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Subject: Do You Want The Truth Reviews Mice and Mystics rss

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Dustin Bartman
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Mice and Mystics


Review Date: March 21, 2015
Ages: 7+
Players: 1-4
Time: 60 - 90 minutes
Release Date: 2012
Mechanics: Co-op, Dungeon Crawler, Dice Rolling
Developer: Jerry Hawthorne
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games


Mice And Mystics

Introduction


Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to lead a group of mice on an adventure through a medieval castle where rats and roaches are trying to prevent you from saving the kingdom? Neither have I, but I'll try anything once.

Mice and Mystics is a highly thematic dungeon crawler played out over 11 chapters. The story that unfolds as you play through the chapters is what makes this game special. Don't worry; I'm not going to spoil anything for anyone.

Game Components


22 Plastic Miniatures: You will get 6 unique mouse hero miniatures and an assortment of insect and rodent enemy miniatures. Of all the components in the box the miniatures were the only disappointment. There was a decent amount of flash on the miniatures and a lot of gaps between the torso and head/limbs on the rats and mice. I also noticed excess glue on a large number of miniatures. I have not gotten around to painting the miniatures yet but I can tell that they will require a lot of prep work before I can prime them. Overall there was a lot of detail in the miniatures and once they are painted they will look great, but out of the box they were a little disappointing.

8 Room Tiles: These tiles are thick; I was shocked at how heavy the box was when I first picked it up. The tiles are double sided with images that range from sewers to kitchens to courtyards.


Minis and tiles

Story Control Board: This is where all of the important information will go. This board is used to keep track of how much time you have left to complete the chapter as well as the order in which the characters and enemies will take their turn. Multiple card decks will also be kept here.


Control board - chapter tracker on the left, initiative tracker on the right.

5 Dice: These 5 dice are used for everything. Combat, movement, and different checks are all determined by rolling these.


The dice

Cards, Cards, Cards: Each hero and minion will have a card with their stats and skills listed on it. There are search cards that can be acquired during the game. Weapons, armor, and accessories can all be found in here, but beware as not everything is good. There are 28 ability cards that each grants the heroes a special ability. Each mouse starts with 1 ability card and gets to pick an additional card every time they level up. All of the cards are beautifully designed and the symbols are very intuitive.

Tokens: There are a few sheets of tokens to be used with the game. There are hearts to mark damage/poison and cheese that is the currency of the game. Cheese is needed to activate skills and to level up the heroes. There are also tokens for all of the special items and effects.


Most of the card and token types

Rulebook and Story Book: The rulebook is fairly straightforward. The game itself light for a dungeon crawler and the rulebook explains almost everything well.

The story book is amazing; I was hooked as soon as I read the first page. The story is what is going to make you want to continue playing. Each chapter starts with an explanation of what the mice are trying to accomplish. You are told how to set up the map and given special instructions for some of the tiles. The story will progress throughout the chapter as you explore the map.


No spoilers here, but this gives you an idea of how you are told to setup a chapter.

Box: A fairly simple insert that will keep things separated as long as it is stored horizontally. Not enough bags were included to keep everything organized.


Too many things, too little space

Setup


Basic Setup: The chapter that you are playing through will tell you how to set up the enemies and room tiles and tell you how many mice are participating in the chapter. Players need to chose their mice and then give each one a starting ability card. Some of the abilities are class specific while others can be used by anybody. Players will then need to go through the search cards to find the starting equipment that is listed on their hero cards.

Story Control Board: Along the left side of the board is the chapter tracker. Mice and Mystics is a timed dungeon crawl, you only have so many 'pages' to complete a 'chapter.' The chapter description will tell you which page to put the 'the end' marker on. The hourglass marker always starts on page 1 and moves forward as the chapter goes on. If at any time the hourglass reaches 'the end' then the chapter is automatically lost.

Along the right side of the board is the initiative tracker. This will tell you the order in which the heroes and enemies take their turns. Whenever a chapter is started or a new area is explored the order is determined. This is simply done by shuffling each participating mouse and enemy initiative card and laying them in a vertical row. The character at the top goes first and the one at the bottom goes last.

Shuffle the search deck and place it on the control board. Whenever a mouse successfully performs a search they draw one of these cards. Shuffle the encounter deck and place it on the board. These cards are used to determine which enemies you will be facing if the chapter does not specify.

