Stefan Feld


No. of Players:
2 - 5



Thousands of copies of the detective game Cluedo by PARKER have been sold over the years, but now RAVENSBURGER has decided that time would be ripe the change the player's point of view. Securing the rights to do a boardgame-conversion of Umberto Eco's famous novel "The Name of the Rose", RAVENSBURGER and author Stefan Feld now have released a new boardgame under this name in which the players take the role of suspicious monks who have to divert the accusations of the inquisitive Brother William of Baskerville.

I guess that the story of the best-seller novel will be known quite well to most readers due to the successful film adaptation with Sean Connery, so let me just summarise the plot in very few sentences. The story takes places at a medieval abbey in northern Italy, and a conclave of monks is scheduled to take place at the abbey in a week's time. However, there have been some unexplainable deaths among the ranks of the resident monks, and one of the monks who has come to visit the conclave is William of Baskerville who is widely respected for his clear intellect concerning the solving of crimes. The abbot sets William and his young aide Adson to the task of solving the crime, and during the course of the story they find out about the vitiosity of some of the monks and the special liking they have taken in a frivolous book on Christ which could be found in the abbey's famed library tower.

Unlike the usual detective games, in Der Name der Rose the players assume the roles of different monks who have fallen under the suspicion of William and Adson and who now are trying to divert these suspicions to their fellow players. Each player is secretly assigned a monk's personality at the beginning of the game, but regardless of the number of participating players there will always be a total of six different monk figures which are distributed on some of the abbey buildings on the gameboard at the beginning of the game. In addition, two other buildings are assigned a figure of William and Adson, and during the course of the game each player actually may move any of the figures on the board. Apart from the character card which the players keep secret, everybody also receives a starting hand of three action cards, and furthermore a set of six colour markers, with one marker matching the colour of each of the six monks. A larger set of task markers featuring a monk's colour and a number is also shuffled and two of these markers are openly assigned to each of the buildings on the gameboard, whereas the remaining 14 task markers are placed in a face-down chain next to the gameboard. Each of the monks also receives a marker on both the Suspicion and Evidence tracks, and to finish preparations a stack of event cards is shuffled and a hidden event card is placed face-down at hand for each of the six days of the game's duration.

The score which will decide about the winner of the game is Evidence, and the player whose monk is furthest back on the Evidence track will have won the game. During each day of gameplay the players will assign Suspicion points against the monks by playing their action cards and moving the monks on the gameboard, and at the end of each day the current scores on the Suspicion track will be transferred to the Evidence track by evaluating the current ranking of the different monks. So, the leader on the Suspicion track will get assigned most Evidence points, whereas the last monk on the Suspicion track will not be assigned Evidence points at all. But let us have a closer look at how this mechanism works.

The action cards held by the players feature either a building, a certain monk or a portrait of William and Adson. Playing a building card enables a player to move a monk of his choice to that specific building, whereas the playing of a monk card gives the player a possibility to move that specific monk to a building of his choice. When the monk has been moved, the task markers at the building he has entered will be cross-referenced with the colour of the monk. If a matching task marker is available, the monk had a reason to enter that specific building. This makes his behaviour unsuspicious, and he looses Suspicion points equal to the value of the task marker. The marker then is kept by the active player to symbolise a time-token, whereas a new marker which comes from the beginning of the chain of markers next to the gameboard is placed openly at the building. However, if no matching task marker was available at the building, the monk has acted suspiciously and will be assigned Suspicion points equal to the value of both task markers at the building.

Playing a card with William and Adson allows a player to move one of them to a different building, and when William or Adson enter a building where there are monks present they have the possibility to make interrogations. In case of Adson the active player now may chose for every present monk either to assign or to deduct 5 Suspicion points, whereas the keen thinker William gives the player a chance to assign or deduct 3 Evidence points to each present monk.

As indicated, each action card also features a number, and this number indicates how many hours the active player must move the hour-stone on the clock which marks progression in the game. At the end of each day an evaluation takes place, and as explained above the monks now will be assigned Evidence points depending on their current Suspicion scores. Then the Suspicion track will be reset for the next day, and once again the players will start to assign and deduct Suspicion points. However, there may be situations in which the players might wish to slow down the passing of time, and here the time-tokens which the players may collect may be used. The hour-stone is moved one step less for each time token a player spends, and so a day may be prolongated considerably if several players should decide to use such tokens.

14 different event cards are available, but only six randomly drawn cards will be used in a game. The events remain face down until the turn for their activation is reached, and so no player is able to calculate on the appearance of a specific event during the course of the game. This puts the players into the position to adjust their playing strategy for every new round, since each of the events which will appear will change the basic rules of the game in one way or another. So, one of the events will result in an Evidence points evaluation (just like the end of a day) every time William and Adson meet on the gameboard. Another card may force the players to abstain from the use of time-tokens, and a further card may double each players's allowance for action whenever a card is played (thus moving two monks to the same building or moving the same monk twice). There also is a chance that monks moving into an empty building might seem to be unsuspicious and thus lose Suspicion points, and yet another card might result in the assignment of extra Suspicion or Evidence points upon entering the Library or meeting other monks. As indicated, there are a number of different events, and the appearance of each event will put the players to a new challenge since they now will have to react the new situation and to evaluate their hand of cards how they might adapt their playing style for the current day. This keeps a lot of variation in the game.

As indicated, the game will be won by the player who has accumulated fewest Evidence points against his monk after the 6th day, but before the final evaluation is made a shortened 7th round takes place. In this round each of the players has the chance to make a guess at the identities of the other players (face-down colour markers are placed by each player in front of each player). These markers then will be revealed, and for each marker which was correctly assigned the particular monk will receive additional Evidence points against him. Here it should be mentioned that at the end of the 1st, the 3rd and the 5th day each player is required to place a colour marker in front of himself which does not match the colour of his monk, and thus the choice of available colours for each player will be narrowed down to three instead of six. This gives a considerable increase to the probability of placing a correct marker in the final round.

During the course of the game the players constantly have to resist from acting too much in favour of their own monk. This kind of behaviour would be discovered rather quick, and a player will not stand good chances against combined efforts of several other players. Thus, the key to winning the game lies in a clever distribution of the available actions between the different monks, and here several strategies might be tried. Examples are the focusing on several monks and giving them benefits and detriments alike, or just distributing detriments amongst all monks. The players will have to experiment in order to find a way in which they might build of a good bluff about their real identity, and to my mind this invitation to experimentation is the real strength of Der Name der Rose. Nothing is more satisfying than a working strategy, and this game may offer such moments of enjoyment when some players team up against the wrong monk because they were mislead about a player's real identity. Likewise, it is very satisfying to get only few matching markers in the final evaluation, and so the game offers a good replay value due to this ever-repeating challenge.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany