Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer, goes the famous retort. But what if your friend is also your enemy? Light your lamp and come a little closer. I am going to teach you how to play Saboteur. If you trust me?
Preparation for this game is remarkably simple.
Separate the cards into the different types. They are very easily distinguishable so do not worry that there are no words on the cards. This is more easily done if you turn all the cards upside down as they all have different coloured backs.
- Copper back: The role cards. These have the gnomes, sorry, dwarves on them.
- Yellowback: The gold cards which will be left to one side until the end of each round.
- Greyback: The path cards and the equipment cards.
- Brownback: The three-goal cards; look like the standard path cards only two will have coal in the middle, and one will have gold in the middle.
- The one starting location card. It has a ladder in the middle and is double-sided for ease of sight.
You can safely shuffle the path cards and equipment cards together to form the draw pile.
Setup is also a simple process.
Give the gold cards a quick shuffle too but keep them to one side for now. They are only used at the end of each round.
For now, all you need is the double-sided starting card and the three-goal cards. Give the goal cards a quick shuffle and keep them face down.
Take the starting card (the one with the ladder in the middle) and place it down. Then you are going to want to space out a distance of 7 cards to the right of the start card and place one of the goal cards face down in the space that is 8 cards distance away. The other two-goal cards will be placed above and below the one you just placed. Just leave a 1 card gap in between the ones above and below. Be sure to keep them face down.
This setup is the same regardless of the number of players.
Path and Equipment Cards…
Make sure you have thoroughly shuffled these cards together. Then deal them out depending on the number of players:
- 3 to 5 players: 6 cards each.
- 6 to 7 players: 5 cards each.
- 8 to 10 players: 4 cards each.
Place the rest in a draw pile.
A team of dwarves are not always a trustworthy bunch.
There are 2 types of roles in Saboteur. The gold-diggers and, of course, the saboteurs.
You will give everyone a face down role card at the start of each round.
The amount of role cards you shuffle together depends on the number of players playing:
- 3 players: 1 saboteur and 3 gold-diggers.
- 4 players: 1 saboteur and 4 gold-diggers.
- 5 players: 2 saboteurs and 4 gold-diggers.
- 6 players: 2 saboteur and 5 gold-diggers.
- 7 players: 3 saboteur and 5 gold-diggers.
- 8 players: 3 saboteur and 6 gold-diggers.
- 9 players: 3 saboteur and 7 gold-diggers.
- 10 players: All role cards.
This ensures that you never truly know how many saboteurs are in play. For example: if you are playing a 3-player game, 4 role cards are shuffled, 1 each dealt face down to each player. Then the remaining card is put to one side face down.
You need to deduce who is working as a team, or who is trying to stop the team!
How to Play…
That might of all seemed like a lot to take in, but rest assured, it is an extremely easy process. So, all the prep-work and setup are done and dusted, lets get into the main event!
There is no specific rule on who goes first, so pick a method that suits you best. Roll dice, pick straws, whoever won the last game played, most handsome, most sleep-deprived: whatever works!
By now everyone will have been dealt their starting hand, and a secret role card.
On your turn, there are only 3 options for you:
- Play a path card.
- OR play an action card.
- OR pass the turn by discarding a card face down.
After you have done one of these actions, you then draw a card from the draw pile and end your turn.
If the deck runs out, then no more cards are drawn. Play continues with the same rules as before, play a card or pass and discard a card face down.
The round ends if the gold-diggers have reached the gold. Or if the saboteur(s) have done their job efficiently, and successfully made the gold-diggers run out of cards, thus stopping them from reaching the gold.
The game is played over 3 rounds, after each, the goal cards are mixed up and re-laid. The role cards are shuffled with the one that was left to one side and everyone receives a new role, again, placing the remaining card to one side face down.
Playing a Path card…
For a path card to be placed, it must be placed portrait (longer height than width), and ALL paths must connect to surrounding path cards already in play.
You can only play a path card if it connects to another path card, to simulate digging out tunnels toward the goal cards.
Once one of the paths touch a goal card with an open path, the goal card is flipped face-up. If it is the gold card, then the gold-diggers have won. If it is a coal/rock card, then the card is oriented to match the path in play, and the round continues. This can result in a situation where all paths do not match up as the coal/rock goal cards only have a path connecting 2 sides. Decide together what makes the most sense, do not stress over it, and continue the round.
If a path card is placed next to a goal card but does not have an open path touching the goal card, then it is not flipped face up. Gold-diggers will have to work around it.
Playing an Action card…
If you choose to play an action card instead of a path card then you place the card either in front of yourself, or the player you are playing it on. But what do the action cards do?
- The map cards: this lets you pick up any of the goal cards and look at them. You can then inform the other players what it is, but you are not allowed to show them! (So, feel free to lie about it if you want).
- Tool breaking cards:
- Lamp break: breaks the lamp of whoever is given the card.
- Pickaxe break: breaks the pickaxe of whoever is given the card.
- Minecart break: you guessed it! Breaks the minecart of whoever is given the card.
- Tool repair cards:
- Lamp repair: fixes the lamp of whoever is given this card.
- Pickaxe repair: fixes the pickaxe of whoever is given this card.
- Minecart repair: you guessed it again! (You are good at this!) Fixes the minecart of whoever is given this card.
