can’t escape but they could win big. Gameplay like this is rare. Hens have more teeth. More versions have been made of this game because it works so well. Play it and see. SABOTEUR deserves respect. It might look like it originated from the 1800s but it is a timeless piece of playing brilliance. More power to it for staying the course. Like Monopoly or my favourite Cluedo. As the past says to us. If it ain’t broke, they don’t fix it.