Inspired by this question, especially @RobRenaud's comment on @BlairHippo's answer pointing to an inconclusive argument on BGG. My question is two-part:

  • (a) In a general 4-player game, is Saboteur a better card than in a general 2-player game?

  • (b) Extreme case: in a 4-player game where all three other players think Saboteur is amazing---will buy it and play it whenever possible---what is your best general strategy?

I take as given that Saboteur is a terrible card in most 2-player games (based on Isotropic data and the answers to the previously linked question; please direct disagreements with this assumption to that question).

I will actively downvote answers citing anecdotal evidence. @RobRenaud's comment in the BGG link is a good example of the type of answer I'm hoping for; I hope he submits it as an answer (perhaps fleshed out a little more) relatively soon, otherwise I hope someone else does. I'm also interested in well-reasoned arguments that agree or disagree with that conclusion.

And please don't make your answer too dependent on other cards in the kingdom set. Of course Lighthouse or Moat (or many others) could provide specific counters, but keep your answer general.

  • If anyone wants, I can give you shell access to the councilroom machine to do analysis. I am personally convinced based on the player scale invariance argument (and subsequent lack of refutation of that point) on BGG.
    – rrenaud
    Dec 7, 2011 at 23:52
  • Unfortunately I suspect it will be very difficult to get data of any significance. From a quick look at logs of a handful of days... It looks like these days there are typically over 10000 two-player games per day, and fewer than 100 four-player games per day. Even a year ago, with fewer expansions, less than 10% of games included Saboteur. And given the noisiness of analysis across all games, I expect conclusions based on four-player games only would be pretty uncertain.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 7, 2011 at 23:52
  • Also, a side note: there are definitely differences, whether or not it's any better. It will deplete the supply piles faster in a four-player game than in a two-player game, which may sometimes change the way the game ends.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 7, 2011 at 23:57
  • 1
    My answer's obviously "yes," but as my evidence is all the anecdotal kind shujaa isn't interested in cultivating, I'll just leave it here in a comment. :-)
    – BlairHippo
    Dec 8, 2011 at 15:36

1 Answer 1


Saboteur is undoubtedly more dangerous in a 4-player game, but that does not necessarily mean better.

4-player games can end on piles more frequently than 2-player games because you only have 3 Victory cards per person (rather than 4 in 2/3-player) and 2.5 cards/Kingdom pile/person (vs. 5 in 2-player and 3.33 in 3-player). Saboteur can result in up to 3 extra cards leaving the Supply per play, which makes the piles endgame condition much more likely. If everyone plays a Saboteur one turn and everyone gains a $2 card as a replacement, you've almost exhausted 3 piles worth of cards right there—in a single turn.

In the extreme case of all the players going for Sab, you are likely to be hit at least once a turn, and more likely two or even three times. That's the equivalent of facing a King's Court-ed Saboteur in 2-player: you're losing 3 high-value cards a turn, versus only being able to get one your turn. The general 2-player advice against Saboteur is to ignore it because Sab gives no benefit to the person playing it, and so you can build your deck up faster than your opponent can trash it down, and your opponent loses the opportunity to build his or her own deck by playing Sab. The ability to outrace Sab is lost when you're getting hit multiple times a turn, which means that the game is likely to stall at the $3/$4 card level.

  • So... is your answer for (b) to buy Estates and end it on piles as quickly as possible? Dec 8, 2011 at 2:01
  • If it looked like it was going to turn into a Sab-fest, Estates would definitely become a priority. But, you want to be careful if a) there are no über-cheap piles, or b) if your opponents take nothing rather than a lower-cost card. In those scenarios, I don't know if Silver would be better than Estates. Dec 8, 2011 at 2:12
  • This was my experience with the card in four-player games. Everybody was desperate for something that would give them multiple $3+ cards per turn to serve as ablative Saboteur shielding. Had useful $2 cards (like Pawn) been in play, they would have gone CRAZY fast.
    – BlairHippo
    Dec 8, 2011 at 15:39
  • I think we can agree that it sucks more to have three other players with Saboteurs than just one player, but that doesn't mean that it was good for those three players that they bought it.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 8, 2011 at 17:57
  • Saboteur is absolutely brutal if combined with 1-3 highways. If you are the saboteur/highway player the other players don't stand a chance as you strip them of their gold/province/5-cost costs extremely efficiently!
    – Nick
    Aug 8, 2012 at 10:06

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