Gameplay


Whenever a hero gets a turn they can move and then perform an action or perform an action and then move. There are 5 possible actions that a mouse can do:

Scurry: This is another move that can be done when you need to get somewhere fast.

Search: Roll a die. If there is a star symbol on the die then the search was successful and the mouse gets to draw a search card.

Recover: Use an action to attempt to get rid of a negative effect that your character has.

Explore: If all of the enemies on the tile have been defeated then a mouse on an explore tile may move onto the next tile or flip the tile over if there is a flip symbol arrow on the space.

Battle: Each mouse has a battle value listed on its hero card next to the sword symbol. If a mouse wants to make an attack they take the number of dice equal to their battle value and rolls them. Any swords count as hits if it is a short-range attack and bows count as hits if it is a long-range attack. Each enemy has a defense value listed on their initiative card next to the shield symbol. That many dice are rolled and each shield symbol cancels one hit that the mouse may have rolled. Each hit causes a wound, if the number of wounds that a character has suffered equals or exceeds its life then it is defeated. Equipping weapons and armor can increase battle and defense values. Defeated enemies are gone forever, while defeated mice are only captured and can be rescued once all of the enemies on the tile have been defeated.

Enemy Movement: Enemies follow very basic rules when taking their turn. First they will move towards the closest mouse, then they will attack. If multiple mice are available to attack they will hit the one that has not yet been attacked this turn.

The Cheese: The biggest difference between Mice and Mystics and most other dungeon crawlers that I have played is the way time is measured and how important time is. It is very likely that a few of the chapters will be lost because you took too long to complete your objectives. A cheese wheel tracks the time at the top of the the control board. It takes 6 pieces of cheese to fill the wheel and every time the wheel is filled the hourglass moves up 1 space on the chapter tracker and closer to 'the end' marker.

Whenever an enemy rolls a cheese symbol on an attack or defense roll a cheese is added to the wheel. Whenever a hero rolls a cheese on an attack or defense roll a cheese is added to their stash. Heroes will need to use cheese to activate abilities. If a mouse is able to collect 6 cheese tokens then they have the option of leveling up. When a mouse levels up they get to choose 1 additional ability card.

If the chapter was successfully completed then the mice each get to bring any new abilities and 1 search item that they found into the next chapter.

Strategies That Work For Me


Don't Waste Cheese: Whenever a hero saves up 6 cheese pieces you will be tempted to level them up immediately…don't do it. Hold onto the cheese and only level up a character when they have 8 cheese pieces. There will be times when you absolutely need to use an ability so make sure that you always have the cheese available to do so.

Watch The Cheese Wheel: Time is your biggest enemy in the game. I have never lost a chapter due to all of my mice being captured, but I have lost plenty of chapters because I ran out of time. Use whatever tricks you can to reduce the cheese pieces on the cheese wheel.

The Truth


Becomes Repetitive Quickly: After a few chapters you will quickly notice that you are doing the same thing over and over. Kill all enemies, move to next tile, repeat. The designers did add a lot of special rules for different tiles to spice things up a bit, but it wasn't enough to hold my attention for too long.

The heroes are all very similar in play style. Some could do long range attacks and some could move faster, but in the end they all felt the same. The abilities helped a bit, but I would have liked to have seen more unique abilities that really set the mice apart from each other.

More content in the box could have helped with the repetitiveness. There are only a handful of different enemy types and 8 room tiles. You can only fight cockroaches so many times in the sewers before it gets boring.

Combat System Too Simple: Sometimes simplicity is a good thing in a game, in a dungeon crawler a simple battle system is not good. There is very little skill or choices involved and you are relying on luck way too much. There will be times where all 4 of your mice take a turn and don't land a single blow, other times you will take down a boss with a single mouse making 1 attack. Sure you can use your abilities strategically to better your chances of winning, but in the end you are still relying on the dice.

Slow Character Advancement: I'm on Chapter 5 right now and my mice have a few new abilities and an extra piece of armor. I don't feel like I have accomplished all that much. I would have liked to have seen more advanced items and abilities. If a campaign that is going to take me 20+ hours to complete I want to feel like my heroes are getting better and evolving as time goes on.

