In honor of Saboteur’s 15th anniversary, AMIGO Games is publishing an all-new board game version of the well-known card game that now sells in 42 countries. But creating a new version of a beloved game is a challenge—it must be familiar enough to satisfy current fans and be true to the brand, but have enough new features to justify its existence. We spoke with Saboteur’s inventor, Frederic Moyersoen, about how he approached this task. Our conversation has been edited for length.
Game Trade Magazine: Where did you start on this new game?
Frederic Moyersoen: For me, the elements that must be in any Saboteur game are secret roles, building paths, and sabotaging other players. My original prototype was a jungle adventure with no dwarves, but in working with AMIGO I realized how important it is to have a strong link to the card games. And I knew that I still wanted a game that plays in about 45 minutes.
GTM: What key gameplay mechanics make The Lost Mines different from the original Saboteur?
Moyersoen: There are three main differences. In The Lost Mines, you don’t block a specific player, you block a path. This affects all players, including yourself. Next, you move your pawn along the paths you build. This means that you care less about interrupted paths behind your pawns and can focus on following the shortest path toward the mine with the most valuable treasures. Finally, The Lost Mines also has two teams, each with three distinct roles: loyal team members, saboteurs working for the other team, and selfish dwarves.
GTM: Why are the team saboteurs and the selfish dwarves so important?
Moyersoen: Once I decided to use teams, I knew that loyal dwarves and saboteurs were required. But putting a saboteur on each team instead of having the saboteurs work together allows for much more subtle forms of sabotage. This helps to make it easy to hide your identity. Adding selfish dwarves balances the game—it’s a concept I worked on long ago as a variant for the original.
GTM: Which parts of The Lost Mines do you like best?
Moyersoen: The addition of pawns fundamentally changes the game. You now make two decisions on every turn: which card to play and where to move. This adds a small amount of complexity, but offers a wide range of new and interesting tactical considerations. And I really like the interaction between teammates.
GTM: Is it harder to develop a team game than a game in which players play individually?
Moyersoen: I don’t find team games harder to develop, but it’s critical to make them fast and easy. If you need one minute to complete a turn, a 9-player game takes 9 minutes to finish a round. The challenge is to find a way to keep a team game moving.
GTM: How did you test the new game?
Moyersoen: I always test my first versions alone. I know that AMIGO does extensive testing with players, so I test with family members, friends, and gamers from gaming clubs. The latter are the most valuable—they give candid feedback and unexpected ideas, and they help to identify bugs in the game mechanics.
GTM: How did you become a game inventor?
Moyersoen: I started designing games when I was 9, but I didn’t realize it could be a career. I studied filmmaking in school, but the Belgian movie industry is small. So I sold lighting and equipment, then worked at audio-visual jobs for a pharmaceutical company and an insurance company. But I was never really satisfied with my work. I was fired from a job and received five months’ severance, so I convinced my wife to let me take five months to see if I could make it as an inventor. I’m lucky she’s patient, because it took five years to get my first game to market.
GTM: What are you working on now?
Moyersoen: The next Saboteur. I’ve developed kids games, card games, and simple family games, but it’s difficult for me to focus on more than one game at a time so I typically finish one project before starting another.
GTM: What do you when you’re not designing or playing games?
Moyersoen: I like drawing, painting, sculpting, walking, biking, skiing, and sailing. We have a small vineyard in our garden, so I’m learning to make wine. This is a great way to make new friends, because I never drink wine alone!
Frederic Moyersoen is a Belgian game designer. Since starting as an inventor some 20 years ago, he has created more than 150 games. Saboteur is his bestseller. He is married and has 3 children.