NOW YOU SEE ME – A Guide to Hidden Movement Games

Hidden movement is a mechanic I adore in board games. If you don’t know what it is, you’ve almost certainly guessed it correctly. One (or more) players in the game are moving around the board in secret, leaving the other players to track them down. It’s a simple idea that leads to great tension and dramatic reveals. Plus whoever is doing the hiding usually gets lots of opportunities to do an evil villain laugh, “bru-ha ha hah!” Is that how you spell an evil villain laugh? I’m not sure. Whilst I go and google that, here’s some great hidden movement games to check out!

Fury of Dracula

1987 was the first ever edition of this classic vampire hunting game. Dracula is in Europe, and he’s absolutely furious! So furious is Dracula in “Fury of Dracula” that a plucky band of characters (yes it’s the ones from the book, “Dracula”) have decided, enough is enough! They’re gonna destroy this guy once and for all, but only if they can find him…

“Fury of Dracula” took the promise of the OG of hidden movement, a game called “Scotland Yard” and added fighting, traps and lots and lots of bats. One player is Dracula (from the book, “Dracula”) who prowls in secret across a map of Europe. The remaining 1-4 players play Van Helsing and the crew trying to pick up a trail. (Top tip, I think it’s best with 2 players controlling 2 hunters each, it can be a bit slow at 4 and you can spend whole turns stuck in a hospital.)

It’s a simple, move to a place, see if Dracula has been there game, with the added drama of Dracula leaving behind terrors to stalk the others; maybe a young vampire is waiting to fight you in Budapest, what of the strange fog in Paris, and, oh no, Vienna is full of bats! There’s a fun night and day mechanic where Dracula is more powerful at night but the hunters can move by day, the theme works brilliantly for the hidden movement mechanic and the fights are good fun if a little janky at times (think paper, scissors, stone but with garlic and crosses) It has, however, recently been ousted as my favourite hunt and fight game by another, more recent game…

BEAST

And that game is this one! “Beast” only came out last year but it’s rocketed into one of my all time favourites. In this game, a mighty beast stalks a mysterious land, looking to drive out the settlers that have built homes there, whilst the villagers must call upon their greatest hunters to track down and slay this beast. It’s not really clear who is the good guy or bad guy here, which I really enjoy – can’t a beast just raze a few villages to the ground in peace?

There are lots of possible beasts to choose from, maybe a giant wolf, a giant pig or a normal sized hydra. The hunters get their specialisations too. Maybe you’re good at traps, at building watchtowers, or my favourite, convincing villagers to RUN FOR THEIR LIVES.

Whereas in some hidden movement games, a player might have vanished for most of the game, in “Beast” the hiding comes in small bursts, as the beast has to hunt and every time it hunts, its position is revealed. The core of the game is in a tense drafting of cards at the start of each round. Which action cards will you keep and which will you pass on? Do you keep the card you really need at the expense of giving your opponent something they really need? It all adds to the ramping tension as smol wooden sheep after smol wooden sheep are gobbled up by this unseen monster and its minions.

Each game I’ve played has gone down to the wire, has played nice and fast and left us desperate to try out a different combo of beasts and hunters, and level them up in different ways (yeah you get to level up!) Plus there are also different scenarios to try out, including lots of officially endorsed fan made ones, so the replayability is huge.

But what if you don’t want to fight, you simply wish to chase…

Letters from Whitechapel

“Letters from Whitechapel” is hidden movement at its purest. It has no fight mechanic, no special cards or levelling up, it’s just one player, moving in secret and everyone else trying to catch them. If you do, you win! If you fail, you lose!

The setting here is a team of police trying to find Jack the Ripper’s base. A policeman’s turn is pretty easy; move, check the numbered squares, if Jack’s been there this evening, a clue marker is placed, and you have the trail! Jack’s mission each night is to get from a murder scene, the site of which is known to the police, back to their base (a numbered square they choose at the start).

We started playing this game with 4 or 5 players but over the years it has distilled down to my pal Paul as the murderer and me as ALL THE POLICE IN LONDON. I love it as a 2 player game and think this is where it really shines, a proper cat and mouse hunt across 4 nights. The game twists and turns with great Victorian melodrama. One moment you can feel like you’re investigating completely the wrong area, then suddenly, a clue! The Trail! And you can only be a few spaces away! When the police think they have found the right square they can attempt an arrest.

A quick note on the theme, it’s not ideal that this was a real historical serial killer so, if you like, do as we do and switch the villain to a fictional Victorian bad guy, think Moriaty being chased by Sherlock Holmes, or make one up yourself. That aside, the murky back streets of gaslight Victorian London is perfect for hidden movement and the feeling of narrowing the circle on where that hideout is, that’s pure board game drama and I love it!

 

And if you’ve played all of those and are hungry for more, here’s two others that I’ve heard are good but, let’s be honest, haven’t actually played. “Mind MGMT” is a gorgeous looking game of “psychic espionage” with lots of different missions and a semi legacy element. “City Of The Great Machine” is a steampunk game where, in a nice inversion of the norm, every player except one is hidden. Plus you can run the great machine with an AI for a full co-op game (which doesn’t seem the point of hidden movement to me, but nice to have the option!)

Write by Tom Bell

If you want to pick up any of these games, check if they’re in stock at Zatu. Buying them there supports No Rolls Barred via our affiliate partnership. Read more here.