Keep your friends close and your enemies closer – or so the old saying goes. But when it comes to playing Saboteur, your friend can also be your enemy. How does this happen? Read on to find out how to play Saboteur, with our full guide to the Saboteur rules and instructions.
Most people might associate dwarves with Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. If you’re a fan of this gruff diminutive race of miners, then you’ll be sure to love Saboteur.
Saboteur is a really fun, fast-paced card game which involves one of the players having a hidden role and being the ‘saboteur’ who tries to stop the miners from gathering their gold.
Played with 3 to 10 players, the aim of the game is to try and get your team to complete their tasks and gather as much gold as you can without being sabotaged by the saboteurs who are craftily hidden in plain sight.
So let’s light those lanterns and dig into the rules and instructions for Saboteur.
What is Saboteur?
Saboteur is a card game that is semi-cooperative and was designed by the game designer Frederic Moyersoen. The players take on the role of dwarves who are all tunneling for gold in a mine.
You’re all separated into two teams – but the twist is you don’t know who is on your team! Saboteur requires some smart card management and some great bluffing skills to get the most gold and win the game.
At the start of the game, each player gets a secret role. They will either be an honest, gold-digging dwarf who is simply looking for gold nuggets, or they will be assigned as a saboteur, who try their hardest to cripple proceedings.
This is not a game to keep quiet about while playing – the accusations will start flying across the table in no time at all, and you’ll wonder who can be trusted, who’s on your team, and who is out to get you and your gold.
Number of Players: 3-10 players
Length of Play: 30 minutes
Main Objective: Work out who’s on your team and try to gather as much gold as possible.
Why We Love It: Fast-paced, frenetic, and full of intrigue and finger-pointing, Saboteur changes with every game, especially if all the players get fully into their character roles.
Playing Saboteur – What You’ll Need
To play Saboteur, you’ll need to get hold of a deck of Saboteur cards. This box will contain absolutely everything you could possibly need to play Saboteur.
Inside the Saboteur kit you get, you should find the following:
- 44 Path Cards
- 27 Action Cards
- 28 Gold Nugget Cards
- 7 Gold Miners
- 4 Saboteurs
If you want to step up your Saboteur experience you can also get your hands on the Saboteur expansion pack – it’s worth noting that you’ll need a normal version of Saboteur to use this though.
If you want to play Saboteur with 1 or 2 players, then you should get Saboteur Duel.
Saboteur Rules and Instructions
Make sure you have plenty of space to play Saboteur – a big flat table will be ideal, especially if you have quite a few players getting involved in the game.
Dealing the Cards
First of all, you’ll want to separate all the cards into their respective ‘types’. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to start dealing the cards out. The number of players affects how many Gold Miner and Saboteur cards you end up using.
The distribution numbers are as follows:
- 3 players: 1 Saboteur card and 3 Gold Miner cards
- 4 players: 1 Saboteur card and 4 Gold Miner cards
- 5 players: 2 Saboteur cards and 4 Gold Miner cards
- 6 players: 2 Saboteur cards and 5 Gold Miner cards
- 7 players: 3 Saboteur cards and 5 Gold Miner cards
- 8 players: 3 Saboteur cards and 6 Gold Miner cards
- 9 players: 3 Saboteur cards and 7 Gold Miner cards
- 10 players: All cards
Once you have the right number of saboteur and Gold Miner cards, shuffle them together and deal one card to each player. They should have a look at it and then place it face down in front of them without showing the other players.
You’ll end up with one card spare. Place this face down on the table.
Starting the Game
Dig out the ‘start’ card – this has a picture of a ladder on it. You’ll also want to put the 3 ‘goal’ cards taken out of the ‘path’ cards pile to one side (one has gold treasure on it, and the other two have stone).
Shuffle these four cards together, and then place the ‘start’ card face-up on the table, and the ‘goal’ cards face down. The ‘start’ card is the centerpoint of the game – you’ll end up building a network of paths and tunnels that start from this card.
Add the remaining Action cards to the Path cards and shuffle them all together. You’ll then need to deal these out, depending on how many players there are. The distribution numbers are as follows:
- 3 to 5 players: Each player is dealt 6 cards
- 6 to 7 players: Each player is dealt 5 cards
- 8 to 10 players: Each player is dealt 4 cards
Put the remaining cards next to the ‘goal’ cards. Then quickly shuffle the Gold Nugget cards, and put them down next to the leftover Dwarf/Saboteur card. Now you’re ready to dig!
Instructions for Saboteur Gameplay
The youngest player goes first. On each go, the player has to play 1 card. This means that they could either add a Path card to the ‘start’ card or they can place an Action card in front of any of the players. If they want to pass their go, they can simply put their card face down and start a discard pile. Once they’ve played their go, they draw a card from the big pile of cards.