Poor Enemy Decisions: The enemies are controlled by the game, which in a way is a good thing as all of the human players get to be on the same team. The rules that the enemies follow on their turn are not very clear and there are times when an enemy is clearly not making the right decision but you let it happen because rules are rules. Somebody who knows the game well will know exactly what the enemy will be doing ahead of time. This takes a lot of the excitement out of the game especially with such simple enemy turns. A reworking of the enemy movement and attacking rules would make for a more exciting and unpredictable game.

High Price: I have played my fair share of miniature games and I usually expect more than 22 miniatures if I shell out $70. The overall quality the components were amazing, but I was expecting more miniatures and more variety in enemy types.

Poor Box Design: The game is designed to be played as a campaign. Heroes will be picking up extra abilities and equipment as they go. The box is not designed in such a way that you can easily organize your character upgrades between play sessions; it is basically two big slots to pile everything into. You need to stack things neatly and keep the box 100% horizontal or else cards will shift and your progress will be lost.

The Beautiful


Extremely Thematic: You will feel like you are in a fairytale. You've got mice equipped with button shields and walnut armor running around collecting cheese. Very nice overall presentation.

Great for New/Young players: This is probably the game that I would choose if I was surrounded by people who don't play board games who wanted to try a dungeon crawler. It is quick to setup and teach and there are not a ton of stats to keep track of. The story and the simple gameplay would also make this game a big hit with kids.

Not a Big Grid: A lot of miniature games use a grid of squares or hexagons to represent the map. I applaud this game for not using uniform spaces. This may seem like a little thing, but it makes moving a little more tactical and makes the environment feel much more natural.

Overall Score: 6/10


This game could be a huge hit with the right crowd, but for me it was all style with no substance. The game has wonderful components and a story that pulls you in. The simplistic gameplay grew old very quickly and I found myself playing through the chapters just to find out what happened next in the story.

If you have never played a miniature game before then this would be a good place to start. Players looking for a heavier strategy game best look elsewhere.

Find my other reviews at www.doyouwantthetruth.ca
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Robert
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Sounds like a decent family game, especially for the younger crowd. Do you think kids around 8 yrs old could handle it?
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Thomas Huber-Wehner
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I've bought it exactly for this reason, to play it with my kids. From my experience a kid around 8 could handle it.
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Jacob Hall
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P.O.G.G. wrote:
Sounds like a decent family game, especially for the younger crowd. Do you think kids around 8 yrs old could handle it?


Oh yes. Very easily. They only need know the basic choices that can be made if at least one adult is present. I was the only one who knew the rules for running water, grapes, etc, and everyone did excellent.
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Mike Waleke
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Except Colt Express!
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"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." Douglas Adams
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Kroz wrote:
P.O.G.G. wrote:
Sounds like a decent family game, especially for the younger crowd. Do you think kids around 8 yrs old could handle it?


Oh yes. Very easily. They only need know the basic choices that can be made if at least one adult is present. I was the only one who knew the rules for running water, grapes, etc, and everyone did excellent.


The designer has said that he made the game with his daughter in mind, the story really draws the kids in.
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Bookwormral Bookwormral
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I have been playing with my now 6 year old since she was 5 and a bit. She understands all the rules and needs very little help from me.
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John Abrucia
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I do enjoy the game but I guess a major reason is that I held off and did some homework before purchasing. My nephews, both 7 years old, are getting interested in gaming and I bought this solely as a nice, thematic, intro to dice chucking and dungeon crawling. Reading off story elements and getting in to some role playing is essential, so it is a hit with them.

As far as the mini's go, I agree with there not being enough enemy types but the quality is on point. The only ones with any flash issues in my set were the rats and Nez. The insert isn't great but I really don't expect any inserts to do anything but protect the game pieces during shipping. Some foamcore will take care of any insert issues.

Review is well laid out and personally I'd recommend this game to any family that isn't afraid of playing out a board game adventure.
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David Scheele
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This review nailed it on the head.
I really liked the game at first. The first few missions really drew me into this story and it was a very cool experience.
Minor spoiler:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
The mission where the group had to split up was really exciting, tense and interesting.
But unfortunately the gameplay gets old quick. I always disliked games with too much randomization. And unfortunately, this game absolutely relies on dice. I always break such games down to the worst case, and in this case, rolling only bad dice would break the games back.

