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Nuns on the Run - Redesign Diary #1


Recently, I played a board game called Nuns on the Run. It is a hidden movement game published in 2010 by Mayfair Games, designed by Fréderic Moyersoen. It was simple and loads of fun, interesting push-your-luck mechanisms, and just straightforward, which is a scarcity in modern boutique Board Games. What caught my eye more than anything was the player tension throughout the game. It kept player tension on an absolute high at all times, like a physical game of hide and seek, which was an astounding feat in a board game!


BREAKDOWN


Nuns on the Run is a game for 2 to 8 players, where 1 player plays as the Abbess and Prioress, and the rest of the players are the nuns. The nuns each have an objective that is behind a locked door. It's a hidden movement game where the nuns have a 2 step process of claiming the key to their locked door, gathering their final objective, and then returning to their rooms. Nuns track their location on the board with a log sheet, and only the Abbess/Prioress player has any figures on the board.


There are simple line-of-sight rules with a lot of edge cases due to the map layout and design. There are spotting, movement, and noise rules that help or hinder the nun players. I found most of these thematic and add layers to gameplay without too much complexity.


However, there were a few things I thought could be improved with the game.


Abbess/Prioress Player Agency

One thing I noticed immediately was that the Abbess/Prioress player had no agency. They are supposed to draw a route card and follow that route as fully as possible, only diverting from their set path if they see or hear a student.


This meant that as the Abbess/Prioress player, I really had no control over how I wanted to play and where I wanted to go until (hopefully) a nun reared their ugly head. Now, if both the Abbess and Prioress drew a similar path, all the students would simply run around the map to avoid them.


Despite this, it makes absolute sense for the route cards to exist. If they did not, all the Abbess and Prioress needed to do was to camp at the nun dorms waiting for them to return. I'd stall out the 15 turns, and they would never be able to complete their objectives.


RETHEME


As I was thinking more about the game, my thoughts wandered to the theme. There was a 1990 movie with the same title, but didn't seem to have any connection to the game. It felt quirky and fun, but the theme could really be anything.


As a Harry Potter fan, the sneaking around the hallways was so reminiscent of Harry sneaking around Hogwarts in the dead of night under the cover of his invisibility cloak. He'd always be off on some quest or up to some mischief, sometimes bringing his friends along with him, Snape or Filch on his tail, with disappearing steps and peeves around the corner, Harry checking his Mara-...


... Then, it clicked.


The Marauder's Map! How perfect would Nuns on the Run be, set in Hogwarts, played on the Marauder's Map!? It fits like a glove! It almost seemed too good to be true that this theme would fit this game. With a stroke of inspiration, I set off to make it a reality.


Unfortunately, this idea was not novel, and a quick search found me this bgg forum post. 6 YEARS AGO!? Can you imagine? But I was undaunted. Ideas are a dime in a dozen. It's in the making of the thing that matters.

RULEBOOK


First order of business - is the rulebook. I re-wrote the rulebook from scratch. It was simpler than copying the existing rulebook and editing the paragraphs out. I had a flow of the rulebook in mind, and I wanted to scaffold the information to readers in a way I felt was most efficient in teaching the game. At the same time, I could freely remove rules (this should always raise an alarm) that I disliked from the game, and add rules that I think would work well in the game.


For this rulebook, this was how I envisioned its structure:


  • INTRO/OVERVIEW

  • CONTENTS

  • SETUP

  • OBJECTIVE

  • GAME TURN/STRUCTURE

  • CONCEPTS

  • END GAME

  • INDEX


And that became a streamlined, 6-page document, including the index (which I brainstormed a little later), detailing my version of Nuns on the Run, which I'm calling Mischief Managed.


It contained the essential information to play the game. Probably a little sparse, and requires additional details, notes, and diagrams to make it readable in any shape or form. But essentially, a v1 of the game I wanted to make from this.


CHANGES

Right off the bat, these are the larger component/mechanic changes I want to make for the game. Since this is a no-holds-barred remake of my own, and considering I'll never get the IP, I'm free to imagine the game however I want it to be!


Removal - Player Cards

Redundant and additional components that serve no purpose. If they did, then perhaps I played the game wrongly. If a nun was in hiding, what information could be gleamed if they ran fast or slow? Considering multiple nuns in play, my brain would not be able to keep track of things like "player 1 moved fast twice and now moved slow, so they're around one of my characters, while players 2 and 3 seem to be taking their time for the last 3 moves. Player 4 however, didn't move, so they're near their objective, which... I don't know anyway."


There are also the "on the run" or "caught" cards. This can be represented by a token or even streamlined the rules in such a way that they're always on the run, and if they're caught, they take a penalty and go back to being on a run, which circumvents a card that dictates their state.


Guard cards that allow them to walk or run are also essentially redundant. Everyone can see it. I take my turn outside of all players' turns, why do I need a card when I can just announce it? And most of the time, there is almost no incentive for the guards to walk, truly. Please correct me if I'm wrong.


Removal - Pathway Cards

Now, this is a tricky one. Primarily, the pathway cards are here so that the guards don't camp in the nuns' corridor, preventing them from accomplishing the game because they need to return to their rooms to win. It essentially forces the guards away, preventing them from taking the most optimal solution. Mechanics should build on strategy, not hamper a glaringly obvious strategy. If anything, this needed to be reworked. For its time, maybe it was a necessity. But in this day and age (2024 for reference), where AI is a plenty and we have great new mechanics that have emerged, I can probbaly find a better solution.


Addition - Guard Variation

The Abbess and Prioress are basically 2 guards. They move the same, the basically start in the same space, and in lower player counts, they basically do nothing the entire game where there is little to no player interaction.


Adding some variety to guard movement or even passive abilities, will hopefully add spice and strategy to guard gameplay.


And I think that's where I'll end this. Lots more to do. For now, Mischief Managed.

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