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Nuns on the Run Review
Nuns on the What?
It's surprising that you clicked on this article. I probably wouldn't have. Nuns on the Run? What's that? This game has a title and theme so bizarre that most people will never bother reading this, let alone play the game. Rightly so; if I saw this game languishing on a store shelf, I wouldn't look twice at it.
But I'd be wrong, and so would you.
What It Is
Up to six “novice” nuns will scamper around a convent while evading the clutches of the Abbess and the Prioress. One or two players controls the “guard” characters while everyone else controls a single novice.
This is a hidden movement game, so instead of moving your pieces around a board like Monopoly, players are actually making decisions on where to move and then writing their new position on a sheet of paper that's provided with the game.
When the game starts, each novice receives a “secret wish” card that contains that player's goals. They'll be things like letters from lovers, insomnia tonics or other forbidden items. Each of these goals is behind a locked door, so before a novice can claim their prize, they must first snag a specific key. In order to win the game, a novice must first retrieve her key, travel to the area of the board that contains her secret wish and then make it back to her cell before everyone else completes their own objectives.
Every turn, players must choose to stand still, sneak, walk or run. Each level of movement modifies a die roll, making you easier or harder to hear from a distance.
The player (or players) controlling the guards has a different set of choices to make: First, they select a color of path to follow and then must travel along it. They can't leave the path unless they “hear” a novice making noise (by rolling a die to “listen” every turn). When they hear a noise, they can attempt to pursue a wayward novice. In order to win, the guards must catch any combination of novices a number of times equal to the number of novices. If there are four players, there must be four catches.
Why It's Fun
Although it might seem dull and overly complicated, the game comes alive when it's played. Between the luck of the die and the skill of the "guard" player, the game can be intense. In fact, that's a good word for this game: Intense. There are few safe places in the convent. The guards have extremely good sight and hearing and sooner or later they will hear you.
An average round has every player nervously checking their position on the board (with eyes only) while scratching down their next move on the paper. Guards can either walk or run, so despite their being stuck on an obvious predetermined path, they can surprise you by charging around corners before you can slip away. Even if your novice is caught, it's not the end of the world; it just sets you back a turn or two.
The game lends itself to remarkably close shaves and thrilling chases. It's like a rousing game of hide-and-go seek without all of the sweating.
This game plays pretty fast. Novice players take their turns simultaneously, so it doesn't usually drag. The game has a built-in timer in the form of a turn tracker, so you won't be locked in for hours. In fact, we played a 5-player game in about an hour.
Where it Suffers
The theme might turn people off. If you're Catholic, it might even seem sacrilegious. But at all times, it's playful. The rules do their best to explain things, but there are still weird issues that cropped up in our games, requiring us to stop and consult the rulebook.
Line-of-sight is also problematic. The guards can see six spaces in front of them and out to the sides in a generous peripheral arc. Sometimes players might erroneously reveal themselves when they shouldn't. Fortunately, the game publisher provided a handy line of sight reference in the back of the instructions.
Nuns on the Run is somewhere between party game and strategy game in terms of weight. It probably isn't for everyone, but we played with a group of players age 17 to 54. It can be difficult to explain, so be very sure of the rules before this ever hits the table. Don't judge this game on its silly theme and graphics alone: It's a unique experience and it's a fun way to see your friends sweat while playing a board game.
• Inexpensive game (especially if you can get it on sale)
• Plays up to 8 players
• Unique gameplay
• No player elimination
• Set up and break down are quick
• Bizarre theme
• Component quality is only passable
• Magic School Bus-like graphics might turn some people off
• Difficult to explain to newcomers
• Seems complicated at first