Mystery of the Abbey Game Session

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Review by Paul Davidson
Newsgroups: rec.games.board
Date: 2003-05-14
 
The new edition of Mystery of the Abbey (Mystère de l'Abbaye) from Days of Wonder is finally available, and my copy arrived yesterday. We've had one game so far, and it's a unique, enjoyable experience.
 
It's a deduction game, but the card-switching mechanic makes perfect knowledge very difficult to achieve (unlike Clue), so a mix of strategic questioning and informed guessing is required. One advantage is that people who don't want to do much deduction can still participate and have a good time (though they're at a disadvantage).
 
Also unlike Clue, there is no one optimal way to record information. Any single approach will exclude useful information. We did come up with several good methods, and each lends itself to a different style of play. In short, though Mystery of the Abbey be madness, yet there is method in it.
 
Here's our gaming session (also posted at BoardGameGeek.com):
 
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When my five companions (Catherine, Chris, Megumi, Jeff, and Wendel) and I arrived at the abbey, we knew something was amiss. It wasn't long before the abbot had told us about Brother Adelmo's death and begged us to apply our deductive powers to the mystery.
 
Most of my companions immediately convened in the South cloister to compare notes. "How many Benedictines do you have? How many Fathers? Is your Father fat?" I had other plans, however. I snuck off to the Scriptorium and found a book, De Alchemia, which I suspected would come in handy later on. Brother Wendel went off to the Confessionals in search of incriminating gossip. Eventually, we all returned to the Chapel for Matins prayer, where we implored the Lord's mercies for the soul of poor Adelmo.
 
The next hour took an interesting turn. Brother Wendel went off to explore the Crypt, while Brother Jeff found his way into the forbidden Library. Something he learned there prompted him to make a startling revelation: "The culprit is a Novice!"
 
Feeling that even the appearance of progress was important to my investigation, I proceeded to the Chapter Hall, where I made a revelation of my own based on circumstantial clues. "The culprit is skinny!" Would my statement later prove to be correct?
 
Our queries continued as time passed. Most of my companions shared their knowledge without complaint, but suspicious Brother Wendel maintained a Vow of Silence whenever questioned. Sister Catherine declared the culprit to be a Brother, contradicting Jeff's claim. I was made to serve penance by the abbot for failing to tend the Mass bell when it was my turn.
 
It was beginning to dawn on me that keeping certain cards secret from the others would be a big strategic advantage. Using my study of De Alchemia as an excuse, I skipped prayer and the card exchange at Prime and instead went off to search my companions' cells.
 
The investigation was heating up, and many of the others had formed opinions about the murder. Filled with rapture by the bones of Saint Galbert, Sister Megumi went straight from the Chapel to the Chapter Hall, where she publicly accused Brother Malachi. Alas, I had the Malachi card, which I had cleverly kept a secret! Megumi went off to do penance for her poor judgement.
 
Heeding the results of Megumi's over-zealousness, we continued our search for clues. While others were examining books from the Scriptorium and Library, I made another spurious revelation. "The culprit weareth no hood!" Brother Jeff declared the culprit to be Benedictine, and Sister Megumi retorted that he was Franciscan, whoever he was.
 
After catching Megumi in his room and sending her to the Chapel for penance, Brother Chris stood up to make an accusation. "J'accuse Novice Guy!" But he too fell blunder to my craftiness, for the Guy card was another clue I had kept secret! Wendel proceeded to accuse Brother Berengar, but his charge was also incorrect, and he joined Chris and Megumi for penance.
 
After a brief Mass, it was Sister Catherine's turn to try and solve the riddle. Having narrowed down the list to two suspects (or so she thought), she discovered that one did not match Jeff's three revelations, so she asked him a clever question. "If you could, would you take back any of your revelations?" He answered yes, so on her next turn Catherine stood up to reveal the murderer. "Brother Cyrille hath done it!" Wrong again! Sister Megumi had been hiding that card.
 
Finally, Brother Chris came forth to make a second accusation. "It was Bartholomew!" And silence came over us, for he was right, and the Mystery of the Abbey was solved.
 
It turned out that both my revelations were wrong, so I lost 2 points. Two of Jeff's three were correct, giving him 3 points, while Chris's correct accusation only partially absolved him of his earlier blunder, giving him 2 points. Jeff would prove to be the winner.
 
Final scores: Jeff 3, Chris 2, Megumi 0, me -2, Wendel -2, and Catherine -3.
 
A fun time was had by all, even though none of us "had a system" yet, playing our first game. Next time will be different, I'm sure.
 
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Paul Davidson
 
 
 
Special thanks to Paul Davidson for his permission to publish his review