This session report is based on one play of the introductory / instructional set-up of Mystical Empire. My room mate and I went through the instruction book as directed for the introductory game. What this means is that the two decks we used were pre-constructed and then put together in a very specific order so that rules were introduced in a gradual way and could be seen 'live' as well as read in the rulebook.
In addition to the decks we also received play mats that outlined the steps of a turn and provided some relative positioning of the various stacks of cards used in the game.
This is a session report and not a review, so I am not going to discuss rules or components. This is simply an overview of how the introductory game went and what we thought afterwards.
Set-up was very simple and took virtually no time since the decks were already put together. Both my room mate and I commented on how much information seemed to be presented on individual cards. There turns out to be even more than we initially thought. Besides the pleasant artwork on the cards, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of about a half dozen bits of info on each card. These all seem to effect when, how, and what resources one needs to bring certain cards into play. We spent a few minutes looking at some of the cards in front of us to acquaint ourselves with it. Deck building for the Mystical Empire seems, on the face of it, to be somewhat more complex than most other CCG's we have encountered, though roomie did suggest that if you could build decks for games like Doomtown then it shouldn't be too difficult.
We began reading through the practice game. This entails passing the rule book back and forth between the two players (or alternately, having two rule books) and reading appropriately colored sections. Some clarification was needed about exact terminology but these were fairly easily looked up. It did slow the game down a bit and so some of the flow was lost, but not horribly so.
We played along for a bit and it became obvious to us that there was quite a bit of information that we were not being told. Interactions and build requirements are quite specific in some areas and not so clearly defined in others. We both got guys into play without really understanding how or why they were coming in, although the method of paying for them was reasonably clear. Sometimes it wouldn't be until two or three turns later that the real reason you would have them in play became obvious. I don't think this is a symptom of the game as a whole, but rather a necessary streamlining of play so that one could learn the rules. We eventually reached the conclusion of the intro game as my particular character essentially ate himself alive in order to power some of his effects and abilities.
Overall it seemed to us that Mystical Empire was quite a complex game with a lot of things going on in it. You raise troops, build buildings, play weapons and perform magical effects much as you would in any number of other CCG games, but the trick here is you are doing them all at once in the same game. You would have to track a variety of wounds and building resources spent in each turn, although the play mats do make this somewhat easier. Conditions for bringing things into play also have to be closely watched and attention to where specific requirements are coming from can be a little cumbersome.
If what you seek is a deep and strategic CCG then Mystical Empire seems like a good fit. Since roomie and I like that sort of game in any form, we both enjoyed it. However we both agreed that if one was only used to playing Magic or Pokemon for example, Mystical Empire would be a big step up from those and might prove to be too big a step for some.