Saboteur 2 – More than Double the Fun
I have a confession to make, well just one in public.
“I made a mistake and I am human”
To my family this will come as absolutely no surprise. As I started to consider this card game I confess it was a fortunate mistake that enabled me to stumble upon this wonderful gem. Sometimes on a journey you take a wrong turning. This means you end up exploring places well off the beaten track – and being grateful for the inconvenience. This is one of those times.
As a family we had just enjoyed playing the “standard” Saboteur card game by Amigo Spiele at the local board game event one Sunday afternoon. We played with six (although the base game will support three to ten gamers). We enjoyed the simplicity of the game and the children enjoyed trying to work out who was the troublemaker of the group.
On returning home we decided to order it. In my haste I ordered Saboteur 2. I failed to read the small print that this expansion requires the Saboteur base game. A few days later Saboteur 2 arrives and I hastily un-wrap it, only to realise my error. I came clean to my wife, confessed my faults (she knows them already) and promptly ordered the base game. Of course, I did have to assure her that this was not a ploy to get two games when we had agreed “just one for this week!”
I am so glad that we now have both of these games. Saboteur as a base game is OK, and playing with six was fine, but not stunning. This article will assure you that a diversion, “off piste”, into the Saboteur 2 expansion is not only a welcome distraction but a massive improvement on this game.
Saboteur and Saboteur 2 Gameplay
Saboteur and Saboteur 2 are card-driven, hidden role games. Using a set of cards the players are assigned roles. In the base game this may be a miner, looking for gold, or a rogue. The saboteur is going to stop at nothing to prevent the quest for gold being fulfilled. From a fixed starting point (a card) each player takes turns to extend the tunnels. The aim is to reach one of the three hidden treasure cards on the other side of the table. But only one actually contains gold.
Players can use cards in their hand and draw new ones each turn. Most cards contain branching pathways or dead-ends. Some might provide helpful equipment like a map. Other cards might hinder the other diggers. You might break their pickaxe or smash their light. This will stop them taking the pathways in the wrong direction – but are they the saboteur, or is it you? This is the beauty of hidden role games.
Saboteur 2 takes this hidden role charade to a whole new level. Whereas the standard game is for 3 to 10 players, Saboteur 2 now plays for 2 to 12. The expansion pack contains extra pathway cards. Many of these are more complicated with bridges and more dead-ends. A few contain colourful gemstones but are these valuable or are they a distraction?
The game now contains four new route cards that allow a player to immediately reach ground level and bypass any obstacles. The extra cards already will double the deck size. On top of this, there are additional action cards. Some allow you to put other players into a lock-up. This will stop them causing trouble, or perhaps allow you to cause mischief! Other cards allow you to steal gold at the end of the round or other cards will stop the thief.
The role cards in Saboteur 2 bring plenty of chances to win, or influence the outcome. The miners looking for gold are now divided into two teams, red and blue. This is important. The “winning” team claiming the gold must have a complete, uninterrupted pathway from the mouth of the mine to the gold. Some of the pathway cards contained coloured doors. These may only be passed/ opened by miners of that colour. This means that even if the gold is found one team might be excluded from a claim of the treasure if the doors are “against them”.
The saboteur role is still present but there are other secret roles. If you are the boss then you really do not care who wins. As long as someone gets to the treasure you are assured a share of the spoils. A profiteer role will win something (albeit less) whatever the outcome. The geologist is only there for the fun of exploring the mines. Their goal is to extend the mine pathways as long as possible to find as many gems. A quick claim of the gold will not be in his interest.
Thoughts on Saboteur 2
The Saboteur 2 expansion fits alongside the standard game. All of the cards are of the same size and feel of a standard playing card. They have identical backs to the original cards. Each of the new cards has a “2” in the lower left corner to allow them to be separated more easily. The player’s hidden role cards do supersede the existing role cards of the base game.
In the base game the rewards for finding the treasure are cards with containing gold symbols. Now this expansion provides small tokens. This will facilitate the “theft” element at the end of each round. These cardboard hexagons are very small. They are functional, not of high quality, but in keeping with an inexpensive game. Committed gamers could easily use alternative tokens for gold nuggets if they preferred a more delux experience. For us, these fit in the box with the cards and work just fine.
There are some additional rules that enhance the gameplay. One of the frustrating parts of Saboteur (base game) is that an opponent can stop you digging by playing a card, for example by breaking your pickaxe. In Saboteur 2 you can choose to discard any two cards to remove the obstacle, before drawing your next card. Whilst this does mean you can keep extending the tunnels, you now have one less card in the hand.
In order to get through the expanded, combined deck of cards some players (especially the saboteur) might choose to discard up to three cards and re-draw that number. This will get through the deck quickly but means that potentially valuable cards might be lost early in the game.
Sometimes (especially during lockdown) it can be difficult to bring a large group together for games. Saboteur 2 allows even two to enjoy the game. I would venture that this expansion works very well with just a handful of gamers. The variety of roles means that you may all be aiming for the same outcome albeit in a different way.
The opportunity to swap roles (and turn traitor or good guy) can allow you to turn a potential disaster into a lucrative situation. In playing last night it was very satisfying to use this function. I had been a saboteur and had very successfully hindered progress and blocked the (known) gold nugget card. I realised I would get at least as much gold by selecting a new role at random. By being dealt a new role (as a miner) I knew I had suitable cards to get the gold, hinder others and cash in handsomely. Being a “turncoat” is not necessarily something I would encourage in my children. However, this mechanism did show the importance of re-evaluating a situation and being prepared to adapt.
Most rounds take about 15 minutes to reach the gold. The number of gold pieces distributed will depend on the hidden roles. An additional complexity is the ability to play a thief or stop thief card during the game. A player might choose to steal a gold piece from another player at the end of their turn. This means that even if you fail to achieve your target you can still money in your bag.
It is usual to play the game over three rounds. The roles are changed each time, to give opportunity to cause havoc or just profiteer from other’s actions. The winner is the player with the most gold. Forty-five minutes is about right for this game.
Rocks in the Road?
Saboteur 2 adds so much more to the base game. The ability to remove hindrances (such as broken equipment) by discarding a card is a good mechanic. This creates a dilemma for the player. Should you continue to develop the tunnels, but with a reduced hand, or wait until a repair card comes your way, or even see if another play has pity on you and repairs your item as their turn? The thief cards are a good addition, but they are “free gold”. I believe they ought to be paid at a cost. Finally, the game still feels slightly stacked against the saboteur. I have some thoughts about how these minor wrinkles may be ironed out – but that ought to be saved for another article.
Final Thoughts on Saboteur and Saboteur 2
I am so glad that I have Saboteur 2. My “mistaken” order has proved to be a godsend. Indeed, I would say this expansion is how hidden role games should play. Rather than a “black versus white”/ miner versus saboteur, there are shades of grey. Some players may want a win but not too bad – but not too much. Others want a win but do not care who succeeds. People’s motives are not always straightforward. Saboteur 2 helps you to “read” people through their actions, which is often useful in dealing with others in real life.