Kathi Kappler &
Johann Rüttinger &
Rolf Vogt


No. of Players:
2 - 5




The all-time classic Cluedo was the first detective game which I played with my parents, and somehow the fascination of playfully discovering a hidden plot has remained a great challenge for me all these years. However, despite its age and comparatively simple mechanism, Cluedo still remains a benchmark with which all newer games have to stand a comparison. So, many years later, with Mont Saint Michel a new challenger has arrived, and I was curious to see how this modern newcomer would stand the comparison.

In Mont Saint Michel the players have embarked on a quest to the famous island monastry in search of valuable historic scripts. To blend in with the inhabitants of the islands, all players wear long grey cloaks, and so it is unknown to each player which figure represents him on the gameboard. Of course, the figures on the board have a coloured base which distinguishes them from each other, but at the beginning of the game each player had to write his name on a time slip of paper which was folded and then randomly assigned to be deposited within one of the playing figures. To increase the challenge, the game always is played with six figures, and so there will be one or more slips of paper included which bear no name at all.


All figures start on the "Village" space on the gameboard, and during the course of the game it will be the foremost challenge of the players to try to find out which figure represents them on the gameboard. To get an understanding of how in identity might be discovered, you first need to understand the mechanism of how the figures are moved since the detective work of the players is closely related. So, at the beginning of the game, two decks of cards are shuffled. One of them is the deck of Location cards, containing one card for each of the 16 different locations which can be visited in Mont Saint Michel. The other deck, the Search cards, contains various cards with valuable and less valuable fragments of historic script, but also some Identity cards the number of which depends on the number of participating players.

During a player's turn, the top card from both decks is revealed at the same time, and if a script fragment is discovered the Location card defines where the fragment can be found. Also, the card with the scrip fragment shows either one or two dots, and these dots give the player his movement allowance for which he may move one of the figures on the board this turn. On the other hand, if an Identity card is discovered, the active player may check the paper slip within one of the figures on the board, and he may note the result of this investigation on a notepad which he keeps secret from all the other players. Afterwards, another card is turned to get a new script fragment or even another identity card. Following this procedure, each of the players will be able to check the contents of three figures during the course of the game. If one of the players actually should draw a fourth Identity card, this card will be given to the next player in playing order, so that the limit of three discoveries per player is not exceeded. Thus, no player will be able to see the contents of all figures on the board, but instead everybody will have to observe the movements made by the others and, by combining these movements with the figures investigated by the acting player, draw conclusions who might be represented by the particular figure.

However, let's return to the movement of the figures. As indicated, the movement allowance for a player's turn is shown on a Search card with a script fragment, but since nobody knows the identity of each figure (at least at the beginning), each player may move any figure on the gameboard. The most basic type of movement is to move a figure for just one step, but more complex sequences may be triggered by moving a figure onto a space occupied by another figure. This figure is displaced and in turn moves a space as well. This procedure may be continued if the next space is occupied once again, and sometimes the effect of just one move even may be some sort of a circular movement which results in several steps for one or more of the participating figures due to the continuing displacement of figures.

If, after the movement has ended, a figure has landed on the space depicted on the Location card, the revealed Search card has been found at this location and is assigned to an open stack corresponding to the colour of the figure which has reached the Location. This way, each of the figures on the board will collect script fragments with positive and negative values during the course of the game, and when the game ends (after the deck of 16 Location cards has been run through twice) all figures are opened, the identities are revealed and the owner of the figure with the highest value of script fragments will have won the game.

The authors of Mont Saint Michel deliberately chose to include a special notepad to allow the players to keep track of their discoveries and the other player's identity checks, but even with this player's aid there is a lot of guesswork to be done if a player had bad luck and was unable to discover his figure with one of the three allowed identity checks. Afterwards, the player has to focus strongly on assigning valuable cards more or less equally to all figures in question, until possibly an other player's movement lends a valuable clue as to the identity of one or more of the remaining figures. On the other hand, a player might get lucky and discover his identity early, a seemingly unbeatable advantage considering the missing knowledge of the other players.

However, the game has more layers of interaction than might be guessed at first look, and the authors try to counterbalance such a leading position with a number of in-built measures. So, on the one hand the deck of Search cards concerning the Identity cards is prepared in a specific way which ensures an early appearance of most of the Identity cards, giving all players a chance to catch up later in the game. Also, there are variant rules included, allowing each player to check the identity of an additional figure at the beginning of the game and thus reducing the guesswork considerably. Likewise, another variant rule offers a rather equal distribution of Identity cards during the course of the game, thus reducing the time during which a player possibly may enjoy his edge in knowledge. Finally, there also remains the risk for a player of using the knowledge of his identity too much in favour of just one figure, and this might lead to the other players teaming up and designing movement patterns which might lead to this particular figure being assigned several of the script cards with negative values.

Whereas the players in Cluedo only resort to guessing when they fear that another player might beat them in revealing the details of the murder, the guesswork remains a prevailing element in Mont Saint Michel since most of the players will be missing the identities of one or more of the figures at the end of the game. This fact guarantees a high entertainment factor since surprising results might come up by the end of the game due to the players' speculations, but at the same time the final result of the game sometimes is quite unpredictable. To my mind, this is unusual for a mystery game, since usually games of this type focus simply on being the first player to uncover a hidden plot. Here, the roles have been changed considerably, challenging players with the rather ambitious task of discovering their identities and assigning their figures the most valuable cards.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2007 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany