Sunday, 12 September 2010

Nuns on the Run

The Game

Nuns on the Run is another game played with the Old Town Kopitiam gamers. This is a game for 2 to 8 players. Most players will play novice nuns, and one or two players will play the abbess and the prioress. Let's just call them novices and nuns. It is evening at the abbey. The novices are supposed to be in their rooms. But each of them has a secret wish. To fulfill her secret wish, a novice needs to first locate a key, then proceed to a secret location, and finally make it back to her room safely, all without getting caught by the nuns. Whoever manages to do that first wins. If time runs out before any of the novices can complete her mission, the nuns win. If the nuns manage to catch the novices a certain number of times, they win instantly.

There are only 15 rounds in the game. Every round the novices move first by selecting one of four movement cards. They can run, or walk, or sneak, or even stay still. Once done moving, a novice rolls a die to determine how much noise she makes, and checks whether it is heard by the nuns. The only way to reduce your noise is by moving slower. However even if you stay still, it is still possible for you to make some noise and draw attention to you (no farting jokes please). This is a hidden movement game. Each novice uses a movement sheet to note down her location. The two nuns are always on the board, so the novices will always know where they are. If the noise made by a novice when moving can be heard by a nun, the novice must indicate the direction of the noise on the board. A level 6 noise can be heard up to 6 steps away, a level 5 noise can be heard up to 5 steps away, etc.

The novice I played, Margaret, and the four possible movement cards I could choose from.

My blessing card and secret wish card, both randomly drawn at game start. The blessing card was a one-time-use special ability card. The secret wish card was basically my secret mission. It specified two locations I need to visit in order to fulfill my mission.

The prioress and the abbess. The abbess looks like a man. Like a weight-lifter. Look at those huge hands.

When the novices move, they also need to check whether they can be seen by the nuns. If they enter the line-of-sight (ooh... wargame term in a Eurogame...) of one of the nuns, they must indicate so on the board. When they disappear from the nun's line-of-sight, they must indicate the direction they have moved towards.

The nuns normally have to move along some pre-determined routes on the board. However if they hear or see anything suspiscious, they can leave their normal routes to pursue the novices. The nuns can move faster than the novices (max 6 steps compared to max 5 steps). After a nun moves, she rolls a die to try to listen for any nearby novices. This works the same way as the novices making noises. E.g. rolling a 6 means the nun can hear a novice up to 6 spaces away. Any novices heard this way must indicate the direction of the noise on the board.

The game board. The novices' rooms are on the right side. The coloured lines are the normal routes that the nuns will take when they make their rounds.

That's basically the game. There are quite a number of other small rules, but the basic gameplay is very straight-forward: novices move, novices make noise, nuns move, nuns listen.

The Play

In the game that we played, we had 6 players. Henry read the rules and volunteered to play the two nuns. The other 5 of us played novices. My secret wish was to retrieve a love letter at the garden gate. In the first round, all novices can move twice. I made a mad dash to collect the blue key that was a prerequisite for collecting my love letter. It was precisely 10 steps away from my room, and 10 steps was the max distance with a double movement. Heng was the first to be almost cornered. In the first round when he was still in the novice quarters area he was already heard by the tall nun. His choices were rather limited, but somehow he managed to escape.

I ran a lot, and in one of the earlier rounds was seen by one of the nuns. However I was quite far and she never bothered to come after me. Alvin had a close encounter, being seen and then chased by the short nun. He was rather unlucky with the die rolls and kept being heard. At one nail-biting moment the short nun stopped precisely one step away from him. Nuns run faster than novices, so a one step gap usually means you are in big trouble. In Alvin's case, he was lucky there were quite a number of doors (which block line-of-sight), rooms and corridors nearby, and he managed to run and hide in one of them. Henry had gambled on the wrong turn and missed Alvin. That was really close.

That "Vanishes" token in the foreground was where Alvin was last seen by the short nun. Alvin had just collected the green #4 key at location 107 the previous round.

The short nun had been chasing Alvin, and found him squatting in a corner of the chapel. The novice token is placed on the board when she is in the line-of-sight of a nun.

I mostly stayed quite far from the nuns, and had no problem reaching my destination and collecting the love letter. However, I had to walk through a garden to go back to my room. This was where the short nun had been chasing Alvin. Also this was a very open area and I could be seen easily if any nun was nearby. So I waited for my chance. Eventually the short nun gave up chasing after Alvin, and decided to go back to her regular route. It was time for another mad dash! I sprinted across the garden. I was far enough from the short nun (who was now inside the chapel - out of sight) that she couldn't hear the noise. Then suddenly Heng placed a noise marker near the chapel door leading to the garden! WHAAAT?!! I was standing in wide open space, and this?! The short nun immediately came out to take a look, and caught me, in a manner of speech, with my pants down. Big. Fat. Red. Target.

