Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Sunday 15 July 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- MS Batory

Game: MS Batory

Publisher: Granna

Designer: Filip Miłuński

Year: 2017

On board the glamorous cruise ship, MS Batory, a crime has been committed. The countess's pearls have disappeared and it's your job to determine who are the culprits. Each of you knows that some characters are innocent, but you'll need to ask around and deduce who is innocent to ultimately be the first to determine the guilty party(ies).

By asking clever questions about different locations on the ship or different characteristics of the suspects you can eventually deduce the culprits. If deduction games are your thing, and you love constructing 3D cardboard ships, then read on to fins out more about MS Batory.


MS Batory takes place over a 3-deck cruise ship, you can either lay the 3 decks out like a traditional board or your can build it all together into a 3d ship to play on. Ultimately your goal is to deduce the person who stole the countess' pearls, at the start of the game one card is secretly put aside while the rest of the cards are evenly distributed between all the players. If you can work out which is the card that no-one has then you know the culprit, at any time you can make your final guess and, if correct, win the game. If you were incorrect then you will be eliminated from the game (as you now know the answer).

Each turn players get to move characters on the ship and then ask a question. Moving characters is simple, you have 4 action points and moving 1 guest from a room to an adjacent room costs 1 point. The purpose of movement is two fold, firstly it can help you set the map up nicely for your investigation, but secondly it may help you complete the current event. There is always an event in play, and should you fulfill it's requirements then you are allowed to draw a question card from the deck for each time you managed to do that.

Asking questions is a little more complex, after moving characters you may play any number of question cards from your hand to form 1 complete question. For example playing a deck card and a crew card would allow me to ask another player if they had any crew on the promenade deck, or if they had any passengers on the midship deck. Each character has 3 statistics: crew/passenger, age bracket, and gender, all of which can be inquired about. The person you ask only has to answer yes or no and every player gets to hear the answer, so feel free to listen into other player's inquiries to try and narrow down the list of culprits.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

MS Batory manages to capture the joy of deduction games is a quick ~20 minute experience. The puzzle aspect is fantastic you have to balance asking obvious questions to get easy answers with giving too much away. To add extra confusion there is one character that is actually a pair of parrots that are sitting on the captain's shoulder! The two-player variant has 3 criminals instead of 1, which works really well to help keep the deduction alive.

MS Batory comes as standard with a Polish/English side to the ship tiles and the cardboard characters pawns. While this isn't an issue with the ship (you do have to ensure you build it the right way up), the character pawns can be an issue, the last thing you want in a deduction game is to confuse yourself over who is in what room, and all it takes is for one player to accidentally lie to ruin the game. So long as you are aware of this issue you shouldn't make the mistake, but it is a noticeable flaw of the dual language version.

The 3D ship itself is a thing of beauty, it's probably not the most practical way to play the game, you might not be able to clearly see where everyone is at all times, it is certainly the most fun. Building the ship does take a few minutes and I do recommend keeping the instructions in front of you so you don't accidentally install the decks in the wrong order.

I would strongly recommend getting MS Batory to the table if you have a Cluedo fan in your midst, it delivers the same experience, but updated for the modern era, with some actual deduction on the part of players and more gameplay than roll and move.As for a modern game table, I think it may be a bit of a novelty, but one with some real meat behind it. If people want a nice filler game that actually requires some logical thought then this might be the game for you!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

I really enjoy deduction games, for the same reason I enjoy logic puzzles - I just love figuring something out based on limited information. In MS Batory it feels like there are two puzzles going on, one is about how you can use four moves to set-up the best scenario to ask the right question to give yourself maximum information from a simple question. The second puzzle is the more traditional puzzle of figuring out 'whodunnit' based on the answers you get.

I've really enjoyed playing MS Batory, but it's only a 15 minute game for two players, with a setup time of at least 15 minutes, if not more. We left it on the table for a few days, but sometimes this isn't practical. You could also play the game with the decks flat on the table, but it feels like a big part of the game's character is lost, even though gameplay might actually be more practical, with the room names and character names being more visible.

Although MS Batory does use a two player variant, given that Amy read the rules, I didn't even notice. The variant is very simple and I actually really enjoy the subtle ways that you gain extra information in a two player game. With two evenly matched players, it seems like the way to win is to think carefully about the situation the other player is creating on the board to deduce what characters they might be holding. This makes the game feel like a much deeper, more challenging puzzle.

MS Batory is the sort of game I see us coming back to once in a while and playing a few games before it goes back onto the shelf for a few months. The game is really interesting to me, but there's just not a lot of variability to keep it fresh.

You Might Like...
  • MS Batory is a really clean deduction game that really makes you think about clever questions as well as deducing information from the answers.
  • You could definitely introduce this game as an alternative to friends familiar with Cluedo/Clue.
  • The game can definitely draws a crowd when it's set up on the table.
You Might Not Like...
  • The game is over-produced and the setup time is probably not justified for a 15 minute game.
  • There is not a lot going on in the game, so replayability is quite low.

The Verdict

6.5/10 MS Batory is a really clean but clever deduction game where everyone's questions and answers are part of the puzzle. It's a great spectacle, but the spectacle and the game don't really match and the game is a little repetitive for us.

MS Batory was a review copy kindly provided to us by CoiledSpring Games.

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