Saboteur Review
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Players: 3-10 (ages 8+)
Playing Time: 30-40 minutes


Spying and sabotage aren’t just for secret agents. This wicked little card game of secrets and deception reveals a world of underground espionage among treasure-hunting dwarves.

Saboteur can be played with as few as three players or as many as 10—and the rules depend on the number of players. Since I played with three players, though, I’ll describe the three-player version.

To start, you must set up the playing surface in an imaginary grid. On one end, you place three goal cards (two of which show empty tunnels, while the other contains the treasure), face down. On the other end—seven card widths away, in the middle of the space—you place the start card. The distances aren’t really easy to guess—so a game board (or even a mat) of some sort would be nice—but you can always move the cards around as you go.

  
 
Before you can begin playing, you must also determine your secret goal. Two or three of the players will be gold-diggers, whose goal is to tunnel their way to the goals, searching for treasure. Meanwhile, one (or, possibly, none) of the players will be the saboteur, whose goal is to destroy tunnels and divert paths away from the treasure.

Once you have everything set up, you’ve made it through the hardest part. Game play, then, is surprisingly simple. Players begin the game with six cards—and they take turns playing (or discarding) cards. Some of the cards are path cards, which allow you to tunnel across the table toward the treasure. Others are action cards, which allow you to sabotage your opponents.

If a player reaches the treasure, the gold-diggers win—and they’re awarded a number of gold nuggets. If, however, all of the cards are played before anyone makes it to the treasure, the saboteur wins the round (and the gold nuggets). The player with the most gold nuggets at the end of three rounds wins the game.

Saboteur is a smart and sophisticated game—yet it’s one that most of the family will be able to play without much of a problem. The rules are quite simple and straightforward, and while there are some basic strategies involved, it isn’t the kind of game that requires carefully planned tactics or heavy concentration. In fact, even younger family members will catch on quite quickly—and since the game is played in relatively short rounds, it easily holds younger players’ attention.

As you play, you’ll never know who’s working with you—or who’s working against you. And that tends to make players pretty suspicious of one another. Before long, players will start sabotaging each other, skeptical of even the slightest move—and often unaware that they’re sabotaging fellow diggers. It makes for a whole lot of paranoid fun—and when players finally reveal their identity at the end of the round, you might just be in for a surprise or two.

So if your family is tired of the same old family card game, give Saboteur a try. If your family already has trust issues, however, be warned that playing this game will only make things worse.

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