I had hoped to pull off something like what Alvin did, but after some assessment of my surroundings, I realised I would not be able to trick the nun and escape. So all I could do was to lure her to catch me at a position further away from my other fellow novices. We all had a good laugh over my unexpected capture. When the nun stepped out of the door and caught me in mid-stride crossing the garden, Heng wasn't even in sight at all. He had just stepped inside a doorway and had closed the door behind him. Talk about twist of fate!

I was sent back to my room. I could attempt to achieve my secret goal again, but unfortunately there wasn't enough time. Although I didn't need to get the blue key anymore, to visit the garden gate again and make it back to my room would take too long. Eventually it was Jeff who managed to achieve his secret wish and win the game.

I was cornered by the grumpy-looking nun.

This is the log sheet used by novices. The number is the location. You also record how quickly you move, and the instances when you collect your key, or achieve your secret wish.

Location 110, just before the garden entry, was where my love letter was.

The Thoughts

The game seemed complex at first, when we went through the rules. It was a new game and we had opened it on the spot to learn and play it. Probably not such a good idea. Better to have someone read the rules beforehand, or to have someone who has played before. Some things were a little confusing when going through the rules. However once the game started, I realised it was actually very straight-forward. Every round was quite quick. Being a novice is quite exciting. Being a nun is probably more challenging.

Nuns on the Run is a family game with an unusual setting and gameplay. Some call it a reversed Scotland Yard. I find Scotland Yard to be more heavy on deduction. The detectives discuss openly their options and the possible locations of the fugitive. In Nuns on the Run the novices have no idea where the others are. There's probably a bit more luck, because of the noise die rolls, but it isn't something you can't mitigate. I find the higher uncertainty (when playing a novice) and the risk-taking exciting. The game also has more flavour than Scotland Yard which is simpler. Nuns on the Run is more similar to Pyramid - the single mummy trying to catch the multiple treasure hunters. It has more elements - the noise, the line-of-sight, known paths for the nuns etc.

Some downsides that I can think of - once a novice gets caught, it may become very difficult to achieve her secret wish. Also, it seems the game is quite hard for the nuns. I wonder whether they are the fun-provider for the rest of the players, like how it is in Pyramid. I think the game will be most fun with the max number of players. One good thing is that novices can take their turns simultaneously, so having more players doesn't increase the play time much.

13 Sep 2010. Important correction (thank you Bay for pointing this out): If a novice gets caught, she has to walk towards her cell. However, once out of sight of any nuns, she can already try again to go for her secret wish (or her key if she doesn't even have it yet). In our game, we misunderstood that by placing my novice token back at my room once out of sight I was being teleported there. The novice token is actually meant to represent the last known location of the novice to the nuns, not necessarily the real location. This means I actually still had a chance to win the game, because I wasn't too far from my secret wish location when I got caught. It also means getting caught is not really as big a disaster as I had thought.

If you are in Malaysia, you can order the game here. No, I don't get a commission. Yes, it's a friend's online store. Discount? Why do all Malaysians ask this?


Bay said...

I believe that if a nun is caught, she is sent back *towards* her room, that is, the nun must begin walking in a direction back to the room. You put the token back in the room once the nun is out of sight, but not the nun per se. At that point the nun can continue sneaking towards her goal. In the game that I played, one of the nuns who was caught eventually won the game.

I always enjoy reading your blog!

Mads Sorensen said...

Besides the overly cool name of the game, it sounds quite okay! I have officially been inspired to try it :D

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Bay, thank you for pointing this out. We did play that the captured novice had to walk towards her room when within sight of the nuns. However we misunderstood that once out of sight and having to place my novice token at my room meant I was teleported there. *shake head* what were we thinking... :-D

ronal d harper said...

The author of the game was quite active on the forums of when the game was new and he suggested a variant to the rules about what happens when a player is caught.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

thanks ronal for the link!

ronal d harper said...

you bet - I played this game at a local gameday a couple weeks ago and it was a huge hit - It is great for a lot of people since the only waiting is while the guards are waiting for all of the players to make their moves

ronal d harper said...

I'd like to know what you think of this variant I came up with: - Mine is the post by holyguano

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hi Ronal, I have only played a friend's copy once, and it was more than a year ago. So I can't fully imagine how your variant will play. In fact, by now I've forgotten many of the rules of the game itself. However from reading the rules for your variant, it seems straight-forward enough and shouldn't be hard to implement.