Review: Nuns on the Run – Don’t Get Caught
It’s the night before the novices take their vows and they have just one thing they want to do beforehand. But the Abbess and the Prioress want to make sure there’s no funny business on this last night. Nuns on the Run features hidden movement as the players attempt to accomplish their task without being found by the Abbess or Prioress who stalk the halls of the nunnery.
The Basics. In Nuns, one player controls the Abbess and Prioress. These figures have cardboard standups that stay on the board at all times. The other players take over the novices. Each novice has a secret mission where they need to acquire a key and then make it to a specific spot on the board. The first novice to get their item and make it back to their room wins.
Play alternates between novices and nuns. On the novice turn, they can play one of four cards: Stand Still, Sneak (move 1-2 spaces), Walk (move 3-4), or Run (up to 5). They then move that many spaces on the board. But, instead of moving a token on the board, they simply mark the space to which they moved on a private notepad. So the nuns don’t know precisely where the novices are.
Then, each novice has to roll for making noise. If the die shows a six, for example, then the novice will make noise if they are within six spaces of a nun. That is, unless they chose Stand Still, Sneak, or Walk which provide modifiers to the noise roll. If the novices make a noise, then a token is placed on the board by the nun in the direction of the noise.
On the nuns’ turn, they move along a designated path. The nuns choose from a series of cards with different routes. Those routes are highlighted in different colors on the board. That way, the novices generally know where the nuns are going. They can move up to 6 spaces. But if they choose to move only three or four, they can listen for noise at the end of their move.
However, the nuns are not necessarily tied down to their paths. If a nun hears a noise or sees a novice outside of her cell, the nun can give chase. And, since the nuns can move a tad faster than the novices, it can be easy to get caught. Once caught, a novice must move toward her cell until she is out of sight of the nun. Then she can sneak around again.
First novice to complete her mission and get back to her cell wins. The nuns win if they catch the novices a certain number of times equal to the number of players.
The Feel. Nuns has a wonderfully comic theme that really comes to life in each play. It can be a terrific game of cat and mouse as the novices try to get around or sneak by the Nuns. It is especially fun as the movement cards are revealed. One or two novices might Run – meaning they are either far away from nuns or willing to risk it. But often some will sneak or even stand still – letting everyone know that they may be in trouble.
It’s also a great reversal of the hidden movement genre. In most hidden movement games, there is one player who is hidden while the rest of the team searches for him. You can see the bioterrorist in On the Brink, or Jack from Letters from Whitechapel. In Nuns, the roles are reversed. The majority of players are hidden and only one player is on the board searching. It creates a different dynamic since each player is on their own and cannot truly collaborate against the single opponent.
In almost all cases, one of the novices will win. Especially with larger numbers of players. Therefore, the nun player is really there to foil as many plans of the nuns as possible. The Nun player, though winning is certainly possible, feels a little bit more like an old school Game Master running his heroes through and providing them with the right level of challenge. It’s just that, in Nuns on the Run, you never have to hold back.
One of the great things about the game is that it scales incredibly well. There are always two nuns. So with fewer novices, the nuns can attempt to follow or focus in on particular novices. With more novices, you might think that it would be easier to sneak by the nuns. But that isn’t necessarily the case. With the board more crowded, noises are heard more often and the nuns deviate from their path more frequently. This leads to a less predictable pattern. Plus, on more than one occasion, a novice has been seen, let the nun off her path, and then the nun catches a different novice.
The game does lose a little bit of luster with fewer players, though. While certainly fine as a two player game, it just isn’t that great. What’s exciting is the numerous players and the fear that if another novice is heard, it might lead back to you. The game really shines when there are at least five players (at least four novices on the board).
Components: 3.5 of 5. Most of the game is good quality cardboard. The cards are on good stock and aren’t really shuffled enough to make much of a difference anyway. The line of site tool is helpful – though it is just a cardboard stick. The board, though, is clear and well demarcated.
Strategy/Luck Balance: 3.5 of 5. Though there are instances of luck, they are generally well managed and bring just the right level of uncertainty to the sneaking. But, unfortunately, one luck element is a doozy. At the beginning, the novices receive their secret mission at random. Some missions are flat out shorter than others. You simply don’t have to traverse as much of the nunnery. With an inexperienced Nun player, that can be a huge advantage. A more experienced player, though, will know to send one of the nuns down a nearby path. Though its shorter, it’s also more exposed.
Mechanics: 3.5 of 5. For the most part, the game provides a fairly seamless experience. But there are a couple of wonky areas that could be improved. For example, one of the spaces in the garden – which looks the same as any other space – is actually up a tree. Because of that, the vision rules apply differently to just that one space. And you wouldn’t know it without reading the rulebook or otherwise being told. Also, each player receives, at random, a one use per game “blessing” card. However, some of the blessings are worded unclearly. And one blessing isn’t discarded when it is used but only on the turn after. These little exceptions are manageable, but annoying.
Replayability: 4.5 of 5. Nuns on the Run simply does not get old. It may not be the kind of game that you can play multiple times in a row, but you could play it every week. The random destinations keep things interesting and the Nun player’s movements make decisions unique. It’s a fantastic cat and mouse game with lots of mice running through the board.
Spite: 0.5 of 5. Spite is nearly completely absent. Because the novices aren’t on the board, it means that a novice usually cannot lead a Nun over to her opponents. I say usually because there is the possibility that, due to a die roll and a Nun action, you end up knowing the location of a hidden novice. Still, it’s extremely rare and almost not worth bringing up.
Overall: 3.5 of 5. Nuns is a wonderful game that works well with up to eight players. And, while there are certainly moments of clever play, Nuns isn’t too “thinky.” It’s a fun romp that still requires tactical moves, but it could hardly be described as a brain burner. And that’s part of the charm. It’s a game that’s just deep enough to be satisfying, but light enough for a constant stream of “fun” to shine through without being battered down by long resource management. And, if you enjoy hidden movement at all, Nuns is a great way to go.