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Copy of a review on my blog: As a Board Gamer



Designer: Jerry Hawthorne
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Number of Players: 1- 4
Playtime: 90 minutes
Price (approx.): 60 Euro or more

Overview:

The story:
The king lies in his bed, sleeping, he is very ill. The dark queen Vanestra takes over the reign of the kingdom and captures the ones who are still loyal to him. Collin, the Prince, Tilda, the healer, Nez, the smith and Maginos, the mystic are thrown into a damp dungeon cell. Here, in the shadows, they meet Filch, an unsuccessful thief, a scumbag. He points the company on a grate in the floor that leads into the sewer. To escape from this plight, they have to be inventive. They are too big to escape through the grate, they must become smaller. As small as mice..

The old Maginos turns the company, with the help of an ancient, dangerous spell, into mice. They need to warn the king! His wife isn’t the loving queen he thinks she is. But queen Vanestra is cunning and changes her minions into rats, trying to recapture the rebels and make their lives as miserable as can be..

What you get for your money:
You get 6 mouse hero figures, 16 minions, 8 double-side room tiles and a story control board. Also, you get a couple of dice, lots of cards and counters, one rulebook and a nice story book.

How do you play the game:
The game is story based, which means a story is told through several scenarios. These scenarios are chapters in the story book, called Sorrow and Remembrance. Every chapter starts with a introduction that drags you into this micey universe. It then tells you how to set up the room tiles and what happens in the first room (enemies, items, etc.). It also gives you victory and defeat conditions. One of the defeat conditions is the amount of time you have to claim victory. The time is represented by the amount of pages a chapter has. The better you do, the slower the pages are turned and the more time you have to become heroes. Mice and Mystics is a cooperative game, so everyone wins or everyone loses. You have to work together.



Everyone chooses a hero or heroes and the adventure begins. Every mouse has a set of starting abilities, equipment and stats. He or she has a battle, defence, lore, move and life value.



The first two values indicate how many dice you must throw in an attack or defence. The move value says how many steps you may take during a turn. This value is increased by one roll of a die (there are numbers on every side). Lastly, the life value tells you how many wounds the mouse can take.

One side of a die can contain two attack icons and/or one defend icon: a sword for a melee attack or a bow, for those rats that are far away and a shield for your own or your enemy’s defence.

There is one other icon, a piece of cheese. If you roll cheese, good things happen. It is basically mice money and you can do or learn stuff by spending it. However, if minions roll cheese, bad things might befall you. A cheese counter is put on the clock on the story control board and once the wheel is full, the clock strikes twelve, a chapter pages is turned (less time remains) and more minions will enter the arena.



Enemies also have certain stats and abilities. They always move, through a die roll, to the closest mouse in the room and if they can attack, they will. But the mice are never killed, they are captured (very kid friendly).

In every room, the story unfolds, you can fight enemies, you can look for items and along the way your mice become better equipped and more skilful in their quest to warn the king.

(If you want to know how to play the game in more detail, you can download the rulebook or watch the Watch it Played video on YouTube)

Review:

Theme(1x):
Is the theme well implemented? The theme is the games core, its beating heart that pumps warm blood into his veins on a cold winter evening.

The stories pull you into this dark world where everything goes wrong and the heroes need to save the day. Plus, on every character card you can read a bit of background information, so you can get to know your mouse even better.

You can get items that make sense in every way, for instance you can get a hook to pull you out of the water before you get pulled into the sewer pipes, a grape to lure roaches.

I cannot tell you very much, because it will ruin the story for those who have not played the game yet.

9

Gameplay (2x):
The rules are simple, but the rulebook isn’t that great. It rambles on a bit. You find a rule in a place you don’t expect or don’t find it at all.

But as long as there is someone who knows the game, everyone can play it, children and gamers alike.



Mice and Mystics is a dungeon crawler. Sort of. The game is totally dice based, and a die is a two-faced b…, well you know what I mean. You can say the game is totally luck based, you have no influence on your dice. They can ruin your plan. But it feels so exhilarating when you roll three swords and you beat a rat to pieces.

Some people like this and others hate it.

There are very little difficult choices to be made in the game, which is good for non-gamers but maybe not for gamers. You have to beat you enemies to go to the next tile, so that’s a must. If the scenario tells you that items can be found at certain spots, it is obvious that you need to get them to make the adventure more easy.

The only real choice in the game arises when you can go on a side mission. Do we push our luck and try to go on that mission and get a reward, at the cost of our time and health? Or do we go on without it?

The way the minion wheel, the one where the minions put their cheese, works is nice. It brings tension to the game. The little mice in your head cheer you on when it’s your turn to roll the dice for the minions and there is only one free cheese slot on the wheel. ‘No cheese, no cheese!’

Another thing that brings a bit of tension to the game is the fact that not all tiles are scripted. Sometimes, instead of the storybook telling you where to place what, minions arise by revealing an encounter card. Sometimes it turns out badly (desperation), other times only the easier minions need to be placed (total relief). This also increases the variability of the game a bit, if you need to do scenario again.

The characters are well designed. Everyone does something better than another, so you really need to cooperate to achieve the chapter objective.

The ability cards are an ok addition. They maybe have too much text on them. Especially the first couple of times I played the game, I only knew after the game which ability was useful.

The grid the mice can move over is fully implemented in the illustrations on the room tiles. But it can cause a problem. Every tile should have a spot for four small minions or mice, but some tiles just aren’t that spacious.



In general, the game plays fairly smooth, but sometimes it can become a little fiddly, with all the different counters for types of wounds and disorders you can get and the different rules they bring.

You have to play the campaign mode in my opinion. If you jump from one random chapter to another, the story doesn’t make any sense and you miss items obtained in previous chapters. You can play without the items or put them in the mice’s bags, but it just doesn’t feel the same. The flavour of the game is lost.

