Game Buzz: Obscurio

It seems like there have been quite a few games set in libraries lately. As libraries are quite important in my family (my mother is a retired librarian, and my wife is a current librarian), this makes me happy. So, let’s take a look at

image by BGG user Libellud Team

Obscurio is a 2-8 player game designed by L’Atelier, a French design studio, and published by Libellud. The basic premise is that you and your fellow wizards have gone to explore a seemingly abandoned library, and have now been trapped by an evil Sorcerer. Your only hope of escape comes from a mysterious Grimoire, but something tells you that one of your companions is working for the Sorcerer.

Each player gets a role in this game. You can either be a Wizard, the Grimoire, or the Traitor. The Grimoire gives clues each turn to help players find the exit. The Traitor is trying to prevent everyone from leaving. Everyone else is a Wizard. Decide who will be the Grimoire, then randomly assign secret Wizard or Traitor roles to everyone else (there will only be one Traitor).

The Grimoire player gets a card holder book and randomly seeds it with eight illusion cards (no one else can see these). They also get the desk, which has space for two cards, as well as two butterfly markers and the sand timer. All other players get a token indicating their color. On the board, there is a gauge that will hold a certain number of Cohesion tokens based on player count and difficulty, with 5 or 7 of these in the dark area (again, depending on player count).

image from tabletopgaming.co.uk

At the start of each round, a Trap token will be drawn, and possibly more depending on if the Wizards took too much time in the previous round. These Traps will negatively affect game play, usually by limiting clues, giving the Traitor advantages, or fiddling with the exits.

The next thing that happens is that the Grimoire player Prepares the Riddle. The Grimoire will draw an Exit card that can be viewed by no one else. Then, they will draw two more Illusion cards that are placed face up on the desk. The Grimoire has two butterfly tokens which they use to point to different aspects of the Illusion cards that will give clues to the Wizards about what the Exit card is. Placement of these may be limited by Traps. The Wizards are allowed to examine the clues and discuss them at this time.

After this, all Wizards close their eyes. The Grimoire player opens up the card holder book and shows it to the Traitor. The Traitor can then pick up to two cards they would like to be included in the choice to come (though they don’t have to choose any). Cards are replaced as soon as they are removed. After the choices, the Traitor closes their eyes again.

The Grimoire shuffles up the actual Exit, the choices from the Traitor, and random cards that bring the total up to six. The Wizards open their eyes, and start placing the cards on #1-6, representing the possible doors. As soon as they begin this, the Grimoire player flips the sand timer. Wizards can discuss what they think, and are putting their tokens by the door they think is correct. If the timer runs out before they make their final decision, the Grimoire flips it to the next space, and an extra Trap will be added to the next round.

When the Wizards all decide where they’re going to put their tokens (it does not have to be unanimous), the timer is stopped and the Grimoire indicates which the true Exit was. If at least one Wizard chose the correct door, the Progress track advances to the next room. If no one chose the right Exit, no progress is made. In either case, the team loses one Cohesion marker per player who chose the wrong door.

When enough Cohesion markers have been lost such that there are only markers in the dark area on the gauge, the game pauses and everyone has to decide who the Traitor is. Majority rules, and if you’re wrong, you lose two Cohesion markers and must try again until the Traitor is found. If they are found before you run out of Cohesion markers, they no longer participate in looking for the correct door, but still pick extra cards to add to the pile.

When you reach the last room on the Progress track, the Watcher trap is activated. Wizards can no longer communicate with each other, and each makes their choice of door in secret. If they successfully find the door in this step and still have Cohesion markers remaining, they and the Grimoire win. However, if they ever run out of Cohesion tokens at any point in the game, the Traitor wins.

image by BGG user andreiszabo

Quite honestly, when I first heard about this game, I was unimpressed. It looked like Mysterium 2.0 with a hidden traitor mechanism thrown in. I’m still not entirely convinced this game needs a traitor mechanism – it looks difficult enough without it – but I do think it looks more interesting than I initially gave it credit for. Thanks to the BGG Game Night crew for making a playthrough video that helped me see the possibilities here. The art looks great (it is by Xavier Collette, the guy who did the art for Abyss), and it has that Dixit/Mysterium vibe that Libellud has pretty much perfected. It seems fun.

That does it for today – thanks for reading!

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