I really want to like this, the story is so great i want to read it more... but unfortunately the sloggish gameplay turned me off :/
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K AM
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Hello,

Thorough Review--nice job.

That said, I have some points of disagreement. Full disclosure--this is one of my favorite games, and was a play tester on a later expansion.

I'll address a few specifics:
Repetition: Well, this is true--there are only a fixed number of monsters and tiles, but I think the game does a great job at mixing up these components to provide a good deal of variety. I really like the special rules in the individual chapters--I think that makes things interesting.
Compared to other Dungeon Crawlers, like Descent 2.0, I find the scenarios to be much more original--again with less components. The base campaign in Descent 2.0 has been a major disappointment (although I do like the game).
I will say that the 2nd Expansion: Downwood Tales adds a lot of content, and when mixed with the Base Game (Sorrow and Remembrance) feels significantly more expansive to me. Heart of Glorm is also a fun expansion, but uses most of the same components.
Perhaps people who want to try that can play with a friend, before making an investment in a game they are on the fence about.

Combat System simplicity: Well, it is fairly straightforward, but I think players really do need to make the right decisions or you're going to be in trouble, because some of the scenarios get pretty tough. For me, the ability cards (leveling up) make the combat more interesting.
The combat is totally dependent on dice, and there is no doubt this will bite you. I've been pulling my hair out at times over frustration with the dice, but that's inherent to games that use dice. I do think however, that you can mitigate the dice, and that's really where the choices the player makes matter. You KNOW you're going to be fighting those dice at times, so plan on it, and use those abilities well.

Advancement: I didn't have this experience, and felt that fairly soon, I was able to have a fair array of choices due to leveling up. Mice and Mystics is different in that your advancement is largely lateral--meaning your power level remains in a fairly narrow band.
This might be a bit unusual for RPG players accustomed to a good amount of power growth, or at least the illusion of it.
Personally, I enjoy having different sorts of abilities, and I get that in M&M.
Not to be plugging the expansions, but there are quite a few new options in Downwood Tales, including opportunities to "gear up" in certain scenarios. I think people that want a bit more advancement might enjoy that.

Poor enemy decisions: Well, it is a simple AI, but too terribly different from other games I've played. I think it would be an interesting variant perhaps to see "Vicious" AI that really goes after the heroes. I don't think this is always to the advantage of the players--but I do agree smart players can anticipate and plan for what the enemies will be doing.

High Price: Not sure I agree with this. I think what you get in the box is a pretty good value.

Poor Box Design: Well, if you mean NO storage design, then yes, absolutely correct. This is a very common problem (Again FFG). That said, I've gotten pretty used to coming up with my own storage. Plano Boxes are a staple, and a company called "real useful boxes" are products I use all the time. The small cards are the hardest thing for me to store, as I have a hard time finding containers that fit them.
There are some companies that make nice (although pricey) inserts for Mice and Mystics, but I haven't gotten those myself.
My system has all the components for Mice & Mystics in the two large boxes, securely stored.
I have one Plano (tokens, dice), 3 Ultra-pro deck boxes (large cards), 2 small Real useful boxes (figures), and one clear Deck-box lid (used for the small cards).

I really like Dungeon Crawlers a lot, and play a number of them. For me Mice and Mystics is on top of the heap in terms of bringing me into the adventure (storytelling). Most other dungeon crawls this seems to be an after though.
It is a less complex system mechanically than others, and I do enjoy those aspects of others games (like Descent 2.0). But I also enjoy the options in M&M and the choices it provides the players.

One other thing that stands out to me: I think the scenarios play quite differently depending on your character selection. There is a surprising amount of influence players can have by using the different abilities on the various heroes to their advantage.

Anyway--good review. I hope you get a chance to check out the Expansion(s) at some point.

KAM
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Edward Bedford
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Ithink your review is pretty much spot on. I enjoy the game in short bursts and appreciate the theme and aesthetics.. But it pretty quickly feels like a rinse and repeat roll-out. A little more strategy and decision making would go a long way.

My question then is what is a similar thematic dungeon crawl/RPG which doesn't have the same problems? Deeper strategy, battle systems etc.. Would be interested in checking something like that out
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