So I only recommend to play the chapters separately, if you played through the whole storybook. But then the question arises: How is the replay value?

And I think, because the story is so important, the game has a low replay value, at least if you play with the same people. The sense of surprise and amazement isn’t there. Maybe if you show it to new people, you can live off their fun. Or wait a long while to play it again.

6

Looks (1x):
This game looks amazing (photo’s). The illustrations in the book are very beautiful and the tiles even more so. Very warm and cozy. The mice and minion miniatures are well crafted and pretty detailed. They are unpainted, but if you are willing to paint them, the game looks even better.



9

Quality of the game parts (1x):
The cardboard tiles are decent. The top layer of some of the smaller cardboard pieces came off when I punched them out of the sheets.

The quality of the cards isn’t great. They damage easily. Luckily most of the cards aren’t shuffled that much. Except the small initiative cards, you shuffle them every time you explore a new tile. They’re very small, so you can’t sleeve them. In my case they quickly looked like hell.

As already said, the miniatures are well crafted and pretty detailed and you get a lot of them.

6

Fun (2x):
Mice and Mystics is incredibly fun. While rolling your dice, running through the castle, defeating rats and other vermin, you enfold an amazing story. In my case, the world of Mice and Mystics brought me back to the days I read Redwall from Brian Jacques. Not that the story is the same, but it gives me a great feeling of nostalgia. Reading a book in a darkened room, only my bedside lamp giving me some light..

It is a great game to play with your family. The dice cause tension and excitement. You have to work together, but all information is in the open, so everyone can participate in the decisions that are made.

Kids will love this game, some because of the story and others because they like the idea of the sword fighting, bow shooting, hammer bashing mice. The characters, are very likeable, and you want to know all about them.

Although the game-play itself isn’t very innovative or special, the flavour it brings makes you forget that and makes you want more.

What I do think, though, is that you must like thematic games and in this case storytelling games. The game is literally put to a halt and someone reads the story aloud. Not everyone likes these story interruptions. They like to keep the momentum going.

Nonetheless, Mice and Mystics is a great adventure. To battle!!

8

Final Score

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Andy Andersen
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Thanks for your thoughts
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Ryan Everly
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Actually, all The cards for Mice and Mystics *can* be sleeved. I used Fantasy Flight brand sleeves. Mini European for the small cards, Standard Card Game size for the large cards. All of them fit like a glove.
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Rowdy van Lieshout
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jaray wrote:
Actually, all The cards for Mice and Mystics *can* be sleeved. I used Fantasy Flight brand sleeves. Mini European for the small cards, Standard Card Game size for the large cards. All of them fit like a glove.


Aha, the large ones I knew. But I did not know there were such small sleeves..
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John "Omega" Williams
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Replay value is a very YMMV sort of thing. One persons going to be able to only go through it once. Someone else will be able to go through it again and again. Same as some people read a book only once ever. And others read a book again and possibly again.
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Jason Rupp
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You seem pretty spot on imo. As a board gamer, some of the luck swings in this game can be pretty annoying. We've had a case where someone lost their mouse on a single attack from full health to 0(which isn't very fun).

I agree that the lack of choice is a bit frustrating at times. I can see it being extremely fun to play with the family though.
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Jeff Fike
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I found this game to be very fun and the "Watch it Played" series hooked me on it.

My boys 9 and 7 really enjoyed it.

We never finished our campaign, though. And the reason my boys fell flat on it, is the same as me.

Well, there are two reasons.

1) MY household has a lot of games, so a partial reason, at no fault to mice and mystics, was just simply other choices.

But 2) The character development is flat. I know the designer said he did this intentionally so you can have equal success on any mission regardless of the skills you choose. This does make the game open for kids and newcomers, however, it makes it flat. It matters not what skills you get for filch, because filch is still filch, whether it is scenario 1 or scenario 8. Yes, you can use some skill for this or that, but the game plays the same. So the only thing you have left is the story, which is a very rich and enjoyable one.

But as a "gamer", the game falls flat once you look past the story. It was a specific decision made by the designer. I understand it, but that is also what loses my interest.

With that said, I'm proud to own the game. I feel it is bringing kids into boardgaming and bringing families together.
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Jeff Fike
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Forgot to add.

When you transition from one campaign to the next, you lose all your gear save one. This also bothers me from a "gamer" perspective. Also bothered my sons.

You work hard, you find that weapon you wanted, and also get some nice armor. As you progress to the next mission, you have to leave it behind and find it all over again.

From a game balancing perspective, it is not a big deal. The designer balanced the game just fine, you don't need that sword and armor, but from a sense of accomplishment point of view...we get six missions into the campaign and our gear is the same as mission 1.

Again, all of it is fine...it just doesn't appeal to the "gamer" side of me.
 
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Johanna J.

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I have only played this game twice at the most, once with a group, once solo. It will stay this way because....

I do not like this game.

While the theme could be exciting, it is destroyed by an extremely repetitive mechanic of moving and battling, rolling dice over and over for both the mice and their enemies. The whole thing is like an optical illusion, where the different boards, the miniatures and the cards give you the impression of a highly enveloping theme, and as soon as you start, it is entirely scripted, with more or less random outcomes, oftentimes useless cards, while some cards that you really might need or actually could apply in a given situation (f. e. moving out of the water with the ladder) simply don't show up. Once you succeeded in killing all the enemies on a board or entered a new board... It just starts over again. Booh!

The rule book simply sucks, I have wasted a lot of time both online as well as reading the rule book and I still couldn't piece the information together to help me and my little group get even the most minimal flow going during playing.

I cannot understand why so many people apparently like this game.

 
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