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Hidden Movement Games


You didn’t see me, right? Hidden movement games are a fantastic mix of paranoia, stress, cunning and deduction. Generally, you’ll have one person who is on the run and one or more people trying to track them down and catch them. That’s not always the case but it’s a good general vibe. The person on the run will be moving about in secret, keeping track of their trail, and giving out clues as required. Sometimes the player on the run will need to accomplish some goals, maybe visit certain places, but sometimes they’re just trying to lay low or even get off the board.

The Zatu Games bloggers had a bit of a chat about these games, and these are the favourites that we came up with.

Thom Newton - Mind MGMT

This is a strange a game and I love it. It hits all the points I mentioned in the intro and adds a whole lot more to boot. It is set in the same world as the comics, available at Zatu, and the runner takes on the role of a psychic recruiter. Their job is to go and find new agents for the Mind MGMT agency. The chasers are rogue agents who are trying to track down the recruiter before they get the job done.

The map you’re all moving around has loads of different features on each space. The recruiter is secretly handed three feature types where they can recruit new agents. The other team can ask about features on the spaces they are stood on. The recruiter needs to say if they’ve visited any of those features and lay out some clues on the board. The rogue agents can then visit those clues to find out exactly when the recruiter was there. Sometimes the trail may be cold, but sometimes that’s the clue you needed to be able to close the net and move in for the capture.

There is loads more here. There are asymmetric powers, variable setups, movable walls that impede movement. And that is to say nothing of the 14 mini modules that can be mixed in to add new tools for either side to either chase down or evade capture. This is a really well-balanced hidden movement game where you always feel like you’re one step away from working it all out or evading capture for good. It just depends on which side of the table you are sat.

Captain Sonar - Harold Cataquet

When Thom Newton suggested a blog about Hidden Movement games, the one game that instantly came to mind was Captain Sonar. Now the box says that it plays 2-8, but this is really an eight player game. Your team is in charge of a sub, and your mission is to locate and destroy the opposing team’s sub. In that sense, it’s like Battleship , but both subs are moving. If you accumulate four damage points, you lose.

Each team consists of four roles – the engineer, the first mate, the captain, and the radio operator. The captain chooses the starting location, and decides (and announces to all) the direction that the sub is going to move. The map is a 15x15 grid divided into 9 quadrants.

The first mate has a grid with six systems, which he checks off to make operational. For example, after checking off the drone box four times, the drone is ready. When the captain decides to launch a drone, he simply asks the opposing team if they are in a specific quadrant.

The engineer has a different grid that directly affect the sub’s operation. For example, if the captain announces that he wants to head north, the engineer may be forced to check off a box that disables the torpedoes.

The radio operator listens to the opposing team’s captain as the direction is announced. He then writes down the path being generated, and tries to figure out where the sub is located.

Fortunately, if you don’t have enough people to play the full eight, there is also Sonar. This game plays best at two or four and takes 30 minutes. It’s played on a much smaller grid (10x10 with four quadrants), but to be honest, this game feels more like Battleship. To win this game, you simply have to hit your opponent’s sub with two torpedoes. But to fire a torpedo, you have to be in the same quadrant as them. That makes it more of a cat and mouse game.

Pandemic: On the Brink Expansion - Craig Smith

The Pandemic gaming system is enduring. It must be, because over 15 years later, people are still going toe-to-toe with those pesky red, yellow, blue and black diseases. There's also so many versions of it. Versions set in Ancient Rome, and fictional worlds such as Star Wars and the World of Warcraft.

The problem is that cooperative games aren't for everyone. The idea of working together doesn't suit every gamer. Some prefer the feel of pitting their wits against a physical opposition.

But, dear reader, what if I told you that there is a competitive version of Pandemic? A version which allows one person to work against the rest?

The On the Brink expansion allows one person to work against the others in an attempt to infect the world to the point of no return. In this hidden movement game, one player is a bioterrorist, trying to sabotage the other players. They will be adding diseases to the board, destroying research centres... just creating their own chaos.

This adds an extra puzzle for players. Do they allow the bioterrorist to do their own thing, or actively try and stop them? Trying to catch the terrorist wastes time normally spent creating cures. This expansion becomes a delicious balancing act of trying to win, but making sure you don't lose.

The bioterrorist wins if the good team don't cure all five diseases. The win condition for the good team remains the same. However, there is a chance that neither team wins. If the purple disease has been removed from the board, the bioterrorist also loses.

There's a lot of fun to be had with this expansion. If you have are a group of friends who are divided between cooperative and competitive play, this could be the game that saves your evening.

Fury of Dracula – Neil Parker

It’s one of my favourite games. It has been since the first edition. A game full of theme and flavour. Fury of Dracula is a memorable game of hidden movement and bluff and although it can be a long game it is highly recommended by me.

One player takes on the role of Count Dracula, the idea being he wasn’t destroyed after the events in Bram Stoker’s book, but he survived. The surviving hunters have seen the signs and now take up the challenge to destroy the Count once and for all.

Up to four additional players take on the roles of the hunters, Lord Godalming, Doctor Seward, Professor Van Helsing and Mina Harker. They begin in locations in Europe of their choice. Dracula then decides his location. The game then begins with the hunters travelling across the continent collecting items, gaining useful allies or events and looking for rumours of Dracula’s location, so they can rendezvous there and eliminate him.

The hunters need to break into Dracula’s recent trail. Dracula can get caught out and become revealed if he can no longer play a valid location card. This is a nice touch, as Dracula cannot play a card already in his trail, although he has the option to hide in his location or use wolf-form to take a two-space move hoping to confuse the hunters.

Dracula then uses a hidden movement deck of location cards. Since Lord Godalming has his contacts, travel by sea is known and represented by using the blue backed cards. This is injurious to Dracula but sometimes needs must. Otherwise, the land locations are red backed. Dracula plays his way by road or sea avoiding detection and when on land, placing vampires or events to hinder the hunters and surviving long enough that his threat level reaches a point the hunters cannot overturn and Dracula wins.

BEAST – Sam de Smith

Beast is, by far, my favourite hidden movement game – there’s a reason I gave in 91% in my review and it continues to be one of Zatu’s top sellers! I should say that, with ADHD, I can struggle to hold lots of different options in my head at once so I’m actually not usually that big a fan of them, but Beast masterfully overcomes this, not least because of its delightful micromat for the Beast player.

The game combines deck-based hidden movement for the Beast with card-drafting of actions (basically search, attack and/or move); Beast and Hunter(s) alike can only take two actions per turn, and as a Hunter you aim to find the Beast's trail: if you search a location where Beast has been (or the Beast attacks!) its trail is revealed, and you can start to hunt it down; as Beast, you must evade the Hunters (or take the fight to them).

The game is optimal at 3, with 1 Beast and 2 Hunters co-operating, though is designed at 2-4. The combination of co-op and versus is handled very well, as Action cards are drafted between ALL players; for us, finding that sweet spot can be very tricky - my middle son, 13, is much more interested in co-op, dungeon crawl type games generally, but this achieves a compromise few others manage.

The scenarios are on 2 "Contract" boards - two 2/3 player scenarios, two 4 player, each using different sides of the map (further scenarios, and customisation rules, are available for download from the Studio Midhall site), with pegs that slot into player making it easy to manage and clear to track character skills and abilities. All of the boards are beautifully illustrated with some of the best meeples (sheeples!) I've ever seen.

The Beasts themselves all play very differently and are typically stronger in different terrain types, meaning the game has huge replayability. It's a deduction game, with a dash of the social - the round-table banter (or, in the case of my children, bickering) - as the Hunters plan their turn is all part of the immersive feel of the game, whilst the hand-drafting plays to the tactical gamer and builds the complexity of the whole package without tipping into the upper end of mid-weight. It's a really impressive package, playable in under an hour, and an all-out star game.