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Subject: 5 out of 10. A good game hiding under a great deal of mess. rss

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Ian K
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With a lot of my reviews, I add footnotes clarifying things like the fact that I review a game as it arrives out of the box. I don't look at online errata, I don't look at rules changes or the FAQ; I simply review what you find once you've first opened the game.

For this review however, I am stressing this point in the opening rather than leaving it to a footnote because this time it is a very important point. Because while there is a good game somewhere in the box what there mostly is, is a mess. And this will be reflected strongly in my final score.


Synopsis

Mistfall is a fully co-operative game in which all players work together against the game. There are no teams or hidden traitor mechanics, all players either win or lose together.

The setting is your typical high-fantasy; wizards who cast frost spells, rogues who can back stab, paladins who can heal and call on divine powers, and evil nasty undead and other monsters aligned against them. The players take on the role of the good guys embarking on one of four quests that can be found in the base game, slowly building their power as the game progresses.


Gameplay

I don't know about you but whenever I open the box of a new game, the first thing I read is the rule book. And right from the word go we therefore find problems with Mistfall.

For example, like a lot of rulebooks, one of the things the rulebook for Mistfall tries to cover is the “anatomy of a card”; a picture of a typical game card with various parts labelled telling you which part provides which information. The one on page 3 of the Mistfall rulebook has 5 arrows all pointing to the card's picture and each arrow says something different; only one of the arrows is actually labelled “artwork”. Now yes, it is obvious which of those arrows is right and it's not too hard to figure out what the other arrows should be pointing to. But this example serves as a good demonstration of the clumsiness found throughout the rules and the cards.

For example, the rules talk often about “Active Encounters”. 'If there is an “Active Encounter in play, do this, if not do that'. But it's not until the penultimate page of the rulebook that it bothers to actually define what an “Active Encounter” is. And given that you start each game with a 'Special Encounter' in play, does that count as an “Active Encounter” or not? So for the most of the rules, there is a possibility there is a great chance for confusion.

And so on.

But, moving on from the badly written rulebook, we come to the cards. Full of symbols that require constant reference to the rulebook and many of them have already been errated, they – just like the rulebook – require time and patience to decipher and figure out what they're supposed to do.

The first few games can therefore be quite overwhelming as well as confusing. Getting through this is far more of a chore than it needs to be and indeed far more of a chore than it is in most games. If you stick with it, though, if you have the patience for the obliqueness of the rules and cards, then you will stand a good chance of enjoying the game.

The players each take on the role of a different hero who has their own starting deck and, during the course of the game, they can buy more cards in to their deck from their personal stack. They then all move as a group around the randomly generated board-map to the aforementioned “Special Encounter” and if they complete that, they win. Along the way they will run across other Encounters and numerous monsters and all the while this is going on, the game counts down on the time track towards the end of the game.

So it's a race against time to build the most powerful deck you can to overcome the final “Special Encounter”. Nothing new or revolutionary here therefore. For example; if you've played the Pathfinder card game then you already know how a player's deck represents their life force, if you've played Ghost Stories then you already know how the board-map is randomly set up, if you've played the Lord Of The Rings TCG then you already know how the mechanics of combat work, etc.

But hey, if you're going to borrow from others, so the saying goes, borrow from the best! Mistfall draws together these various different mechanics into solid gameplay that is decent enough if you've figured out what the hell is going on. But whether it's worth the time investment to get through all the mess is going to be a matter of personal taste. For me, the answer is “not yet”. But I am taken enough that I will try one last time … maybe twice.


Presentation

The look of the game is fine; there is nothing wrong with the art or design. But, as previously discussed, there is a lot wrong with the presentation of the rules.


Summary

5 out of 10. If the rules and cards were clearer, had fewer errors, were more user friendly and actually helped, the score would be 7 because the game itself is pretty good. But getting to that point is not fun and after all, isn't the point of every game to be fun?



