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Subject: Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Into the Mystic Vale With Two rss

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Milena Guberinic
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Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Into the Mystic Vale With Two




The Overview


In Mystic Vale, you take on the role of a druid clan attempting to restore cursed land to vitality. The cards in your deck represent that cursed land, while the advancements you will add to your cards through the "card-crafting system" represent your efforts at revitalizing that land. The more effectively and efficiently you do this, the more likely you are to win.



To set up the game, you will take your sleeved 20-card deck and shuffle it. A common set of 9 advancements will be made available for all players to purchase by shuffling level 1, level 2, and level 3 advancements separately and revealing 3 advancements from each stack. You will also be able to purchase Fertile Soils, which are basic advancements that provide 1 unit of currency called mana.

In addition to advancements, Mystic Vale presents you with level 1 and level 2 vale cards, 4 of which are revealed from each deck.


Vale cards


The game ends when 23 VP run out of the VP supply in a 2-player game and that number increases at higher player counts.

You will start the game with a mana token on its spent side and a deck of cards. Each turn, you will turn over the top card of your deck, place it in your field, and continue to do this until you have two cursed land symbols showing in your field and a third one on top of your deck. You will then choose to either push or pass. If you choose to push, you will place your on-deck card into your field and reveal the next card from the top of your deck. If you now have 4 or more cursed land symbols showing between your field and on-deck card, you have spoiled and must discard all your cards and turn your mana token face up, making it available to spend in a future turn. If you have not spoiled, you can continue to choose to push or pass.



If you have not spoiled, you count the mana symbols and spirit symbols on your cards and resolve harvest abilities on your cards. Some cards also show VP symbols on their left side and these allow you to take VPs from the supply during the harvest phase. Once you have resolved card abilities, you may buy up to 2 vale cards using the spirit symbols and/or up to 2 advancements using mana symbols on your played cards. Vale cards do not go into your deck. They are added to a permanent tableau and provide either VP or a permanent ability or both. Advancements are added to the cards you have played.


Level 1 advancements


Level 2 advancements


Level 3 advancements


Crafted card


Once you have completed harvest, you will discard all your played cards and replenish the supplies of any cards that you purchased.

The game ends at the end of the round during which VP tokens run out. At the end of the game, you will gain points for the VP tokens you acquired during the game, the points shown on your advancements, and vale cards. The player with the most points wins!

The Review


Played prior to review: 10x






1. So pretty!
Mystic Vale is breathtakingly beautiful. Yes, the artwork is gorgeous and vibrant, but the transparent cards make the art look even more beautiful than it would otherwise! The transparency gives the art an ephemeral quality and a sense of magic that compliments the mystical theme!

2. So smooth!
Mystic Vale is a mechanically simple and intuitive game. Anyone who is familiar with deck-building will find themselves comfortable with the card-crafting system, which though familiar, leads to some very different decision points (more on that below). Once you start playing, the game just seems to flow like beautiful cream into a cup of coffee. Super smooth. There are no chunky and clunky aspects to impede that flow and even when you manage to negate enough corruption symbols to draw half your deck, the game doesn't feel like it slows down or presents a mechanical hurdle. At least when playing with two players, most likely the best player count (more on this below), you are able to think about your turn even during your opponent's turn, which means the game retains a good sense of flow throughout.

3. Fun push-your-luck element that is uncommon in deck-building games
There haven't been many deck-building games with a push-your-luck element. Flip City notwithstanding, I struggle to think of another game that integrates deck-building and push-your-luck elements effectively if at all. In Mystic Vale, card-crafting gives you some agency over the amount of risk you take every time you push to get more cards into your tableau, particularly later in the game. You have tree symbols that negate corruption and can allow you to play more cards into your field, which can be particularly effective if you also manage to get an Aurora into play (provides a VP for every two cards in your field). However, because you will most likely be tempted to push your luck early in the game, when you have little mana and are desperate for more to get more and better advancements onto your cards ASAP, you will most likely have to take risks, which imbue the game with a sense of fun and excitement. And though this may seem completely random, it isn't because you know exactly how many corruption symbols you have and you know how many have gone through your deck before, so you can calculate the probability of busting with some accuracy even before you go for it. And if you bust? You'll be rewarded with a mana you can use on a later turn, so not all is lost.

I love the balance and agency you encounter in Mystic Vale's push-your-luck system. It makes the game fun and exciting, but not overly random.

4. BRILLIANT card crafting system that presents you with interesting decision points and allows you to build a deck without bloat! NO BLOAT!!!
The decisions you make in Mystic Vale are quite different from those you would make in a typical deck-building game. The fact that you are adding features to a static deck of cards rather than simply adding cards with existing features to a deck doesn't SEEM like it would make for decisions that are all that different, but they are! When you are selecting advancements to purchase, you first have to decide on the one you want and when doing this, you not only have to think about the overall composition of your deck, as you would in a regular deck-building game, but also the composition of the specific card to which you will add that advancement. If you have a card to which you've started adding spirit symbols in your field, you might want to add more spirit symbols to it to increase your likelihood of drawing multiple spirit symbols in one go and gaining those sweet vale cards. If you have a bunch of empty cards and cursed lands cards, do you want to start adding advancements to those cursed lands or to the empty cards to make them a bit more useful? Do you add trees to cursed lands to immediately negate them or to other cards or empty cards to hopefully compound their effects? You are faced with many questions beyond the simple, "Which card do I buy?" you would face in a standard deck builder and those questions arise thanks to the unique card-crafting system.

The fact that you are adding features to cards rather than adding cards to a deck has one additional advantage - no bloat! Your deck does not balloon out of proportion as a result of the cards you are constantly adding to it and you have no need to gain more cards to eliminate the trash you've accumulated. If you are like me, you hate dealing with trash in my deck. It feels tedious and annoying. There's none of that here! Of course, you could argue that the cursed lands are effectively trash that you have to manage by adding trees to your deck, but that trash doesn't lead to dead turns if you are playing effectively and avoiding adding too much of it into your deck.

5. The vale cards are a nice addition with a lot of potential for expansions
The vale cards are another aspect that distinguishes Mystic Vale from a basic deck-building game. The vale cards allow you to build a tableau of synergistic powers that can either increase your mana or spirit symbols, allow you to keep yourself from busting when pushing your luck, or simply increase your points. The tableau-building element added to the game by the vale cards gives you a little something extra to think about both when crafting your cards and when deciding what to do with the symbols you harvest. I described the effect that vale cards have on card crafting in the previous point, but they can also present you with some interesting choices during your card-acquisition phase, demanding that you make tradeoffs between the long-term appeal of special powers and the end-game appeal of points.

6. Perfect with two
I have played Mystic Vale with 2 and 3 players. I haven't played with 4, but I really don't need to play at that count and here's why; Mystic Vale is a solitary game and additional players add nothing but time and randomness to the game. The time part is obvious, but I'll elaborate on the randomness factor. Basically, each time a player takes a card from the display of advancements and vale cards, that card is replaced by a different card, which means that you really have no sense of which cards will be available to you from turn to turn. With only two players, you can reveal the cards you will have available to you during harvest while your opponent is doing his thing and tentatively make plans A and B for the advancements and/or vale cards you will acquire during your turn. With more players, you really can't do that. You'll be stuck simply waiting for your turn and hoping that another advancement you will want will get revealed by the time your turn comes around. Two is the perfect number for Mystic Vale.


Bears' school


soblue


soblue 1. Random soup! But it doesn't taste all that bad
I have a problem with Ascension-style deck-building games. I have a relatively low tolerance for randomness and a card display that is dynamic and changes every time someone buys a card irritates me to no end. I can't stand buying an inferior vale card or advancement only to reveal a super awesome card for my opponent. Nope. I prefer Dominion-style equal-opportunity deck builders in which all the cards available for purchase are equally available to all players.

Mystic Vale is an Ascension-style deck-building game; the display of advancements available for purchase changes every time a card is purchased. HOWEVER, the game mitigates the irritation that rotating card displays typically cause for me by separating the various advancements into levels. Level 1 advancements have similar mana costs and are relatively equally attractive. Ditto for the 2s and 3s. So, unlike Ascension-style deck-builders in which all cards with all kinds of costs and abilities are shuffled together and revealed randomly, possibly leaving you unable to buy a card from the display due to cost restrictions or unwilling to buy a card due to its inferiority after an opponent has taken one or two away, the cards you will reveal from each level in Mystic Vale are relatively even in cost and attractiveness. Now, they aren't the SAME and you may still feel like you got the short end of the stick by buying something not as attractive to you at a certain point of the game and revealing something you and your opponent desperately want (we are ALWAYS fighting for the level 2 teddies), but this feeling isn't as intense as in Ascension-style deck builders.

Now, Mystic Vale has some randomness beyond the unpredictable card display. You have the randomness of the cards you draw from your deck, which can make or break your ability to attain vale cards or put you at a significant advantage or disadvantage if you manage to draw tonnes of mana or little mana in one go. However, this isn't truly a fault of the game. It's simply an artifact of the card game format in which luck of the draw will always play a role.

soblue 2. Card/advancement effects are pretty basic, which may make for limited replay value for the base set for some players
The cards in Mystic Vale have relatively basic effects. They don't allow you to do anything very fancy and the things they do allow you to do don't hold a lot of potential for broad and varied synergies. The fanciest advancements will allow you to discard a card from your field or search your deck for a card and put it into your discard or gain mana or VP for each protector symbol you have placed on the card. These are very simple effects that don't feel quite as inspired or comborrific as they could be. BUT that's ok. I don't see the base box of Mystic Vale as the end; I see it as introduction to a rich system that will grow over time. With expansions, this game will become a deeper, richer experience worthy of many returns. I am certain of it. Without expansions, it is somewhat lacking in advancement/card interactions and synergies worthy of deep exploration. That said, what is in the base box is a solid start and one I have visited many times and still look forward to revisiting.

soblue 3. If you look closely, you can see which advancement is coming next, even when they are placed face down
The transparent advancements make it possible to see which advancements are coming up in the stack if you look closely, which doesn't appear to be the game was intended to be played...or maybe it was? I don't know, but it does seem strange to me that advancements in each stack are supposed to be placed face down when it is possible to identify what is coming up if you look closely enough.

soblue 4. Very solitary
If you are looking for an interactive game, Mystic Vale will not satisfy. There is little reason for you to pay any attention to what your opponents are doing other than to see whether they have taken a card you wanted to take.

This leads to another potential issue, which is the inability to slow down a player who has gotten ahead. Of course, if everyone knows how to play and is at the same level, this will be less of an issue, but it could still potentially pop up due to the random factors in the game.

Final Word


Mystic Vale is first and foremost a FUN game. It allows you to create an engine out of cards in a way that no other game has done before and generates such a sense of tension and adventure as you push through your deck to get that one extra mana or spirit symbol you need for the turn. The engine you create with your cards provides a satisfying sense of escalation, as you go from being unable to buy anything but basic advancements to being able to buy multiple advancements and vale cards and collecting buckets of points on a turn. So despite its somewhat limited strategic space and limited card effects and synergies to explore, I think that Mystic Vale provides an unique, innovative package that just begs to be played! I love it and intend to keep on playing!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart SOME LOVE (more love with expansions!)






***


Mina's Love Meter


angry Burn it! - I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale)
Dislike - I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale)
heart Some like - I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale)
heart heart Like - I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart Some love - I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart Lots of love - I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart heart All love all the time - I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)



To see my other reviews, visit this geeklist.




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Dale Braun
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Mina, I agree with many of your points. I also enjoy that you start with 20 cards, and you end with 20 cards. There is, however, a little bloat... an empty starter card with three advancements becomes a lot thicker! Even though you don't gain any additional cards, the deck does start getting taller, and you can anticipate choosing to push when there's a really thick card sitting below your on-deck one... or is that taking advantage of the situation, similar to staring through the translucent back of the face-down achievement cards? whistle

Dale in Oregon
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Christopher Meyer
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When I played with some friends on Friday we just left the buying cards face up, since it seemed a bit silly to have them face down. We didn't really see it as a huge deal since it, in the end, didn't make much difference.
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Milena Guberinic
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dalembraun wrote:
Mina, I agree with many of your points. I also enjoy that you start with 20 cards, and you end with 20 cards. There is, however, a little bloat... an empty starter card with three advancements becomes a lot thicker! Even though you don't gain any additional cards, the deck does start getting taller, and you can anticipate choosing to push when there's a really thick card sitting below your on-deck one... or is that taking advantage of the situation, similar to staring through the translucent back of the face-down achievement cards? whistle

Dale in Oregon


Haha. Yeah. I think you're cheating!
 
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Milena Guberinic
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BreakingPoint0 wrote:
When I played with some friends on Friday we just left the buying cards face up, since it seemed a bit silly to have them face down. We didn't really see it as a huge deal since it, in the end, didn't make much difference.


I think it can make a difference if you see an advancement that would benefit an opponent at the top of the stack. You'd be less willing to take one from the display. We are particularly fond of the level-2 teddies. We don't want to give those to each other...
 
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George Raimondi
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I think we'll try leaving the advancements piles face-up. I like the idea of having more interaction between players (as slight as it is).
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Milena Guberinic
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KevinMatchstick wrote:
I think we'll try leaving the advancements piles face-up. I like the idea of having more interaction between players (as slight as it is).


Absolutely. That would definitely give you a bit more to think about and would take away from some of the randomness of the game, which is probably a good thing.
 
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steven smolders
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I just played my first game yesterday (4 players), and i have to i'm really dissapointed . The game is way to random, I had turns i couldn't do anything. Everytime i had to buy a sub par card a better one came out with good symbols on it and got bought by the same person. He had 7 cards of those cards that require those symbols and he score 2 times more the points then second place.

We barly had more points in total with 3 then the winner.

Maybe 4 players is way to many players and it play's better with less but as it stands i won't be buying this. It's just to frustrating to see ppl drawing between 7-12 cards before stopping and 2 of us could only turn over 3-5 cards over, if we did try to draw more we bust.
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