Hidden Movement Games
There is something primal about the childhood game of hide and seek. It’s such a simple game—one person hides, and another looks for them—yet it is deeply compelling. The game taps into our primitive instincts to hunt, track, and capture as well as our instincts to flee, hide, and evade.
When you are hiding, you feel fear and tension as you sense the seekers drawing closer and closer, relief when they pass you by, and triumph when you successfully evade detection.
As the seeker, you experience the thrill of the chase, the hope of discovery, and the reward of patient pursuit and tracking.
Hide and Seek All Grown Up
Hidden movement games capture the feeling of hide and seek without getting your knees dirty or getting stuck in that cubby under the stairs. These games often pit one player against a team of players working together. The solo player moves across the board, pursued by the hunters. The movement of the quarry is kept secret, usually by recording the path behind a screen or on a notepad.
The seekers follow clues left by their prey and coordinate their movements so they can swoop in when he briefly surfaces. Tracking and capturing their quarry relies upon deduction, teamwork, and a bit of blind luck.
Relive fond childhood memories and tap into your primal hunting instincts as we track down the best hidden movement board games.
The revered ancestor of hidden movement games is Ravensburger‘s Scotland Yard, winner of the Spiel des Jahres in 1983. In this three- to six-player game, one player takes on the role of Mr. X and the others play as detectives hunting Mr. X across a map of London.
The detectives do not know where Mr. X is, but they do know how he is traveling. As they pursue him, they can see whether he takes a taxi, a bus, or the Underground. Periodically, Mr. X is forced to surface and make his location known.
The detectives work together to deduce where Mr. X could possibly be and to coordinate the movement of their pawns to hem him in. If a detective’s pawn ever occupies the same space as Mr. X, he is apprehended, and the detectives win. If Mr. X can avoid capture for 24 turns, he wins.
Scotland Yard is less complex than the other games on this list and is a good introduction to this genre of games. It’s been in print for nearly 40 years, and with good reason. For a classic introduction to hidden movement games, seek out Scotland Yard.
Letters from Whitechapel and Whitehall Mystery
Like Scotland Yard, Letters from Whitechapel, from Fantasy Flight Games, centers the action in London. Yet this is a darker game. Mr. X is replaced by Jack the Ripper who prowls the gas-lit streets of 1888 London in search of victims. He must commit five murders to win the game. The other players (up to five) are detectives who must cooperate to catch Jack before he kills again.
At the beginning of the game, Jack will choose one location to be his hideout. Each night, he commits murder and then moves, one space at a time, back to his hideout. The detectives also move, searching for clues on the city streets. If they investigate a location where Jack has passed by, he must tell them and mark the location with a disk. Gradually, the detectives trace a path from the murder back to the hideout.
If Jack can avoid capture, he wins. If the detectives can discover his hideout or arrest him, then they win as a team.
Whitehall Mystery is a sequel to Letters from Whitechapel from the same designers, Gabriele Mari and Gianluca Santopietro. The mechanisms and gameplay are similar.
The difference is that Jack is not killing anyone (he’s already done that.) He is now trying to escape by moving across the board from one visible goal to another while the detectives try to guess his location and make an arrest. It is a shorter and less complex game than Letters from Whitechapel and more like Scotland Yard.
Which game should you play? If you want the most complex experience and you aren’t put off by the grisly theme, go with Letters from Whitechapel. If you don’t mind the theme but prefer a game that is simpler and shorter, check out Whitehall Mystery. And if you want a more family-friendly game, pick up Scotland Yard.
What if you love the idea of pursuing Jack the Ripper through the London fog but you only have two players? Mr. Jack is the game for you. This two-player-only game from Hurrican Games pits one player, Jack, against one opponent, who plays the detective.
Strictly speaking, Mr. Jack is more of a hidden identity game than it is a hidden movement game. The movement of the characters is visible to both players, but only one player knows which one is Mr. Jack.
Jack is the secret identity of one of the eight characters on the board. He wins if he can leave the district or evade capture for eight turns. The detective wins by moving a character into Jack’s space and correctly accusing him.
On each turn, the players will move the characters on the board, using their special abilities and ending their movement in light or shadow.
Then Jack must declare if he can be seen by a witness. He is witnessed if he is in the light or if another character is adjacent to him. The detective can then exonerate suspects who do not match those criteria, drawing ever closer to his or her prey by process of elimination.
Mr. Jack is a quick game for two players, short enough that you will want to switch roles and play a second game. The detective will need to employ logic and deduction, feeling like a real detective. Mr. Jack needs to reduce the amount of information available to the detective by positioning characters so that that they are either all in the light or all in the shadows. Or he can just make a break for it.