Note: I have learned from bitter experience with this site that I need to stress that all reviews – including this one – are entirely matters of opinion. I am not claiming that anything I have said in this review is fact, it is all entirely my opinion and I am sure that many others have different opinions. If you wish to reply with yours, I welcome it. I enjoy discussion but will not respond kindly to aggressive replies.
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Reed Dawley
United States
Delmar
New York
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I wish I could play more games.
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As someone who tried to play the game initially when it came out without errata and a new rulebook, this review is spot on. I could see the fun in there but I could not crack the shell. I recently went back with the learn to play book and the new rules and it all makes much more sense but I am still having a bit of a struggle putting it all together. One day it will gel for me and it will be glorious.
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Joke Meister
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Yeah, I really can't argue with the point that the original rulebook is horrible. I really struggled to learn the game and I relied on videos to actually do so. I later reread the rulebook and found that I could then understand it - which suggests to me that they didn't blindtest the rulebook properly.

There is a new rulebook available now which is supposed to be a lot better. I read it and understood it perfectly but that doesn't count for much as I already knew how to play by then.

With all that said, I wanted to highlight this particular point in the review.

Stenun wrote:
If you stick with it, though, if you have the patience for the obliqueness of the rules and cards, then you will stand a good chance of enjoying the game.


I did stick with the game as it seemed like there was a nugget of a great game in there. After I became comfortable with the game and the iconography (which took me a while!), I really started to enjoy it immensely.

At that point, I wasn't thinking about the rules or the icons and was just focusing on what was happening and what I should do next. What I found was that there was this amazing story that was coming out from the cards being played which really drew me into the game and the world. The gameplay itself has a great crunchy and puzzley feel to it that is highly enjoyable for me and made this one of my favourite games to the extent that I backed the HoTM kickstarter to get the standalone expansion.
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A. B.
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You have to bear in mind that it is a pretty heavy game,designed to be deep.However, even the first rulebook was fine in my opinion. Only the first game was proper learning, the mechanics get intuitive quickly. Still, In Heart of the Mists there is a new, very good (in my opinion) rulebook. I am also surprised that Mistfall was rated 5 just for the clumsy rulebook. I don't even like card games and it sucked me in with great theme, excellent, deep, Smart combo mechanics (and it feels like there is an infinite number of combos). None of the other card games mentioned in the review did that TO ME.
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Furry Fox
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I have to agree with this review. The game is not really playable without a lot of skimming through the rule book with a terrible wall of text layout and also a lot of guessing how something is meant. A lot of core rules are defined at the end, icons need a lot of improvement.

The way we tried to play it right now, there is just no way to win the scenario because we run out of cards, trying to even come close to killing the beasts. And there there are reinforcements on top! And even if we managed to beat them, we would rest and get back 3-4 cards, which would in no way be enough to fight another fight. Are you meant to just rest 2-3 times after a fight? but then time runs out too quickly.

2 hours with the rules doesn't seem enough, even though the game doesn't seem to be that complicated. It's just that the basic structures aren't explained properly. I will now look for some files here and really hope that they will help.

EDIT: One design choice that makes absolutely no sense is to give pretty much every monster 1 armor/magic resist and make most attacks do 1-2dmg unless you discard cards... It has good ratings but at this point is still seems like a very incomplete game. We will give it 1-2 more chances and then just sell it if we find a buyer.

Also, why does the rogue have the crossbow proficiency but there is no way for him to actually use one? It feels like there should be a lot more cards in the game. Is this due to kickstarter exclusives?

We now managed to beat two encounters because they were much easier than the first one but it still boggles my mind how it should be possible to beat Ghardhak. Maybe Arcane Mage and the rogue are a bad team?
 
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Harry Jacobs
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I agree, I just reviewed the game and steered away form the x out of 10 score, but maybe would have scored it a touch higher. Once you get through the slog of the rules and start playing it is not horrible, but not that compelling either.

The rule book, is a mess, without YouTube there is no way to play this game.
 
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