Dale Yu: First Impressions of M/S Batory

 

M/S Batory

  • Designer: Filip Milunski
  • Publisher: Granna
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Granna

The M/S Batory was an actual seagoing vessel – construction started in 1934 and was launched on July 3, 1935.  It was built to be a transatlantic ship to bring Polish citizens abroad.   It was impressed into service of the British navy in 1939 during World War 2, and transformed from a tourist vessel to a cargo ship.  After the war, it returned to a touring ship, and later, it was repurposed as a floating hotel.  However, this didn’t go over well, and the ship was decommissioned in 1971.

The game M/S Batory takes you back to the glory years of the ship when it was a luxury transatlantic liner.  After one of the fancy balls, the Countess’ pearls have been stolen.  Each player in the game is a budding detective, and they will try to discover who among the thirteen suspects is the thief.

The ship is represented as a large 3-D ship with three decks. There are twelve character standees which are randomly placed on the starting white circle positions.  The deck of thirteen character cards is shuffled and one card is placed under the board – this card is the identity of the thief!  The rest of the cards are dealt out evenly amongst the detectives. Yes, I know I said that there are thirteen cards but only twelve figures.  There is a card for the captain’s parrots, and these birds are always perched on the shoulder of the captain, so they do not need their own standee.

Each player gets a screen and an investigation sheet upon which they can record information.  There are two other decks of cards.  The event deck is shuffled and the top card is revealed at the start of the game; this is the first event of the game.  The last deck is the question card deck.  It too is shuffled, and two cards are dealt to each player.  Then, 3 question cards are dealt face up in a tableau on the table next to the ship.

A start player is chosen and then turns are taken until someone correctly identifies the thief (or only one player is left in the game!).  Each turn is composed of three phases:  Move, Play question cards, Ask a question.

1] Move – you can spend up to 4 movement points to move any of the twelve character figures on the board.  It costs one point to move standees into an adjacent room.  Stairwells can be used, but they cost a point to traverse.  No standee can end this phase in a stairwell.  No room can ever contain more than three standees.   As you move character standees around, check to see if you have fulfilled an Event card – if you do, you gain a question card for each time you have fulfilled the event; this can be one of the three face up cards in the tableau or the top card from the deck.  You cannot have more than 5 cards in your hand.

 

2] Play Question Cards – you now must play at least one non-number card from your hand. If you do not have one, you must draw random question cards until you get a non-Number card to play (discarding the rest).  Then based on the card or cards that you have played, you direct a question to a specific opponent of your choice – generally not the player who just went though.  It must be phrased as to be answered with “Yes” or “No” – OR, if you have played a number card, the question can start with “How many…” and be answered with a specific number.  If you have played multiple cards to the table, then your question must involve all the categories on those cards.  Players must answer the questions truthfully.

If you look at the player data sheet, you will see the attributes of each of the characters.  All the humans are either: 1) male or female, 2) young, middle-aged or old, 3) crew or tourist.  The parrots are both male and female and they are considered part of the crew.  Their age is apparently unknown.

Once the question has been asked (and then answered), the player who just answered the question becomes the new active player and takes his turn.  In general, he cannot ask a question of the player who just went before him – unless he is able to play two cards of the same category on his turn, at which point he is free to ask any player a question based on those cards.  If at least one of the question cards played this round has a red bar on it, then the current Event card is discarded and a new one is dealt to the table.

At any point in the game, a player can try to solve the case by shouting out “I accuse!”.   The player makes a mark on his answer sheet so that it is clear who he is accusing of the crime, and then he looks at the face down card to see if his answer is right.  If it is correct, the accusing player wins.  If it is a wrong guess, the accusing player can no longer win the game.  He must still participate and answer questions when asked, but he does not get any further turns.  If he is asked a question, the player to his left becomes the active player next.  The game can also end if all players but one have made an incorrect guess – at that point, the only player left in the game is declared the winner.

My thoughts on the game

M/S Batory is a nice little deduction game with a beautiful board and backstory.  After reading through the rules, I was a little surprised to see that a full 8 pages of the rulebook are devoted to the history of the good ship.  The game bears a stamp for the Emigration Museum in Gdynia, and for a giftshop game, this is one of the best that I’ve played – right up there with Wonderland – which was designed for Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg.

Like most deduction games, you start out with a partial solution, and the key to success is trying to figure out how to gain information about the crime without giving away much to the other players.  After all, everyone gets to hear both the question and the answer, so the trick is figuring out what question to ask that doesn’t help others out as much.

As you can only ask questions based on which Question cards you have in your hand, it is important to try to achieve the conditions on the Event cards in order to get more Question cards in your hand – the more you have in your hand, generally the more options you will have to craft a meaningful question.  However, you can’t spend all of your points on the Events as you will also possibly need to move figures around the board into certain locations to allow you to ask a question about that person or location.  As you only get 4 movement points a turn, you have to use them wisely!

I like the addition of the parrots.  It makes things slightly asymmetrical, and having a “character” with no age but two genders really can cause some interesting mental miscalculations!  I think that the game would be too simple and straightforward without the birds in play.

Like most deduction games, the game relies upon the players being infallible with their answers.  A single mis-stated answer anywhere in the game can destroy any semblance of logical solving.  For the most part, this isn’t too hard as the attributes are found on the card as well as on the answer sheet.  I did find that it was a bit tricky when you are dealt the birds – especially because you don’t want to think too long about giving your answer less you essentially give away the fact that you have the birds…

The board is beautifully done, and the 3-D is definitely eyecatching. It’s one of those games that is sure to be noticed when in play.  As I said earlier, the game is fairly simple, but then again, when you consider that this is a game meant to be sold in a museum giftshop, the level of play is perfect for the intended audience.  In any event, most people are likely familiar with Clue/Cluedo, and this is a nice variation on that classic whodunit game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

James Nathan (1 demo game at Essen):  In my one* game, we did have an issue with a player mis-giving a clue that tainted our experience. I say one* because we the players mutually agreed to call it short as we weren’t enjoying ourselves. For what it’s worth, we had agreed on that prior to realizing there was a tainted clue.  

 

Largely, it came down to the event cards which could be detrimentally uneven.  Event cards are cycled whenever a question card played has a red stripe on it.  As such, you may start your turn with a brand new event card and depending upon the game state this may mean an easy few cards for you, or not. As the only way to gain additional cards, this can even add a take that element, as players may choose to play a red stripe card if it seems that the next player may be able to easily acquire more cards.

I did like the ways you could combine the different types question cards to get at the question you wanted to know the answer to, but this wasn’t enough to raise it above “Neutral” (, though it kept it above “Not for me…”)

 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it.
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. James Nathan
  • Not for me…

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2017, First Impressions. Bookmark the permalink.

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