- Dual tool repair cards: These work the same as the standard repair cards only they can fix a choice of tools. They can only fix ONE of the depicted tools, however, not both.
- Rock-fall cards: these allow you to remove a path card from the play area. (besides the starting location card).
You can only place a broken tool card on someone if they do not already have that type in front of them. Anyone can have 1 of each of their tools broken.
A player who has any broken tool cannot play any new path cards until all their tools have been repaired. They can still play action cards though.
You can only play a repair card on someone if the depicted tool of theirs is already broken.
You can use a map card to view a goal that someone else has already looked at.
Action Card Iconography…
There are no words on any of the playable cards, so it is important to note that there are icons in both top corners of each action card.
These icons are very well presented, and you should have no problem discerning between which is which.
The actions that break tools have the icon of the tool it breaks in the corner, in a red circle with a red line through it.
The actions that repair tools have the same icon but in a green circle.
The map and rock-fall cards are in a grey circle with their respective icons in them.
Each action card also has artwork that depicts the action too so almost everyone should have no problem in knowing which card is which.
Win Conditions and End of the Round…
As mentioned earlier, there are two conditions that will end the round. After either of them have been met, everyone reveals their role cards.
Gold-diggers Win Condition…
If the gold-diggers have managed to work together to dig a path to the gold goal card, then the round is over, and the gold-diggers have won the round. If this happens then the player who connected the path to the treasure goal draws from the gold deck however many cards as there are players. In a 10-player game, however, only 9 are drawn. The player who drew the cards gets to choose one of them and places it face down in front of themselves. They then pass the remaining cards to the next gold-digger anti-clockwise, and the process continues until all the cards have been chosen.
Notes: Saboteurs do not get any gold if this is the win condition met. It is also possible at higher player counts and if all saboteurs are in play, that some gold-diggers will get more than one gold card.
It is important to state too that the gold cards depict either 1, 2 or 3 gold nuggets. The more gold nuggets you have at the end of the 3 rounds the better your chance of winning.
Gold-diggers can not reveal a goal card unless the entire path is complete. This means if any have been taken away with a rock-fall, then the path needs to be reconnected to the start card before you can place the last path card.
Saboteurs Win Condition…
If the saboteur(s) manage to deny the gold-diggers of reaching the treasure gold card, then they win the round. This will be triggered when the gold-diggers can not play any more path cards and have discarded all their cards. This of course is only achievable if the whole draw deck has been cycled through.
If the saboteurs manage to pull this off, then each of them gets gold nuggets according to how many of them there are:
- 1 saboteur: 4 gold nuggets.
- 2 or 3 saboteurs: 3 gold nuggets each.
- 4 saboteurs: 2 gold nuggets each.
If this win condition is achieved (somehow, miraculously) if there are no saboteurs in a 3-player game, then nobody gets any gold.
Note: the saboteurs get that many gold nuggets, NOT that many gold cards.
After the appropriate amount of gold has been distributed then the round is over. Everything is reset and reshuffled ready for the next round. You keep any gold cards you have earned though. These are kept face down until the end of the game. The player to the left of the player who played the last card starts the next round.
When the 3rd round has come to an end then the game is over. Whoever has the most gold nuggets is the overall winner. Hooray!
Quick Tips for Playing as a Gold Digger…
- Maps are your best friend. Use them to inform other players where the gold goal is, or double-check someone else’s use of the map card.
- Do not be afraid to pass and discard a card if you have no way to help the group yet.
- If you suspect someone of being a saboteur, go ahead and break their tools.
- Do not be too aggressive or players may suspect you of being the saboteur.
- Keep hold of rock-falls in case a saboteur blocks the path to victory.
Quick Tips for Playing as a Saboteur…
- Do not make yourself suspicious straight away. Blend in for now!
- Maps can be used very effectively:
- Send people towards a coal/rock by claiming it is the gold.
- Check someone else’s use of the map:
- If they say it is gold, and it is a rock/coal, then you know they are a fellow saboteur, tell people it is definitely gold. Double alibi!
- If they say it is coal/rock, you can claim it is the gold and throw suspicion towards them.
- If they say it is gold, you can claim it is a rock/coal and again, throw suspicion their way.
- Tell people where the gold is, then if someone double checks and it IS the gold, you have an accomplice in your alibi!
- Try and cast doubt on others and break their tools. Or convince others to do so!
- Use a rock-fall to take away a path that will be hard to replace.
- Only repair your own tools or the tools of people you know for sure are also saboteurs.
Even More Things to Note…
You can relax now. This subheading was simply a joke. Reading through this will seem like a whole lot to take in, but honestly, it is a very simple game, as soon as you have played a couple of turns, you will be fine. The box for this game fits in one of my hands, it is a small game that can be a lot of fun to pull out and play. It scales well with any player counts so do not simply let a lot of words from putting you off. It is cheap, small, and enjoyable.
You can find Saboteur here.
If you like the sound of this game, but want more roles, path types and madness, then Saboteur 2 is an expansion that adds all of this.
If you like the sound of this game but only have 1 other person to play with? Saboteur The Duel is what you need.
If you like the sound of this game but you are more into board games and want a game that combines a lot of the elements from Saboteur, Saboteur 2 and Saboteur The Duel, then Saboteur The Lost Mines is the one for you.
I hope you have found this guide helpful and informative, but most importantly, I hope you have as much fun with this little masterpiece as I do.