Let’s take a look at the different Action cards and how Path cards work.
Playing a Path card
Path cards are used to build a path from the starter card to reach the ‘goal’ cards. They have to connect to another path card, and all sides of the card have to fit with the other path cards in play.
If you’re a Gold Miner, you’ll want to dig your path directly to the ‘goal’ cards – but a Saboteur will try and prevent that from happening, so you’ll want to play strategically otherwise you’ll end up getting caught out.
Playing an Action card
Action cards are always played face-up in front of another player. These can be used to either help or hinder players in the game, as well as removing a piece of the pathway from the path, or gain information about goal cards.
Let’s take a look at the different Action cards that you get in Saboteur:
- Broken Tools – If one of these is used, the player isn’t allowed to use any Path cards
- Fix Tools – By using one of these, you remove the Broken Tools card. These can be played by another player but also by the player who has the Broken Tools card. You’ll also see a picture of a tool on the card – this dictates what you can repair with the card. Some have 2 tools on them – you’ll have to choose which one you want to repair.
- Rockfall – When this card is placed in front of a player, they have to remove a Path card. Players can either create a gap to hinder miners, or they can remove dead ends, to help them.
- Map – When a player draws this card, they carefully select a ‘goal’ card, lift it up, and put it back down again. This player now knows what they’re digging for.
The End of the Round
If a player ends up playing a Path card that reaches a ‘goal’ card, then they have to turn the card over. If they’ve found the treasure card, then the round is over. If they find one of the stone cards, the round then continues.
A round can also finish once the draw deck is empty, or there are no more players that have playable cards. Once the round has ended, all the players reveal what role they played – whether they were a Gold Miner or a Saboteur.
Handing out the Gold Nuggets
If there is an uninterrupted path from the ‘start’ card all the way through to the treasure ‘goal’ card, then the Gold Miners win the round. The player who played the deciding Path card then draws some Gold Nugget cards.
They choose the same number of Gold Nugget cards as there are Gold Miners, and chooses one of them, before passing the remaining cards counter-clockwise to the next Gold Miner. This continues around all the Gold Miners until they all have 1 Gold Nugget card each.
Saboteurs and Gold Nuggets
It’s only fair that the Saboteurs get a shot at getting their hands on a Gold Nugget card too. The Saboteurs end up winning the round if the treasure ‘goal’ card doesn’t end up getting found. If this happens, then the number of Saboteurs will dictate the number of Gold Nugget cards awarded.
- 1 Saboteur – 4 Gold Nuggets
- 2-3 Saboteurs – 2 Gold Nuggets
- 4 Saboteurs – 2 Gold Nuggets
In some rounds involving 3 or 4 players, there is a chance that there isn’t a Saboteur. In such instances, if the Gold Miners don’t reach the treasure then they’ll get no Gold Nuggets at all.
Starting a New Round
Once you’ve handed out all the Gold Nugget cards, it’s time for a new round. Repeat the process of starting the game, with the ‘start’ card and ‘goal’ cards placed around the table. The only difference here is that the players will have Gold Nugget cards, which they keep.
Ending the Game
The game ends after 3 rounds. After these rounds, each player has to count up their Gold Nugget cards.
The player who ends up with the most Gold Nugget cards is the winner.
How to Play Saboteur – Video Tutorial
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly asked questions about how to play Saboteur.
How many Saboteurs are there in Saboteur?
There can be a maximum of 4 Saboteurs in Saboteur – that’s only if you’re playing with 10 people though.
Can you talk during Saboteur?
Absolutely! It makes the game so much more enjoyable, and it can lead you to work out who is a Gold Miner and who is looking to sabotage.
How do you win in Saboteur?
The goal of each round is to find the treasure if you’re a Gold Miner. If you find the treasure, you get Gold Nuggets. The Saboteurs win if the treasure isn’t found. The final winner is the player who has the largest number of Gold Nugget cards.
Can you play Saboteur with 2 players?
If you want to play Saboteur with 2 players, unfortunately, you can’t use the standard edition of Saboteur. However, the designers created a new version called Saboteur Duel, specially made for 2 players.
Alternative Games to Saboteur
If you’re looking for similar games that require sneaky tactics and building up to the prize, then Carcasonne is a great alternative. If you want to transport yourself into the depths of space, and challenge yourself with tactics and sneakiness, then Terraforming Mars will be the game for you.
Another great alternative that will keep you entertained and excited over and over again is Catan. A game that has taken the world by storm in recent years, and for good reason too! Catan is a game of tactics where you can either help or hinder your fellow players.