Saboteur is a fun, party-worthy game – especially if you learn it from someone who has played it before. And even more especially if you’re playing with 5-10 people (though you can play it with as few as 3).
The instructions, though well-written and not overly complex, require more patience than most Major Fun games – the path cards and the cards that blow up paths and the role cards and the goal cards and the gold cards and the action cards with tools and cards that break tools and, well, if you try to figure out what each card does before you start playing the game, you’ll probably lose patience before you discover the sheer fun of it all.
So here’s the gist. There are miners and there are saboteurs, maybe. Depending on how many people are playing and what role cards are drawn. Nobody knows for sure until the end of the game who’s what. The miners are trying to build a path to the gold card. The saboteurs are trying to keep the miners from succeeding. Whoever succeeds, miners or saboteurs, get to share the wealth.
There are 110 cards – well-made, nicely illustrated. Players get 4-6 cards, depending on how many are playing. The three goal cards are placed, face down, on one end of the board. Only one of those cards has the big gold nugget. You won’t know which unless you draw a card that allows you to sneak a peek. At the other end of the table, exactly seven card-widths away, is the start card. Players take turns playing path cards, face up, so that a path is made from the start card, ultimately, hopefully, to the gold card. There are cards that can blow up path cards – forcing the miners to create a different path. There are cards that can keep players from playing. Now, if you’re a Saboteur, sooner or later you’re going to want to blow something up, or play one of those bad cards on somebody or play a path card that creates a dead end. But if you do this too soon, tipping your hand, as it were, then the miners (a.k.a. “dwarves”) will gang up on you. So there’s this exciting tension that builds up, and sense of secrecy, and alliances, and, well, it gets more and more fun, until everyone knows who’s who and what’s where. And by then, the game’s over.
It doesn’t take long to play (10, maybe 20 minutes for a round). You’re supposed to play three rounds. Which you probably will. Because, like I said, it’s fun, it’s a game you can play with as many as 10 people.