More Mr. Jack
Mr. Jack Pocket is a smaller, card-based version of Mr. Jack. The theme and goal are the same, but gameplay is different. For my money, I’d stick with the original.
Mr. Jack in New York is a stand-alone sequel to Mr. Jack. In this version, Jack has escaped to New York City with the detective in hot pursuit. The gameplay is similar but more complex. The characters have new powers and movement options.
Other than that, the two games are similar enough that there is little reason to have both in your collection. If you want a slightly more complex game, choose Mr. Jack in New York. Otherwise, stick with Mr. Jack. Either way, both are fun, quick deduction games for two players.
In Captain Sonar, two submarine crews attempt to locate and destroy the opposing team’s submarine without being sunk themselves. The game can be played with teams taking alternating turns or it can be played with simultaneous turns. For maximum fun and chaos, choose simultaneous play with a full crew complement of four players on each team.
Each player has a unique role on their crew. The Captain directs movement of the sub, marking its path on a dry erase board. The Radio Operator is recording the movement of the opposing sub. He or she won’t know the starting location of the enemy sub—but knowing the direction of travel will help narrow down the potential locations.
Each sub also carries a First Mate and Engineer responsible for tracking system breakdowns and damage as well as repairing damage and charging ship systems.
When one team thinks they know the location of the enemy sub, they can halt play and launch a torpedo or mine, possibly scoring the final hit to sink the other team.
Real-time play grows loud and frantic as the captain shouts orders and other crewmates report the sub status and everyone tries to remember exactly what they are supposed to be doing in that moment.
While Captain Sonar serves up to eight players, there is a stripped-down version designed for two to four players. Sonar combines some of the roles and simplifies the operation of ship systems. Sonar will do if you only have two or three people to play, but if you can get eight people together, definitely get on board with Captain Sonar.
Mind MGMT: The Psychic Espionage “Game”
Off the Page Games brings us the latest hidden movement game with Mind MGMT: The Psychic Espionage “Game.” One player assumes the role of Mind MGMT, a secretive organization bent on world domination. This player roams the city recruiting new psychically gifted agents. The others play as rogue agents trying to capture the recruiter.
The Recruiter must travel to certain sites on the board to recruit new agents. The rogue agents also travel across the city and can ask the Recruiter questions about where she has been and when.
Every space on the board contains two features such as fountains, pools, and umbrellas. When a rogue agent is on a space, they can ask the Recruiter about one of the features. If the Recruiter has visited a space with that feature, she must mark one of them. If a rogue agent occupies one of the visited spaces, he can ask when the Recruiter was there.
Similarly, the Recruiter must recruit at spaces that contain one of the three features randomly selected at the beginning of the game.
Like almost all hidden movement games, Mind MGMT is a logical deduction game with a bit of blind guessing. As the Recruiter, it can be stressful when the rogue agents are closing in and exhilarating when you slip through their net. Presented with an intriguing puzzle, the rogue agents must work together to track the Recruiter.
If you love hidden movement games, Mind MGMT is one of the best. It steps up the complexity from classics like Scotland Yard. The 14 sealed packages included with the game add variability and replayability, yielding a different experience each time the game is played.
While there are plenty more great hidden movement board games out there, there are a couple more that we felt deserve mention here.
Shadows in the Forest – Taking the meaning of Hidden Movement literally, this game is played in the dark! Sneak around as little forest spirits, ducking into the shadows of the trees to avoid being caught in the light. With endearing figures and a working lantern light for hunting down the little kodamas, this revisited classic no longer requires a candle and open flame.
Fury of Dracula – Hunt down Dracula by day or by night (he can only move at night, of course) before his dark influence spreads across the land! Trace his movements, but know that he can (and will) attempt to deceive you… This highly thematic classic is a bloody classic and the latest editions feature wonderful miniatures! Warning, this game can be hard to find, and is best enjoyed by adults.
Jaws – Based on the 1975 thriller movie, in this game you’re either the eponymous shark, or the crew of the Orca trying to both locate and survive the shark! You’ll play on a two-sided board, using one side to hunt the bloodthirsty beast and the other to defend the Orca from a watery grave.
Ready or Not
We hope this gave you a head start at finding at least one new game to add to your collection of hidden movement games. When just getting started, you can’t go wrong with the classic Scotland Yard, but if you want the newest and hottest, Mind MGMT won’t disappoint. Whether you are hunting for serial killers, submarines, or psychics, seek and you will find.
Written by John David Thacker
John David is a freelance writer specializing in board games and the board game industry.