Saboteur 2

Tabletop Tuesdays: Delicious Treachery

System Requirements:
Tabletop and Literacy
Frederic Moyersoen

The "treason" game mechanic is rare in videogames. There are few thing that more delicious than the thrill of betraying someone at the perfect moment. It is akin to seeing the perfect cherry blossom or a prancing unicorn -- a truly magical moment. Treason game mechanics are found in some tabletop games but most of them are lengthy or have player elimination.

This is where Saboteur 2 shines. Saboteur 2 has three intense 20 minute rounds with no player elimination. Three rounds means that lots of players get to play traitors. Saboteur 2 is an expansion to Saboteur, thus you need Saboteur to play Saboteur 2. Saboteur 2 fixes the game balance issues of the Saboteur(s) losing more often.

The original Saboteur is a game about a happy dwarven mining camp infested with Saboteurs, the traitors. The goal of the team is to mine and find gold while the goal of the Saboteurs is to deceive the team and delay until time runs out, allowing the Saboteurs to get the gold. Each player receives a role card: Gold-Digger or Saboteur. The number of Saboteurs is random, ranging from one to half the team, depending the number of players. You can make any claim of identity but you never reveal your role card. Each turn, you play or discard a mining card then pick one up. A majority of the mining cards are tunnels that are played on the table to build a path to the gold, like Carcassonne. Some cards break or fix equipment. If you have broken equipment, you cannot play mining cards. If people think you are a Saboteur, your equipment will constantly break, faster than you can repair it. As a Saboteur, you want to collude with other Saboteurs to misdirect accusation to innocent dwarves.

Saboteur 2 adds new roles and competition within the dwarves, restoring the game balance. Since the number of saboteurs varies from round to round, Saboteurs can be greatly outnumbered. Saboteur 2 add new roles that create Gold-Digger sub-teams as well as roles with hidden agendas that cause conflicts or even indifference with the team's goal. For instance, the Geologists do not care who get the gold; their share of the gold is determined by tunnel cards on the table with crystals on them. The internal conflicts among the Gold-Diggers ensure that the Saboteurs have a fighting chance each round.

You will lie, you will be lied to, and yet it is all in jest, and no feelings will be hurt. Only a handful of games can have this much betrayal without building spite or hurt feelings. Saboteur 2 is an excellent social game for up to twelve players and will provide you with an hour of great memories.


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This sounds like a hybrid of Mafia/Werewolf (it may have many other names at other camp fires and dinner parties) with a point-scoring card game. Naturally, the metaphor could be changed to suit different tastes. It makes me want to try hybridising some other games, like a memory game with a simple wargame. Wait, that's Stratego.

Not Mafia/Werewolf

The big difference is that somebody dies every round in Mafia/Werewolf--player elimination. There is also playing cards, digging tunnels on the table which leads to light hand management in Saboteur 2.

As for me a player being eliminated in the early rounds is archaic game design and a deal breaker for me. That is why I recommend playing Saboteur 2 over Mafia/Werewolf.

Still similar to Mafia/Werewolf

I would put all of these games in the same general genre. Sebastian is correct that a primary mechanical difference is that Mafia/Werewolf has player elimination; a similar game, The Resistence (previously reviewed on PTT: ), adds a small amount of extra complexity to remove player elimination and give players extra information as the game progresses, worth looking into if you like these kinds of games.

I'd say the largest difference between Saboteur and Mafia is that it is not merely a game of unfounded accusations and being convincing enough to get others to go along with you. In Saboteur you take in-game actions that move all players closer to or further from a defined goal state, so every action any player takes has a meaning of its own, outside the context of metagame accusations.

In this sense, Saboteur is closer to other board games that have cooperation-with-a-traitor mechanics (the best known probably being Shadows Over Camelot, and Battlestar Galactica). On that note, think I'll go write up a review of Shadows Over Camelot in a bit when I have some free time... provided Sebastian doesn't get to it first.