It should have been obvious that entering the enchanted library was a bad idea. The evil sorcerer who housed his tomes there is reputed to be powerful, cunning, and above all, vindictive. But the lure for you and your wizarding friends was too great. Vast knowledge hides within the pages of the books there and taking a chance to get your hands on some of it seemed worth it…at the time. Now your group is running for your lives with a Grimoire in hand. Seems like you have a traitor in your midst and they have tipped off the sorcerer of your intentions. You only had a moment to grab the book and start heading for the exit. Ah yes, the exit. Which door is it? The labyrinthine halls, stairways, and doors have you confused and turned around. You have to decide which way to go, and fast. The sorcerer is closing in, and if he catches you, there’s no telling what horrors he will unleash on you. Luckily, the Grimoire knows the way out and is willing to help you in its way. Through images manifesting on its pages, the Grimoire will attempt to help you find the one of six doors that will lead you closer to the exit…before it’s too late.
Obscurio is the new game by Libellud, the team that brought you Mysterium and Dixit. It shares a lot of the same DNA that made those titles such good gaming experiences. Namely, the beautiful, fantastical art that forms the central mechanics of the game. While Dixit had everyone on their own, and Mysterium was fully cooperative, Obscurio has found a middle ground with a one-against-many structure involving a hidden traitor.
One player takes on the role of the Grimoire, the mysterious magical book that will be giving clues to the players to help them escape the library. The rest of the players are dealt loyalty cards with one secretly getting the traitor card. Their goal is to slow down the wizards and leave them trapped in the library.
The game is played over a series of rounds. In each one the wizards must interpret the clues of the Grimoire and find the correct exit door. Rounds are broken up into a number of phases.
During the Setup, at least one Trap token is drawn, more depending on how quickly the wizards solved the riddle the previous round. Traps screw up the wizards by covering pages of the Grimoire, adding extra doors for the wizards to choose from in the round, placing one of the door cards face down, or some other negative effect.
When preparing the Riddle, the Grimoire draws one card and secretly looks at it. That is the card that will identify the exit door. They then take the Grimoire board, draw two new cards, and place them face up on the open pages of the Grimoire. The Grimoire player then uses the magnetic Butterfly markers to indicate an element on both illustrations. They can use the tokens to refer to a colour, and item, a shape, or even the card itself. It’s up to the wizards to decipher the clues.
The third phase of a round is the Traitor cards. All of the wizards close their eyes and the Traitor opens theirs. The Grimoire player knows who the Traitor is, and they will reveal the eight images in the card holder. The goal of the Traitor is to pick illustrations that will distract the wizards based on the clues the Grimoire has given. They can choose up to two images from the card holder.
In the Choosing the door phase, the Grimoire player takes the actual exit door, plus the selected Traitor cards, and adds enough cards from the deck to make a total of six. They lay one in front of each door and then start the timer. Now it’s time for the wizards to discuss the information the Grimoire has presented to them and attempt to find the correct exit door. While this is going on. The Traitor will be secretly trying to sow doubt in their minds in an effort to get them to choose the wrong door. Each player has a disc representing their character. When they’re ready, they place their token in front of the door they think is the correct exit. Obviously they want to find the right door, but speed is also of the essence. They more time they take, the more traps they face the next round.
Depending on the number of players you have and how tough a game you’re looking to play, you put aside a certain number of Cohesion tokens. Every time a wizard goes to the wrong exit door, they take one of the Cohesion tokens. Once the set aside tokens run out, the wizards must make make an accusation. They get a minute to discuss their suspicions and then point at the player they think is disloyal. If the traitor gets the most votes, they have to reveal their identity. Going forward they’ll only participate in picking the traitor cards. If an innocent player is accused, the team loses two more of the precious Cohesion tokens. Why so precious? If they run out, the team loses and is trapped in the library forever.
The game can end with the wizards getting to the last space of the progress track with at least one Cohesion token left. In that case, the loyal wizards and the Grimoire win. If the last Cohesion token is taken, the Traitor wins on their own.
I was a big fan of Dixit when it first came out and played it quite a bit. Mysterium is a great idea with beautiful, creepy art, but I feel like sometimes it can drag a bit, especially when the team is particularly stuck. Obscurio feels just right in terms of competitive structure and game length. I love hidden traitor games to begin with, but it works really well with the way you decipher the clues you’re getting from the Grimoire. In one game, a fellow wizard chose a door that seemed so wrong to me. I was totally convinced she MUST be the traitor, but I was wrong. It all comes down to how you interpret the clues the Grimoire gives you. That, and how convincing the traitor is at misleading you. The rounds feel faster and as the timer ticks down while you discuss which door to pick you really feel the fun and stress of the situation. Not to mention the fact that you’re trying to sniff out the snake in your group. Even though they are trying to help, it can be really hard to figure out the Grimoire’s clues.
In short, I think Obscurio is easily my favourite of the the three titles. There is definitely some similarities between them, but the gaming experience is the most fun in this presentation. It’s an excellent gamer party game and a great one to try in the Halloween season.
A media copy of Obscurio was provided for this article by Asmodee.